A slow news day brings us a USA Today report on how some retailers are/are not referencing Christmas. I’ll leave my take on this can of worms to this editorial cartoon.** What really interests me about this story is the media relations effort behind it.
The above report shows how a small sample landed one “expert source” a big story in USA Today. Small sample sizes are usually a red flag for bad research. But in this case a small sample is warranted; there are only a small handful of national retailers. Conducting observational research on their holiday marketing is a simple and smart idea.
Smaller sample sizes can be appropriate depending on how the results are promoted. Consider an opinion poll at a trade show. Trade shows bring the bulk of an industry under one roof for a few days. An industry opinion poll is a great gauge of which trends and topics attendees find most interesting. And post-show round up stories are always looking for an angle beyond the laundry list of new products.
At my last job, we promoted opinion poll results gathered at my client's largest annual show. PDA-carrying pollsters roamed the show. Attendees were incentivized to take the poll with an entry into a drawing for one of several iPods. When promoting poll results, we were clear on sample size. The timely hook garnered the client great exposure and we also published the results in a follow-up mailing sent to customers and leads generated at the show.
** With a hat tip to Canuckflack, I suspect Tyson will ruffle more, er, feathers over their blatant display of Christianity than Macy’s will over keeping Christmas in its marketing. After all, they were the department store featured in Miracle on 34th Street. OK, maybe I'm wrong and just overdue for a Festivus Airing of Grievances.
UPDATE: Ed Nicholson from Tyson Foods rightly points out that the Tyson's "Giving Thanks" booklet is inclusive of several religions and provides meal time prayers from Jewish, Muslim and Native American traditions.
UPDATE #2: Adrants reports that the American Family Association pressured a few retailers into changing their approach. Oy.