Analysis

New Technology brings Emotion Research Online

Emotional understanding has always been the “holy grail” for qualitative research.  Focus groups, IDIs, ethnography and other methods have long been favored techniques to understand the emotional underpinnings of consumer decision-making.  Qualitative experts consider body language as a significant, and often more reliable, indicator of true feelings than the words people use.  Just how significant is hard to pin down.  In his paper “Silent Messages,” Albert Mehrabian contends that 55% of communication is through “facial liking.”  Whether this percentage is correct is debatable.  However, most agree that non-verbal interpretation plays a significant role in understanding emotional reactions to stimuli. Read More…

“How Brands Grow” Challenges Conventional Marketing

I just read a very thought-provoking marketing book and needed to share.  It calls into question many of the accepted notions of marketing and, therefore, marketing research.  Here are a few highlights from my notes.  If you find these interesting, I highly recommend you read the book.

Kotler is wrong!  

So says Byron Sharp and the researchers at the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute who pull no punches in taking on the established marketing thinkers of today.  In their book How Brands Grow: what marketers don’t know, they boldly call out the common method of product differentiation and target marketing.  They use market studies to support their claim that growing brands are the brands that focus on reaching all the buyers in a particular category, not just a segment as many brand managers are trained to do.

These researchers maintain that it is the light users, not the heavy users that drive most growth in a brand simply because there are so many of them.  For example, if 60% of a brand’s users are light users and each one used just one more time, total brand purchase rises dramatically.   Therefore, the authors maintain that loyalty programs are misplaced and millions, even billions, of dollars have been wasted on them because loyalty programs target those who are already buying.

Sharp and his colleagues maintain that it is a brand’s distinctives that make a brand easy to recognize and easy to buy that truly driver brand growth.  Since consumers use branding as mental shortcuts for making purchasing decisions, the brand that has the most memorable distinctives (logo, colors, etc.) that get it noticed and remembered are the brands that win.

The book is thought-provoking and insightful.  Its a good read simply because the authors are not afraid to call out Kotler and others who they believe are simply wrong (and have been wrong for decades).  Their book also provides marketers with practical “recipes” for successful marketing and advertising programs.  If you are serious about marketing and willing to have an open mind that challenges traditional thinking, this book is for you.

“7 Revolutions” by 2030

2030 will usher in a much more interdependent, less secure world dominated by Asian economies.

This is the “sound-bite” conclusion I draw from an article titled, “7 Revolutions Ahead” that appeared in the Farm Journal’s March issue. The article is summarized from a presentation made by Johanna Nesseth Tuttle, VP of Strategic Planning for the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Here are the “7 Revolutions.”

  1. Population growth and shift. The developing world will grow with sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Plus, continued urbanization worldwide.
  2. Resource Management. Food and water will become more scarce and unevenly distributed. We are headed toward a “global water crisis.”
  3. Technology. 6 BILLION mobile phones in 2012. Technology advances are driving progress at an ever-accelerating rate.
  4. Information. Through the Internet and mobile devices, virtually any information is available virtually anywhere. Information changes lives, perspectives and economies.
  5. Economic shifts. Asia is emerging as the world’s economic force as their economies grow and the “developed world” accumulates ever-greater debt burdens.
  6. Security. The world becomes less secure as threats move from conventional wars to terrorism, Internet hackers, diseases and even individuals.
  7. Governance. As the world is more interdependent and complex, governments have to understand how to govern in an interdependent world of free information flow.

As a company that innovates, we think about these issues.  The implications for market research are huge.  These “7 Revolutions” explain a lot about our own “Revolution” in research and in the evolutions yet to come.  There are many implications.  Here are 3:

  1. Online research and mobile research will become ever more prevalent.
  2. The emergence of the consuming class in Asia will drive significant market research.
  3. Data security will only grow in importance.

The next few years are going to be fun.  Enjoy the ride!

NBCs Olympic-Sized Risk

I love companies that recognize the world is changing and are willing to take risks to meet that change head on.

In 13 days the Summer Olympics will open.  Since 1964, NBC has been the lead network in broadcasting these Games.  Dick Ebersol is a legend in sports broadcasting and has been the brains behind NBCs Olympic coverage for years.

Recently Comcast bought NBC and purchased the rights to the Olympics.  Their pitch?  “We will broadcast every event, live.”  Every event will be streamed live over the Internet, a total of 5535 hours.  The 1996 Atlanta Games had a total of 171 hours.  Four years ago, the Beijing Olympics had a total of 3100 hours.  NBC will broadcast nearly double that amount this year.

