Cases of Market Research

When Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc., was planning the promotion for its new movies Star-man, it had to decide how much to spend for advertising the movie and when the advertising should occur.

One of Columbia’s biggest marketing weaknesses in the past was to spend too much in advertising its films. It now carefully tracks the effect of its spending in twice-a-week polls of moviegoers.

Columbia’s marketing head believes that a movie that opens nationally like Star man should be known by at least 60% of the public by opening day. In the weeks before such a movie’s release, his department tacks awareness of the film by region, age group, and sex. If awareness builds faster than expected, Columbia cuts back its promotion. If it doesn’t pick up fast enough spending is increased.

In 1987 the A&P food store chain introduced a new nation wide advertising campaign to show consumers its stores were clean, were staffed by friendly employees and were well stocked with fresh food offered at value prices.

These commercials are the product of a variety of surprisingly extensive motivational research techniques. Consumers were shown a simple sketch of a woman about to enter a supermarket. They were asked what the woman was thinking and how she felt. In another test subjects were shown photographs of people told they depicted both A&P customers and those who shopped elsewhere and were then asked to separate the pictures into groups and explain why. Some subjects were also asked to imagine A&P as a person: Is it a man or a woman what kind of work does he or she do?

The results were not the stuff of happy A&P marketing conferences. The tests showed that consumers considered supermarket shopping to be drudgery and that the A&P chain, in particular was seen as a grandmother who is a bit corny and behind the times. Perhaps worse, its stores were considered more extensive and less efficient than the competition.

Although the United States represents the largest travel market in the world, only 2 percent of the country’s travelers go to Canada for vacations. To learn why so few American travelers visit Canada, the Canadian tourism bureau interviewed 9,000 Americans who vacationed regularly. What emerged from these hour long, in-home interviews was the general perception of Canada as clean, safe, and dull, what immense stretches of wilderness broken up by cities that closed down At 5 pm. A typical comment was, Canada doesn’t present itself as an exciting place, with a lot of activity of New York or California for the craziness. There’s nothing that can be identified with Canada. It is just Canada.

What resulted from the research was a $14 million advertising campaign to jazz up Canada’s public persona. Out went the moose and the mountains and in came the night-clubs, Broadway-type theaters, Old World architecture, French cities and sports opportunities.

For its 717 airplane due to be delivered in about six years, Boeing Co is going to unusual lengths to create an interior based on consumer preferences. More than 2,000 frequent fliers have filed through mockups of cabins in Seattle this year, as cameras recoded their reactions to different widths of seats arm, rests and aisles. Boeing also intends to question focus groups about lavatory space and the needs of the elderly and handicapped.

When Sears, Roebuck & Co wants to change the display and layout in one of its departments, they test the new display in one or several of its departments for 6 – 12 months. Departmental sales for that period are then compared with departmental sales for the most previous comparable period to measure if the new display has had a positive effect on sales. To take into account possible changes in the local economies total sales of the test store (s) during the test period and the most recent comparable period are also compared.

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