Don’t destroy the reputation of your agency with shonky research, brands told

Brands have been warned they risk damaging their own credibility and destroying that of their agencies by commissioning shoddy market research with biased and poorly-worded questions.

Chris Lonergan on stage at Mumbrella’s CommsCon

And in an era of fake news and cynical consumers, the need for robust and well-constructed data has become imperative, Mumbrella’s CommsCon conference heard.

Chris Lonergan, chief executive and founder of Lonergan Research, told delegates that research can be cut in many ways with wildly contrasting results.

Phrasing questions to satisfy agendas, particularly in today’s heightened sense of manipulated media, was fraught with danger, he said.

Lonergan cited Dove as one historical example where research claimed only 4% of women worldwide described themselves as beautiful. Yet other available words in the list of descriptive terms, which respondents selected, included attractive, cute and pretty – essentially the same meaning as beautiful.

Lonergan demonstrated that when the question was posed to women in different ways, the answers were hugely different.

“The number of women who considered themselves beautiful ranged from 6% to 63% depending on the way the question was asked,” Lonergan said. “If something seems wrong, it probably is.”

He also highlighted the case of Colgate toothpaste which was hauled up for suggesting 80% of dentists recommended their brand. In reality, dentists questioned in the survey had also mentioned several other brands, not just Colgate.

Lonergan told delegates that skewed research risks the integrity of not only brands but their agencies.

“You have the reputation of your communications agencies to think about,” he said. “You don’t want to be known as a person who helped destroy the reputation of your agency.

“If you are using a researcher and they have given you data and you have used it incorrectly or inappropriately …their reputation is also at risk.

“But also you personally, your own reputation both within your organisation and your industry, will be at risk.

“Using research and data to add credibility is great, it’s a powerful tool, but we need to use it properly and responsibly otherwise, particularly in an era of fake news, people will start to distrust what we are putting out.”


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