Monthly Archives: June 2011

Made your fall MR conference plans yet?

All my bags are packed, I’m ready to go…

With apologies to Peter, Paul & Mary… The Fall MR Conference season will be here before you know it. And it looks like another good one. Have you made your plans yet?

20|20 will be exhibiting at several this Fall… and attending even more.

The folks at Inside Research have put together the best annual conference calendar in the industry and made it available on their website.

You might want to bookmark this page, as I’m sure they’ll be updating it for the Spring in the not-too-distant future.

One note: the ESOMAR 3-D Digital Research Conference has been moved and is now scheduled for October 26-28 in Miami.

The taxi’s waiting, he’s blowin’ his horn…

Lessons My iPad Taught Me

I’m on vacation and learning to use my new iPad 2. My typing is slow and I make a lot of mistakes. I often wish I had a keyboard but that would defeat the purpose of this “mobile” device. If I don’t throw it into the ocean, I think I’m going to like it.

In addition to being mobile, my iPad is incredibly personal. I put the apps on it that I want. Some are work-related, many are not. It bridges my work and personal life so that neither is ever far away. After all, I’m writing a “work blog” while on vacation.

My guess is that my iPad2 is simply a bridge product itself. As a product it is neither a phone nor a computer. But it has tapped into something several fundamental changes that have significant implications for researchers.

1. People don’t compartmentalize their lives any more. The lines between work and play are blurred.
2. People want customization. It truly is all about me, not my generation or peer group.
3. People want to be constantly connected. Take away their wireless signals and watch ‘em squirm!

If I think about it much more, I could come up with more. However, I’m on vacation.

My iPad is a good teacher. What are your toys teaching you?

Multi-tasking public creates qualitative research dilemmas

The reality of the American consumer using a tablet, cellphone or laptop while watching TV is habitual behavior that seems to be reinforced by study after study. Yesterday’s release of a Harris Interactive/Adweek poll shows that fully one-third of Americans are surfing the Internet, reading a book or newspaper, engaged in social media, or texting on a mobile phone while watching TV.

So with an audience that has split its attention across platforms, what are qualitative researchers supposed to do? It’s a lively debate. A recent conference had a presenter noting that “We the People” had spoken with their behavior, and it was up to qualitative researchers to adapt.

But as Reg Baker says on his blog, The Survey Geek:

“This reminded me that responding to survey questions is not easy; it takes some serious cognitive energy. Most researchers accept the four-step response process described a decade ago by Tourangeau, Rips and Rasinski:

1. Comprehension—understand the question and how to answer it (instructions)
2. Retrieval—search memory to form an answer
3. Judgment—assess completeness and relevance of the answer
4. Respond—map the response onto the right response category

When respondents execute this process faithfully we say they are engaged. When they short-circuit it we talk about lack of engagement.”

What are we to do in a world where the respondent may or may not be engaged? Can marketers use research taken when a respondent is on his or her iPad, cell phone and TV at the same time?

What do you think? Provide us some of your best thinking.

20|20 Launches QualBoard™ Plus

20|20 Technology, a division of 20|20 Research, Inc., today announced the launch of QualBoard™ Plus, a bundled set of tools, services and dedicated project support that relieves researchers of the myriad details necessary to complete a bulletin board focus group project.

According to Isaac Rogers, Director of Innovation for 20|20, “Every bulletin board focus group project has a lot of details necessary for the project to be successful – discussion guides, participant lists, stimuli and reporting. With QualBoard™ Plus researchers don’t have to worry about those anymore. QualBoard™ Plus is a new bundled package that includes access to an advanced reporting system, discounts on commonly used services, and a dedicated project assistant that will be the researcher’s “hands-on” for the entire study – for a low flat fee. Our clients can just focus on moderating, knowing that everything else is taken care of.”

QualBoard™ 3.0, 20|20’s industry-leading bulletin board focus group platform, is used by research agencies and client-side researchers around the world. The current version of QualBoard™ offers numerous features not found in any other bulletin board platform: the ability to embed webcam responses from participants, file archiving at no charge, QuickView™ – the easiest way ever to manage bulletin boards, and QualLink™ for true quant-to-qual hybrid studies and more.

Positioning for the qualitative research industry of the future

Every conference, many blog posts and most conversations in the qualitative research industry center around the big question: what’s happening next?

