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Really enjoyed the IIeX Greenbook conference. I generally concurred with the opinions expressed and many of the presentations gave me ideas on how we might better serve our clients. Thought I might share some of my reflections here.

In general terms this was a conference that likely scared more than one researcher to jump. For example, Charles Vila the head of Campbell Soup’s Consumer and Customer Insights for North America said that within five years he doesn’t expect to use any survey data.   Personally, I tend to disagree with such sweeping statements (hopefully this won’t prevent me from working with Campbell’s moving forward), but perhaps they are necessary to shake our often complacent industry into thinking differently.

In that regard, Campbell’s is a good example. Their flagship product is soup, a product that has been around forever and sold by them for 100 years. This doesn’t stop them from innovating not just with new products, but in the way they engage the customer. Their staff is immersed in the latest gadgets that consumers are using so they can better understand how they can be employed in Campbell’s marketing efforts.

So, I’d encourage researchers to do the same. Ultimately it doesn’t matter if surveys go away or simply cease to be the primary form of data collection. If we allow ourselves to be defined by how we acquire data then we deserve to go the way of the proverbial buggy whip manufactures did at the turn of the last century.

The great news is that many of the new technologies being shown off are not really competing with us. Most seek to provide new tools for traditional research companies to use.   Some might replace surveys and others augment them. Some are really just surveys in another form (such as Google’s) and there are new ways to design and implement surveys to better get at the truth (my partner Rajan Sambandam’s presentation on “Behavioral Conjoint” being one self-serving example). The possibility of improving our ability to guide product development, pricing research and marketing is one we should embrace.

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Market Research in the Toilet

Posted by on in New Research Methods

market research in toiletI read an astounding fact this week, “More Indians have used a mobile phone than a toilet”. It seemed absurd to me that a relatively new technology would outpace an old (and very useful) one. I came to realize that the absurdity was mainly due to the fact that I couldn’t imagine a world without either device and it struck me that this is an example of what ails the market research world.

The fact is that Indians have not chosen the cell phone over indoor plumbing. The former is widely available (because cell phone infrastructure is relatively easy to build) and the latter is not. So it wasn’t a choice of toilets over telcom, it was a choice of having a cell phone or not having one. Those who got the phones have begun to find uses for it that go far beyond the obvious. For example, fishermen call in while at sea to find out which port is offering the best price for their catch, thus maximizing their profits.

In Market Research we are often blinded by our experience. Instead of viewing new market research technology for its potential, we view it through the lens of what we know. When web data collection arrived, many didn’t see the opportunities it offered and instead defensively dismissed it as being inferior to existing methods and only offered the benefits of being “cheap and fast”. After more than a decade, it amazes me how many still hold this belief.

Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Ed Olesky
    Ed Olesky says #
    @Dave: thanks for the comments. I recently saw a post on Facebook that said something like this: "If someone came 30 years from
  • Ed Olesky
    Ed Olesky says #
    Well done Rich... I am in the middle of writing a paper for ESOMAR Congress this september in Istanbul on the subject of toilets a

A friend of mine posted on Facebook that she’d taken a web quiz to tell her which presidential candidate best lined up with her stand on the issues. She was outraged that the web site thought she would vote the way it did. I’m not surprised (by the outrage, not her choice)…it is a case of a badly applied choice technique.

Basically the quiz worked by asking a series of questions to see where she stood on the issues. It then aligns her choices against the stand taken by the candidate (if you want to try one, here is one from the GOP Primaries this year). In essence it is a Configurator. Instead of building the perfect product for you (as you would with a Configurator) you build the perfect candidate. There are a couple of problems with this application.

First, Configurators allow you to build the ideal but generally don’t give a clear idea of what choices you might make if that ideal were not available (our proprietary Texo™ helps overcome that issue). In politics it is not unusual for voting decisions to hinge on a single issue and unlike products you can’t decide to add or subtract an important feature.  

When we dropped my daughter off for her first year of college a few weeks back my parting words were “Be true to yourself”. I thought this reflected both my accepting that my influence on her was now very limited and my hope that whatever good I’ve done should be put into practice. It strikes me that researchers too should heed the advice.

Our industry has changed and continues to change. Many of the old rules either no longer work or can’t be easily applied to the new tools at our disposal. So how can we apply what we know? A philosophy like “be true to yourself” allows us to do just that.

Personally it has allowed me to accept that representative sampling is no longer the most critical rule (it can’t be in a world where truly representative sampling is too slow and costly). It doesn’t mean I take any respondents I can get…care in trying to get as representative a sample as we can remains important. It just isn’t a stone cold requirement of quantitative research.  

Recent comment in this post - Show all comments
  • Ed Olesky
    Ed Olesky says #
    Nice article, thanks for the information.

Discrete Choice in a Police Lineup

Posted by on in New Research Methods

police lineup discrete choiceThe Economist reviewed a study by Dr. Neil Brewer about effective police lineups which I think had implications for Market Research. Like researchers, police typically like to encourage witnesses to take their time to ensure they are making the correct choice. This makes logical sense, more time, means more thinking which naturally should lead to better results. Sadly, Dr. Brewer found otherwise.

He had volunteers view short films which detailed mundane scenes of everyday life and a crime (shoplifting, car theft, etc). Later (some minutes later, some a week), they were asked to identify the criminal from a group of 12 pictures of “suspects”. Half were given 3 seconds to evaluate each picture and asked how confident they were of their choice. The other half were given as much time as they wanted. The results showed that the group that had the limited time was correct 67% of the time. The group with more time was only correct 49% of the time.  

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