Sunday, August 19, 2007

We need help.

There have been massive changes in our world and industry of late and massive advances in our ability to measure things and manipulate all kinds of numbers. What we haven't figured out is how to really measure if something is working, if people like it, if they pass it along, if they'll act on it.

In fact, and I hope there's someone out there reading this more qualified than I to comment, I don't think all the data we collect today leads to greater understanding of the customer. 'With all thy getting, get understanding' as is written in the Pentateuch. I think the same can be said for focus groups. They seem to be key these days in helping us find our political candidates, and they've lead to little more than inauthentic drips we supposedly want to have a drink with. Two weeks ago Ad Age reported on July's most recalled new TV spots and an embarrassment by Danone's Activa made their list twice. You can, the spot says, regulate yourself in just two weeks. The spot itself could nauseate you so I am going to assume there is some experimenter bias involved, or something similarly fishy.

My point isn't to blast Activa or anyone else. However, as I've written in two prior posts, things like "Brand Depreciation" are not measured when we measure response alone. That makes no sense. What's more, if you believe customer ratings, virtually every restaurant rates an "excellent" and there no such thing as a bad digital camera. If you believe J.D. Power (who have won an award, I'm sure, for making the world's ugliest award) everything from automobiles to highways to dry-cleaners are award-winning.

Finally, here is a testing story Billy Wilder told to Cameron Crowe.

In 1939 the movie NINOTCHKA (directed by Ersnt Lubitsch, written by Billy Wilder & Charles Brackett and starring Greta Garbo, pictured above) was being tested in a theatre in Long Beach. Following the screening the audience was asked to fill out comment cards. Lubitsch and Wilder were reading the cards in the back of the limo on their way home. Lubitsch read one and burst out laughing. He showed it to Wilder. It said:

“This movie was hilarious. I laughed so hard I almost peed into my girlfriend’s hand”.

At least that customer reviewer got things right--Ninotchka is hilarious. Too often customer-reviewers are giving the thumbs up to Porky's 3, George W. Bush, or the like.

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