8
Dec

5 Holiday Wishes for the MR Industry

5 Holiday Wishes for the MR IndustryBy Kea Wheeler, Senior Project Director

It’s the time of year for giving and receiving gifts. While I do believe in the old adage that it is better to give than to receive, who doesn’t like to receive a gift? I particularly enjoy the ones that are able to bring greater joy or more convenience into my life. So, this wish list may skip the items I sent to my family for our annual gift exchange, but it does include my wishes for the market research industry this holiday season and into the New Year.


Wish 1: To be regifted past research.

I know some people look down on regifting, but what could be better in the market research industry? Receiving research that has already been conducted and is relevant to a new study being fielded offers the opportunity to understand what was already asked and what insights were already gleaned. This allows for the new study to confirm what was learned previously, but also to go above and beyond those learnings to find something new.

There is nothing worse than conducting a study and hearing the client say “we already knew that.” Therefore, please regift previous research, so new research can focus on discovering and reporting what is in fact an insight, instead of only confirmation of past learnings. That is something both parties can be thankful for.


Wish 2: To be able to mingle with everyone.

Many times in research studies, we only speak with or survey those consumers who have purchased our client’s product or used their service. If we really want to get fancy, we may also include consumers who purchase or use a competitor’s product and service. But are we missing out on not speaking with those outside of a category entirely?

This is particularly relevant for finding out how a brand is perceived in the market place. These consumers can offer a unique perspective on how they view others that buy a particular brand and why they consider them, to be or not to be, a member of the island of misfit toys.  However, understanding how these consumers perceive others associated with this brand will help companies understand the barriers they need to overcome to entice potential new customers.


Wish 3: To immerse oneself in someone else’s reality.

Just like the different variations of Santa Claus, consumers have different realities from what the client may expect. I have been in debrief meetings where a client wants to entirely reject a participant’s comments because what they said was “not true,”  or “used a product in a way other than originally intended,” or “are understanding the message wrong.”  What some clients fail to realize is that the consumer’s feedback is their truth as it is how they perceive the topic at hand.

Instead of questioning their perception, it is better to devote time on how to overcome the consumer’s perceptions and bring them closer to reality that the company intended.  Ask oneself, if the consumer is using a product in a different way than suggested, how can the instructions be clearer? If the message is being taken in the wrong light, what language can be changed to make it more relevant? Asking these questions will provide an avenue to more actionable and relevant tasks for the research team.


Wish 4: To have more time to tell stories.

The must-have item on everyone’s list, in and outside of the market research industry, is story telling. Story telling has been touted as the way to establish a connection between the audience and whatever is being presented. But in market research, we are held to producing a report with details about all of the findings from a particular study.

While some of these findings go into making a story, not all are necessary in telling the story. However, one will quickly be put on the naughty list if they don’t provide an answer to all of the questions asked or all the observations witnessed in a report of some kind.

With this evolution, two deliverables are becoming necessary — the story presentation and a detailed appendix report. One client researcher describes this growing desire in the 2016 Quirks Corporate Research Report:

I wish I would receive two reports – one for me, the client researcher, with all the detail including crosstabs, and one for presenting that REALLY boils down the learning to an easily digestible story that we can take action on.

But the lump of coal in this wish is the fact that reporting time lines are regularly being reduced. Two reports will take more time, energy, and a greater budget to complete. If presentation stories and a detailed appendix report is truly the wave of the future, it must come with the expectation of either increased reporting time lines or increased budget for more people to report simultaneously. Bah humbug.


Wish 5: To get invited to the party.

If the end of many of my projects could be summarized in a sentence, it would be “all dressed up and nowhere to go”. There are plenty of projects where we have fielded the study, created our story, and are asked to hand over the findings with no invite to present to the larger client team. While we strive to create presentations and reports that can stand on their own, having the voice of the one who fielded the research participate in presenting the findings can add so much more richness and depth to the results. But rarely are we asked to the big dance.


Perhaps it is time for market research professionals to throw their own party? What can be done to make our voice indispensable at meetings? Perhaps we need to be better at presenting our findings to our internal contacts. Let them see that our voice – our passion – cannot be duplicated and it’s best to bring us as a date to the big meeting. So, scratch this wish, maybe I’ll wish for stellar hostess abilities instead.

That concludes my holiday wish list for the marketing research industry for 2017 and beyond. Let’s see if I made the nice list and St. Nicolas brings me these gifts. If not, I could always follow up with the Easter Bunny – I hear he can be bribed with chocolate.

