Monthly Archives: June 2009

Online Communities: “Category Destroyer” or “Third Way”

Two blog posts have discussed the long-term affect of online communities

In “The Future Place Blog” ( Ray Poynter discusses the “New Market Research” where large scale communities create a new paradigm where researchers interact with large groups of participants/customers so that they have ongoing, longitudinal research that delivers both quantitative and qualitative information.  He terms this as a “category destroyer” that destroys proactive market research as we know it in favor of more interactive understsanding of consumers.  An exerpt from his blog post:

This new paradigm for research, immersed in people’s lives, is what I am referring to as New MR. The leading examples of this New MR, at the moment, come from online research communities. These communities bring marketers, customers, and researchers together in an ongoing conversation.

Head of Synovate, Adrian Chedore, has described communities as the fastest growing aspect of market research, and the reason for his deal with Vision Critical. However, unlike online data collection, online communities are a true category destroyer. Communities compete for quantitative research budgets, but deliver qualitative research benefits. Communities transform the researcher from the ‘hidden observer’ to an active participant, co-creating value with both the brand and the customers.

Drawing on Poynter’s discussion, Emiel Van Wegan ( argues that communities will not “destroy” current market research methods but will present a “Third Way” that is faster, deeper and a greater value. 

Van Wegan believes that middle size communities will deliver the value that will make them the “Third Way.”  Here is an exerpt from his blog post:

It’s a bit like Bill Clinton’s centrism (a.k.a. the “third way“) advocating a mix of some left-wing and right-wing policies. This third method of market research may help us overcome the fears of the more traditional orientated researchers – both the qual and quant teams who are afraid it may cannibalise their research. It will be another method of market research, leveraging the strengths of both methods combined with the benefits of the available technology.

How will mobile qualitative evolve?

When you boil it down to its core, qualitative research is about using communication methods to understand how people think, feel and what drives them to do what they do.  The focus group facility was an application of the family kitchen table or the business conference room.  The current growth in online qualitative coincides with the explosion of “social media” which demonstrates the ease with which people can connect and communicate via the internet. 

So, what is next?  The future may just be in mobile phone research.  Its difficult to imagine at this point what form that takes but it is equally difficult to argue against the persistent march of technology off our desktops and onto our mobile phones.  The new Apple iPhone being introduced this week will have 100 new apps and many new features for communicating and obtaining information.  Also, IBM has just announced a $100 million investment in mobile phone research over the next 5 years.  The research will focus on: mobile enterprise enablement, emerging market mobility and enterprise end-user mobile experiences. Analytics, security, privacy and user interface, and navigation will be also be covered by the research effort.

‘Mobile devices are gradually becoming ubiquitous,’ said project leader Guruduth Banavar. ‘We hope this research will serve the millions of people who now use their mobile devices for managing large forces of enterprise field workers, conducting financial transactions, entertainment, shopping, and more.’

Concurrently, 20/20 Research has seen tremendous interest in our mobile text messaging product for uses ranging from gentle homework reminders to in-depth logitudinal research to recruiting assistance. 

For those of us who have been in qualiative for many years, our world is changing almost too rapidly to keep up.  The future a bit intimidating.  It is also very intriguing.  The potential is vast.  Hang on.  The qualitative future may be a lot of things but dull is not one of them.

Are you lying to me?

Susan Abbott points out that people who are lying often can’t be caught by body language but are usually given away by their words, usually they way they tell a story. 

Drawing from Judging Honesty by Words, Not Fidgets, by Benedict Carey, Susan presents the debunks the following myths about liars.  

  • Liars do not avert their eyes more than people telling the truth
  • Liars do not fidget, sweat or slump more than truth-tellers
  • There are fleeting changes in expression, but these are difficult to analyze

In addition, she presents the following truths:

  • People who are lying tend to try to stick to a script, to avoid getting caught in a lie.
  • People telling the truth don’t have a script, so they tend to recall more extraneous details, and make mistakes. And the more they talk about a given experience, the more of these details come to mind.

Paying close attention to words is just as important as nonverbal behaviour to truly understand the truth contained in the research.

Susan’s blog, “Customer Experience Crossroads” can be found at

ARF: Online “Professional Respondents” Less than Expected

ARF Logo.gifMany of the questions we get about online research deal with response quality and/or quality of participants online versus face to face methods.  The Advertising Research Foundation (ARF) hosted the Online Research Quality Council to discuss issues surrounding respondent quality.  The group just completed a wide-ranging study of online participants utilizing 100,000 participants from 17 different panels. 

The following are three findings of interest from the study.  More about the study can be found on the ARF website at:

The study results address a number of critical questions, including:

  • Is there a small group of “professional respondents” on everyone’s panel, doing it for the money, and gaming the system rather than providing thoughtful answers?  The answer is a resounding “no”.  A small proportion of people are on more than one panel, and the panelist pool is not small, in fact comparable or better than mail panels in their heyday. People who are on multiple panels and who take numerous surveys in a month are, on average, better respondents. 
  • What drives good survey-taking behavior? The underlying driver is length of survey.  Shorter surveys produce fewer “bad respondents”. The optimal number of surveys taken is higher than most expected, and those who are motivated by wanting to share their opinions rather than being in it for the cash gifts also tend to give more thoughtful, consistent answers.
  • Are people taking the same survey more than once?  The potential exists, although it is less than initially reported.  The industry must develop operational approaches to ensure that a survey is not taken more than once.

The benefits of online qualitative: a client perspective

Greetings from the MRA Annual Conference in beautiful downtown Chicago. 

Today I attended one presentation that contained some interesting information on a topic that researchers often mention when discussing online qual, “How do I sell it to the client?”  Kathleen Wolf of Whirlpool provided some insight into how she “sells” online qualitative internally to a very traditional organization. 

According to Ms. Wolf, the two most important benefits to her internal clients are that online qual:

  1. Is flexible enough to allow the researcher to respond to last minute requests from the client team
  2. Saves time and money (individual schedules, product shipping and travel)

Other benefits she mentioned that are important are that online qual:

  • Allows client and facilitator to interact easily without having to physically meet.
  • Elicits individual thoughts with less “groupthink.”
  • Can access a broad group of people because it is not geographically bound
  • Creates brand testing opportunities

The following quotes from Ms. Wolf when discussing the futrue of online qualitative shows that she is excited about the promise of the future but that the future is often more limited by our attitudes than our capabilities.

“The technology is there”

“We’re limited by our own mindset”

“We’ve had great success in using technology to elicit consumer information.”

Massachusetts Reverses: Exempts physician incentives

A few weeks ago, we alerted you that Massachusetts passed a reporting requirement on all physician research incentive payments.  Because of diligent work by the Marketing Research Association (MRA) Massachusetts has now clarified that the regulation does not apply to market research.  Here is the text of MRA’s release:

Victory for MRA and the Profession!

Good news for the research profession! MRA, in conjunction with MRA volunteers, obtained explicit confirmation from the regulators in Massachusetts exempting market research incentives from their new public reporting requirements of Massachusetts Marketing Code of Conduct. The Department of Public Health ultimately agreed with our position that incentives to healthcare professionals should not have to be publicly reported.


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