EmergeSmarter Blog

The best way to find out what consumers feel is just to ask them.

Posted on Mon, Dec 12, 2011

By Robert Relihan, Senior Vice President

Those of us involved in marketing and exploring how consumers make the decisions they do should always pay attention to new approaches and constructs.  If we didn’t, we would still be wandering cities, clipboards in hand, conducting man-on-the street interviews.  So, I am extremely interested in the growth and impact of neuroscience on marketing research.

In my effort to get up to speed in this area I have found Roger Dooley’s website and blog particularly useful.  He covers the breadth of the topic although there are fairly frequent references to those who question the approach, labeled “alarmists.”  And, it is true that there is a good deal of overheated reactions to the idea of marketers probing our brains for ways to make us buy products without realizing we want them.

But, there is reasonable questioning of neuromarketing, and in a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, Brain Scan Overload by Jonah Lehrer is an excellent example.  He focuses on the use of functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI, a device used to provide a picture of the brain as it reacts to different stimuli.  He points out several ways in which the use of the device in such research might be questionable:neuroscience  market research

  • It uses blood flow as a surrogate for the activity of neurons in the brain.
  • There are complex algorithms that separate the noise from the signal.  The result can be a simple picture of what might be a very dense psychological state, such as happiness.
  • Various areas of the brain play a role in multiple emotions.  So, the insula plays a role in love, disgust, and bodily pain.  Lehrer points to research that associated a spike in activity in that region of the brain with love for the iPhone.  Why not disgust or pain?

But at the very end of his article, Lehrer makes a point about neuroscience that gives me pause.

“What's worse, the very fact that we're looking at a brain scan seems to inhibit our critical thinking. Deena Skolnick Weisberg, a psychologist at Temple University, has demonstrated that merely referencing fMRI research can bias the evaluation of scientific papers.

“When she gave neuroscience students and ordinary adults a few examples of obviously flawed scientific explanations, people were consistently able to find the flaws. However, when these same explanations were prefaced with the phrase ‘Brain scans indicate,’ both the students and adults became much less critical.”

Neuromarketing research seems to be another effort to find research methods that give “the answer,” unchallenged or mediated by thought and analysis.  Marketers make decisions influenced by research.  Research helps provide understanding of consumer behavior.  But, when the method is the answer, subtlety and flexibility are lost.  Ultimately, a sensitive marketer can learn a good deal and make successful decisions by listening directly to consumers.

Tags: Market Research Reporting, neuromarketing, Market Research, market research tools

The Multitasking Generations: 13-34 Year Olds Average 4-5 Other Activities While Watching TV

Posted on Fri, Nov 18, 2011

New Study Examines the TV Consumption Habits of Generations X, Y and i

Adults 18-24 and 25-34 Most Likely to Connect Social Media to TV Viewing; Teens Most Likely to Watch with Friends and Family

(National Harbor, MD—November 9, 2011) – A new study released today, “Watching Gens X, Y & i,” paints a detailed portrait of 13-34 year old consumers and how they watch television: often while taking part in up to four or five activities all at the same time, from eating, cooking and cleaning to texting, surfing the web, emailing, playing games or listening to music.

“Many 13-34 year olds are multi-media multitaskers, but their social media activities vary depending on age group,” said Char Beales, president and CEO, Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing (CTAM), and head of the organization that commissioned the study.

Younger generations have been raised in an entertainment world where content is available anytime, anywhere and on numerous platforms. This study exposes what teens and young adults are watching, with whom they’re watching, where, how often and on what devices.

Although about half of 18-24 and 25-34 year olds follow or “like” TV networks/shows, only 38% of those 13-17 do. The leading social networking activities while watching TV are looking up info (31% of 13-34 year olds), discussing shows online (29%), posting updates/tweeting (24%) and visiting a network or show page (22%). However, these activities are almost twice as likely to be conducted among 18-24 and 25-34 year olds compared to teens.

Click Here To View the Complete Article.

This research, conducted by C+R Research, was commissioned by the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing (CTAM) to investigate the effect of lifestyles and life stages on media and technology usage of younger consumers. It included both qualitative and quantitative online phases in the summer of 2011, and also utilizes data from C+R’s comprehensive syndicated YouthBeat study to provide additional context. 2,124 total interviews were conducted as part of the quantitative phase.