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22
Nov

Neuromarketing: Market Research’s Magic Bullet?

neuromarketing: market research's magic bullet?

By Artem Violety, Vice President

Exciting new techniques are emerging within the advertising and technology industries, creating fresh disrupters in market research and opening new doors to more opportunities and insights than ever imagined before. However, as with most new findings, additional research and confirmation is needed before these techniques become relevant and widely accepted.

One new field of study that has emerged is “neuromarketing research”- an attempt to leverage learnings from neuroscience to better understand the brain’s responses to marketing stimuli, and thereby better understand consumer behavior. I had the pleasure of appearing on a panel discussing the topic at the ad:tech conference in New York, held November 2-3, 2016.

The panel discussed how face recognition software could uncover consumers’ emotional states; how biometric markers, such as skin conductance, heartrate, and respiration could be used to detect non-conscious response to stimuli; and how brain imaging techniques, including functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) and Electroencephalography (EEG) could potentially uncover consumers “true” reactions to marketing stimuli by measuring actual brain activity.

These techniques are obviously very attractive to marketers. Imagine being able to peer into a consumer’s mind and see how interested they are really in a product, or which of two marketing messages better resonates with them, all without having to rely on what they tell us.

Neuromarketing’s focus is on consumers’ “unsaid” thoughts, so in essence, their inner, unedited, potentially unconscious thoughts and feelings. This is generally called “System 1” or “Fast” thinking, and it refers to a consumer’s automatic response to a given stimulus; it’s a potentially vital aspect in decision-making but by no means the only one.

In contrast, more traditional market research focuses on what is explicitly reported by a consumer. This is called “System 2” or “Slow” thinking, and refers to the more deliberate, logical or conscious aspects of decision making.

As one can imagine, both types of responses are worth considering when trying to understand how the consumer feels about a product or service. Unfortunately, the excitement that usually accompanies a discovery of a new set of tools or techniques often overrides not only previously accepted learning but even basic logic.

For example, the notion that there is a metaphorical “buy button” in the brain that can be accessed via neuromarketing is promise boldly made by some practitioners. However, this claim is akin to those made by proponents of using hypnosis or subliminal messages in commercials – highly attractive but without much merit. Since the brain is an organ that evolved over a much longer period of time than humans have engaged in commerce, there wouldn’t have been an opportunity for a “buy button” to be part of the biology of the brain. There are surely “approach or avoid”, “fight or flight” functions built in, but those reflect a need for basic survival, not the desire to buy a shiny new phone or another pair of shoes.

In order to be useful, neuromarketing research must be placed in the proper context – it’s a tool that can be used in conjunction with other traditional techniques, but it’s not a panacea for all marketing questions. As neuroscience evolves and is able to better explain human cognitive abilities, it will surely play a larger role in how we all conduct marketing research. However, it is unlikely it will ever completely replace  the need to actually talk to people in order to understand them, something we humans have a good deal of practice doing.

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4
May

8 Ways to Think like a Market Research Anthropologist

 

8 Ways to Think like a Market Research AnthropologistBy: Erica Ruyle, Lead Anthropologist and Vice President, Qualitative Solutions

Much to my wife’s annoyance, my brain never shuts off. We will go to a movie and I will practically be bouncing in my seat as my brain works through all the cultural messages and implications of the experience.  (So we are all on the same page, I define culture as “the patterns of behavior, thought and feeling that are learned, shared and transmitted across generations.”)  Following the movie and dinner I inevitably babble on about the theories, connections and other positing on the film.  After all in the world of an anthropologist, everything has meaning, a hidden “other” so to speak.

On a recent trip to Las Vegas, my favorite few hours of the entire trip comprised of me sitting in the hotel’s casino, sipping dark, bitter coffee and watching people. Were they there on business or pleasure?  Where did they come from?  What was their link and connection to the people around them; what relationship did they have with those they were drinking, eating, and talking with?  I would draw up entire kinship maps and sketch stories of their life and then give meaning to it.  I would watch their interactions and movement throughout the hotel and casino floor, while my brain worked the patterns and behavior around me. As the old idiom goes, “this is both a gift and a curse.”