Rapidly changing consumer behavior, technology advances and a horizon that is unclear to most marketers creates fear and opportunity. But the leaders in the qualitative research industry, and the future leaders of whatever this industry looks like, are focusing on accepting change and uncertainty, and creating their own future.

It’s about positioning. Listen to some leading voices and what they have to say:

In answer to the question that emerged from his appearance at the MRIA conference in British Columbia last week, “What is Next Gen Market research?,” Tom H.C. Anderson says the following at Next Gen Market Research:

” Importantly, the goal for all of us needs to be to resist further commoditization and cost cutting. Instead let’s increase the value of insights. I believe part of this will have to do with positioning. If you are on the qualitative side the goal will be greater creativity, more ‘marketing’ in both cases. We need to become more than traditional researchers while retaining the methodological principles which have served us well for many years.”

Says Ray Poynter, about the future of market research, in an interesting article from his blog, The Future Place:

“Although I think our business model is probably endangered, I think the future looks great for talented individuals. I think the opportunities for people who can understand a client’s needs, create a method of finding the answers, synthesise several streams of information, and produce feedback that allows the client to make a better decision has never looked rosier.

Jim Bryson adds his own thoughts, taken from some recent remarks:

“Marketing research is changing fundamentally. Survey’s will continue to be around for quite a while but they will be more limited than now because so much more data will be available from other sources. We saw a glimpse of this trend when companies started data mining of shopper data. That is expanding geometrically with huge new databases and the coming capabilities to gain true insights from social media. There are literally dozens of trends that all point to a more diminished role for the traditional survey.

With change comes opportunity. We can now engage consumers in a more complete way than 50 years ago. Compare current ethnography capabilities (visits, mobile qualitative, online journaling, webcam interviews, etc.) with the door-to-door methods of 50 years ago and you see that the industry has come light years and that there are more opportunities now in the industry than ever before. We will advance more in the next 10 years than in the last 50 and the opportunities will be accelerated as well…for those who are willing to change.”

Jim notes what he heard from a Senior EVP from Coca-Cola at the past Advertising Research Foundation conference, “If you don’t like change, you’ll like irrelevance even less.”

MRA Conference hits a Home Run

I never thought I would call an MRA Conference a “home run” but MRA put together a terrific conference this week. There were plenty of areas to nitpick but on the most important element, content, MRA got it right.  The content stimulated high level thinking and was forward-focused.  Most of the speakers were well prepared and well briefed.  They focused on research as an industry rather than the details of a few methods.  Most of these speakers caused the audience to ponder the future of the industry and their place in it.

My two personal favorites sessions were:

  1. The face off between Bill Neal and Marshall Toplansky was one of the most entertaining and thought-provoking sessions I have seen in a conference in quite a while.
  2. “What it means to be a connected human in the 21st Century” by James McQuivey of Forrester Research.

This conference and recent MRA decisions gives the impression that the MRA is on the rise.  The Marketing Research Association (MRA) has long been a great place for “data collectors” to gather, build friendships and share/commiserate with one another.  The association had little to offer other players in the industry.  That impression is changing at warp speed.

First of all, as mentioned, the conference content was far and away the best of any MRA Conference I have ever attended.

Second, the MRA Board announced that MRA is moving to Washington, DC.  This is an overdue and gutsy call by the Board.  MRA has long been the only MR association with a full-time presence on Capitol Hill.  Now MRA will solidify their leadership as  our industry’s government relations voice and be located in the rich association talent pool of Washington, DC.

Third, MRA is boldly reaching out to Corporate Researchers by eliminating their fall conference and replacing it with a conference specifically programmed for Corporate Researchers.  MRA has grasped the understanding that if Corporate researchers are involved, the rest of the industry will follow.  Given MRA’s historic weakness in this area, establishing a Corporate Researcher Conference was another gutsy call.

There is only one way that an organization changes its trajectory so quickly:  leadership.  I want to publicly commend David Almy (the new CEO), Elisa Galloway (outgoing President) and the MRA Board of Directors for making some tough but necessary calls that put MRA in a new trajectory as an industry leader.

