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R Squared

The research industry has for at least a decade now been facing two conflicting challenges. At the same time the representativeness and quality of data collected is being called into question, our clients are asking us to make our results tie to and be predictive of the real world. I believe that even with the limitations of response rate and respondent behavior, we can achieve good results by asking questions in the right manner. We need to mirror the way people make decisions in the real world…namely by making choices.

What got me thinking about this is the fact that my car lease is ending and I'm shopping.  The last three times I've leased a new car, the process of picking it up has been identical.  I go in, pay some money, sign a bunch of forms I don't understand, get a tour of the car's features and then I'm told that I'll be getting a survey and that I should give the highest marks on everything.   Sometimes the salesman says "if there is something you can't give the highest mark on, tell me what I have to do to earn it", but they always say, "If I don't get the highest mark it will hurt my commission."

I recognize that the car company might not view this or use this as they would pure market research.   In  many respects they are like response cards (like hotels or restaurants use) or invitations to do a survey found on receipts.   Even without all the controls pure market research puts in place, the data generated by these efforts can have tremendous value.   My firm, for example, has used them to help establish the bottom line impact of various attributes.

Are Researchers Too Ethical?

Posted by on in R Squared

Got an interesting question in my Linkedin morning update about the ethics of Market Researchers doing Market Intelligence work. While the question was vague enough to be unanswerable (what sort of Market Intelligence are you talking about?), it got me thinking about ethics. Specifically, I’ve been thinking that researchers are too often focused on strict ethical rules rather than on doing the right thing.

So, right off, let me state that I totally believe in obeying laws, regulations and, yes, ethics. This extends to our dealings with clients, vendors and, most importantly respondents. I wouldn’t want to work in an industry that doesn’t take ethical responsibility seriously. I'm concerned, however, that we don't apply ethical standards intelligently. This, in turn, works counter to the principles our ethics claim to protect and harms our effectiveness as an industry.

Telemarketers: Our Nemesis?

A Dinosaurs Weight

Posted by on in R Squared

Ever wondered how paleontologists know what a dinosaur weighs? OK, me neither, but an article I read in The Economist points to mistakes in past methods and I believe understanding these mistakes can teach us a lot about how to be better researchers.

A dinosaur’s weight is estimated by taking the bone structure and weight of existing animals and then through linear regression predicting the weight of dinosaurs using only their bone structures. For example, a Brontosaurus (technically called an Apatosaurus, but I learned my dinosaur names watching The Flintstones) is estimated to weigh about as much as seven African elephants.

Dr. Gary Packard of Colorado State University wondered how well these equations would do at predicting the weight of living animals. In essence, he pretended we don’t know how much an elephant weighs. He took the weight and bone structure of smaller animals and then used a linear regression to predict an elephant’s weight using only its bone structure. The result was 50% more than an elephant weighs.

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