Marketing research exists to address problems, not symptoms. In most cases the symptom is only a consequence of a larger dilemma, but it is still of value. More exactly, the problem may be clarified by properly examining the symptom (McDaniel, Jr., Gates 76). A business may find, for example, that its line of casual clothing is doing well in Europe and the U.S., but selling poorly in Asian markets. A variety of problems may be responsible for this; the line may be overpriced for the average Asian consumer; the localized marketing may be inadequate; there could be production and shipping issues; and/or there may be cultural considerations rendering the product less attractive to Asians. Research conducted well would soon discover flaws in the advertising, just as it would identify competitors’ pricing and consequently affirm or reject pricing as the problem. Similarly, flaws in manufacture and shipping are easily identifiable. This done, research may then uncover that there are indeed cultural issues limiting sales. A thorough investigation of what the market is purchasing would indicate designs and styles appealing to it, and thus reveal design as the problem generating the symptom.
Another business may be faced with an excessive number of returns on its cell phones. Sales are good but customers are complaining of faulty design, and applications that do not work. This symptom of high customer dissatisfaction would seem to indicate problems in the construction. Research is critical here, however, for a focused investigation of the actual complaints may reveal that the problem is not in design, but in information. That is, the customers are having issues because the functionality is not properly explained. At the same time, it is likely that the underlying problem is in fact dual; the functions do work properly, but the additional information required to use them is unacceptable to the consumer, so the problem resides in concept, and not production. In this case, as in others, marketing research is obligated to extensively analyze customer complaints, for these are likely to reveal the true problem creating the symptom of dissatisfaction.
McDaniel, Jr., C., & Gates, R. (Eds.) Marketing Research, 9th Ed. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, 2011. Print.