How many people think the Moon is made of cheese? Beware PR surveys trying to sell you something – Stephen Jardine

The other day a press release arrived inviting me to write about the fear UK tourists have about toilet trouble abroad. I thought that was bad but the worst was yet to come.
The Moon is not made out of cheese (Picture: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)The Moon is not made out of cheese (Picture: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
The Moon is not made out of cheese (Picture: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Moments later an email informs me that “the UK’s top picnic spots have been revealed”. I’d never been under the impression they were being concealed but I suppose if no one cares about something, that amounts to the same thing.

Lake Windermere is apparently the favourite place in the UK to have a picnic which is strange because you would think the sandwiches would get soggy.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

It is followed by Regents Park in London and Llanddwyn Beach in Wales. The rest of the list takes us on a tour around England and Wales but strangely to nowhere in Scotland. No banks of Loch Lomond, no Elie, Loch Ness and definitely no bonnie Galloway.

Clearly Scotland is such a dump no one would ever consider putting down a mat and hunkering down to eat a mini Scotch egg. This is a major blow to our plans to promote Scotland as a picturesque place to visit unless the survey is in some way wrong.

Could it be possible that these results are not actually based on proper insight but instead just cobbled together to try and help promote some random brand? (In this case a cider company who won’t get a plug because they don’t deserve it.)

To be fair, the research did involve 1,500 people who were described as ‘picnic lovers’. Did this option feature in the Scottish Census? Of all the ways we might choose to categorise ourselves, I’m not sure ‘picnic lover’ crops up often under other interests on a CV.

Read More
Hospitality sector crisis: Even Prince Charles can't find the staff – Stephen Ja...

So how on earth do you find these people? Is it hanging around the tartan rug department in John Lewis or staking out the mini-pork pies on the supermarket shelf? Anyway, well done for finding 1,500 of them in the first place.

Where would we be without spurious surveys? From the one-in-ten people who believe the moon is made of cheese to 50 per cent of Scots who have never microwaved a gannet, data based on the flimsiest of evidence is used every day to promote flagging brands and worn-out products.

The approach seems to be, if there is nothing new or exciting to say about something then ask a cross-section of the British public a daft question and extrapolate a ridiculous conclusion.

How many times have you seen surveys claiming 75 per cent of British shoppers act in a certain way? Of course, it’s not really three-quarters of British shoppers but rather a small sample taken at specific time and in circumstances that are never clear.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Contrived research is only surpassed in marketing hell by the nonsense that is national days. So today is National Vanilla Ice Cream Day, except it’s not. It’s just a date plucked from the calendar as an excuse to bombard us with unwanted information about vanilla ice cream in the same way that yesterday was National Mango Day and tomorrow is National Thermal Engineers Day.

Hang on, I’ve just realised this column has given them exactly the publicity they want. So when 99 per cent of marketing professionals say surveys and national days work, maybe they are right after all?



Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.