When the S**t hits the fan

I would say that the majority – the majority – of the projects I work on happen because there’s a sudden ratings crisis.

That is, in many situations perceptual research is viewed not as a tool to build and sustain the brand but as an emergency fix, like one of those flat tire repair kits you use only so you can get back to the garage.

The question: “Do we need it?” is directly correlated to the not necessarily related questions: “How bad off are we?” and “How clueless are we as to why we’re so bad off?”

Now obviously, stations in troubled times need research. But so do stations in healthy times. I can’t count the number of times a program director for a healthy station has told me “I wish I had research.”

As an industry, why is it our inclination to deprive nutrients from the goose that lays the golden eggs?

Do you think Starbucks does research only when people stop buying coffee? Do you think McDonalds does it only during bad quarters? Do you think Nordstrom does it only when Saks gets a leg up on them?

It’s a sad truth that it’s much tougher for research to do its job when its job is to save a patient whose illness has already progressed to a chronic state. You can catch this stuff early if you do your research regularly. You can build your brand rather than repair it. You can have your cake and eat it, too.

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