Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Alcohol and Candy: Market Research

On Saturday, I went to my local pool hall to practice. At that time of day, all of the tables were empty, but the parking lot was full of cars. The pool hall hosts a Texas Hold ‘Em poker tournament every week, which accounted for the crowd. It doesn’t cost anything to play, but you’re expected to tip the dealer. I had been wondering about the economics of this activity, so I talked to the bartender.

“Who drinks more?” I asked, “Poker players or pool players?”

“Oh my God,” she answered. “Poker players. Way more.”

I confess I was surprised, because I had assumed that poker players would want to keep their wits sharp to defend their chip stack. And I was a bit upset, because I’m a pool player, and pool players like to think of themselves as hard-drinking, motorcycle-driving tough guys, even though most of us are white-collar professionals with minivans. And then, she said something that crushed me.

“Poker players drink the most,” she said. “Then dart players. Then pool players.”

Dart players? Seriously?

Anyway, I found this tidbit of information to be very interesting for two reasons. One, because it challenged my assumptions. Two, because the data came from direct observation.

I had a similar experience at work this week. Someone brought a gigantic bag of bite-size Mars candy bars. The bag contained Twix, Milky Way, 3 Musketeers, Snickers, Butterfinger and Baby Ruth.

Someone opened the bag and dumped it on the lunch table in a big mound. Within a day, all of the Snickers, Butterfinger, Twix and Baby Ruth candy bars were gone. Over the next day, the Milky Way candy bars were slowly picked from the pile. There’s still a big pile of 3 Musketeers.

If I were the CEO of Mars Candy, I’d fire all of my marketing executives and just dump a pile of candy on a table somewhere to conduct my market research. Then I’d shut down production of 3 Musketeers, and let everyone at the Milky Way factory know that their jobs were on the line. Then I’d hop on my motorcycle and go out to play some Texas Hold ‘Em.


burton said...

Hah! Drunken dart players?! I guess we need to steer clear from that crowd.

bruce said...

if it costs nothing to play, except the tip, then what is the reason to play? does the player actually get anything? bar tab? money? who puts up the money if they win? the economics of the bar owner are listed...but what about the player? what can they get except a bad beat that they have to pay a tip for?

Tim said...

There are three tables going, each with 10 seats. The overall winner gets a small bar tab, and a seat at a playoff series in which they can win a seat at the World Series of Poker. Otherwise, they're just there for the sport and of course, the alcohol.