Strong Brands Have Weak Drivers
Is it true that a survey respondent can race through a survey, giving identical high or low ratings on all questions, and still provide valid data? Absolutely, which is why we argue against coaching respondents to give “more thoughtful” and varied answers when filling out surveys. In fact, our post last week (Don’t Stop Your Straight-Liners) got us thinking about multiple situations in which straight-lining is valid, and about the implications of this for market research.
If you have an exceptionally strong brand, chances are high that your customers will straight-line a survey. Brand love will cast a warm glow over everything you do, whether it’s exceptional or not. It’s called the Halo Effect:
The halo effect is a cognitive bias in which an observer’s overall impression of a person, company, brand, or product influences the observer’s feelings and thoughts about that entity’s character or properties. It was named by psychologist Edward Thorndike in reference to a person being perceived as having a halo. Subsequent researchers have studied it in relation to attractiveness and its bearing on the judicial and educational systems. The halo effect is a specific type of confirmation bias, wherein positive feelings in one area cause ambiguous or neutral traits to be viewed positively. Edward Thorndike originally coined the term referring only to people; however, its use has been greatly expanded especially in the area of brand marketing.
Of course, this is exactly the point of branding, and exactly the reason you want a strong brand. Even if you fall short here and there, consumers will forgive you. They will feel you’re doing great, and say you’re doing great across the board. They will straight-line your survey, and their answers truly reflect their sentiments and the strength of your brand.
The downside? It bugs the statistician in us. If variation is dampened or even wiped out by the halo effect, we can’t find the crucial differences in what you’re doing to identify what drives loyalty. But there is no problem with the data, or with the statistical modelling, or even the “laziness” of respondents who zip through your survey. You have weak drivers because you have a super strong brand.
It’s a problem we should all be so lucky to have.