Each one of us is a consumer. We eat, sleep, bathe, dress, exercise, gather, read, travel, and perform a host of other daily and weekly activities. In an earlier era it was a major challenge to find any product or service to meet a given need. If a product or service was available and affordable, it was readily accessed and used. This reality continues to be true in underdeveloped, third world countries; but industrialized nations—those that commonly comprise the world's Group of Eight (G8)—provide a very different picture and challenge. In these countries, every item and ser vice comes in a vast array of brands representing an equally vast array of companies. The challenge is no longer simply to get a specific product or service to market and consumers. Now the challenge becomes one of assuring that the consumer will prefer and will purchase a specific brand of product or service . . . the chosen one among the available many. To meet this challenge, companies invest heavily in research to learn about their prospective consumers, their habits, their personalities, and their preferences. To misread the consumer can spell millions of dollars in company losses and, in some instances, bankruptcy. Because the stakes are high, methodical information-gathering becomes essential and critical.
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