Qualitative Industry

Help for Research Cancelled by Hurricane Sandy

Yesterday, 20|20 sent out the following offer for free QualBoard software use for researchers with cancelled projects because of Hurricane Sandy.  The response has been overwhelmingly positive so I thought I would repost it here.  If you have a project cancelled and need help ASAP, let us know.

Many researchers have projects cancelled because of Hurricane Sandy.  Some of these projects are on tight time frames and cannot be rescheduled.  Therefore, 20|20 is offering free QualBoard® software use for projects cancelled or postponed by Hurricane Sandy.

If you have a project cancelled because of the hurricane and need to complete it ASAP, let us know how we can help.  Contact Carla Gaster at 1.615.324.3781 (direct) for details.  We will charge a small project management fee to cover some of our costs.

Our thoughts and prayers are with those in the hurricane’s path.


QRCA Panel Speaks Out on Social Media Recruiting

“Social Media.”  Everyone is talking about it.  Everyone wants to use it.  Everyone is trying to figure out how.

At the QRCA Conference in Montreal, I recently participated on a panel discussion titled, “Social Media Recruiting: Way of the Future.”  The goal was to discuss how social media is currently being used to recruit face-to-face and online qualitative.  The panel was organized by the QRCA Field Committee and led by Michelle Finzel of Maryland Marketing Source.

Some of my take-aways related to social media sites were:

  • Most “social media” recruiting started with Craigslist.  Craigslist still has a bad reputation though its discussion area is really no different than other social media sites.
  • Linkedin seems to have promise for B-B recruiting, but so far few have found methods that work.
  • Facebook is the primary social media site used for qual recruiting.  Facebook is being used in two ways.
  1. Many firms have their own Facebook pages that they use to troll for participants who have previously “Liked” them.
  2. Firms are getting adept, through trial and error, at paid advertising for particular respondents on Facebook

Social media recruiting seems to work best with consumer recruits.  Facebook and others are able to target ads at specific consumer demographics or other measures they can access.  Such targeting can make certain difficult-to-recruit consumer groups much easier.  However, if such criteria is not available, difficult recruits can be extremely expensive since the recruiter must pay/click for each respondent who clicks through to the screener.  For low incidence studies, this can be cost prohibitive and, therefore, not helpful.

The panel discussed the ethics of client disclosure.  Do we need to disclose to clients that the recruits came from social media sites?  Generally, the panel agreed that, in most cases, such disclosure was not necessary.  The burden is on the recruiter to ensure that the participant qualifies in every way regardless of the respondent source.  If the recruiter is doing his/her job correctly, the source is largely irrelevant.

Bottom Line:  Social media recruiting can help with certain recruiting problems.  However, the panel agreed that traditional recruiting rescreening and verification steps still must be taken.  Social media recruiting is a way to broaden the recruiting reach but it does not relieve the recruiter of the responsibility to thoroughly screen and verify their respondents.

Social media recruiting is likely here to stay.  However, it is not stand-alone.  It still requires some form of traditional recruiting process to ensure that ethe right respondents fit the right project.

QRCA Members can go to the QRCA Website to get a copy of the presentation.  I was honored to serve on the panel with Ben Smithee of Spych Research and Jeff Henn of Baltimore Research.

MRMW and the Role of Associations in Emerging Mobile Methods

This week is the Mobile Research in the Mobile World conference in Cincinnati.  I don’t know when I have heard as much buzz about a conference.  I hope it lives up to its hype.  I will not be there but my colleague and friend Isaac Rogers, 20|20 CIO, is attending.

Foster Winter, MD of Sigma Research, is also on the QRCA Board of Directors.  In that role, he is participating in a panel discussion of the associations’ roles in the emerging mobile market research world.  Foster asked me to weigh in on a discussion on the QRCA Members Forum on this topic.  There are some very good posts by tremendous industry leaders.  While I’m not at liberty to share those, I did copy my comments to re-post here.   They are below.


I’m finding the “mobile” research generally falls into two categories.

1. Mobile Access. In other words, every platform very soon MUST have a way to access it from a smartphone or it will be deemed unusable. Mobile will be the “price of entry” for digital platforms. The biggest hurdle right now seems to be the fragmentation of the Android op system.

