MARKET RESEARCH: WHERE THE WILD FRONTIERS OF HUMAN NATURE MEET THE WILD POWERS OF TECHNOLOGY

In his book Spent, biological psychologist Geoffrey Miller talks about his experience at a 1999 conference about economic preferences. The economists in attendance were more interested in buying patterns than the psychological reasons behind them. However, the marketers in attendance did care, leading Miller down a road of research about marketing, at the end of which he concluded: “Marketing is not just one of the most important ideas in business. It has become the most dominant force in human culture.” He defines marketing as a “systematic attempt to fulfill human desires by producing goods and services that people will buy. It is where the wild frontiers of human nature meet the wild powers of technology.” And he describes the marketing revolution of the 1950s and 1960s as a shift to understanding that a “company should produce what people desire, instead of trying to convince them to buy what the company happens to make.”3

The discipline of market research was born and is now an $8 billion industry in the United States alone.4

Before the Web, it was difficult to learn about what large groups of people were interested in without conducting large-scale surveys. But today, nearly all of your potential customers are broadcasting exactly what they want through their searches. And search data may be even more honest than survey data, because people are searching for what they actually want, ...

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