Monday, October 05, 2009

Market research should never be done for the sake of doing research, the goal of a researcher should always be to get insight into whether a particular course of action will resonate with the target audience.... or whether it will flop.

And the ability of a researcher to produce what I can 'actionable information' is directly correlated to the researcher's understanding of the audience and issues that affect their decision making. The better a researcher understands the audience - specifically, what makes them tick - the better able the researcher will be to come up with the nugget of information that allow the marketers to hit the hot buttons.

An example was New Coke, where the researchers did correctly report that cola drinkers liked the taste of New Coke better than that of 'old' Coke and Pepsi... but only in a blind taste test. When the audience was told what they were drinking, they preferred the taste of 'old' Coke. Unfortunately for Coca Cola, their researchers didn't understand the audience well enough to know that there was a certain cachet to drinking Coke.

Anyway, I was reminded of all this when I was reading survey results that report that the public is afraid of losing their current health insurance program. While technically true, it is a bit misleading, a result of researchers who - despite their probably having their own health insurance - not understanding the audience.

Fear of losing one's current health insurance is a euphemism for 'fear of losing access to one's current doctors' and 'fear of having to pay for coverage'. It isn't so much that the public has a concern whether their coverage is through UnitedHealthCare or Blue Cross or Aetna or any of the many other providers, it is that the public knows that their doctors don't participate in every plan and they're afraid they'll get stuck in a plan that forces them to look for a new doctor. And they know that not every plan works the same way with premiums and co-pays and deductibles and the calculation of whatever 'usual and customary' is and thus they're afraid they'll get stuck with a plan that ends up costing them more money.

Note: How do I know this? Because I not only have health insurance and worry about those issues, I have handled the selection of health insurance programs for companies and I know the concerns people have every time the subject of changing carriers arises.

And what does this mean?

The public is concerned that they'll lose access to their doctor and/or they will have to pay more for coverage. And they're not soothed by Obama's 'no one will have to switch'... one, the public doesn't believe him and two, they know that if even they can keep their existing insurance plan, there's no guarantee that their doctor will continue to participate and there's no guarantee that their premiums won't go up (especially if insurance companies have to stop excluding pre-existing conditions and have to charge everybody the same rates).

So... if I were one of the Democrats pushing this legislation (and I am glad I'm not, for more than one reason) I would change the focus from 'keeping your insurance' to 'keeping one's doctor' and 'insurance no more expensive than now'.

NOTE: Their claims wouldn't be true, there is no way that everybody will be able to keep seeing their current doctors and there is no way that insurance premiums won't go up, but those are the real issues that concern the public and the only way to alleviate public concern is to address them head on... even if, as with so much of what they're peddling, their claims aren't true.