2. New capabilities. From a qual perspective, we are just scratching the surface of what we can do with mobile. First, we had to get over the hurdle of using a limited input device (140 characters SMS) for qualitative. Now we have a whole new paradigm to work with….a portable, ever-present device that captures video, pictures, voice and text. The ramp-up for online qual was long because we looked at bulletin boards as a poor substitute for focus groups. When we began to realize that bulletin boards brought whole new capabilities and opportunities to qualitative research, they began to be embraced by the qual community. Mobile is in the early stages. We don’t yet know what capabilities are coming because mobile changes the paradigm again by adding capabilities never before available to us. The ramp-up will be much faster than bulletin boards, but it will take some time to blossom.

What are the associations’ roles? I think
1. Define the guardrails. Betsy mentioned several of them. The associations are the industry’s governing bodies.
2. Embrace new capabilities, not because all are good but because it exposes them to the membership and assists in the penetration of new capabilities. In turn, this becomes a major member benefit.
3. Celebrate innovation. Associations can’t be an incubation center, but they can be a hotbox of thinking. Why not develop a capability to nuture qualitative innovation, a qualitative greenhouse so to speak.

Mobile Qualitative Finally Hits Its Stride

Mobile is hot!  Everyone in research is talking about the possibilities of using mobile phones for marketing research purposes.  Actually, we have been for quite a while.  After all, we qualitative researchers are dying to be close to our respondents at the point of purchase or when using our product or just simply to understand their environment more intimately.

Unfortunately, the mobile research applications have not generally lived up to the hype and expectations.  Finally, they are catching up and mobile research designs are entering the mainstream.  Quirks Marketing Research Review dedicated their July issue to mobile research.  I was fortunate enough to have an article in this issue titled, “Qualitatively Speaking:  Mobile Qualitative Finally Hits its Stride.” It includes applications and case studies.  The first couple of paragraphs are below.


Qualitatively Speaking:  Mobile Qualitative Finally Hits Its Stride

Mobile has long been a buzzword among market researchers – and for good reasons. For starters, mobile phones are ubiquitous: At the end of 2011, there were nearly six billion mobile subscribers worldwide, according to the International Telecommunication Union. That is a huge pool that actually dwarfs the number of computer users in the developed and developing world.

Next, consider the fact that most people are within arm’s reach of these devices the majority of the day, meaning engagement could be possible morning, noon or night, wherever those subscribers might be. Like shopping for baby food at the grocery store. Or at the county fair. Maybe they’re cheering on the home team at the baseball field. Or exploring a new city on a family vacation. Or simply sitting at home in front of the TV, about to tune in to a new show.

All of these scenarios offer the potential for gathering what every researcher dreams of: in-the-moment insights.

To continue the article, click here.

Unilever QRC Accreditation to Meet “with limited success and acceptance”

Recently, we posted here about a new Unilever initiative to provide accredidation to ensure that their qualitative research consultants posess the skills Unilever requires.

As one of the leading qualitative associations, QRCA has long discussed the notion of Qualitative Researcher Accreditation.  J.R. Harris is an industry veteran, a founding QRCA member, former President and long-standing Chair of the QRCA Professionalism Committee.  He and his committee have studied and re-studied qualitative accreditation ideas and proposals over the years.  I sent him a copy of the article about the Unilever Accreditation Programme.

The following is an email that JR sent to me about this article and Unilever’s attempts to accreditate qualitative researchers.  I have reproduced it here in its entirety with JR’s permission.

Thanks for sending the article. I’m sure you will not be surprised that I do have a few comments.

The notion of “certifying,” “credentialing” or “accrediting” QRCs is not a new one. Like Halley’s Comet, this initiative seems to reappear consistently and reliably every few years. QRCA’s Professionalism Committee, which I chaired, has thoroughly investigated this issue on more than one occasion and the organization has always decided not to pursue it. Furthermore, efforts by other research organizations to certify members of our profession have met with very limited success and acceptance. I believe this same destiny awaits Unilever, for the following reasons:

1– Unilever’s program is based on a “growing concern” within the company regarding the “quality of the qual work being delivered” yet they don’t specify what concerns or shortcomings they are experiencing from their QRCs. How can they be sure that a certification program will eliminate these concerns?

2– Their program is too subjective in nature. To qualify for accreditation, QRCs are evaluated by “independent assessors” who would examine an applicant’s “mock brief” and observe the 1-hour focus group based on that brief.  Our investigation has shown that any effective credentialing program is typically based on specific professional criteria that the applicant must possess, as evidenced by passing a standardized test, completing specified curricula, etc.

3– The Unilever program is based on the applicant’s skill at moderating one in-person focus group. While the focus group is arguably the mainstay of qualitative research, there are many other important qualitative methodologies that are not included in the Unilever program.

