Gallup Gets Walloped: ‘State of American Consumer’ is Flawed Report

Gallup Gets Walloped ‘State of American Consumer’ is Flawed ReportYou gotta hand it to Gallup. The legacy polling organization has its hand in everything. But sometimes, it gets slapped.

That happened in an essay by Christopher Heine. In an AdWeek blog entitled, “2012 Called and Wants Its Data Back,” Heine doesn’t pull any punches (or hand slaps) on the topic of the recent Gallup report.

The report (State of the American Consumer) indicated that 62 percent of U.S. consumers believe Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, etc. do not affect their purchase decisions. Gallup also found that 48 percent of millennial shoppers were uninfluenced by social media.

“These claims have caused a pretty good media ruckus despite having a methodology that appears flawed on multiple levels,” Heine says. “Of all the flags that go up, this is probably the reddest: The social media marketing stats are based on surveys that were performed back in December 2012 and January 2013. In the disruptive world of online marketing, 18 months is a virtual lifetime ago.”

Heine writes that “nearly every social media platform has gone through significant changes since Gallup collected its data.”

Remember 2012? Heine does.

“Facebook’s now-burgeoning mobile ad business was merely toddling, Twitter was honing its nascent targeting abilities, and Tumblr was still a babe in the digital ad woods. Word was only beginning to spread that Pinterest might boost retail and e-commerce. Vine, Instagram and Snapchat—hot properties now—were nonfactors then. More generally, to underscore the passage of time since the surveys were turned in, President Barack Obama had just been reelected, and Psy’s pop romp, Gangnam Style, was still mercilessly inescapable.”

Heine has allies for his argument.

“Social media changes too rapidly for brands to make serious marketing decisions based on the results of one poll taken [more than] a year ago,” said David Deal, a Chicago consultant. “Vine barely existed when the Gallup poll was taken, and companies such as Dunkin’ Donuts are capitalizing on its power to build brand love. [And regardless] of what Gallup reports, retailers know that Yelp absolutely influences the purchase decision.”

Others were blunt and to the point.

“The data are old,” said Rebecca Lieb, an analyst at Altimeter, who also lamented the general direction of the research.

“You don’t poll consumers whether advertisements or marketing make them buy stuff. People will always say, ‘No, I am not influenced by advertising and marketing,'” Lieb said. “It’s not an objective indicator, and that is why brands and agencies don’t use poll data to judge the effectiveness of advertising and marketing. They use other calculations of [return on investment] such as purchase intent and actual conversions and sales. This is just asking consumers, ‘Did you see Coke on Facebook and then go out and buy it?’ Ninety-nine-point-nine percent of people will say ‘no’ to that. It’s just deeply, deeply flawed.”

Heine admits that — in an industry filled with research that’s too often commissioned by sales-minded players, social marketing data from objective organizations like Gallup is indeed needed.

“But not if it’s from 2012,” he concludes.

It’s a great read. To check it out, click here.