Most of the time, marketing research is a great business. We have terrific, smart, creative clients who give us exciting and challenging projects. We have great respondents who are interested in helping businesses better meet their needs and improve products on the market. We work with companies of all sizes in a wide range of industries on existing brands and products that are new-to-the-market innovations.
Sometimes, however, things take a turn for the crazy. Here are a few of our “You Can’t Make This Stuff Up” stories:
- The Unexpected Project. We had a project on hold, and in spite of reaching out several times, we never received final confirmation from the client. By the time we did hear back, it was the day before. To make things even more challenging, the research required a difficult patient recruit. It would have been easy to say, “Sorry, we can’t help you.” But we don’t do that. We put all hands on the project and got it done. The client was very appreciative.
- The Unexpected Seamstress. Just as the focus group was about to convene, the moderator had a mishap and tore his pants. Not to worry! Our facility manager pulled out her needle and thread and made the repair before he had to go into the focus group room. It may have looked strange to see a man handing his clothing out the door of the client room, and then our manager handing them back in, but it’s all in a day’s work in marketing research!
- Yikes! What’s that smell, part 1? We received a batch of food products that we were going to test the next day. Unfortunately, the truck that delivered it must have recently been used to ship fish because the entire shipment of test products reeked of fish. We had to tell the client that the product test would not be accurate or reliable with that product, and we postponed the project until we could get a more ‘appropriate smelling’ product.
- Yikes! What’s that smell, part 2? Sometimes, as part of in-home use tests, respondents are asked to return the used products for further analysis by the client or us. That is usually not a problem, but depending on the product, it can be rather – well, odiferous. Think used kitty litter. Pretty glamorous, huh?!
- Where’s my product? Procuring enough of the right products can often be a major problem for marketing research, especially at the facility level. For one particular project, we had to pull out all the stops and ask our entire staff to go to local grocery and drug stores looking for products. Once, one of our executives made her family stop at every Walmart and Target between the beach and home on their way back from vacation so she could buy the needed products for a client’s project. Now that’s putting the client first!
- Shipping Woes. It is extremely helpful when the client supplies the facility with the test products. But even that isn’t enough to prevent head-shaking problems. There was one project when the shipping company sent several cases of a perishable food product unrefrigerated. Of course, it arrived completely spoiled and unusable. Ugh! And then there was the time when the the product was delivered to us in several plastic garbage bags filled with wet cardboard, broken glass, and spilled beverages because the shipper did not pack the glass bottles they were sending us with cushioning. What a mess!
- How to Become Friends with American Express. We also had to source a high-end cosmetic product for a usage test. And, oh yes, it was being discontinued, so there was not much of it available. Since this product was only sold in one retailer, one intrepid Reckner employee set out to purchase all of this product still on the shelves in any of the retailer’s locations in the Philadelphia / New Jersey / New York area. As you can imagine, multiple purchases in the same high-end store in a concentrated area on the same days did trigger American Express’s fraud monitor – for every purchase. But after 184 road miles and 5 conversations with Amex’s fraud protection personnel… we had the product!
Even with these hiccups, marketing research is an interesting and rewarding profession. And, let’s face it, most of the time projects run entirely smoothly. Over thirty years, we have gotten particularly good at dealing with more challenging situations. And if we can handle challenges well, think what we can do for your projects!
For CLT or iHUT projects, talk to the experts at Reckner!