By Paul Rule
President, Marquest Research
If you do business with me, don’t expect a lot of predictions. We research types like to call them “projections.” It looks more scientific-ish. Sort of like those interviewers who have had the gall to wear white lab coats when asking questions in shopping malls about soup mix or laundry detergent.
I cringe when I see reports of some outfit projecting that revenue from mobile phone advertising or from 3-D cinema ads will hit X-zillion dollars in 2015 or 2020. Regardless of the supposed cutting-edge mathematical model being used, projections take what has happened in the past, tweak it with personal opinions about how the market may change, then “project” where the numbers may fall in various “out” years.
The obvious reason why these exercises often do more harm than good is the inability of the prognosticator to predict essential changes that no one yet knows anything about. Someone in the year 1900 projecting the sales of cars in the U.S. in 1920 would have produced hopelessly low numbers because they would have had no knowledge of the emergence of mass production and Model T Fords.
Researchers and statisticians are unlikely to have better psychic skills than those fakes whose predictions grace the covers of supermarket tabloids around the first of each year. For example, projections of mobile media usage are likely to be based on the mobile phone as the principal delivery device, and market pundits who think that watching long-form video on two-inch screens will be a big mass-market business is disserving any client who consumes their projections.
Or we can include game portables, laptops, wi-fi, etc. in our definitions and predict that mobile media will move in those directions. Again, the bases for the projections involve devices not really designed for the purpose. To make realistic market projections we would need to know what game-changing mobile devices will be around five, ten or twenty years from now.
My guess would be that they won’t be much like anything we have now. For instance, why do mobile media need to be embedded in a phone? Wouldn’t it make more sense to embed a phone in a compact portable mobile media device that is truly user-friendly? Maybe iPhone will be the seedbed, but somewhere along the way “phone” needs to come out of the name.
I’m guessing here. If I become so weak that I start doing marketing projections based on these guesses, I hope the Amazing Randi will rush in and debunk my predictions with the same enthusiasm he has reserved for psychics and ghost-story purveyors.
Don’t buy projections that give you a false sense of what the future will be like. Spend some money finding out what’s happening in the market now, and save the rest for the product development and marketing war chest you’ll need when it becomes obvious which way the market is going to break.