We Know What They Think, But Do We Know What They Do?

Martin Callingham,
Birkbeck College, University of London,
Tim Baker,


Since time immemorial, mankind has wished to predict the future, and today is no exception. One of the prime reasons for conducting market research is to try and foretell the outcome of upcoming events, whether it be an election, a brand launch or a new service. The problem that we all face in this industry is that we are always dealing with data that is intrinsically historic, from which we seek to make some statement about the future. A primary way of doing this is to make simple extrapolations, another is to look for people who themselves are likely to be ahead of the game, and yet a third way is to attempt to understand the psychological dynamics of a situation. From this we attempt to build some form of (generally) conceptual model, and apply it to the circumstances that are proposed (such as a change in direction of a brand) in order to assess the likely outcome. Such an understanding may well also be used to shape the proposed outcomes in order to maximise the possibility of success.