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Market Research: Are Cars Offices or Escapes? January 4, 2006

Posted by David Card in Marketing.
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I’m not sure how to interpret the juxtaposition of these two stories in the Journal today. In one, Organic learns how to better understand its clients’ customers by inventing them out of whole cloth. At the same time, Volkswagen sends a team on a year-and-a-half road trip to discover the real Amuhrica. The insights are…uh…astounding.

    After discussing how Jenny shops, they decided she looks around in stores but buys products online, which is helping marketing staff figure out where they can reach Jenny. She also cares 75% about style and admires women such as actress Natalie Portman…

Remember, this is an imaginary person.

    Organic staff debated whether Roberto would order from Dominoes or Pizza Hut and whether he would order in or go out for pizza.

    “One of the writers said, ‘I don’t like to think of Roberto that way,'” Ms. Stieber says of Roberto ordering from a chain. “And he was right. Roberto is very loyal to his area and very local so he wouldn’t order from Dominoes.”

Can’t wait to see how that affects the Dodge Caliber campaign.

    For Jenny, because of her busy life and hectic career, two important themes emerged: her need for sanctuary and her “metrospirituality,” a sort of stylish, kind-to-the-earth search for deeper meaning that has become a popular theme with marketers. As a result, to make Jenny’s room, the Organic team wanted to make it an escape for her.

Mind you, I like Organic. They do good work, based on a thoughtful methodology. But if they’d talked to real customers, apparently, they’d have found out that cars are not escapes, but offices.

    While Germans prize a car’s driving capability and frown on eating while driving, the Moonraker team found Americans think of their cars like a second home or office…The Germans in the group never knew Americans use their cars as portable buffets tables and partymobiles, a discovery that could factor into future vehicles, such as a minivan.

    …One exhausting exercise was dubbed the “Walk of Pain” — a three-day walk from Long Beach to Hollywood to observe parking lots and street parking, a requirement for each Moonraker team member. Mr. Berger said it helped him realize that in the U.S. market there is a need for a wide variety of vehicles: from small cars to pickups to convertibles.

Amazing. Who knew?

Sadly, it seems they still don’t get the whole cupholder thing in Wolfsburg.

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