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Don't panic. CASRO's government affairs committee isn't warning this will happen and I don't have any evidence that it will. The point of the question is along the lines of "necessity is the mother of invention".

For example, over the past 15 years we have seen a move away from phone data collection and toward the web. Initially the focus was on cutting costs and ensuring the quality of the data were the same. As the industry embraced web, however, we began to use all kinds of innovative techniques that we simply could not do on the phone (or by mail for that matter). So, as we face a future with more and more access to data, I thought it would be interesting to think about what we would do if our traditional tools were simply taken away and we had to go cold turkey.

A good place to focus is Satisfaction research, which is already showing signs of decline. According to Inside Research (February, 2011), spending as a percentage of all MR has dropped in Europe (from 18% in '06 to 13% last year) and is stagnant at best in the states (11% last year which is in line with 12% in '09 and 10% in '08). I suspect this decline is not an indication that firms no longer care about satisfaction. More likely it reflects cheaper data collection methods and a realization that it need not be measured as intensively as in the past.

So in a world with no traditional MR, how will firms measure and impact satisfaction?

 

Can the Truth Wear Off?

Posted by on in Market Research

 

In a very interesting article in The New YorkerJonah Lehrer asks the question can truth Wear Off? So, what is “truth” and what is “wearing off”? In this case truth is that which has been proven by the scientific method (i.e.) experimentally. As the psychologist Jonathan Schooler discovered, experimental effects he had shown very clearly started disappearing into the dreaded land of non-significance over time. That is the “wearing off” part. And it wasn’t just Schooler. Others have seen similar phenomena where published studies when replicated over time have effectively lost their potency. This is a particularly troubling problem for medical science and is practically seen in the number of drugs that are retroactively pulled off the market. As the medical researcher John Ioannidis has shown, there can be substantial harm to society from wrong (but well publicized) results living in the memories of doctors who continue prescribing those drugs or treatments (hormone replacement therapy and daily low doses of aspirin) even when they have proven to be ineffective or harmful. So, the question is, how do effects disappear over time?

Tagged in: Market Research

Ads About Nothing (Relevant)

Posted by on in Advertising

They look beautiful on screen or on a page. Almost like watching a short, artsy film. But it is an ad and though you know who it is for, it doesn’t say anything about the positive attributes of the product. American Express is particularly good at this. Are such ads useful or a waste of money? Two of our friends at Yale, Dina Mayzlin and Jiwoong Shin investigated this phenomenon and came to some very interesting conclusions.

Tagged in: Advertising

Air Travel Trade-offs

Posted by on in Market Research

Doesn’t it seem like air travel has become more of a hassle recently compared to a few years (or a decade) back? Even leaving aside stricter security after 9/11 there appears to be more complaints about air travel these days. How much truth is there in these complaints? Let’s look at the possibilities, namely competition among carriers, new TSA rules and weather.

 

Tagged in: Consumer Behavior

I come to you, as is the tradition, with glad tidings for the New Year.

I do this in the midst of a lot of doom and gloom talk about the industry and our future. At CASRO's annual meeting, Simon Chadwick talked about "Do it Yourself" (DIY) research continuing to grow with no end in sight. A recent LinkedIn thread asked if there was a better word for 'survey' that wouldn't carry the negative connotations. The MR Heretic calls their site "Market Research Deathwatch" with constant warnings about engaging respondents better or destroying our industry. Add in the worst couple years the industry has ever faced and purchasing departments increasingly viewing us as commodities and you have the makings of glad tidings indeed!

 

When you go out to buy something how much importance do you place on the brand name? Not only does this vary from person to person but also from category to category. Yet the vast majority of brand related research has focused on understanding the importance of brand within categories, not across. That may be understandable from a brand manager’s perspective because he is in charge of just that brand. But while a company may sell a single brand a consumer makes purchase decisions across a spectrum of categories. The importance she places on a brand in a particular category is therefore contextual. Understanding this issue of Brand Relevance in Category (BRiC) and its implications is what three researchers set out to do in a large scale multi-product, multi-country study. Here’s what they did.

Tagged in: Brand

Yes, I admit it. This is a self-serving post. But when compelling research crosses one’s eyes one is forced to write a blog post. In this case the compelling research comes from Natalie Mizik under the intriguing title of “The Theory and Practice of Myopic Management”. How can I pass that up? In this research Natalie sets out to show that myopic management (i.e. cutting marketing and R&D expenditure for short term gain) is financially bad for the firm in the long run. She proves her main point but also makes a couple more so let’s take a look at what she has cooked up.

 

Tagged in: Market Research

For the past few weeks, there are two big debates raging in our office:

  • Will the configurator eventually replace conjoint in all its forms?
  • Was it the right call to trade Donovan McNabb to the Redskins?

On the surface the only thing connecting them is that we are a choice focused market research company located just outside of Philly, but in reality they are both the same debates...namely, when is it time for the superstar to move on and allow a new star to take charge? In both cases, the answer will depend on your needs and your perspective...in other words, there is no answer that everyone will agree with.

Some variation of conjoint (discrete choice, adaptive, etc) has been with us now for nearly 40 years. It has proven to be a very effective means of understanding the consumer's thinking process...especially when it comes to developing new products. At the same time, it is not without its flaws.

You know them, right? The friends you log into Facebook to check out. They always have something interesting to share and you like to see what it is. That process is one way of measuring influence in social networks and a rather good one at that, according to recent research by Michael TrusovAnand Bodapati and Randy Bucklin. They set out to identify influencers in a social network and did so using some interesting data and analytics. Here’s the story.