So, whats the risk?  To be financially successful, NBC has to capture viewership in prime time, long after the London events have finished.  Will people want to watch re-runs when they already know the outcome?  NBC/Comcast has made a multi-billion dollar bet on the integration of the Internet and Broadcast media.  They are betting that providing more CONTENT and giving people more CHOICES will be a winning strategy.  MORE content and MORE choices are a key business model of the 21st century.  But it is risky, especially when you are an old line company that has been profitable doing things the old way for a very long time.  The legend, Dick Ebersol, resigned over this decision.  The stakes are huge.

You may rise early and catch your favorite events live via the Internet.  You may wait until the evening broadcast of the most popular events and best stories of the day.  Either way, you will not only be watching sports history, but broadcast history.  If NBC can make this successful, the implications for media will be enormous.  Stay tuned.

Kudos to Comcast/NBC for recognizing and embracing the new normal and taking a risk to move into a new age.  For more information, check out the article in today’s Wall Street Journal.

Guerrilla Warfare in Social Media?

Social media monitoring is hot and a lot of companies are putting a lot of money into social media monitoring.  We did a little investigating and found several firms who provide “tweet for hire” services.  So, how does one person with a grudge and $500 give a engage in guerilla warfare with a major brand?  Actually its not difficult.

We did a quick analysis of social media volume of a couple of well-known consumer brands, one fairly large and one not-so large.  Tweeters mentioned the large brand an average of about 40 tweets an hour or 960 tweets a day.  The smaller brand averaged about 100 tweets a day.

Now consider the world of “tweeting for hire.”  In a previous post, I talked about some of the re-tweeting sites that people are using to increase their SEO.  Even social media monitoring firms use them, so they are no secret.  These firms make their living from increasing website SEO which requires a high volume of social media at a low cost.  Therefore, they have devised methods to sell high volumes of tweets for very little.  For example, here is the pricing page for www.twitterbacklinks.com.

So, for $150/month, this site will re-tweet your message 125 times a day.  What would that do to a brand’s social media monitoring charts????  For a small to mid-major brand, it would be more than half the total tweets they see.  If taking on a major brand, a single person could provide a third or more of the daily tweets (375 of 960) for $450/month.

So you ask, “Can’t I easily block re-tweeting from my social media monitoring?”  Of course you can.  However, Twitterbacklinks.com also provides the following option,  “Alternatively you can just give us the message you want promoted and we will create the original Tweet for you.”

You might say, “Well, it would be monitored so all those identical tweets would be discounted.”  True.  But a person could include different messages to make the process more difficult.  Plus, the tracking data would get really unreliable.

If you had a devious mind and a little cash or if you were an unscrupulous competitor, what could you do?  A little subterfuge would go a long way to create chaos among the brand team or to alter marketing and branding decisions.  At minimum, such an attack would undermine the trustworthiness of the system.  Its the very definition of guerilla warfare.  Its simple.  Its inexpensive.  Its effective.

How long would it take a few guerrilla attacks on brands to undermine the credibility of our industry?

Social Media Gets Poor Grades for Oscars

Research Magazine reports that social media experts tried their hand at predicting the Oscars based on social media analysis.  Based on the article “And the Winner Isn’t”, here is my report card for their performance.

Grade F.  Professor Jonathan Taplin (Annenberg Innovation Lab) at the Univ. of Southern California) predicted Midnight in Paris for Best Picture.  WRONG.

Grade F. Banyan Branch predicted The Help would win Best Picture; Viola Davis for Best Actress and Brad Pitt for Best Actor.  WRONG.  WRONG. WRONG.

General Sentiment added bookmaker’s odds to the mix for their predictions.  They picked The Artist for Best Picture, Viola Davis for Best Actress and Jean Dujardin for Best Actor.  RIGHT.  WRONG. RIGHT.

Of the 7 awards included in this post by 3 firms, 2 were correct and they were the ones where social media was combined with the opinions of those who actually have skin in the game…bookies.

To be fair, consumer opinions have no voice in the Oscars.  So, maybe this is a reminder that social media should be used for what it is:  consumer sentiment.  Social media is not a predictive tool and certainly not a tool for crowd-sourcing, at least not beyond the consumer’s area of expertise.

Let me know if you know of other prediction efforts and how they graded.

Mobile surveys, mobile qual look to explode in 2012: GRIT report

A sneak peek at the 2012 Greenbook Research Industry Trends (GRIT) report reveals an anticipation in the rise of mobile surveys this year.

