DC’s Market Research Survey
Everything that has happened with the New 52 has made me think that this whole thing was only halfway thought out (maybe three quarters, AT BEST). Here’s DC’s online market research survey, provided by the Nielsen Market Research Concern. Go ahead and take it if you want, then we can talk about it a little. I can’t just write what the questions are, because it turns out that they’re all copyrighted by Nielsen, so they’ll sue me (!) if I publish any of it, I guess.
You’ll notice, I’m sure, a couple major problems: the very first one being, how the hell would the average reader even know or care about this survey? Especially if they’re new to comics, or just coming back from a long absence? I only found out about it through Comics Alliance, and I know what you’re thinking — “well, they’ll find out about the survey from the same place as they found out about these comics,” and maybe that’s true. (Also, Nielsen is apparently sending people out to bother Patton Oswalt, so that will also get them some good numbers.)
Worse by far, however, is the nature of the questions themselves. You noticed, I’m sure, that they asked you if you were a parent of an under-18-year-old. Good! Good question! DC wants to attract new readers, they should find out how we’ll they’re doing in that respect.
Except. I’m not a parent, but I used to have an under-18 brother (he is older than 18 now, not dead, don’t worry), who read a lot of comics on my recommendation. My wife is a teacher at a public school, she’s always interested in material to give kids that they can read. No questions about that. No questions about nieces or nephews, no, “are you a librarian?”, no “do you volunteer with Big Brother?”
Not only does this indicate a bit of a half-assed job on Nielsen’s part, but it seems to suggest a shocking ignorance about just how kids find out about things that they like — often in large part by word-of-mouth.
Interestingly also, the survey asks which books you’ve read but didn’t buy, but never asks WHY YOU DIDN’T BUY THEM. Were they too expensive? Too boring? Too stupid? About things that weren’t interesting?
No questions at all about “how did you read these comics without buying them”: did you borrow a friend’s? Did you leaf through them in the store? These are important questions, and it’s not like Nielsen didn’t know to ask them, otherwise “read but didn’t buy” wouldn’t even be an answer.
You’re supposed to use market research like this to figure out which of your marketing initiatives are the most effective. If DC had found out that most people weren’t buying comics because they thought those comics were too expensive, then it might be worth it for them to continue their “Hold the Line at $2.99″ initiative (alternately: something similar but less dumb). If they’d found out that most people weren’t buying the books because they were too similar to other books, then DC might rethink it’s “Eighteen Books About Batman” policy.
If they found out that a lot of the survey takers were recommending books to under-18 kids, then DC might think it was worthwhile to try to pitch more books into the “early adult, but still appropriate for teens” demographic; if they found out the opposite, it might mean that they should split the line between books specifically geared towards teens and those specifically geared towards adults.
Of course, they can’t do any of these things, because they aren’t going to get the ACTUAL INFORMATION that they want, which in this case is always the same: WHY DIDN’T YOU BUY THE BOOK. However else we disguise it in terms of marketing and demographics (and unless you’re just collecting demographic information for more targeted ad sales), it’s always the same question. We only note, for instance, how many women are buying comics (and taking surveys) because of what we posit will be of interest to women, and whether or not we have to do more of it.
What’s weird is, it’s not like DC didn’t know that there was a huge dust-up about gender and race in their upcoming titles — so, of course questions about those two things were
prominent conspicuously absent from the survey. Dear DC: if Nielsen told you that there was no time to update the survey to include a few questions like, “How do you feel about the portrayal of female characters in the titles you read?” ”How important is that in your buying decision?” before the survey went live, then they were lying to you. I guarantee you that those surveys are not individually-coded; any idiot assistant in the office could have stuffed a few more questions in there, up to ten minutes before the survey went up.
All of this seems to show not just that DC is so badly confused about the actual business of marketing their books that they don’t even know what questions to ask, but apparently Nielsen Market Research is just as much in the dark. And if it’s Nielsen that handles market research for most of the entertainment industry, then it’s starting to look pretty obvious why no one seems to know what they’re doing:
Nielsen Market Research is a bad market research company.