Now available: Design for Impact by Erin Weigel

Surveys in the news: Valentine’s day

02/06/2011

It was a familiar type of email, and one that I’d usually just delete, but in the interests of this book I opened it. “Valentine’s Day Romance Survey Results” from Fresh Flowers and Gifts in Australia. The same material is repeated on their web site, but I assume that it’s a seasonal promotion so here are the key points. I’m guessing that the panel referred to in the survey consisted of a
couple of people in the Fresh Flowers and Gift’s marketing office. In
other words, they made it up. No worries, the survey was just for fun
and that comes across pretty clearly in the results.

Read on and enjoy – and then I’ll discuss some more scientific surveys.

An unscientific survey of Valentine’s Day views in Australia

“A panel of Australian women, all experts in the
fields of being women and receiving Valentine’s Day gifts, revealed
today some special advice for men seeking Valentine’s Day romance.

Here are the main findings from the Valentine’s Day survey.

  • All women expect Red Roses on Valentine’s Day – especially the ones that say they don’t.
  • The message on the card must be romantic. Be prepared to say “I love you”.
  • Diamonds may be considered as a suitable Valentine’s Day gift but should be accompanied by a red rose and a romantic message.
  • Proposals
    of marriage on Valentine’s Day are encouraged but should also come with
    diamonds, red roses, a romantic message and a prenuptial agreement.

Australian men were asked their views on Valentine’s Day and receiving gifts.

All
men admitted being totally baffled by the concept of giving flowers.
Writing a romantic message was really pushing the boundaries.
Nevertheless, through years of observation, all men surveyed
have witnessed and experienced the powerful benefits of sending
flowers, especially on Valentine’s Day. Men understood sending roses on
Valentine’s Day is considered a sound investment decision. Men’s views
on receiving gifts held little surprise.

  • Food good
  • Chocolate good
  • Alcohol good
  • Alcohol, food and chocolate great
  • Card? Did it come with a card?

A more scientific marketing survey in the U.S.

Have there been real surveys of views about Valentine’s day? Intrigued
by the fun survey above, I had a look. Mostly, they were about as
scientific as the Australian one – and less amusing.

I found one that has received quite a lot of press and Internet coverage, released by a PR agency under the headline “Valentine’s Day Survey: Many Lovers Prefer Sincere Cards Over Costly Dates
and Flowers”.

And the announcment goes on to say:

“over a third of women (37%) appreciate Valentine’s Day cards with a love note
more than a romantic date, flowers or candy — meaning guys, your wallets can
breathe a big sigh of relief. In fact, even a third of men (31%) would prefer a
greeting card with a love note over a dinner date, proving that many men’s
hearts are not in their stomachs”.

This is both accurate and misleading.

Accurate,
because this was a reputable survey conducted by a bona-fide market
research business, and they carefully include a paragraph explaining how
they did it in the press release. The headline is accurate because 31%
of the U.S. population is a lot of people, and they said ‘many’.

Misleading,
because of the way that the press announcement is framed. When you read
‘many’, did you think ‘most’ or ‘less than half’? Would you think that
skipping the red roses in favor of a nice card has a good chance of
being welcomed by your loved one, or not?

The press release doesn’t actually say: “you’ve got a good chance here”, but it implies it.

In
fact, if your loved one is a typical member of “total U.S. population
ages 18 and over”, then you’d have over 50% chance of messing up if you
went for the card-only option for a female recipient – and the odds are
quite a bit worse if your recipient is male.

Of course, your own
loved ones aren’t typical and you won’t be swayed by surveys like this.
But it’s worth thinking about how statistics can be manipulated to make a
point.     

A survey we can learn from in Japan

I was more impressed with another survey that I found on Japan-guide.com, a site that aims to explain Japan to foreigners who plan to travel there. They looked at Valentine’s day and White day.

Japanese
women give their menfolk chocolate on Valentine’s day,
expecting them to reciprocate with a gift on White day a month later.

From
the point of view of the survey designer, the interesting part about
this Japanese survey is the meticulous opening paragraph, which
explains:

  • how many surveys they sent out,
  • how many responses they received,
  • the likely bias in the results.  

Bravo, Japan-guide.com!

And to everyone, if you observe the holiday: happy Valentine’s day to you.