I do enjoy dipping in and out of the Bad Science series in The Guardian.

Fresh from debunking the recent attempt by The Sunday Express to link the suicides over the last 18 months in South Wales with mobile phone masts, this week it is the ubiquitous PR survey that comes under the spotlight.

You know the type of survey, it often makes headlines for some shocking statistic or other and is often accompanied by some spurious national day or week just to ram home the underlying marketing message.

Or, in the case of insurance company esure’s recent survey, which led to headlines such as “Fortnightly bin collections cause rat plague”, these surveys help to further muddy the waters on particular issues and feed on public concern instead of providing clear answers.

Such surveys and polls certainly grab headlines, but is it really an effective way of increasing brand awareness?

Those readers full of self-righteous indignation about the move to fortnightly refuse collection and being forced to recycle more will no doubt have loved the screaming headlines. But how many would have thought: “I’m really impressed esure took the trouble to bring me this information, I’m going to make use of only their fabulous insurance products from now on”?

Obviously that isn’t the point of such a survey. It is an unsophisticated, but effective way of generating coverage and piggy-backing a little on the headlines.

This approach smacks of classic churnalism and there are few signs that its popularity is on the wane.

It has enjoyed quite a long shelf-life so far and there aren’t too many signs that it is anywhere near it out of date point yet.

So for every imaginative marketing campaign out there, 9 out of 10 companies still appear to favour the spurious survey and churnalism approach.

Clearly it is horses for courses. Stride Gum are attempting to attract the YouTube generation, whilst esure are after the disgruntled, middle-aged homeowner and both probably succeed.

But it would be interesting to assess which company and which approach provides the greatest long-term, direct and positive benefits.

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One response »

  1. Chris Haynes says:

    As an employee in a research department, I have occasionally been called by our Press Office in order to conduct one of their fatuous pseudo-surveys.

    99 out of 100 would be closer to the truth.

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