Geeking out about test marketing, big data

I’ve always heard that Columbus is the test market to end all test markets, which is why I focused on the topic for a feature story this month.

After speaking with two The Ohio State University professors, I also discovered a few things that didn’t make it into my story. Hopefully, you’ll find it as fascinating as I do.

Technology’s role

Google, as you may have guessed, plays a big part in the slicing and dicing of data that’s used in product development and test marketing.

If you’re trying to decide which advertisement, flyer or coupon will work better, you can run online tests through Google. You test the real one with Group A and use a control group for Group B. The control group is shown an alternative ad — aptly called a ghost ad.

Being able to more accurately compare the two groups is providing better data.

Another area that is increasingly sophisticated is political test marketing.

With geodemographic targeting, it’s possible to not only tell the demographic makeup of a zip code but also that zip code’s attitudes toward certain issues. Direct mail pieces can be targeted, providing different messages to different zip codes on the same political candidate.

Targeted advertising such as this seems to be everywhere. I’m not sure if I’m happy to see something that I care about, or if it’s just a little too big brother for me.

Tap into student minds

If you want to spark some innovation and product development — and you’re not having luck internally — you can follow the example of flavor and food companies.

These companies sponsor competitions for students in food science departments. A company might want a new healthy beverage with low fat and high protein that tastes and looks good.

Students do the product development and use testing facilities like OSU’s Sensory Evaluation Center to tweak their product, before presenting it at a central location.

The students get an opportunity to learn about development and gain exposure to potential employers. A company might get the next great idea. Everybody wins.