Up Brands in a Down Economy

Amongst all the bad earnings reports and economic news that leaves us quaking is a truism that is being played out by General Mills:  supporting strong brands pays off, even in weak econonomies.  For the entire article click on http://adage.com/article?article_id=134670.

General Mills Thrives on Increased Marketing Spending

Boosting TV Ads Hiked Cereal Sales, But Digital ROI Even Higher

Published: February 17, 2009

BOCA RATON, Fla. (AdAge.com) — General Mills, one of the package-food industry’s top performers, laid out a number of recent marketing successes at the Consumer Analysts Group of New York conference this morning, and offered a preview of the rest of its fiscal year.

The company has staunchly supported consumer-marketing spending increases — 19% in the first half of fiscal 2009, which began in June — while competitors, including Kellogg and Kraft, have begun to scale back on the heady marketing outlays of 2008, instead preaching bundling and greater return on investment. General Mills estimates that its consumer-marketing spending will be up by “double digits” for the full fiscal year.


General Mills’ sales have responded well to increased marketing support as consumers are eating more at home. Sales grew 11% in the first half of fiscal 2009, to $7.5 billion. The company has raised guidance with each of the first two quarters. General Mills is doing so well that analysts had been expecting the company to raise its earnings guidance again this morning.



Sweet 16: Do’s and Don’ts when dealing with facilities

Even us “old dogs” can use a reminder sometimes.

Apparently our good friend Judy Langer is doing a lot of writing these days.  A few days ago we posted her Quirks article on ethnography.  Now she has teamed up with our friend Manny Schrager (owner of Consumer Centers of NY and NJ) to write an article for QRCA on dealing with facilities.  Here are the 16 suggestions.  There is a lot more detail in the artilce.  For the entire article, go to:  http://www.qrca.org/displaycommon.cfm?an=1&subarticlenbr=366#1

  1. Put things in writing
  2. Talk to your facility too
  3. Keep the facility up to date on dates and times and changes.
  4. Communicate regularly throughout the project
  5. Make the effort when recruiting from a client list to use the client’s name when recruiting
  6. When considering algorithms, use them with care
  7. Don’t choose a facility on price alone
  8. Accept or reject “holds” quickly
  9. Don’t wait until the last minute with special requests
  10. Ask about the physical facility setup
  11. Do a supply a self-administered rescreener
  12. Brief the qualitative assistant (Host) on your needs and expectations
  13. Work with your qualitative assistant
  14. Build a relationship with your facilities of choice
  15. Make payment arrangements in advance
  16. Remember the Golden Rule

Qual: A tool for peace in Mindanao

Sometimes qualitative research can be inspiring.  For me, it has usually been in the midst of a focus group when a participant makes a comment and the light bulb goes off.  At those moments I nearly gasp with delight and wonder at the insight gained.  This is inspiring but in a totally different way. 

This post includes two articles.  The first is a background article from Reuters.  The second is from MindaNews at www.Mindanews.com on how Mindanao residents plan to use qualitative research as a tool for peace.  It makes me wonder about more ways to use qual for good.



The Philippine government’s decades long confrontation with Muslim separatists on the southern island of Mindanao and a second conflict with communist inPhilippinesmap.jpgsurgents across the country have left 160,000 dead and displaced up to 2 million people.

  • 700,000 uprooted in 2008 fighting
  • More than a third of population live in poverty
  • Mindanao situation attracts Islamic extremists

The Mindanao conflict first flared in the 1960s when the Muslim minority – known as the Moros – launched an armed struggle for their ancestral homeland in the south.

But the campaign for self-rule is not the only source of bloodshed on Mindanao. There has also been a long Maoist insurgency, violence linked to militant Islamist groups with pan-Asian aspirations, bloody ethnic vendettas, clan wars and banditry.

Fighting escalated in 2008 after a decade-long peace process between the government and rebel Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) collapsed.

Politics and religion aside, much of the violence is fuelled by deep poverty rooted in decades of under-investment.

Read More…

Primer for Qual End Users

The QRCA Professionalism Committe headed by one of my favorite people, Bob (J.R.) Harris, has developed a white paper for qualitative viewers.  The stated purpose of this paper is to:

  • Enhance the learning of backroom viewers, thereby maximizing the value of the research
  • Preempt the risk of making potentially costly viewing and/or listening errors
  • Provide QRCA members with a solid business-building tool.

