The Question is as Important as the Answer: Thomas Kim

(This biographical piece is part of our series to introduce you to the SGA staff.)

Psychology is fascinating. I dug deep into this during my time at UC Berkeley where I was part of a research team at Haas School of Business and the Department of Cognitive Science. My research focused on cognitive biases and decision making.

Today, I bring this expertise to SGA where I work with a team to conduct market research to gather data on the people we serve. You can’t do marketing in a vacuum; it’s important to understand people so you can effectively reach them.

People have busy minds. We create associations where there are none. We see implications and work to appease a derived social norm. In other words, conducting market research is not just a matter of using the appropriate statistical tools or getting the right answers. It is about seemingly trivial details and asking the right questions.

For example, when you create a survey, some things you have to consider include:

  • Does the order of the questions influence participation?
  • Are the questions independent of each other or does a question change the meaning of the next question?
  • Are you giving a range of answers that are too big or too small?
  • Does the medium of the answer (Likert scale, multiple choice) influence the result?

Likewise, the way you frame or word a question can make a big difference. For example, asking a participant, “Do you believe milk with only 5 percent fat is good for you?” results in very different answers when compared with answers obtained by asking, “Do you believe milk that is 95 percent fat free is good for you?” Although mathematically the same question, one highlights the health concern whereas the other highlights the health benefit.

We gather information in a number of different ways, including:

  • Intercept surveys (going into the field and approaching people)
  • Surveys via mail and email
  • Telephone interviews
  • Focus groups

The method of obtaining the answer is also an important consideration and will depend on what you’re seeking. Conducting a survey of hundreds of people will provide you with a solid data representative of the population. On the other hand, having a focus group with a small group of people in a room allows for a deeper and dynamic dive into the subject.

With the research we do at SGA, we are able to understand our targets and create a more effective message and approach to better tackle our client’s specific needs.

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