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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 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?

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?

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.

 

 

Google Breaks Old Research Rules…and New Ground

They say one of the keys to innovation is to break a rule that really doesn’t matter anyway.  Google has done it again.  This time, they have broken the paradigm that a respondent must answer an entire battery of questions.  Why was this necessary before?  Simply because it was the most efficient way to do it…back when we were doing paper surveys.  Today, it is simply not the most efficient way. Congratulations to Google for seeing through the cloud of common practice and providing a faster and cheaper way to obtain research data.

As reported the past few days by Bob Lederer of Research Business Daily Report, Google Consumer Surveys now offers survey questions a la carte for as little as $.10/response.  Its pretty simple.  In the past, to access a free premium content site, you often had to sit through a 30-second ad.  It was irritating but bearable because you knew that it paid for your free content.  Google has replaced that ad with research.  Answer a question, you get access to content.  Its faster for both the reader and the researcher, a win-win.

Some researchers express the concern that people won’t take the question seriously.  Seriously?  Do they really believe that respondents will be any less serious when they have to answer a single question than when they are 18 minutes deep in a 25 minute survey?   This concern is typical of the industry when innovation comes along.  It will prove to be moot.

So, who really benefits most?  DIY researchers.  Its easy.  Its fast.  Its cheap.  Time will tell about the validity.  If privacy concerns and legislation do not stop this train, this type of research will grow into a major option for researchers.

Will this be the end of survey research?  No.  Like the telephone, CATI and online before it, it will prove to be yet another tool to help make research faster and better.

As I have said before, this is the most exciting time EVER to be in research!

Market Research Radio: Love It!

Radio is so much fun!

Over the years, I have bee fortunate to do a good bit of radio. I hosted a 3-hour show once on the #1 station in the market and had a blast.

Today, I tried something new, Internet radio. It was even more fun. I joined Kevin Lonnie of KL Communications as guests on NewMR Radio. We discussed the state of online qualitative research and its future. The discussion was uninterrupted by advertising and will be available on demand at NewMR Radio.

Among other things, Kevin talked about the immenent threat of “big data” and the need to step up respondent engagement. I talked about the oncoming train that is data security and the huge potential of reliable, in-context text analytics.

Thanks to Lenny Murphy and Ray Poynter for hosting the show. It was a great discussion and I hope to do it again. I only wish we had more time.

Technology Evangelist Organizes Qual Event

Charlie Rader is a technology evangelist.  Officially, he is the “Digital Insights Tools Leader” at P&G.  I have seen a lot of evangelists, and Charlie is one.  Not only did he organize today’s “Online and Mobile Research Vendor Fair,” he spent the day running from place to place and literally shouting over the crowd to keep the event on schedule.  He is a bundle of enthusiastic energy for online qualitative and mobile research.  Thank you Charlie, for a great event and for inviting me and 20|20 to participate.

2012 is obviously the year of mobile qual as discussed in the GRIT report and a recent post on this site.  In past years, panel firms have dominated, then social media firms.  Now virtually every technology company has some sort of mobile offering.  Quant research moved into mobile but qual lagged behind for several years.  The proliferation of smart phones has eclipsed the problems qual had with the limited nature of text messaging.  Now that smart phones comprise 46% of the total US mobile phone market, qual platforms have the platform “space” to get deep insights anywhere and everywhere.  Its amazing that just a few years ago, researchers required respondents to come to facilities.  Then we figured out how to take the research into their homes via online.  Now we are with them everywhere via smart phones.  Its been a fast transition.

The P&G researchers were excited about mobile too.  Our QualBoard Mobile collateral was the first to fly off our table.  These researchers were hungry for ways to understand those moments in a user’s day when they made decisions or interacted with their product.  Mobile can provide that answer.

Thank you Charlie for all your hard work.  You pulled together a terrific set of companies who are pushing the envelope of qualitative technology.  It was a true honor to be a part of it and to enjoy your enthusiasm for online and mobile qual.

 

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.

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