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July 2008
ADM logoJet-lagged but refreshed 
I realize that sounds like a contradiciton in terms, but if you remember your last trip to Europe, you know what I mean. 
Ireland has a special, raw beauty. While nearly everything is green (it's no wonder--it rained 11 out of 13 days), it is also quite rocky in the West, where we were. The soil there is good for grazing (that's why there were cows, sheep, and horses everywhere--and I mean, everywhere), but it's not deep enough to really grow anything.
I'm sure you've heard of the Celtic Tiger, the impressive and rapid growth of the Irish economy. Signs of it are everywhere, but they may have grown too quickly. The housing market, which has had explosive growth over the past decade, is beginning to experience the same downturn as we are seeing here, and jobs are beginning to be outsourced to India. More about the Tourism Industry below.
I'm glad to be back and getting back to work.
 Looking Good
FingernailsWhat We'll Do for Love
Some years ago, Billy Crystal satirized Fernando Llamas on Saturday Night Live with the unforgettable, "Remember, dahling, it is better to look good than to feel good." The blunt honesty of this "advice" still makes us laugh, yet it is true that we all -- to some degree or other -- follow it. Do you wear shoes that hurt your feet, but they look good, so you wear them anyway? Are you working on a tan this summer, even though you KNOW it's not good for your skin? And what about that crash diet you went on last year?
So how does a company market a personal care product that could be damaging to the area where it is applied? This was the question that was asked by a manufacturer of a nail care product in advance of rolling out a new advertising/ communications campaign. They wanted to know who their primary market is, what their perceptions of the category are, and why they would use it.
We conducted a telephone survey consisting of two samples:
  • A random sample of women who use any kind of nail care products, drawn from a standard probability sample
  • A separate sample of category users, taken from lists of people who had called the client's Customer Service line

This allowed us to view the market in general, and a user group, in particular. Demographically, they were quite similar, and we were able to compare attitudes and perceptions of the product category, as well as usage patterns and reasons for using the product.

  • Not surprisingly, users had a better opinion of the product, overall, even though they were aware that it was not the best thing for their nails.
  • What was surprising was the age profile--it was older than we had originally assumed.
  • Another interesting outcome was the effect of "convenience" on this do-it-yourself product. It cut both ways: some people found it more convenient to apply at home, while others didn't want to be bothered doing it themselves.

This study was also intended to set benchmarks for future comparison. That will help the client determine the effectiveness of the advertising campaign.

Tourism Marketing
Mouse on $$Sightseeing Shouldn't Be A New Episode of "Lost" 
We don't like bus tours; we prefer to explore on our own. I am pretty good with maps and guide books, so it usually works out alright. At best, we have some great adventures. Ireland provided its own special kinds of adventures. 
It is no secret that tourism is a major industry in Ireland --especially from the descendents of the millions of Irish people who emigrated over the past 200 years. Many of them do take bus tours, and do not have to worry about how to get from point A to point B. But then there are freelancers like us, who, maps in hand, wander the back roads of County Kerry, County Clare, and the 20+ other counties (including Northern Ireland), looking for famous castles and churches (you don't have to go very far--every small town has one or two), parks, islands, or lakes. The maps are great, with route numbers indicated; and when you get into a town like Killarney or Kenmare, you can easily get a map of the town with the points of interest clearly marked. There's just one problem: there are no street signs, nor route numbers on the roads. This often left me scratching my head wondering whether I was on High Street or East Street; R483 or N85.

So the Marketer in me wondered what the Tourism Ministry is thinking when they lure you to this lovely island, populated with the most pleasant, helpful people in the world, and then leave you to fear that you'll be like Charlie on the MTA (Chad Mitchell Trio, 1963: "Will he ever return, No he'll never return..."), wandering around the countryside, circling endless roundabouts, without ever finding the place you were looking for, or ever really knowing exactly where you are. Even one of the local craftspeople complained about the lack of road signs.

I suppose it is a challenge to create a tourist-friendly road/street system while preserving the quaint ambiance the tourists are coming to experience. However, I don't believe the fundamental charm of the towns and back roads will be much disturbed by clearer, more frequent road and street signs. On the other hand, the Tourism Ministry could distribute -- perhaps through the car rental companies -- guidelines for driving in the country. At the very least, it would have been helpful if we had known to look for the town on the road sign, not the route number, to know if we were going in the right direction.
Message to the Tourism Ministry of Ireland: You've got a great product and a wonderful, friendly, appreciative population. More planning and wider roads will go a long way to convincing travelers to return to Ireland and to recommend it.
Research For Ink
Getting the Editor's AttentionPile of magazines 
A recent article in the International Herald Tribune spoke about the words that were most effective if you want an article or press release to be published: money, fat, cancer, sex, or toxic (not necessarily in the same story) will usually get you attention, and very likely, ink. Nowadays, anything "green" is likely to get an editor's attention.  Another tack is to write about something that is new, first, or most. 
This is where Research For Ink can come in handy. This research method consists of a well-designed survey which quantifies peoples' perceptions, behaviors, or purchase intentions and then uses the results to fuel a publicity initiative. Editors love it because it is new--original research is necessarily new, even if someone else has done a survey on a similar subject. It also carries more credibility because the story is not based on the opinions of self-serving executives or even satisfied customers. If the client can partner with a non-profit organization (e.g., American Cancer Society, or National Home Safety Council) to highlight a larger issue it will garner even more credibility and attention.
These studies do not have to be expensive, especially if they are conducted among consumers and if the number of questions can be kept to 10 or fewer. Business-to-business studies usually cost more. Qualitative research (focus groups, in-depth interviews with perhaps a dozen or two people) is not useful for this purpose because it does not carry a great deal of credibility for a published story.
Research For Ink can be useful in promoting a new brand, a corporate or brand repositioning, or in establishing a platform for the brand or company. This kind of publicity is an important part of the marketing and communications mix.
This practice is dedicated to helping companies become knowledge-driven, rather than assumption driven about strategic and tactical decisions concerning lines of business, branding, communications, and various marketing activities. For more information about how we do this, case studies, frequently asked questions about marketing research, and testimonials, please visit our web site:

Ann Middleman