Google gets data in ways which many other companies don’t. The company also understands value. It’s this mash-up of the two which allowed it to disrupt the online advertising industry with the innovative idea of low-cost Google Ads which helped generate value for publishers and advertisers alike and which created a different, but welcome, kind of value for consumers looking for particular products and services.

It has now done it again with market research. The idea of market research to back a product, support a new logo or help refine a brand’s positioning or a service has recently been given short shrift because of time and cost. In a tough economy where resources are scarce and budgets small, there is little luxury to spend time and money on focus group testing and extensive market research before implementation.

This has led us to the interesting notion of on-the-fly testing and changes led by actual customers through social media interaction and direct feedback. While this may save costs it also leads to damage where a brand has to retract after an expensive logo re-design. One need only remember the Gap logo fiasco and the noise made over Starbucks when they changed theirs to be convinced that the cost of rectifying the damage closely matches and occasionally outweighs that of proper market testing in the first place.

Unfortunately the lack of cash is hard to argue with and pragmatism usually wins out. All of which make Google’s new Customer Surveys service which allows any business, large or small, to set up a survey on a particular topic. This could range from a service to a logo change to a new product. Google takes this survey, presents it as a pop-up in front of an audience which fits the specified demographics and gives you back a detailed report of the responses.

The cost starts at just 10 cents per response and the service is only available to US businesses at present. The beauty of the system is that you have total control, you specify the questions, demographics, number of responses you want (your market testing sample size) and cost per response. The site owners whose sites the response appears on get a cut. Google gets a cut. You get to pay little and have back a detailed report backed by the data provided by the entire Google machine. Everyone wins.

Google, at the moment, says they are experimenting with the service but should it take off it may suddenly make every single business as data-driven in its marketing decisions as Google itself is and that can only mean an improvement in marketing and the return it provides.