As you can see, being an anthropologist means having boundless curiosity. My mind is constantly shuffling information around regardless of which of the five senses it comes from.  Far too often we tend to focus on the words and miss other subtle cues around us such as body language or not so subtle cues that can easily be overlooked such as the material culture around us. As an anthropologist this works to my advantage as we are trying to find patterns of meaning in structures and systems.  Culture is an endless layered facet of the human condition and looking beyond we begin to understand the behavioral and symbolic meaning that drives people is what we do.

With years of training I have learned how to hone my skills to not only see what is around me but also how to talk in a meaningful way about what I have learned. My favorite aspect of ethnography is bringing to life what I experienced.  I’ve done my job when a reader can feel as if they were actually there during the research; they can feel what the research respondent felt and take a peek through the lenses of their eyes.  Of course, this does not always transfer well to market research deliverables but it is all part of the process.  My job is to bring the consumer and their world to life in an actionable way that makes sense.

Even if you are not an anthropologist or do not have anthropological training, you can still think like one. Anthropologists study people and their culture. Everything in market research is based on the thoughts, feelings, and actions of groups of people.

There are eight ways that you can think like an anthropologist for any research project, even if it is not ethnographic /anthropological in nature. Follow these and you are well on your way to thinking like an anthropologist!

  1. Stay on the move
  2. Keep your eyes open
  3. Always be curious
  4. Challenge your assumptions
  5. Ask a lot of questions (to your respondent and yourself)
  6. Dig deeper
  7. Engage multiple point of view
  8. Don’t believe everything people say

In a coming blog, I will delve more deeply into the slippery notion of culture. It is essential to grasp, even if not explicitly used in market research. I will outline what the benefits are to having this knowledge and how it can help you get more insightful, meaningful analytical results, further supporting your research efforts.

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5
Feb

The ‘Off Recipe’ Advantage

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By: Donna Taglione, Vice President

I love to cook but I hate to bake.

I can break out in a cold sweat at the thought of baking a batch of cookies, but my BFF Chili with its 25+ ingredients is one of my “go-to” winter meals. Seems weird, right?

Cooking and baking both need bowls and tools, pots and pans. Both have recipes. But cooking allows for personal expression–a little more of this and a little less of that is OK. Most of the time it is more art and less science. Take the garlic out of chili because it gives you indigestion and no one is any the wiser unless you tell them – it’s still chili.

Adding some heat to “kick it up a notch” (thank you Emeril) takes a knowledge of ingredients and makes the experience of cooking and eating more individualized.

Baking, on the other hand, isn’t just science – it’s chemistry. Alter the ingredients or recipe by even a little and all your hard work could end up in the garbage can when the cookie drops come out of the oven like flat, over-done pancakes (trust me on that one).

As I was cooking dinner on Sunday, I was thinking about this blog post and decided maybe that’s why I’m drawn to qualitative research. While I rarely cook with a recipe, I would never bake without one. The flexibility and creativity I find in meal preparation is much like the flexibility I find when conducting qualitative market research.

Just as I like adding a little more of this and a little less of that in my meals, during an in-home I can go “off recipe” and let the consumer guide the discussion. Of course, I am well aware of all the ingredients needed to get to the end result. But does it matter how we get there? Will a little more of this and a little less of that hurt the outcome? For the most part it doesn’t, as long as you don’t forget any of the key steps.

With qualitative, just like in cooking, it’s often the occasions you go “off recipe” that make the difference between the same old thing, and something that turns a “standard” into the dish that everyone really enjoys.

So next time a qualitative project comes up and you want to stick with the same ingredients and follow the tried and true recipe, try to find a way to add your unique flavor to the method or topic.

You never know, you just may like it!

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10
Dec

Research Challenge: Catching the Elusive Green Mind

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By Julie Vogel, Vice President

About five years ago the U.S. government had delivered a stiff mandate to automakers: by the year 2025 – just 10 years from now — any automakers wishing to sell vehicles in the U.S. must offer ones that average 54 mpg. Automakers were seeking a  ‘Reality TV’ type of insight of  Electric Vehicle (EV) owners, to understand how the plugging in and recharging of EVs was incorporated as part of daily life.

Here’s where it gets difficult. The elusive, Electric Vehicle owners represent less than 1% of the population and EVs are less than 1% of vehicles on the road. Also, these rare owners were starting to burn out from endless research requests from multiple corporate researchers.

Given Morpace’s unique contacts with both automakers and energy-efficient owners, the MyDrivingPower online research community was born, which includes more than 250 owners of electric and hybrid vehicles from across U.S.

