Two situations where I’m called on to do research with less than satisfactory results:
Situation 1: “Do listeners want more, shorter spot breaks or fewer, longer spot breaks?”
Why bother doing attitudinal research on this topic? This is not an issue for conjecture or opinion. It is all about behavior.
Forget research. Consider this: If you have a hundred listeners and they all have meters (I’m being forward-thinking here, but the logic works for diaries, too), and you play an hour of programming for them, what happens when you stop the music for a spot – even ONE spot?
Answer: Some folks tune away.
Sit in a car with a regular radio listener and watch what they do when the spot comes on.
No matter what the time, place, or mood, at least SOME folks will turn away when that spot comes on – and SOME are greater than NONE (yes, I’m assuming the average spot is more of a tune-out than the average song).
That necessarily implies that the fewer times you stop, the better off you’ll be. The issue is not whether listeners want “20 in a row” more than “12 in a row” more than “45 minutes uninterrupted.” This is not a popularity vote. The reality is that every time you stop, some listeners switch.
There is quite simply nothing to research here. So we should stop doing it. Fewer stops will always be better for behavioral reasons, not research ones. And ratings records behavior, not research opinions.
Consider this: If you were non-commercial, do you think your ratings would go up? Of course! Why? Because you don’t stop for commercials AT ALL.
Situation 2: “Which slogan tests best?”
A “slogan” – if you have one at all – is the distillation of your essence, your identity, your reason-to-be and reason-to-be-different. As such, it is informed by what the audience wants, believes, and expects. But it is not and should not be subject to popular vote.
To put your “slogan” to a vote is to put the cart before the horse. You’re asking listeners to pick the phrase that sounds either: A) Best or B) Most Familiar. And neither one of those criteria are the proper criteria to select or use a “slogan.”
This is not the class president we’re talking about. It’s the sum-total of what your station is designed to represent BY YOU. Many a promising phrase has been squelched because management is looking to the audience for the kind of creative and marketing expertise it’s not qualified to or capable of providing.
Research is a great tool. Just use it for what it’s good for.