Monthly Archives: March 2009

All “a-Twitter” about Qual

Twitter is a new phenomenon that seems to be taking the world by storm.  Everyone from gradeschoolers to the President seem to be “twittering.”  Can it be an asset in qualitative research?  I don’t know.  However, the folks at S&R Communications ( penned an appropriately short article on benefits and drawbacks to using Twitter for qualitative research.

Whether it’s biased or not, that’s another subject. But with the ever-growing third-party applications being developed for use with Twitter growing daily, like Twellow, TweetBeep, NearbyTweets, and Tweetdeck, Twitter provides the ripe medium to use for qualitative market research.

Plugged-in gives a great list of pros and cons (below) of why you might want to look to Twitter for your next market research project.

The benefits of using Twitter for qualitative research

  • It’s free & easy – We’ll start with one obvious benefit – Twitter is free and fairly easy to mine for information. All kinds of third-party services exist to help see the latest trends, hot topics, etc…
  • It’s fast – If you have an active group of followers you can get answers to your questions quickly.
  • It’s “natural” – Twitter is an existing social network that can be mined for feedback in a “natural” setting.

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Solution for viewing small market focus groups

A few weeks ago, I got a project to conduct two focus groups in Pampa, Texas.  In case you don’t know, Pampa is an oil town in the Texas panhandle about 60 miles from Amarillo. 

Of course, there is no focus group facility, so we set up in a hotel.  One problem was that there was not a hotel in town with two conference rooms where we could set up closed-circuit viewing.  Clients wanted to view the groups but I preferred that they not be present in the room with the participants.  We did a little brainstorming and found a solution. 

20/20 Research’s QualMeeting service is essentially an online video streaming service.  Therefore, we set up a video camera in the room with a feed to a laptop computer.  Because I was concerned about potential technology failure, a technician/camera operator set up and operated all the equipment.  We had a second technician at 20/20 during the streaming to ensure that any and all problems were dealt with immediately..

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What is the CMO thinking?

Either directly or indirectly, we work for CMOs because they are the ones who set the agenda for the brands, products or services for which we conduct qualitative research.  The following article is interesting because it explores the mind of the CMO, especially in a recession.  The topics on the mind of the CMO are the topics that will undoubtedly find their way into the next research project.  This article came from Ad Age


Why CMOs Are Gaining Ground in the Recession

The Four Top Issues on Which CEOs Look to CMOs for Guidance

Published: March 10, 2009

John Quelch
John Quelch

Some good news for marketing heads: Chief marketing officers are holding on to their jobs longer. Spencer Stuart’s annual survey of CMO tenure at the 100 most advertised brands in the U.S. reveals average time on the job has risen to 28.4 months from 26.8 months in 2007 and 23.2 months in 2006.

The popular interpretation of those data is that CMOs are aligning better with CEOs. The latter are no longer expecting instant rainmaking, and the former have learned to be humble. CMOs have learned not to pontificate about brand values before researching the issue, and they no longer fire the incumbent advertising agency the day after being appointed. The best CMOs stay low-key and aim to make the CEO, whose background often is not in marketing, comfortable becoming the chief cheerleader for the brand.

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Value Propositions: 3-D and 5-P approaches

As qualitative researchers we are often working to uncover the valua proposition or the USP for a particular product or service.  As with many things, I’m always looking for ways to structure my thinking or brainstorming.  Having some type of structure, or knowing the questions to ask, is simply much easier than staring at a blank piece of paper or a room full of participants while trying to understand the product.  This article is a two-fer.  It briefly explores the 3-D method for establishing/evaluating value propositions and reprints an article from the Financial Times outlining a 5-P method. 

Customer Value Propositions Made Easy

One of the most important and yet one of the most badly carried out tasks by business to business marketers is the development of a good customer value proposition.

The term customer value proposition or CVP is one of those dreadful inventions of the last decade. In the past we had products and services with unique selling propositions or USPs but that didn’t seem to be simple enough for our developing profession.

The problem with customer value propositions is that most people can’t help themselves when they create them. They feel honour bound to list each and every feature and benefit of the offer and, as a result, they weaken the appeal to the person they are aimed at.  Instead of the proposition being clear, it becomes fuzzy and listless.  Too many features and benefits are too much for recipients to cope with.

