Tuesday, January 18, 2005

The difficulties of market testing 

Here is something that I stumbled on and have been trying to pass on to other people:
IT Conversations: Malcolm Gladwell - Human Nature

This is a half-hour recording of a presentation he gave involving the relationship between human nature and market testing, availible for either streaming or mp3 download. He brings up three big problems relating to asking people their opinions: preference isn't fixed but can be very changable based on the context, that people tend to make up stories when they don't really know what they're feeling, and that the very act of asking someone's opinion tends to move it toward a more conservative answer.

Lots of examples are brought up from the Aeron chair, to New Coke, to world-class tennis players, to All In the Family. I think this sort of thing is really important to keep in mind, especially these days when market testing is given so much weight. Something as simple as the fact that in taking only a sip of soda versus an entire can, people almost always choose the sweeter one, cost Coke a fortune. And every day movies and tv shows are dumbed down due in part to the fact that people who don't have the language to describe their feelings on something new and unusual will tend to describe it in a negative way. Not to mention that fact that you really shouldn't roll your roll your wrist for a top-spin in tennis.

This last point I can attest to with my experiences with yo-yoing. It ended up that I had a talent for teaching people tricks with writing online. Was it because I was the greatest player around? Nope.. it was because I could usually figure out exactly what it was that I was doing to make something work or fail. It seems like I was lucky since a lot of people tend to have trouble with describing what it is that they're doing, even if they are very skilled at it... In a lot of things, communication is key...

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