Marketers have been urged to avoid blindly following the results of customer surveys and polls.

In the recent general election, all the polls pointed towards a hung parliament, which led to the major parties preparing for this eventuality and the likelihood of coalition talks taking place.

However, the election instead delivered a majority Conservative government, much to the surprise of political analysts and politicians themselves.

Neil Davidson, managing partner of HeyHuman, commented: “It is further proof that politicians often fail to understand the widening gap between what people say in research and what they do. It’s also a truth that we in marketing often get wrong.”

Mr Davidson insisted that participants in polls and focus groups are not being dishonest. Instead, he believes the disparity between predictions and the eventual outcome is down to the fact people “don’t really know what they’re going to do”.

As a result, he believes marketers and politicians alike should carry out more real-world research and be willing to question everything they hear.

“Real-world research is based on the belief that behavioural intent and reported behaviours are always likely to be suspect,” he remarked.

Mr Davidson added that marketers will be more likely to gain accurate conclusions if they adopt several different tactics.

For instance, he suggested that social media listening can be advantageous, along with observing actual behaviours, using neuroscience and building digital communities.

Mr Davidson added that the general election threw up one particularly good example of the gap between what a person says and what they do – Lord Ashdown promising to eat his hat if the exit poll was proved accurate.

“Will a politician who has told the nation on live TV that he will eat his own hat if proven wrong actually do it?” he asked.

General Election exit poll fiasco holds lessons for marketers, Marketing

Posted by Robin McCrink