That’s one of the highlights of a fascinating examination of what research firms anticipate and what clients see as the techniques that will drive market research budgets this year. The GRIT report, which will be published in the next few weeks, supports the idea that online communities and social media analytics will become a prominent and “mainstream” research technique, and research firms and clients both concur with that forecast.

Mobile surveys look to be at a tipping point. While actual use of mobile surveys in 2011 were around 20 percent (17 percent as reported by clients, and 24 percent as reported by research firms), expectations are much higher for usage in 2012. Fifty-three percent of clients expect to use mobile survey techniques, and 64 percent of research firms expect to do so.

Mobile survey usage may actually be underreported, according to the GRIT report, with budget that is actually going toward mobile being attributed to Computer Assisted Web Interviewing (CAWI) and Computer Assisted Personal Interviewing (CAPI).

Mobile qualitative looks to undergo a big jump, as part of the shift toward mobile. With actual use somewhere around 13 percent in 2011, that number looks to accelerate upward in 2012. According to the report, 31 percent of clients, and 46 percent of research firms, expect to use mobile qualitative in 2012. 20|20 is at the forefront of this rise in mobile qualitative with the recent introduction of its second mobile qualitative application, QualBoard Mobile. QualBoard Mobile includes both a fully featured bulletin board access capability and an innovative new journaling application.

Focus Group Fingers All Over Super Bowl Commercials

Super Bowl commercials generate more conversation in Monday morning meetings today than almost anything else. With social media, the conversation following a Super Bowl ad is immediate. Last year, you may remember Groupon’s commercial about the troubles in Tibet resulted in a backlash on Twitter, and a formal apology. It will be studied in business schools as a marketing misstep.

One of the lessons from that failed 2011 commercial was the alleged lack of testing that preceded its airing. Marketers weren’t going to make that mistake with 2012 Super Bowl commercials. According to a Wall Street Journal article, focus group feedback resulted in the adjustment of creative for one Hyundai commercial, removing sexist comments from the older man in the commercial and replacing them with comments about how to be successful in business.

A Chevy Sonic commercial from yesterday’s Super Bowl was met with skepticism from focus groups, who didn’t believe the stunts to be real. Chevy’s spot ended up with a text treatment at the beginning of the ad noting “100% Real Stunts. Don’t Attempt. Please.”

Of course, focus groups don’t always predict success, or what may get a marketer in trouble. Some commercials were released ahead of time, or the trailers were so extensive. Marketers weren’t willing to risk something blowing up in their face. Marvel released trailers of its Super Bowl commercial to gather input from social media viewers.

Many groups are doing in-game focus group testing, like USAToday/Facebook’s AdMeter. Groups, and events like this were held around the country.

What were the results of your Monday Morning Focus Group’s judgment on this year’s crop of commercials?

What Decisions Have You Made as a Result of Research?

Jim recently attended a conference where a speaker was touting his support of social media use in the qualitative research industry. The research buyer stated that he and others were backing off of social media.  We blogged about that on QualBlog and received some Twitter attention that was, how should we say…..less than supportive.  So we asked the question, “Can you name one decision that has been made primarily using social media?”  It was so quiet, you could have heard crickets.

Like I wrote in a blog post last August, one of the biggest challenges in our industry deals with how to best demonstrate return-on-investment to clients. We all know it doesn’t matter how much high-quality research you perform if you can’t prove the worth, but this pressure often ends up producing a large amount of (sometimes unnecessary) charts, graphs and presentations that jumble the true substance of our findings.

To find ROI that really shows value to the client, Brett Hagins Read More…

ESOMAR Qual Conference Take-Away: How Cultural Difference Impact Research Results

The annual ESOMAR Qual Conference drew to a close on Wednesday. As with most qualitative conferences, it was full of great content. More importantly, it was great to re-connect with many friends and colleagues from 40 countries around the world.

My biggest take-away from this conference was the impact of culture on attitudes and behavior.  The culture to which a person belongs has tremendous impact on the choices a person makes and the attitudes a person has toward a product or service. It’s obvious that a culture valuing individualism will view a radical fashion style very differently than a culture that values fitting in with the group. What is less obvious but equally important is what impact the cultural bias of a person’s home, family, neighborhood or area has on their perceptions and behaviors. Several presentations focused on cultural influences and the importance of studying and understanding them.

As qualitative researchers, we often assume that people are mono-cultural. Therefore, we ask their opinion or even watch their behavior, but rarely take cultural influences into account. Failing to take cultural influences into account ignores one of the major influences and leaves our analysis incomplete and possibly even misleading.

As researchers we need to embrace holistic methods that provide a 360 degree view of the consumer and his/her cultural influences if we are to provide an accurate and complete understanding of behavior and potential behavior.

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