QRCA has given me permission to post this in the hope that it might be helpful to you and/or your clients.  You can access this document at:  http://www.qrca.org/associations/6379/files/Observing%20QR%20ProCom%20final.doc

End Users’ take on Ethnography

Ethnographic Research:  Trendy Method or Essential Tool?

Judy Langer and Jon Last wrote an interesting article in the February issue of Quirks.  They interviewed 26 end users to get their perspecitives on the use of ethnography.  Some of the my highlights are included here. 

Generally end users were very positive about the use of ethnography as one of many tools to for the research toolbelt.  They felt that ethnography was here to stay as a method but would not become the dominant method for conducting qualitative research. 

Positive aspects were the ability to “go deeper” and the “viewer impact.”  Ethnography is part of a broader trend in qualitative research to get below the surface to attain a deeper understanding of consumers that go beyond understandings that depend primarily upon participatant articulation.  The end user “viewer impact” can be impressive as well since ethnographic research gives the marketer a rare glimpse into the “real lives” of their consumers.  The soft insights from these impressions make better marketers and lead to better decisions.


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Cynefin Sense-Making Framework…a model for decision-making

In research and in management, we are solving problems.  As we know, not all problems are created equal.  There are many different approaches to many different problems.  A fascinating method for thinking about problem-solving is the Cynefin Sense-Making Framework developed by Professor David Snowden. 

This framework divides problems into two broad categories:  ordered and unordered.  The ordered category is further divided into Simple and Complicated problems.  Unordered is divided into Complex and Chaotic. 

  1. Simple problems are cause and effect related and generally have direct solutions. 
  2. Complicated problems exist in a complex environment where the actual solution is not obvious and requires an expert to discipher and solve.
  3. Complex problems exist in a constantly changing environment where cause and effect are impossible to determine.
  4. Chaotic problems are those that happen rapidly denying decision makers time to analyze and evaluate. 

Deloitte applied this Framework to the problem of Mine Safey in South Africa.  The resulting report is a wonderful explanation of the Framework as well as a case study in its application.  You can find the report at:  http://www.narrativelab.co.za/files/Deloitte%20PoV%20on%20Mine%20Safety%20Feb09.pdf.

Grandma’s getting online

Seismic Shift in Internet Age Mass

by Jack Loechner, Wednesday, February 11, 2009, 8:15 AM

According to surveys through 2008 by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, larger percentages of older generations are online now than in the past, and they are doing more activities online. Generation X (not Y) is the most likely group to bank, shop, and look for health information online. Boomers are just as likely as Generation Y to make travel reservations online. And even Silent Generation internet users are competitive when it comes to email.

The biggest increase in internet use since 2005 is the 70-75 year-old age group. While just over one-fourth (26%) of 70-75 year olds were online in 2005, 45% of that age group is currently online, and doing more activities online.

To read the entire article, go to:  http://www.mediapost.com/publications/?fa=Articles.showArticle&art_aid=99950

Nuggets for our times

Roger Green of Roger Green & Assoc wrapped up the MRAs CEO Summit today with an excellent presentation on critical CEO “acquisitions” related to capital, people, clients and products.  Here are a couple of quotes that sum up a good bit of the conference.

Regarding the econony, “When everyone else is greedy, be fearful.  When everyone else is fearful, be greedy.”  — Warren Buffett

Regarding the impact of Web2.0 and social media, “Researchers used to bring their world to the respondent.  Now respondents are bringing their world to the researcher.  The researcher must analyze it.”

A good and enlightening conference.  Thank you MRA.

Zeldis Research makes the case for BBFG

This article appeared in the February edition of the MRA’s e-News.  No, we did not write the article.  However, we did find it very interesting and agree wholeheartedly with their conclusion, “Is a BBFG for every client and every project? Of course not. But it’s an increasingly important tool in our qualitative toolbox, and we strongly recommend giving it a try.”

Conducting Online Bulletin Board Focus Groups: A Wave of the Future
Co-authored by: Doris Kaiser, Partner & Kristina Witzling, Sr. Research
Director Zeldis Research Associates, Inc.

Cost-cutting. It certainly seems to be the mantra these days, and 2009 is likely to be
more of the same, with market research budgets slashed at companies both large and
small. In these leaner times, companies will rely on market research suppliers more than
ever to be at the forefront of creative ways to deliver quality research for fewer dollars.

Read More…

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