The latest market research tool -- just stare at my watch


You're getting sleepy. Just relax. Now tell me the first thing that you think of when you hear the word WalletPop. If you thought 'skeptics', you're right on the money for this story.

According to BrandWeek, Euro RSCG, a company hired by Volvo to determine the market identification of its brand, used an unusual device to penetrate the shield of groupthink; hypnosis. Members of the group were first asked to summarize the brand in one word, and the word they came up with, not surprisingly, was safety. However, after a test-drive, the same members were hypnotized, and while under, were asked the same question. The response that came disappointingly often was 'middle-aged'.

This was not the first application of this technique in the field, though. It has been in use for a long time, but few clients apparently are willing to pay to drink this Kool-Aid. The problems I see are two-fold. First is the question, can hypnosis access thoughts and opinions of which the subject is not aware, or coerce subjects into articulating opinions they might otherwise conceal? Second, does it reveal information that cannot be derived in other, less expensive ways?

For example, if they wanted to learn that the Volvo brand evokes an image of a mature driver, they could have given me a call. Even without the pendulating watch, I could have told them that.

Having been in the marketing world, I know that there is no limit to the expansiveness of market research. No limit, that is, except the willingness of fools companies to fund it.