Tags: Market Research Reporting, youth and family research, Market Research, C+R News

Market Research Use of Word Clouds vs. Data Journalism

Posted on Thu, Oct 20, 2011

By Robert Relihan, Senior Vice President

Those of us who face the daunting task of sifting through mounds of verbal data — forty individual interviews or a three week on-line community — synthesizing all of those words, and presenting our analysis clearly, succinctly, AND with impact have been intrigued by word clouds.  They seem simple and elegant; they reduce all of those words to a picture of the important themes.  Now, there are numerous web sites to help us create word clouds, Wordle being only the best known.

So, why do I feel vaguely dissatisfied when I look at word clouds, even the ones I have created?  They often seem to miss the point or be overly simplistic.  Creating a word cloud sometimes feels like I have cheated myself and my audience.Market Research Wordle

Jacob Harris of The New York Times makes the case against word clouds and, in the process, gives a brief primer on how to report its data.  It is an incredibly useful article.

He begins with a concept that should become a mantra to market research professionals.  The critique of data clouds is based on the principles of data journalism.  When many of us began our careers, the model for reporting was the academic paper.  I wrote reports a long time ago with footnotes.  Now we strive for clarity and simplicity.  The magazine or newspaper (on-line versions, of course) is our guide.  Data journalism should be our art.

“Visualization is reporting, with many of the same elements that would make a traditional story effective: a narrative that pares away extraneous information to find a story in the data; context to help the reader understand the basics of the subject; interviewing the data to find its flaws and be sure of our conclusions.  Prettiness is a bonus; if it obliterates the ability to read the story of the visualization, it’s not worth adding some wild new style or strange interface.”

The ways Harris point out how word clouds go wrong provide us with a road map for good reporting or, rather, good data journalism.

  • Word clouds are based on a very rudimentary textual analysis.  In most cases, a phrase-level or a thematic analysis would provide richer and more penetrating analysis.  The general lesson of this observation is that we need to focus on the concepts that knit the words together consumers use and not on the words.
  • Word clouds are often used when textual analysis is not the appropriate tool.  As Harris says, in our analysis we should not confuse “signifiers with what they signify.  We need to use the appropriate methods for getting below the surface of consumers’ comment.  Simply digesting their words will not do that.
  • Word clouds have a dirty secret.  They really aren’t analysis.  They leave readers with the task of peering at the image and discerning the meaning themselves.  Word clouds make the assumption that the meaning is obvious.  But, any analysis worth its salt requires some explanation; it requires framing and focus.
  • Finally word clouds miss the narrative.  I am not saying what we write or present should be long, dreary marches through the data.  Hardly.  We need to find the thread or threads that bring fresh insight to a particular area of consumer behavior.  There are often several reasons why two words might dominate a word cloud.  We need to create the story for the reader or listener that that makes just one of these reasons the most compelling and the most relevant.  And, incidentally, that narrative still can be visual.

A word cloud tries to make us believe its immediacy produces insight when, in fact, it may mask the narrative we “data journalists” should be creating.

Tags: Market Research Reporting, Market Research, market research tools, Word Clouds

5 Ways to Know If You Have an Insight or Observation

Posted on Mon, Oct 10, 2011

By Robert Relihan, Senior Vice President

For as long as the phrase “Consumer Insight” has been used, I am amazed that I still see discussions of its meaning.  Don’t we all know what an “insight” is by now?

Well, maybe not.  The word certainly has been overused; every observation about consumer behavior and attitudes becomes an "insight."

Market ResearchAnd, unlike a mere finding, it has an air of inevitability, not to be questioned.  Perhaps, the use of "insight" is an example of language creep — using words of greater and greater intensity to describe our actions in an attempt to endow them with more importance than they deserve.  It is a bit like using wind chill factors to convince ourselves that winters are re-e-e-ally cold now.

Yet, the word is useful.  Who doesn’t want to get into the head of a consumer?  That’s what an insight is — an authentic vision of how consumers view themselves and connect with brands or categories.

So, here’s five ways to know you have a true insight and not a mere observation.

