Where should we conduct the study? The answer to this important question spurs great thought and debate. I have clients who religiously research in no fewer than three markets, usually four. Others thoughtfully pick a winner and progress. Really though, within the same country, how different can places be? Particularly when reacting to the same idea?
I often lament how I miss life in the Midwest, and being buried in snow today let me assure you it is not the weather but the people that make the place. People react very differently here. Take a simple two inches of snow, for example. We were officially “snowed in” last weekend. The Midwest is mostly flat. Maryland is a maze of hills and turns that make driving in even the slightest snowfall treacherous. In the face of the two feet (and counting) presently being unloaded from the heavens, we here in the Mid-Atlantic region race to the grocery stores, cancel plans, and prepare to be home-bound for days.
So, how do we choose and how many markets do we need? It depends on the objectives. If you are looking to make a major business decision with the learning (yes, you can, even with qualitative!), I recommend a minimum of two markets, preferably three. If you are searching for a certain type of consumer–brand loyalist or early adopter, there are markets better suited to that. And I propose that finding aesthetically intuned, super-creative types (hello warm, sunny West coast) should often be balanced with your average Joe or Jane if you truly want to innovate while developing a product appealing to the masses. I love any excuse to take a trip home to the Midwest and meet with warm-hearted, level-headed types we so easily find there.