Monthly Archives: February 2009

Millward Brown acquires qual shop for “insights”

Direct from Mr. Web (

Its good news that the big guys are investing in qualitative assets.  The following article outlines Millward Brown’s recent acquisition of Alsted Research, a Danish qual firm.  This is especially interesting given Sir Martin Sorrell’s assertion, reported in this blog on February 4, that WPP Group (Millward Brown parent) will be an “Insight-led” organization.  WPP Group, aka Kantar Group, aka Millward Brown apparently see the importance of qualitative research in developing insights and are putting their money behind it.

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HBR Touts Ethnography

Ken Anderson is an anthropologist at Intel.  In this Harvard Business Review article, Mr. Anderson discusses the use of ethnography at Intel and its importance as a strategic research tool.  The first couple of paragraphs are provided below.  The following link will take you to a longer introduction to the article and the opportunity to purchase the article from HBR.

Ethnographic Research: A Key to Strategy


Corporate ethnography isn’t just for innovation anymore. It’s central to gaining a full understanding of your customers and the business itself. The ethnographic work at my company, Intel, and other firms now informs functions such as strategy and long-range planning.

Ethnography is the branch of anthropology that involves trying to understand how people live their lives. Unlike traditional market researchers, who ask specific, highly practical questions, anthropological researchers visit consumers in their homes or offices to observe and listen in a nondirected way. Our goal is to see people’s behavior on their terms, not ours. While this observational method may appear inefficient, it enlightens us about the context in which customers would use a new product and the meaning that product might hold in their lives.

Branding, Emotions and BlackJack

Our colleague, Sharon Livingston specializes in qualitative branding research.  Over the years she has developed some techniques surrounding emotions and brands that are interesting and helpful to qualitative researchers dealing with brand identity issues.  To that end she has also developed a set of archetype cards which she provides at  The following article from her blog explores branding and emotions using her four-part Livingston Paradigm of Self Esteem©,


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Keeping up with today’s participants

If you have ever moderated, you will relate to this presentation by Jason Oke of Juniper Research.  I met Jason a year or so ago at the MRIA qualitative event in Toronto where we were both speakers.  Jason brilliantly highlights the way we sometimes feel about asking people rational questions about irrational beliefs or actions in a conference room with bare walls and a mirror.   I hope this presentation jogs your thoughts as it has mine.

I found this presentation and an interesting discussion of it at Yellow Submarine Blog (

Up Brands in a Down Economy

Amongst all the bad earnings reports and economic news that leaves us quaking is a truism that is being played out by General Mills:  supporting strong brands pays off, even in weak econonomies.  For the entire article click on

General Mills Thrives on Increased Marketing Spending

Boosting TV Ads Hiked Cereal Sales, But Digital ROI Even Higher

Published: February 17, 2009

BOCA RATON, Fla. ( — General Mills, one of the package-food industry’s top performers, laid out a number of recent marketing successes at the Consumer Analysts Group of New York conference this morning, and offered a preview of the rest of its fiscal year.

The company has staunchly supported consumer-marketing spending increases — 19% in the first half of fiscal 2009, which began in June — while competitors, including Kellogg and Kraft, have begun to scale back on the heady marketing outlays of 2008, instead preaching bundling and greater return on investment. General Mills estimates that its consumer-marketing spending will be up by “double digits” for the full fiscal year.


General Mills’ sales have responded well to increased marketing support as consumers are eating more at home. Sales grew 11% in the first half of fiscal 2009, to $7.5 billion. The company has raised guidance with each of the first two quarters. General Mills is doing so well that analysts had been expecting the company to raise its earnings guidance again this morning.



Sweet 16: Do’s and Don’ts when dealing with facilities

Even us “old dogs” can use a reminder sometimes.

Apparently our good friend Judy Langer is doing a lot of writing these days.  A few days ago we posted her Quirks article on ethnography.  Now she has teamed up with our friend Manny Schrager (owner of Consumer Centers of NY and NJ) to write an article for QRCA on dealing with facilities.  Here are the 16 suggestions.  There is a lot more detail in the artilce.  For the entire article, go to:

  1. Put things in writing
  2. Talk to your facility too
  3. Keep the facility up to date on dates and times and changes.
  4. Communicate regularly throughout the project
  5. Make the effort when recruiting from a client list to use the client’s name when recruiting
  6. When considering algorithms, use them with care
  7. Don’t choose a facility on price alone
  8. Accept or reject “holds” quickly
  9. Don’t wait until the last minute with special requests
  10. Ask about the physical facility setup
  11. Do a supply a self-administered rescreener
  12. Brief the qualitative assistant (Host) on your needs and expectations
  13. Work with your qualitative assistant
  14. Build a relationship with your facilities of choice
  15. Make payment arrangements in advance
  16. Remember the Golden Rule

Qual: A tool for peace in Mindanao

Sometimes qualitative research can be inspiring.  For me, it has usually been in the midst of a focus group when a participant makes a comment and the light bulb goes off.  At those moments I nearly gasp with delight and wonder at the insight gained.  This is inspiring but in a totally different way. 

This post includes two articles.  The first is a background article from Reuters.  The second is from MindaNews at on how Mindanao residents plan to use qualitative research as a tool for peace.  It makes me wonder about more ways to use qual for good.



The Philippine government’s decades long confrontation with Muslim separatists on the southern island of Mindanao and a second conflict with communist inPhilippinesmap.jpgsurgents across the country have left 160,000 dead and displaced up to 2 million people.

  • 700,000 uprooted in 2008 fighting
  • More than a third of population live in poverty
  • Mindanao situation attracts Islamic extremists

The Mindanao conflict first flared in the 1960s when the Muslim minority – known as the Moros – launched an armed struggle for their ancestral homeland in the south.

But the campaign for self-rule is not the only source of bloodshed on Mindanao. There has also been a long Maoist insurgency, violence linked to militant Islamist groups with pan-Asian aspirations, bloody ethnic vendettas, clan wars and banditry.

Fighting escalated in 2008 after a decade-long peace process between the government and rebel Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) collapsed.

Politics and religion aside, much of the violence is fuelled by deep poverty rooted in decades of under-investment.

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Primer for Qual End Users

The QRCA Professionalism Committe headed by one of my favorite people, Bob (J.R.) Harris, has developed a white paper for qualitative viewers.  The stated purpose of this paper is to:

  • Enhance the learning of backroom viewers, thereby maximizing the value of the research
  • Preempt the risk of making potentially costly viewing and/or listening errors
  • Provide QRCA members with a solid business-building tool.

QRCA has given me permission to post this in the hope that it might be helpful to you and/or your clients.  You can access this document at:

End Users’ take on Ethnography

Ethnographic Research:  Trendy Method or Essential Tool?

Judy Langer and Jon Last wrote an interesting article in the February issue of Quirks.  They interviewed 26 end users to get their perspecitives on the use of ethnography.  Some of the my highlights are included here. 

Generally end users were very positive about the use of ethnography as one of many tools to for the research toolbelt.  They felt that ethnography was here to stay as a method but would not become the dominant method for conducting qualitative research. 

Positive aspects were the ability to “go deeper” and the “viewer impact.”  Ethnography is part of a broader trend in qualitative research to get below the surface to attain a deeper understanding of consumers that go beyond understandings that depend primarily upon participatant articulation.  The end user “viewer impact” can be impressive as well since ethnographic research gives the marketer a rare glimpse into the “real lives” of their consumers.  The soft insights from these impressions make better marketers and lead to better decisions.


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