Paul M. Banas on Consumer Insights, Marketing Research, and the Digital Media Landscape
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Category — Fun with Numbers

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.

November 2, 2007   2 Comments

Choose Your Percentages Wisely

In this great post by Roger Dooley at Futurelab, he explores the psychological reception by people of two identical percentage values:

“Which is scarier – undergoing a potentially fatal surgical procedure that has a 95% survival rate, or one that causes death in 1 out of 20 patients? If you are like most people, you would find the latter statistic far more worrisome, even though mathematically the two statements are the same. A variety of research shows that marketers should choose carefully when throwing numbers at their customers.”

This is something researchers should not only pay attention to in marketing communication, but also in how they present data internally. Is it better to say 90% of new products are considered failures by year two, or is it better to say only 1 in 10 are successes? Of course, in that particular example, I’m not sure it really matters.

November 2, 2007   No Comments