America Speaks: A little fun with the GOP Presidential Candidates

We at 20|20 had a little fun last night.  While the Republican Presidential debate raged on, we did a poll of Americans to see what they thought about the candidates in a more “tongue-in-cheek” way.  Here is what 2000 Americans had to say last night to 5 burning questions with a little commentary tossed in for fun.

Sex, Southern Baptists and Starkville, Mississippi

Several people have asked me to expand on my experience that was mentioned in the QRCA Views Winter 2012 issue and included in a recent blog post “Road Warriors Reveal Steamy (and Funny) Side of Qual.”  So, below is the whole story as I sent it to Joel Reish of Next Level Research, former QRCA President, article author and friend.

My favorite was the time I was brought in on a study regarding sex education materials among Southern Baptists in Starkville, Mississippi.

There was no facility so we had to contract with a hotel.  So I made arrangements for the hotel to host the group and to stay there that evening.  The hotel didn’t have A/V services so we contracted with the Mississippi State A/V dept to video the group.

We were able to work everything out and get it all arranged.  20|20 Research recruited 12 Baptists to come to the hotel to talk about sex eduction.  It was all set.  You can’t fly into Starkville; but you can fly into Columbus, rent a car and make the 45 minute drive to Starkville.  So I did.  As luck would have it, my flight was late and I arrived in Columbus about an hour before the group was to begin.  I rushed to the car and drove to Starkville as quickly as possible wondering what it would be like to be arrested for speeding in rural Mississippi.

I finally pulled up to the hotel about 15 minutes before group time.  The hotel was historic (old) and had obviously been through several renovations.  I remember thinking it seemed  to be straight off the set of a John Wayne western.  When I walked in, there are several people milling about the lobby, obviously my Baptists.  As we often do, I tried to enter without being to conspicuous.  Upon arriving at the counter, I find my “State” A/V man standing there waiting on me.  I felt a huge sigh of relief when he assured me that everything was “already set up and ready to go.”

He offered to lead me to the filming location so I could double-check the set up and prepare for the group.  He led me through numerous hallways that seemed to snake forever through this old, renovated hotel until we finally reached the door.  He smirked as we arrived and I wondered what he was thinking.   Then he opened the door to show me his camera set up.  To my shock, he had set up the camera in my bedroom!  The reason for his smirk became obvious as my mind raced to understand how to deal with my  Baptist sex education group.

I was horrified.  Within minutes, I was relieved to discover that the hotel had a spare conference room available.  The Mississippi State A/V man moved his equipment very quickly and we were able to start the group only about 15 minutes late.

Not only was the set-up nerve-wracking, it was a prelude to one of my “worst-group-ever” experiences.  But thats another story for another time.

If you have a story to tell, please share it.  This is one of the greatest professions in the world!


Focus groups review the classics

For those of you who watched the Oscars Sunday night, I hope you saw the skit spoofing a focus group for “The Wizard of Oz.”

Without giving the good jokes away, the crowd is underwhelmed and confused by this classic movie. The advice for how to improve the movie is hilariously off-key. The one part of the movie that is lauded, again and again, by one focus group participant: the flying monkeys.

It is a clever skit and makes one think of how entertaining it would be to see focus group feedback on classic movies from the past. Think “Casablanca.” A focus group would say there is no way he’s letting her fly away. Or “Old Yeller.” Is it necessary for the dog to die?

It also makes one wonder how movies like “Ishtar” or “Showgirls” get made. Certainly there wasn’t a focus group involved, was there?

Road Warriors Reveal the Steamy (and Funny) Side of Qual

Qualitative researchers have a lot of stories.  Their professional livelihood is a recipe for humor.  Consider that a moderator spends much of his/her life on the road schlepping bags, storyboards, product concepts and even product prototypes from city to city.   Plus, she works with everyday people who can be extraordinarily odd ( has nothing on the stories of a busy moderator.)  Add in the myriad product categories and occasional oddball assignment and you can understand why we qualies love this work so much.

Joel Reish of Next Level Research appreciates humor more than most.  In the Winter 2011 issue of QRCA Views, Joel has compiled a list of “sexy” stories from QRCA members across the globe.  If you appreciate stories about people and research, you will love this article of short encounters of the qualitative kind.