  • An insight is clear and simple.  One short, declarative sentence is best.  If you need three sentences to explain it, you don’t have an insight.   Most of all, it can’t be a multi-layered, logical construct.  A syllogism is not an insight.
  • An insight is a surprise. You may discover insights, but you can’t necessarily search for them.  Insights into the consumer give us new and fresh perspectives; they are unexpected.  Consequently, we are more likely to discover insights by being open and not wedded to particular methods.
  • An insight is a game changer.  If an insight is a surprise, if it gives us an unexpected vision, it must drive the development of different products and different ways of communicating them.  The recognition that consumers wanted small indulgences in every category transformed the coffee shop into Starbucks.
  • An insight is often a mash up.  How can you be surprised?  How can you be open to discovery?  If there is one rule to developing insights (I resist calling it a method), it is that you need to combine perspectives.  You might never have had that “Starbuck moment” watching people getting coffee in traditional coffee shops.  But, if you also observed them in bakeries and wine bars, the light would go off…insight.
  • An insight is not immediately translatable.  We have spent most of our careers looking for “actionable results.”  It is a laudable goal and, in many circumstances, it is an essential goal.  What good would a taste test be without actionable findings?  But, if insights are surprising, game changers, they may not have a direct immediate utility.  We need to be prepared to follow the insight, to push the insight to its ultimate game-changing conclusion.

Check us out at C+R and discover how we can be your partner on that journey of discovery, from insight to game-changing conclusion.

Tags: Market Research Reporting, Market Research, Misc

Market Research Reporting - Getting to the Heart of It…

Posted on Thu, Aug 18, 2011

By Lynne Bartos, Vice President

There is nothing more embarrassing for a researcher than to hear a client say “…this doesn’t really address the business questions that we set out to answer.” This is more common an occurrence in research reporting than most of us would care to admit. But unfortunately, much report writing these days falls short of expectations for those on the client side.  This is likely due to more emphasis on methodology or analytic technique at the expense of clear graphics, creative story-telling and actionable direction.

What often happens during the report-writing process is that market researchers have their direct research client in mind.  They neglect the fact that their direct contact must present these findings to the ultimate stakeholder in the process — someone in senior management or the head of marketing who does not function in the research realm. 

We need to take conscious steps to break out of our little bubble to avoid some of the lingo that is prevalent in research circles. You know what I mean if you’ve ever found yourself presenting your findings to marketing folks.  While peppering them with terms such as “mean,” “monadic,” “DK/NS,” “latent class,” and the like, you suddenly notice the deer-in-the-headlights reaction.  Worse yet, your audience’s eyes glaze over completely.  These terms are foreign to many marketers and, frankly, most of them couldn’t care less about such things.  They simply want a viable solution to the particular business need they set out to address.          Market Research Reporting

So, when writing a research report for my clients it helps me to keep a few things in mind….

Speak to Marketers in Their Language

Focus on what marketers care most about — getting customers, keeping customers, and increasing their share of the customer’s wallet.  So tell them what is meaningful to them….

  • How to position their brand
  • How best to price it 
  • Who their best prospects are and how to reach them
  • What message should they be communicating 
  • Who are their most loyal and valuable customers
  • How do they keep them loyal to their service or brand 

Net, net — put some Marketing-Speak into your report, and leave out the Research-speak.

Tell a good story

A good report tells a good story.  So, how do you tell a compelling story?  Start by getting organized!

  • Develop an analytic plan that focuses on business issues and objectives — the questions that need to be answered. 
  • Outline how the questions will be. 
  • Once the data is in, all team members should know how the data relates to those question, and they can craft the best story together.

Remember, every page in the report should contribute to the story!  If something doesn’t contour well with your story, stick it in the Appendix.  How many hundred-page reports have you been subjected to where the charts are all in the same order as the questionnaire?  Where is the story?  

It’s also important to stick closely to your analytic plan when crafting your story. The analytic plan is what helps to keep everyone focused on why the research was conducted in the first place.

Insightful Headlines and Bullets

What I also find helpful in getting my arms around the story is to write effective bullets and headlines for the data presented.  Too many people think an insight is reiterating the numbers that are in the charts.  Remember, anyone can read the numbers on a chart – our job, as researchers, is to pull the deeper insights from seemingly obvious data.

Be Creative and Have a Llittle Fun

Creativity also comes into play!  Package the story in a creative way. No one wants to see rows and rows of data. Make the report visually appealing so you don’t intimidate those who are going to be using the findings to help drive strategy.  Avoid too much text and too many numbers.

And, don’t be afraid to insert some humor here and there. It reminds your clients that you are human and helps to lighten the tone and keep things relaxed.   

Get to the Heart of It

And finally, probably the hardest part of the report process for any researcher is to get straight to the heart of it… what is the story – conclusions, implications, and recommendations.  Go to the next step to tell them what the data MEANS, and what they might consider doing to maximize their investment.

And there is nothing sweeter to a market researcher’s ears than to hear a client voice saying, “Thanks, this really addresses the business questions that we set out to answer!”

Tags: Market Research Reporting, Market Research, market research tools, Misc