Today, the collective voice of these vehicle owners is shaping the electric vehicle industry. This information is being utilized by vehicle manufacturers, utility companies, and government agencies, charging station manufacturers, battery manufacturers and the media.

For more insights visit this article in Automotive News.

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2
Dec

Online Communities: A Powerful Media Relations Tool

By Jason Mantel, Vice President

A strong selling point for Market Research Online Communities is the ability to collect information quickly, sometimes instantaneously, from community members.  The theory goes that having members is exponentially more powerful than having respondents – members are engaged in your brand, eager to share, will be brutally honest in sharing the feedback your brand needs to hear. They are also available to you when you need them. Paper

As a primary market research firm, this is the line we use to promote MROCs.  Too often, though, these amazing tools are not leveraged for an amazing benefit: speed.

Morpace was contacted by Automotive News for thoughts on the electric vehicle market.  We host a MROC in this space, called My Driving Power.  The request came to our team at 4 p.m. on a Monday afternoon, and some of the questions were on topics where we had limited feedback.  Our first inclination was, “we’re missing that data!” And then suddenly, we remembered what we tell our clients – that MROCs generate fast results. (Really, it took time for this to sink in!) One of our analysts posted a few key questions immediately to our members.  And they didn’t let us down.

By 7 a.m. the next morning, we experienced a nearly 30% response rate, and robust results we could share with the publication.  We were able to answer specific questions, with statistically relevant figures, and pages of valuable comments, literally overnight.  I can’t recall another instance in my research career where that was possible, let alone with such a targeted audience.  (And many of our clients who host communities are yet to leverage their members for this type of benefit.)

I can imagine the value of this result in just about any corporate suite.  Even though I knew how it was supposed to work, I was simply amazed when it did.

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27
Oct

Give Consumers The Right Instruments So They Will Become Your Ideal Co-pilot

CopilotBy Julie Vogel, Vice President

Okay, so here’s a true confession for you:  There were times during my years managing brands for The Quaker Oats Company when I felt uncomfortably in the dark about the sales impact our multi-million dollar marketing programs would have once we launched them into the consumer-o-sphere. And there were times we flat out made mistakes and missed opportunities because of an understanding gap between us and our consumers that seemed impossible to bridge.

For example, I’m thinking of the time I and my brand team launched a wrongly-named Hispanic tortilla mix in Southern U.S. markets.  The name meant ‘dirty wet dough’ in Spanish.  (And wrapped in a paper bag, too!)   But no one on the team spoke Spanish, and we couldn’t afford research, so the packaging department did some fancy guesswork.  But they guessed wrong, and that product was on the shelf for years – with our target likely chuckling away – until a Spanish speaker fortuitously joined the team and alerted us of the mistake.  The product was renamed, package redesigned, and sales jumped.

With the clarity of 20-20 hindsight, our blind-spots stemmed largely from a lack of immediate, back-and-forth communication avenues available at the time that would enable us to sustain the consumer understanding we needed to feel confident in our actions.  Sure, we surveyed, ad-tested, conducted groups, and at times fooled ourselves into believing we could actually think like the target.   In truth, we were just getting isolated ‘dipstick’ reads on certain topics, among certain consumers, at certain intervals, under certain conditions.  There was no way to truly hear the right group of consumers share their motivations, experiences and actions as they went through life and interacted with our brands over time.  Or to let them give us a heads-up if we were considering a silly name for a product.

Roll the tape forward, introduce social technologies that empower us – and our consumers—to exchange information almost any time, anywhere — and brands can now virtually make consumers their trusted co-pilots  at the go-to-market controls.   In particular, I have been astounded by the level of sustained, authentic insight and spot-on direction brands can obtain on a host of decisions large and small by setting up their own private online market research communities.

In my work building online market research communities for global brands, I have seen the peace-of-mind marketers can get from having a small (100s) or large (1000s) pool of ‘consumer-advisors’ virtually camped-out, at-the-ready to work together to resolve critical, time-sensitive decisions.  These are often decisions that need to be nailed-down and gotten right, fast, to ensure successful in-market programs

Okay, so I admit:  I am downright jealous of brand marketers today who have access to social technologies that empower them to take much of the guesswork out of who their consumers really are, and what they want from the companies they buy from.

After all, it’s downright embarrassing to be on shelf, or on-screen, with a proposition your audience finds ridiculous.  But without the right tools in place, it can happen to the best of us.  Better to do a reality-check with your audience before you hit the stage.  And today, this is eminently doable for forward looking brands serious about getting it right.

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