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YouTube for academic-minded quallies

This paper from the Weekly Qualitative Report is specifically produced by academics for academics.  However, if you are interested in finding qualitative material in video format on YouTube, this paper has done the work for you.  The authors searched YouTube for qualitative related videos, reviewed them and provided them in this paper with a synopsis and a link.  You may find it useful.  Here is the article abstract:

YouTube, the video hosting service, offers students, teachers, and practitioners of qualitative researchers a unique reservoir of video clips introducing basic qualitative research concepts, sharing qualitative data from interviews and field observations, and presenting completed research studies. This web-based site also affords qualitative researchers the potential avenue to share their reusable learning resources for all interested parties to use.

You can go directly to the paper at: 

The importance of unlearning

At the end of a very good article that defines the ever-elusive “insights” that we seek as qualitative researchers, is an interesting couple of paragraphs related to the importance of “unlearning.”  I’ve copied those paragraphs below and hope they will stimulate your thinking.  To see hte entire article, go to:

Kathy Sierra in her blog Creating Passionate Users discusses unlearning.

“Yes, we’re under pressure to learn more and to learn quickly, but the future goes to those who can unlearn faster than the rest, because you can’t always learn something new until you first let go of something else. And learning to let go of rules is one of the first things we (and our managers) have to learn to be quicker at.

Sometimes that means letting go of something that served you well for a long time.”

Qualitative Research is changing, as we work through how we engage people in a more “authentic” way. The recession means we literally cannot afford to do what we have done in the past. We will need to “unlearn” both how we construct methodologies as well as how we analyse and interpret meaning. And maybe there are other things we have to unlearn as well?

15 types of meaningful experiences

Qualitative research is constantly engaged to understand underlying motivators, hot buttons and meaning for various types of consumers.  Therefore, understanding and being able to communicate those insights is crucial to success for the qual researcher.  The folks at Making Meaning outline 15 meaningful experiences people common to people across cultures.  For the full article go to

The 15 meanings that they found across cultures simply provide a framework for thinking as we conduct qualitative research.  Those 15 means are presented below in alphabetical order. 

  1. Accomplishment
  2. Beauty
  3. Community
  4. Creation
  5. Duty
  6. Enlightenment
  7. Freedom
  8. Harmony
  9. Justice
  10. Oneness
  11. Redemption
  12. Security
  13. Truth
  14. Validation
  15. Wonder

Its an interesting website.  I recommend you check it out.

New Book: America in Focus

America in Focus Book.jpgI came across this new book about focus groups and wanted to share it.  The author is self-proclaimed, “The Focus Group Guy.”  I don’t know him and have not read the book so I cannot endorse it.  Howevever, I thought you might want to know its out there.

According to the website ( the book is less about technique than it is about what the author, Robert J. Burgess, has learned about American life through “more than 2000 focus groups.” 

If you read it or know anything about it, please leave a review.

Bulletin Boards useful for studying cancer patients

The following abstract is from an article in BMC Medical Research Methodology of the use of bulletin boards to reach cancer patients, specifically pediatric patients.  We have conducted QualBoard studies among physicians and patients for many years and found the methodology to be very effective because of its asynchronous nature and, in many cases, the anonymity the technique affords. 

Online focus groups as a tool to collect data in hard-to-include populations: Examples from paediatric oncology

The purpose of this article is to describe and evaluate the methodology of online focus group discussions within the setting of paediatric oncology.

Methods: Qualitative study consisting of moderated asynchronous online discussion groups with 7 paediatric cancer patients (aged 8-17), 11 parents, and 18 survivors of childhood cancer (aged 8-17 at diagnosis).

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Tropicana: Up-to-date isn’t always better

Like “New Coke,” Tropicana recently made a serious packaging boo boo by “updating” their carton and sacrificing their brand identifiers.  Unfortunately, the carton looked more modern but also lost all the brand identity loyal Tropicana users needed to quickly pick out their favorite juice.  This article comes from designer Patrick Algrin who has a blog (  It is a quick overview of the impact from a consumer’s and researcher’s perspective

Tropicana’s branding revert, proving the power of focus groups

Feb 26, 2009

Tropicana reverts branding change

Tropicana’s original package design next to the new package design that was eventually taken off shelves

The environment of which your focus group takes place is just as important as the actual product you are testing

It’s old news by now, that Tropicana reverted back to their old packaging. But if you have been out of the loop for a couple of days or weeks, well then here is the down-low. Tropicana decided it was time for a change, and decided it would be best to push towards a clean package design and identity for the very well known orange juice. After much disappointment and customers calling the new packaging “generic,” Tropicana quickly reverted back to the old package design before losing any more sales.

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