Consumer research & Newspaper readership
I am glad Vinod Mehta has said it. His refusal to toe the line as advocated by 'Brand Managers' is laudable. Though I need to add that such brand managers are better doing everything else other than managing brands, if they did advocate to Vinod Mehta to give the reader 'what he wants'.
Vinod states in his piece, 'If journalism is a consumption item like butter chicken, then why not give the customer the flavour and taste he desires? That, after all, is the first rule of free market capitalism.'
If that were the first rule of free market capitalism, why are the most enduring brands (remember the Sony Walkman) a result of not ever having asked consumers if they needed that particular product. As they say, 'Sony's market research was legendary: they didn't do it!' In fact my guess is, if the consumer was asked about the Walkman, he would have said, no.
Why? Simple. Most consumers do not know what they want. Now, there is a distinction to be noted. If its an already existing product and the consumers were asked what they wanted, they would have quite a few suggestions, even demands, as in the case of the media. But if its an innovative idea/product you are asking them about, most would never speak in the affirmative. They would simply say no, they don't need what you intend to make.
Coming to the specific case on Newspapers, Vinod Mehta's idea of 'creating content as a calculated mix of what the reader wants and what he does not want and the trick to marry the two to make great journalism and big profits' is surely a great idea. That in my opinion will bring in the readership.
What about the Brand Managers who advise Vinod? Someone ought to tell them to read 'Made in Japan' by Akio Morita. Also they & Vinod too, would do well to listen to Al Ries and Jack Trout, who wrote thus in their book Marketing Warfare, 'Lets say American Motors developed a product strategy based on identifying customer needs. The result would be a line of products identical to those of General Motors, which spends millions of dollars researching the same marketplace to identify those same customer needs.
Is this what Marketing is all about? The victory belongs to the side that does a better job of marketing research? Clearly something is wrong. When American Motors ignores customer needs, the company is much more successful. The Jeep, a product borrowed from the military, is a winner. American Motors paseenger cars are losers.
No Focus group is likely to have conjured up the Jeep. Nor is identifying customer needs likely to help an also-ran compete with the leader'.