More Fun with Numbers
This post by Seth Godin on using survey results in marketing got me thinking about one of the most memorable survey results in market research history, the one he references from the old Trident gum commercials:
“Four out of five Dentists surveyed recommend sugarless gum for their patients who chew gum”.
While it sounds impressive (which is why everyone still remembers it), the sharp eye will see the potential push behind the fact. The key, as with most published statistics, is in the qualifiers, this time in the sample base and around the word “recommend”.
On the sample base, it’s a potential signal that it may not represent all dentists, just the ones who were “surveyed”. If you have a large and truly representative sample, why would you be using that qualifier?
The second is the qualifier for the word “recommend”. The dentists surveyed aren’t recommending that you chew Trident, just that if you do chew gum, it should be sugarless. No one asked whether you should be chewing gum in the first place or if any other brand of sugarless would suffice. Like percentages in my previous post, there can always be fun with numbers.