MRA Conference Quotes: Bill Neal and Marshall Toplansky face off

The MRA Conference started Tuesday with a bang!  Industry veterans, icons really, Bill Neal and Marshall Toplansky, faced off on a debate about the future of the industry, specifically social media.  The debate was fun, opinionated and wide-ranging.  Some great quotes emerged.  Here are some of them that may make you stop and ponder.

“The (technology) train has left the station.  If the research industry does not get involved, it will relegate itself to the dustbin of history.” Marshall

What bothers me about our industry is that the answer to “It isn’t perfect” is I won’t bother with it.  In technology, the answer to “It isn’t perfect” is “I’ll work to fix it.” Marshall

On Corporate Trends:

“Corporate researchers are investing in ongoing, real-time information systems.  They started with financial systems and they are moving to marketing systems.  They are moving from a focus on strategic research and into performance indices.” Marshall

“Our role is to be the arbiter of the voice of the customer in the C-suite.  Unfortunately we do not have a voice in the C-suite today.” Bill

“Corporate researchers are not able to make judgments to understand what is good research and what is not.  They want the top numbers to pass up to those paying for it.” Bill

“Big M marketing is waning; Little m marketing is increasing.” Bill   (Big M = branding and long term positioning.  Little m = tactical marketing to result in short-term sales.)

“The fundamental flow of information to the decision makers is inadequate.” Marshall

On Social Media as a Research Tool:

“I don’t care how big the data set is, if its not representative then its not valid.  There are gobs of people that are not represented in social media…I’m not sure its ever going to get to the point where it is representative.” Bill

“It’s the “why” part of it that a lot of this new technology is not addressing.” Bill

“Despite what I have seen at this conference, social media research has not reached the point where you will bet the company on it.” Bill

“Gobs of data does not relieve us from conducting statistically reliable and trustworthy analyses…(and) relieve us from making reliable projections that can be defended in the court of reality” Bill

I remember when people stood up and said “Scanner data is going to end all research.” Bill

“I remember when people said that scanner data was no good because we didn’t know anything about the people that the data represents.  It wasn’t long until loyalty cards were invented to solve that problem.  We will solve these problems with social media.” Marshall

“I am concerned that this drive to use social media as quantitative information is going to lead too many people to drive off the cliff.  I guess that’s my major problem with it.”  Bill

“I want to address this idea of “representativeness.”  Do you realize that this whole idea of “representativeness” is a load of crap?…We are stuck in an old paradigm that even Proctor & Gamble is moving away from.” Marshall

“We have a herd instinct going on with social media and we have a lot more work to do to make it predictable.” Bill

“I don’t think you appreciate the scale difference between social media and traditional research.  To give you a sense of scale, just in consumer electronics we analyze and collect 120 million comments a month.  We are looking at this as the law of large numbers.  A lot of the comments we would normally delete in a typical research project get bled out in the millions of comments from social media.” Marshall

“So woman comes on and complains about diapers and more moms agree and add on.  Eventually the discussion cascades and the entire social media discussion is about a topic that may or may not be important to the majority of moms.  This is one of the problems I have with social media.” Bill

“Its (social media) not the end all, its just another tool.  Don’t oversell it.  Don’t overuse it.” Bill

Qualitative Research Needed to Understand Social Buying

Several interesting articles recently have focused on social media effects on purchasing. It’s an ongoing discussion among marketers, and qualitative research is a critical part of the discussion.

A recent post by Tony Zambito at his blog, Buyer Persona Insights, The Research Methods of Social Buyerology notes that understanding buyers who use social media requires “multiple qualitative approaches,” including field buyer research, ethnographic immersion, contextual buyer interviews and grounded theory interviews.

“What we do know today is that traditional methods of structured customer, buyer, and market research that are quantitative based cannot address the social and cultural changes taking place in our business society. This includes the severely hindering structured methods typically associated with focus groups and surveys. It is not to say that quantitative structured approaches are worse but to say that qualitative approaches are specifically needed to understand behavioral and interaction changes in situational settings, says Zambito in another article at Business to Community on the same topic.

At 20/20, we concur. qualitative approaches to understanding buyers and purchasing are specifically needed in our social media era.  Kathy Doyle of Doyle Research Associates as been particularly vocal about the need for qualitative research techniques in evaluating social media.  Her presentation to at the QRCA Conference last year served as a wake-up call to the industry that qualitative should be the analysis of choice if users are to get the most out of social media.

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