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A recent article posted on foreignpolicy.com caught our eye, here in the InterQ office. The subject of the article had to do with the U.K.’s prime minister, Theresa May, calling for an early election. About two-thirds into the article, a paragraph jumped out and got us thinking that had Ms. May and her team done some market research, perhaps she could have avoided some of the backlash against the release of her party’s manifesto: “Even the most cursory stress-testing of the policy would have established that this response was likely…The result was this manifesto, the product of a team deciding on policies with too little scrutiny, tucked away and insulated from criticism.”

It is easy to try and silo and limit “market research” to products and consumables, but really, market research at its core, is about understanding your audience and making sure what you have to offer aligns with what your customers or target demographic is after. There is no industry or bureaucracy that doesn’t benefit from market research.

There are a number of methodologies used when conducting market research for political campaigns.  Focus groups, quantitative and qualitative research, profiling and predictive market analysis, are but a few of the methods of analysis that can help guide and shape campaign strategies. A comprehensive, academic paper illustrating the contribution of market research in political campaigns states that rather than politicians parroting what comes out of in-depth market research surrounding a campaign, it is a more nuanced and valuable tool that identifies a range of choices that politicians can make thus “enhancing the decision making process—and overall leadership—of political elites.”

In the case of Ms. May, or any political figure, when testing out ideas and policies, it is best to hire neutral, third-party companies to carry out the research. Market Research companies experienced in selecting sample groups and developing probing, unbiased questions often elicits feedback that is most valuable. It is harder than you think to ask questions that don’t “give away the answer.” Hearing what you want to hear doesn’t benefit anyone, just ask Theresa May, who tortuously U-turned on her manifesto, and had to back-peddle in full public view. While this may not cost her party the election, current polls suggest that she hurt her party’s chances of a majority government. We will have to wait until the election on June 8th to know the final results, but had Ms. May and her team consulted with a marketing research company and done even the most basic of research, perhaps she and her party wouldn’t be sweating it all the way to the finish line.

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