NFO Research Inc., was founded shortly after World War II when the marketing research industry was still very young. The company specialized in collecting attitudes opinions and other information from individuals as well as from families. These research services were widely used by many different types of companies; and by 1987 NFO Research Inc., was among the 10 largest marketing research companies in the United States.
A subgroup of 200,000 of the households in NFO’s panel were specifically selected in order to create a nationally representative sample of all US households. These 200,000 households were nationally representative with respect to the geographical distribution of the population, age of head of the household, size of household and household income. Each household also provided NFO with approximately 50 items of demographic information about itself, including household type (husband and wife, mother with children, father with children, female living long etc); marital status of household head (divorced, widowed, etc) number of and ages of children age education and occupation of household head; type of dwelling and own or rent dwelling; frequency of travel trips; ownership of various things (cats, dogs, microwave oven, personal computer, etc) and others.
Occasionally an NFO client would require a sample of households with characteristics not recorded in the data files NFO kept on each of its panel households. For example, a client might want households that were frequent patrons of fast food outlets, or that used a certain type of product (e.g. instant fee or contact lenses), or that had members who like to go camping and hiking, or that had a member who had a certain health condition (e.g. was overweight or was growing bald). When a client wanted such a sample of household characteristics, NFO would send a short screening questionnaire to a large number of panel households, asking them to indicate if their household possessed a certain characteristic of interest to the NFO client. After identifying a large number of households with the desired special characteristics, NFO could select a sample from such a group.
After a sample of households had been selected, NFO could use four different methods of communicating with, and obtaining information from, the sample house holds. They could use the mail to send out questionnaires and have the respondents return the completed questionnaires through the mail. They could mail a questionnaire to sample households but have respondents telephone the desired information to NFO using an NFO in bound WATS line. If a survey required that respondents try a product before answering questions about the product, trail sizes of the product along with instructions could first be mailed to sample households. Then, after the product trial had occurred, NFO could use a follow up telephone interview to obtain the desired information. A fourth method that was used involved only a telephone interview that is a copy of the questionnaire would not be mailed to respondents.
Markin Laboratories produced a powdered formula for dieters and weight watchers. When added to milk it provided a nutritious and hunger relieving drink that contained a relatively small number of calories. The mix, which was offered in chocolate and vanilla flavors, enjoyed a respectable market share in the 16 states in which it was marketed. Although Markin’s competitors offered some fruit flavored mixes in their product lines, the market’s most popular flavor by far was chocolate with vanilla well established as the number two flavor.
In order to defend and (they hoped) improve its market position, Markin developed a new chocolate flavor it felt was tastier than the current chocolate flavor. Management wanted to test the new flavor thoroughly before using it to replace the old flavor. It was their hope that the new flavor would appeal to both users of the Markin brand and users of competing brands. That is, Markin hoped users of its current chocolate flavored drink would prefer the new flavor and therefore consume more of the new flavor than they did the of flavor. Markin also hoped that users of competing brands to obtain the new flavor. To help them with this proposed test, Markin asked NFO and several other research companies to submit proposals for research.
Nick George was asked to review the Markin request and to prepare a proposal that NFO could submit to Markin. George felt that he could a short screening questionnaire to identify panelists who used either the Markin brand or a competitor’s brand. With that information it would be possible to select two samples of households, one sample from each group. Both samples would be possible to select two samples of households, one sample from each group. Both samples would then be some of the new chocolate flavored mix for their consumption.
George wasn’t certain what would be the best way to handle a number of aspects of the proposed research project. How should respondents be asked to use the two flavors – their currently preferred flavor and the new Markin flavor? That is, should they just do a simple taste test, or should they drink on flavor for several simply dink alternate flavors for a while? Should the new flavor be identified with the Markin brand, or should it be unidentified? How should heavy, moderate, and light consumers be taken into consideration? What questions should be asked and/or what measurements made to accomplish Markin’s objectives regarding both current users of the Markin brand and current users of a competitor’s brand?
Markin’s brand new flavor must be given complimentary who ever buys the old flavor and after a reasonable time depending up on the market start selling both the brands old and new. After assessing the sales for a further period the brand doing good old or new in a particular market must be continued and the other with drawn. In case of good potential for both then in that region both must be continued.