Tagged in: Social Media

Putting Money and Mouth Together

Posted by on in Market Research

Ever heard of a Commitment Contract? No we are not talking about marriage. A commitment contract is one where you commit to doing something and sign a contract. If you don’t do what you committed to, the terms of the contract go into effect. The terms are set up in such a way that you could end up paying a penalty if you fail to honor the contract. In other words the incentives are aligned to elicit a specific behavior. The kicker is that you set up the contract and the penalty.

How to Make Better Ads

Posted by on in Advertising

When you leaf through a magazine what of advertisements make you stop? It is not an easy question to answer as so many variables are usually involved. To tackle this question a group of researchers used unique eye tracking data and innovative measures of visual complexity and were able to develop recommendations for making ads that are more attention-getting.

Tagged in: Advertising

During times of upheaval do people naturally choose what is familiar or don’t they? The notion of “comfort food” seems to imply that when faced with trying situations people take comfort in certain old favorites that, well, comfort them. This is conventional wisdom and as we know researchers like to question said wisdom. That is what Stacy Wood set out to do and her findings offer interesting implications for marketers.

Tagged in: Consumer Behavior Food

A few months back I wrote about the dangers of tying results from satisfaction surveys to compensation. The feedback I got was mixed, so I decided to do a quick survey to see what the public thinks.

Of the 72% who were asked to do a follow-up survey after some type of transaction, about 1 in 6 (16.1%) were told by their sales rep what rating to give. While 1 in 6 is alarming, the reality is probably worse because those that do try to influence responses do so repeatedly. My personal guess is that more compensation is impacted the more likely it is that customers will be asked to answer in a certain way.

Unknown Unknowns

Posted by on in Rajan Sambandam

Let’s pick a topic. Any topic. How much would you say you know on that topic? More than average? How much do you think you need to learn in order to become well-versed on that topic? Not a whole lot? You just may be experiencing what is known as the Dunning-Kruger Effect. It is a mental bias that seems to afflict people who are unskilled or not very knowledgeable. They routinely make poor decisions because their lack of competence itself denies them the ability to realize their lack of competence. It happens to a lot of us in certain areas like personal financial planning.

Tagged in: Psychology

The Art of Choosing

Posted by on in TRC Book Club

Several popular books have appeared over the last few years on topics related to consumers, behavior, psychology and economics. Perhaps the most popular are the ones by Malcolm Gladwell. While most use academic research liberally to make their points, relatively few have actually been written by an academic. The reasons are twofold. One, you need an academic who has done sufficient research in an area that is worthy and of interest to the general public and two, you need good writers for lay readers. That combination is hard to come by -- which makes The Art of Choosing an unusual and interesting book. It was written by Sheena Iyengar, a professor at Columbia University Business School and deals with a topic we are all familiar with – choice. She has spent a couple of decades studying this topic and is hence eminently suited to write on it. The fact that she is blind makes it almost awe inspiring to read.

I'm a regular reader of the Market Research Heretic Blog . The banner above his blog posts reads "Market Research Death Watch". Many great points are made about how we take respondents for granted and how many survey instruments simultaneously gather useless data and reduce the chances of that respondent ever doing another survey again. Most important, the point is made that the market research industry is resistant to change and ultimately that will lead to its demise.

The arrival today of the latest Honomichl 50 list certainly supports the notion that the industry is in trouble. The numbers are the most brutal I've ever seen. Revenue has declined and when you focus only on straight research firms (those doing primary qualitative and quantitative research) that decline is even larger. Employment has dropped even faster (and this is measuring research firm employment, I suspect client side researchers were hit even harder). Jack Honomichl is certainly dour in his column, but I think if anything he is understanding how bad a hit research took this year.

The question is, were the results of this year and last (2008 also showed declines) just related to the recession or do they reflect a trend that will continue long after the recession is officially over? My guess is, we will see some recovery with the better economy this year, but the heretic's warnings should not be ignored.

There was a fascinating news item today on NPR about the use of text mining to understand something about a person’s private life. Ian Lancashire, Professor of English at the University of Toronto used text mining to study Agatha Christie’s novels. While he has done this with other authors before he came cross something particularly interesting in Agatha Christie’s 73rd novel.

Tagged in: Text Mining

Netflix Rental Patterns

Posted by on in Rajan Sambandam

Have you ever been curious about the popularity of rental movies by neighborhood? The NY Times graphics department was and they got movie rental data from Netflix for a dozen cities. The result is this very interesting visual.

Tagged in: Movies visualization

Mindful and Heartfelt Choices

Posted by on in Rajan Sambandam

How do you make choices in your life? Even simple ones like chocolate cake or fruit salad for a snack? Are you completely rational about the process, calculating the costs and benefits properly before choosing (also known as the cognitive approach)? Or are you more likely to go by feel, allowing your emotions to guide the choice (the affective approach)? Traditionally, researchers have favored the rational model, but more recently the emotional side has been getting more attention. Regular folks may even argue that they use both approaches depending on the situation, even though they may not know which one predominates without their knowledge. But can your decision-making process, and thus the choices you make, be influenced by external conditions to the extent that you will switch from one mode to another? That was the question that drove two researchers in their quest to understand the process of making choices.

 

Up North and Down South

Posted by on in Rajan Sambandam

In casual conversation do you use terms like “Up North” and “Down South”? Why? Is north vertically higher than south? Of course not. It is just a common usage of language that we are used to, right? But does it have any consequences for behavior? Research has shown that people often make mistakes in travel related judgment, especially when estimating time and distance. Research has also shown that people associate vertical position with meaning. For example, people are faster to identify the relationship between words like “basement” and “attic” when the word presentation is consistent with their spatial relationship (“attic” above “basement”). Given all that, is it possible that people may consider traveling north to be longer or costlier or more difficult than south bound travel simply because we think of it as being “up”? That is the research question.

Tagged in: Psychology

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