October 2012 Archives

Straw Polls? Try Coffee Polls




7-11 is, once again, holding its 7-Election Presidential Election Poll. Just like years past, 7-11 customers can "vote" for either Obama or Romney by going into a 7-11 and buying a cup of coffee. To vote for Obama, they fill up with the blue cup labeled Obama. To vote for Romney, they fill up with the red cup labeled Romney. The results are updated daily and posted to the election section of their website. As of Oct. 26, 2012, Obama is leading with 59% of the vote.

If this isn't an example of poor sampling, I don't know what is. There is no way this so-called "poll" is generalizable to the overall population of the United States. There are currently 16 states which do not have a 7-11 meaning the votes of citizens in those states are not measured. Furthermore, 7/11's are commonly found in low income, urban areas automatically excluding rural citizens from its measures. Lastly, within the already narrowed down sample of low income, urban citizens living in the 34 states lucky enough to have a 7-11, only customers of 7-11 who buy coffee get to have their votes counted, and the votes of some get counted more than once as the poll allows for a customer to vote more than once by buying more than one cup of coffee.

The results are published in a somewhat fair manner. The map on their website only shows results from states that have 7-11's, and if the viewer knows the nature of 7/11 locations, then they will know exactly what kind of voter the poll is measuring (low income, urban). However, their website refers to the results as "national results," misleading viewers into thinking that the poll could accurately predict the forthcoming election. We can only hope that no voter would take this poll seriously.

Perhaps I shouldn't be too hard on 7/11 though. After all, this is simply one company out of thousands who are cashing in on the free hype and publicity of the Presidential election to market their products. And I'm willing to bet they're selling a lot off coffee because of it.

Allstate Never Tested "Mayhem" Ads



When it comes time to make decisions regarding ad campaigns, advertisers tend to rely on the most complicated of epistemological methods of knowledge: empiricism (observation and research). Before they spend millions of dollars of their client's (or their own) money, they prefer to test ads to see how they'll resonate with audiences. They do this to appease their worried clients and bosses, who don't want to be held responsible for multi-million dollar campaigns that are deemed a failure. Ads that test successfully go out, while the ones that don't are sent back to the creative (and now disappointed) minds who dreamed them up in the first place.

Advertisers don't always rely on the painstaking process of research, however. Sometimes, they rely purely on intuition (their gut instincts). The advertisers of Allstate's in-house marketing arm relied on exactly that for their "Mayhem" ad campaign. Allstate's Senior Vice President of Marketing, Lisa Cochrane, talked about the wildly successful campaign at a meeting for the Association of National Advertisers, "I knew that 'Mayhem' was the right idea at the right time. I could feel it." The company did absolutely no surveys, focus groups, or experiments to justify running the campaign. They just did it, and it worked.

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