Here are a few tidbits to look for:

  • Betsy Leichliter met the self-described “Dr. Studmuffin.”
  • Julia Gartside-Spink “discovered” a transgendered female in a cosmetics group.
  • Ricardo Lopez had a “woman” in his group who was actually a man.  Not generally a problem, except for the poor guy sitting next to “her” who kept hitting on her/him.
  • Matt Towers had groups on domestic abuse in San Francisco in a facility where the rooms were named for local streets.  Luckily, he discovered he was in the “Battery” room before the groups started.  Whew.

Joel was also nice enough to include my encounter with the near video-taping of a group of Southern Baptists discussing sex education in my bedroom in Mississippi.

Joel, thanks for the laughs…and the memories.  If you have a story to add, please post it in the “Comments” section.  I would love to read about it.


How Important Are the RIGHT Respondent Incentives?

Sales people get incentives based on sales, and NFL running backs get incentives based on yards gained. One of the difficulties with incentives is to be sure that they encourage the right behavior.

What do incentives get respondents to do? Usually, simply to show up. It’s the moderator’s job to draw them out. This humorous video from SNL takes a look at what can happen if respondent incentives are mis-applied. If you are a qualitative researcher, be sure and close the door to your office. You will recognize these respondents and you will laugh out loud.

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?

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

Why It’s a Good Idea to Recruit Participants BEFORE the Research Begins

Though not officially “Internet research,” mobile research has been a very hot topic in the industry. The promise of mobile phones is extraordinary and everyone is anxious for the applications to catch up with the promise. Many online research firms and technology companies are working hard to deliver on the promise of mobile phones. 

For now, online qualitative research practitioners can dream of the day when mobile research is like virtually “being there.” Until then, we can have a little fun with it. Here’s a video that reminds me of a researcher doing a mobile “shop-along.” Enjoy.

NewMR Virtual Festival: Quirky, Fun and Trend-Setting

Ray Poynter is at it again. He has taken the concept of an online conference and made it global. On December 8, The NewMR Virtual Festival will officially kick off. True to Ray’s modus operandi the event is both leading edge and quirky. Before I launch into a bit of fun, I want to say how much I appreciate Ray and his team pulling this thing off. It’s quite a feat to launch a global virtual conference. Hats off to you Ray. Enough flattery, lets get on to the fun stuff.

  • The programme begins at 1 a.m. GMT for this British-led conference because Part 1 is targeted toward Asia/Pacific. Ray himself will kick off the conference by getting up bright and early to begin his presentation at 1:08 a.m. GMT (not 1:05 or 1:10 a.m.).
  • As if to emphasize the global nature of the “programme,” tickets are $50 (U.S. dollars). Unless, of course, you only want to attend one part (maybe the part you are actually awake to see) for $24 U.S. Be sure not to overpay and send in $25, as I’m sure there is a strict “no refund” policy.
  • Of course, there is the ever-present conference poster contest. Every conference should have one. Posters range from serious works related to real research to…well…uh…not so serious. Submit your poster and you could win the $1,000 grand prize.
  • If posters aren’t your bag, all you creative MR types (is that an oxymoron?) can submit a three-minute video on why someone would CHOOSE to work in the MR industry. The video contest also has a $1,000 grand prize.
  • The conference hosts the Research Liberation Front for our under 30 friends. Apparently the RLF was started in a bar in Brighton. The RLF’s conference challenge is to recruit 10 “difficult-to-reach people within 24 hours.”  I’m not sure what that means but, nonetheless, the winner will get “£100 for the best response” (note that it’s pounds now, not dollars).
  • Finally, there is “The Fringe” where it seems virtually anyone can organize virtually anything. The obvious don’t-miss fringe event of the festival has to be Ray’s own effervescent webinar recording of Cluster Analysis and Factor Analysis. Oooo…feel the chills?

This is just a sampling of the festival’s good-natured fun. It’s easy to be critical and it’s easy to poke fun at anyone who is pushing the envelope of an industry, but I know I’ll be watching the festival to see the ground it breaks and the trails it blazes. There is no doubt that the festival will change the way we look at conferences in the future.

Cheers Ray!

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