Rebecca Hamilton Offers Key Marketing Tips In MSI Interview

Matt Weingarden, Curator
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Rebecca Hamilton, Summer AMA 2016
Key Takeaways

​What? Marketing research traditionally asks consumer to predict what they will want.

So What? This assumes customers will accurately know their preference in the future, but evidence suggests this is not always the case.

Now What? Marketers must choose the right research method to get the best results and must do a better job of anticipating customers long-term needs.

Rebecca Hamilton has been creating some exciting waves in the world of consumer research. In July, she spoke with MSI Executive Director and AMA Fellow, Kay Lemon regarding her research int in consumer decision making and offered five tips for marketers.

See the full conversation at>>

Hamilton is serving her second year on the AMA Academic Council as well as her second year as head of the Georgetown University marketing department and she is beginning her first term as co-editor of the AMA's Journal of Marketing Research. So AMA Academic Community readers as well as the broader AMA community may find her insights of particular interest. 

The conversation shines light on the research concern that consumers are not always the best at predicting what they will find valuable. In the article, Hamilton explains: 

“Marketing research traditionally involves asking consumers to predict what they will want at a later time,” [Hamilton] explains. “A fundamental assumption of this approach is that consumers will be able to accurately predict their preferences at some time in the future for a product that may not yet exist. It was quite a shock when, early in my research career, I started to find convincing evidence that consumers make some pretty large and systematic errors when predicting their preferences.”​

Through the discussion, Hamilton describes five key tips for marketers. The tips from the the MSI conversation are listed here with a short description. Full descriptions are available at

  1. ​More features are not always better (though consumers don’t predict this).
    Hamilton and her colleagues Debora Thompson and Roland Rust (AMA Fellow) identified “feature fatigue" in their research. Consumers may predict that they will like more features, but ultimately a simple tool may end up being more useful and, as a result, more valuable.

  2. Going alone can be just as enjoyable as going with a friend (though consumers don’t predict this).
    Consumers don't always know when they will want to do an activity alone. Hamilton and her colleague Rebecca Ratner noticed that activities that are public versus private often determine consumer comfort level at being alone. Hamilton points to watching a movie on your couch or in a movie theater. Additionally, if the activity is about fun or completing a task also influences consumers. Hamilton offers going out to dinner versus buying groceries.

  3. The most similar substitutes for a desired option are not the most satiating (though consumers don’t predict this).
    For marketers hoping to get consumers to switch brands, this tip presents an interesting challenge. Hamilton and her colleague Zac Arens noticed that "dissimilar replacements are more effective substitutes." A consumer may pick an alternate soda when her preferred option is not available, but she'll likely go back to her preferred soda in the future. Alternatively, if she can be encouraged to try a new beverage, like a sports drink, is likely that she may continue purchasing both her preferred soda and the new sports drink in the future.

  4. As consumers, it is hard for us to imagine how we will feel in a different environment.
    It isn't always easy for people to think about how they will use a product in any given situation. Buying a product in a store or online is likely going to be a very different experience than using that product in one's home or office. 

  5. For marketers and researchers, choosing the right research method for the question is critical.
    This may seem obvious to some, but some market researchers get comfortable with one method and the results are quite problematic. In some situations, focus group responses may not match with actual behavior, while experiments may provide more valuable insights.

Author Bio:

Matt Weingarden, Curator
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