4– QRCA’s investigation of credentialing has shown that their is neither a need nor a demand for it. Research buyers around the world have insisted that they are quite capable of selecting knowledgeable and competent QRCs to conduct their research. They have also indicated their belief that using a certified QRC would not guarantee quality of work or success of the project.

5– The Unilever program, as described, seems out of touch with the realities of qualitative research and the technological and methodological changes in our industry. Nevertheless, using only certified QRCs will make it easier for the company to buy its qualitative research via the Purchasing Dept. rather than the Research Dept.

If research buyers like Unilever want to work with highly skilled and experienced qual researchers, they don’t need a certification program. All they need to do is be aware of the QRCA Professional Competencies of Qualitative Research Consultants. Not only would they appreciate the eleven specific competencies that define our profession, but they would easily be able to match the skill sets of the QRC to the type of project they wish to conduct. I believe this would give them more confidence in the QRCs they select, as well as better outcomes from those who are selected.

QRCA’s Professional Competencies document can be found here.

MRA on the Upswing

Last week, I was thrilled to be inducted along with Janet Baldi‘ Senior VP of RTI Research, to the Board of Directors of the Marketing Research Association (MRA).   It was an honor to be nominated and to be elected.   This is an incredibly exciting time to be involved with MRA because of the amazing leadership, and in some cases sacrifice, that has been the MRA Board in the past few years.

MRA is an association on the upswing.  As I noted here a year ago, there is a noticeable sense of mission and energy with MRA that indicates strong leadership and purpose.  Leadership changes everything.  Your MRA leadership has made some difficult decisions and executed them well over the past couple of years.  Here are a few that caught my eye:

  • Hired David Almy as Executive Director.  Obviously David is a leader and visionary.
  • Moved the headquarters to Washington, DC.  This move made a bold statement that MRA was serious about representing the industry in the halls of Congress.  The move also positioned MRA among a wealth of association management talent so that the Associations’ leadership needs can be met for years to come.
  • Reduced the side of the Board of Directors from 18 to 11.  The Board was simply too large to be agile.  Several Board members were selfless in voting for the reduction and the elimination of their own seats.
  • Repositioning the “Fall Conference” as the “Corporate Researcher’s Conference.”  Not only does the conference now have a clear target market, the change boldly focused MRA on its greatest perceived weakness, the inclusion of research buyers.  (Did you know Corporate Researchers are 1/3 of MRA members?)  Now research buyers are involved and several serve on the Board.  MRA will now truly serve all facets of the market research community.

So, I am honored and a bit awed to be elected to the Board of an organization that is so clearly on the move.  Its an exciting time to be a part of this organization.  I can only hope to continue the legacy of the leaders who have made such dramatic and forward-thinking decisions before me.  The actions of these MRA leaders have ushered in an era of promise and possibilities.

Thank you to those MRA leaders who have laid the groundwork and sowed the seeds of a new era for MRA industry leadership.

Unilever Driving Qual Change through Accreditation

Two events in the UK this week highlighted the gulf that separates most researchers from the clients they seek to serve.

Research-Live.com reported that Unilever is implementing a “new accreditation programme” for qualitative research suppliers.  The program will distinguish between “Research Leads” and “Moderators.”  To qualify, research providers will have to undergo about 3 hours of testing and observation and pass the test.  There are a lot of questions that the article does not answer about program specifics.

Obviously, the the accreditation program is being implemented because Unilever is not pleased with the quality of research they currently receive.  So what exactly are they displeased with?  Ulrike Hillmer, a consumer market insight manager for Unilever Deutschland, said the company seeks “to significantly raise the quality of qualitative research in the business in order to help deliver superior consumer insight”.

Likewise, Research-live.com quotes Unilever, “This researcher needs to be conscientious; a strategic thinker; to have empathy with the Unilever context; able to provide fresh ideas and thoughts and have the ability to link up brand/category issues with consumer understanding; and be challenging and pro-active.”

Contrast Unilever’s attempt at accreditation with the new report out this week from “The ICG,” a group of independent researchers who say they are “research professionals with an average 25 years’ experience.”  The report titled “Commissioning qualitative research and getting the best from it” provides a step-by-step overview of how to conduct the research process.  It is a 36 page presentation of detail about the process with tips, suggestions and rules to live by.

The ICG document likely meets a very well-defined and understood need.  Contributors worked very hard to assemble best practices and provide a guide for the qualitative researcher.  It would be very helpful for many researchers and their clients.

