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Marketing Research

Marketing Research

Perception in Marketing

Perception – is the process of converting sensory input into understanding of how the world works. The sensory input occurs through the senses of touch, taste, smell, sight and hearing.

 process of perception

Stimuli → Sensory Receptors → Attention → Interpretation → Response → Perception

Selective Attention filters all the sensory input we as humans are exposed to in our everyday lives. Only the relevant sensory input (information that reaches us in the form of touch, taste, smell, sight and hearing) is let through to our consciousness. All irrelevant sensory input (the noise) is cut out by our selective attention.

Subjectivity – is the effect of past life experiences, including cultural influences, on an individual’s perception of the world. Due to subjectivity, the world appears in a unique way to each separate person.

Categorisation – is the process of pigeon-holing of chunks of information. People prejudge the quality and other characteristics of products and services even before consumption thanks to this form of perception.

Expectations – an expectation is created when an individual uses a certain product or experience and receives a certain outcome. They are then conditioned to expecting this same outcome again when they use the same product or service, in that same way.

Weber’s Law – is a rule in marketing which says that the size of the least detectable change depends on the size of the stimulus. Very intense stimulus requires bigger change to be perceived by the consumer. For example:

If the price of product A is £0.06 a change to this price by £0.03 will be easily detectable by the purchaser.
If the price of product B is £10.06 a change to this price by £0.03 is less likely to be noticed. In this case the price change to be noticed requires a much larger amount.
Weber’s Law is also applicable to the changes of product size, quality and all the other product characteristics.

Subliminal Perception – Perception is not necessarily a conscious process. Much of what happens in the mind is below the conscious level. There was a time when subliminal techniques were used to advertise products in TV programmes. An image of a product or a brand mark used to be displayed for a fraction of a second (below the subliminal threshold of our attention) during the broadcast. The objective was to trigger the need for consumption of a product subject to subliminal advertising at below the consumer’s consciousness level.

Many marketers doubt the effectiveness of subliminal advertising but I believe that this technique might be effective if used in a less technological way. Subliminal advertising is not only about images of brands fitted into a film for a short period of time so no one can be conscious of noticing it. An experiment I took part in at Imperial College was about making people thirsty using subliminal technique.

There where two separate groups of people participating in the experiment. One group had to listen to a story told about London. We later were told that this story contained repetitions of the word “water” and its synonyms. The other group listened to another story about London but with no repetitions of “water”. We were then asked to choose from a list of food products, including a bottle of mineral water, for immediate consumption. The sample of those who listened to the story about London with repetitions of a word “water” showed, in comparison to the other group, greater preference of water as a product for immediate consumption. Subliminal marketing in its most simple forms is not permitted in many countries.

Colours – Are used to attract attention but they also convey emotions and meanings. The meaning of colours in marketing is particularly important in the context of international marketing. The best example for it is the association people have with the colour white across the world. In Europe, white is a colour of cleanness and innocence whereas in the Middle East the same colour is associated with misfortune.

Gestalt Interpretation – an image can be perceived differently by two people and the way each person perceives this image will depend on their subjectivity and expectations. Gestalt Interpretation is based on the notion of ‘closure’. Certain kind of images, especially those illustrating shapes that can be associated with more than one object, are identified by people in the unconscious, cognitive process of filling the missing gaps. The information used to fill those gaps originates from past life experiences.

 Different past experiences – different information used to fill the missing gaps in the image – different image perceived.

  • Maciejovsky, B., 2012. Perception, Consumer Behaviour. Imperial College London, unpublished.

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Marketing Research Process

The process of research for marketing (hereafter called marketing research) usually consists of five underlying parts which are:

  • Problem Definition
  • Research Plan
  • Data Collection
  • Data Analysis
  • Report Presentation

There are many kinds of marketing research techniques and deciding on which one is right for you depends on what is to be achieved from the research you are conducting.

Exploratory Research is probably the simplest and most often used, not only in marketing but for nearly all research needs. This method is used to explore a problem and provide insights and is particularly useful when there is no initial understanding of the problem.

Descriptive Research is most often used to describe something, usually market characteristics or functions. It is conclusive and used to describe characteristics of groups such as consumers and sales people. It is also used to estimate the percentage of a specified population exhibiting certain behaviours. Descriptive research can be completed as:

  • Cross-sectional design – where collection of information from a given sample takes place only once.
  •  Longitudinal design – is where fixed sample is measured repeatedly. Unlike cross-sectioned research here the same sample of people are studied over time.

Descriptive research, regardless of whether it’s cross-sectional or longitudinal, is completed using questionnaires and/or structured interviews and the data is processed quantitatively.

Causal Research – is used to obtain evidence of cause and effect. Marketing managers like using the data derived from causal research to justify their decisions. Causal research is used to point out which variables cause a known and identified marketing phenomenon. It is also used to determine the nature of the relationship between causal variables and to test hypotheses.

Simple example:

Causal research established that the reduction in price of a product will boost demand for it.

In-depth Interviews are unstructured, delivered on a one to one basis and can last from 30 to 60 minutes. Professional interviewers prepare their questions in advance and structure them according to possible interview scenarios. In marketing the in-depth interviews are used to collect information from groups as diverse as industry experts for an informed view of the subject, or general members of the public, including children, to get a layman’s (or potential customer’s) view. The nature of this type of research means it is exploratory where there will be unknown responses to questions. It is therefore important for the interviewers to remain flexible in the structure of their interview and to give the interviewee enough leeway to allow for unexpected findings.

Projective Technique is an unstructured questioning style of research. In marketing it is used to establish the underlying motivations, beliefs, attitudes and feelings of the respondent towards a product or service. The respondent is asked to respond to scenarios by:

  • Associating scenarios with words
  • Completing sentences
  • Completing stories

The purpose of research is not clear to the respondents. Projective techniques are used when required information cannot be obtained by direct methods.

Focus Groups – Conducted by professional moderators and is unstructured and natural. The value of this technique lies in unexpected findings. The focus groups are used for new product development and production of advertising.

Ethnographic Research – The researcher observes social phenomena in their natural setting.

  • Malhotra, K. N. and Birks, F.D., 2000. Marketing Research. An applied approach. European Edition. London: Pearson

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Questionnaire on Logistics Management