By Greg Deinzer (with reliable input from Mike Scott and Jason Mantel)
In my GreenBook Blog posting, “Is Market Research Reliable?” there was as much discussion on whether or not “reliable” was the correct word to use as there was on the findings. Commenters suggested changing “reliable” to “believable,” “credible,” “valid,” “trustworthy” or even “peachy keen.”
Alright, I made that last one up, but you get my point. Although I think “reliable” was acceptable in respect to the way the survey questions were asked, the disagreement did stress the necessity for us, as market researchers, to be very careful in how we frame or create survey questions and write reports.
One common faux pas I sometimes make is referring to data in the singular tense, for example when I say, “This data is interesting.” English professors and stats people are all too eager to pipe-in and correct me. “THESE data ARE interesting,” they’ll reply shaking their heads with contempt. (Hint: this is one of the reasons why we never invite you to the good holiday parties). Honestly though, if we want to gain our clients’ respect and have them view us as intelligent, insightful partners, we should try our best to avoid making such sophomoric errors.
Some researchers advise to not use the word “impact” as a verb, such as if you ask respondents, “How would this information impact your purchase interest?” I tend to agree. The main reason we use “impact” is that no one knows the correct usage of the words “affect” or “effect.” Instead of guessing between those two words and blaming your Microsoft Office spellcheck program if you’re wrong, why not take 30 seconds to look it up online and ensure (not insure) that you understand the proper usage?
Then there are the common grammatical errors that sneak into your reports when you’re drafting insightful market research prose: using the word “your” instead of “you’re,” “there” instead of “their,” “chose” when you mean “choose,” “to” when you mean “too,” and the spelling of such words as: respondent, prioritization, relevant, advertisement, independent, separately, necessary, consistent, exceeded, occurring, rejecter, confidence and questionnaire. These mistakes may not always be spotted in your internal quality checks but are always caught in your presentations – usually by the most senior person in attendance. So be careful!
Finally, many in our business dislike the use of buzz words and phrases in marketing reports and communication. Examples include: leverage, incentivize, innovation, synergy, empowerment, seamless, pain point, bandwidth, brick-and-mortar, holistic, at the end of the day, break through the clutter, outside the box, drinking the Kool-Aid, make the data pop, proactive, actionable insights, value-added, and turnkey solution. Let’s agree to adhere to the sage advice of the best focus group interviewers and use “everything in moderation!” The one exception is to never say, “These data are peachy keen” unless, of course, you are making a recommendation to your client to go after the “low-hanging fruit” (cue rimshot).
Clients do care when such mistakes are made. So be sure your processes for report quality checks are solid. While you may not need an English professor in-house to review your reports, you should have one or more people on your team who are good not only at reading and ‘rithmetic, but writing to (I mean too)!
Greg Deinzer has over 15 years of primary market research experience in various sectors including CPG, telecommunications and technology. Greg is currently a Research Director with Morpace Market Research & Consulting (www.morpace.com), and has designed and executed projects in the US and internationally addressing a broad range of marketing issues using the full scope of methodologies. Along with ensuring research data quality and integrity, Greg enjoys creative writing and meeting people with a good sense of humor.