My point is that Unilever is not having trouble finding people who know the process; they are having difficulty finding people who can deliver superior consumer insight, think strategically, have empathy with the Unilever context and have fresh ideas and thoughts.  As good as the ICG document is for process, it does nothing to assist researchers to meet the needs of Unilever.

The contrast of these two initiatives is simply an example of the gulf that exists between research suppliers and research buyers.  I was President of the Qualitative Research Consultants’ Association for 3 years.  We found that our conferences were most successful when we taught techniques, not the discipline of insights.

Researchers like processes.  Otherwise, they might be artists or even strategy consultants.  Meeting Unilever’s requirements will be difficult for many researchers simply because it goes against their nature.

For years qualitative consultants were rewarded for executing processes.  When qualitative research was synonymous with focus groups, many researchers made a very good income because they could execute the focus group process.

Now, the world is changing.  Methodologies are expanding and fragmenting.  Business is getting faster and faster so companies like Unilever need researchers to help them think, not just process.  The research provider industry must evolve to meet these needs.  There is a place for process-oriented researchers.  But, the time is fast approaching when companies like Unilever will value, and pay, strategic researchers much higher.  Our industry should cultivate a new breed of researcher with different gifts and skills.  If we want research to be more valued in the C-Suite, we have to provide the insights and thinking that drive the business.

I, for one, hope that Unilever is delivering more than an accreditation program.  I hope they are devising a new qualitative research business model that values, and pays, strategic thinkers who can drive business over researchers who process research.  Without such a new business model, process research will strangle research as a valued profession.

Good luck Unilever!

P&G Makes Major Move to Asia

P&G announced yesterday that it is moving its Skin Care and Cosmetics unit to join its Baby Care unit in Singapore.   They want the leadership of these consumer brands to be near the biggest world markets with the greatest growth potential.

This is a major step for a US-based, globally-competitive, consumer brand.  P&G has moved the brand leadership away from corporate HQ to be closer to the customer of the future.  Will more brands follow?  They have to.  Brands are mature in the western economies but personal income is rising in many of the developing countries.  When you look at the population of the developing countries and the rising consumerism, the potential markets are massive and dwarf the western markets.  The move makes so much sense, you almost wonder why they waited so long.

This move and the ones likely to follow will accelerate the already accelerating rush to provide research services in Asia.  These consumer brands MUST understand the Asian customer.  The best way is to live there (thus, the P&G move).  But they can’t live everywhere and cultures vary widely across Asia.  So, the brands must develop strong research capabilities to understand their consumers.  Research firms are rushing to fill the void.  No doubt, Asia and other developing countries are the growth market for  consumer brands and for the research of the future.

It will be interesting to watch as research firms attempt to apply western research models to Asian realities.  How much will research adapt or will it have to change dramatically?  Given the macro forces of big data, the internet and geo-cultural shifts, will we even recognize research in a decade?

Is it ethical for social media monitoring providers to use Tweetbots?

Should social media monitoring firms use TweetBots to increase their website’s SEO?

Its happening and it sure seems unethical to me.

Here is how it works:  There are several firms that will re-tweet for a fee.  The firms are used for marketing and to increase a company’s website’s SEO.  One is called PayPerTweet.  Here is a quote from their home page:  “PaidPerTweet lets you hire Twitter users to blast your link, ad or announcement to 100s of thousands of Twitter followers in an instant.”  Another provider is called Retweet.it.  Their website claims, “We have built an amazing community of retweeters that are eager to share one another’s tweets with the world. And with a wider reach of your message, your traffic will greatly improve.”  Retweet.it doesn’t even claim to have people re-tweeting.  They likely use Tweetbots. These are just two providers that represent the industry.

So, does it break the bank to get one of these firms to re-tweet for you.  Nahhh….For $180, Retweet.it will re-tweet your message 1000 times.  Here is their price page.  PaidPerTweet has a little different model.  They run something like a re-tweeter auction.  Anyone can hire people to re-tweet for them.  I saw prices ranging from $.02 to $3.

So, why is this a big deal?  Simple.  Social media monitoring firms pull a lot of data from Twitter.  These re-tweeting sites, and others, use artificial means to knowingly increase the presence of the social media monitoring firms in social media.

Is paying for retweets an ethical practice for a social media research firm who are in the very business of selling social media research as a valid research technique?

Clients need to understand, not only the ethics, but also the implications.  Are the Social Media monitoring firms letting clients know of these sites?

Next week, we will explore how someone with a grudge and a few hundred dollars can really give a brand manager heartburn.



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!


1 2 3 4 5 14  Scroll to top