The stupidest market research question ever asked

by. Ron Shevlin

There’s a great scene in the 1970s’ movie The Marathon Man, in which Laurence Olivier, who plays an evil dentist (that’s redundant, isn’t it?) is torturing Dustin Hoffman. Hoffman’s character is the brother of a CIA agent who was killed and took some secrets with him to the grave.

Olivier thinks Hoffman knows those secrets, and while torturing Hoffman asks him “Is it safe? Is it safe?” Hoffman has no freaking clue what Olivier is talking about, but after enduring as much pain as he can take, yells “It’s safe! It’s very safe!”

I was reminded of that movie when I read about research recently conducted by Nielsen in which they asked consumers the extent to which they trusted advertising on various marketing channels and from various sources.

My take: Asking consumers about the degree to which they trust advertising on a particular marketing channel is the stupidest marketing research question ever asked. To avoid the pain of a stupid survey, consumers will pretty much say anything.

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