EmergeSmarter Blog

Are Emotions Less Emotional?

Posted on Mon, Aug 1, 2011

By Robert Relihan, Senior Vice President

I am staring at a series of collages I had participants create for a project I just completed.  I have always loved this sort of creative exercise.  It helps (forces?) people to stretch their right brains.  They make more connections and associations when they create the collages and discuss them than they would in almost any other exercise I use in a focus group.  Also, I discover symbols and metaphors reflected on the collages and in the responses of their creators than with almost any other analytic approach.Market Research Collage

I was surprised to read an article in the New York Times recently that seemed to suggest something novel in the technique.  I have been using it for years.  One of my approaches is to have participants create collages out of whatever pictures and objects they have around the house.

As I looked as those collages, I realized they said much about the ways a group of young men and women felt about one of their favorite activities, which shall remain nameless.  I could see changes that had taken place in the way creativity is expressed by people who are not specifically trained to be creative.

  • Fifteen years ago a typical collage would contain pictures from a range of magazines.  And, they would also be taken from both the advertising and the articles.  Now, it seems that people’s image frame of reference is much more restricted. It is not unusual to see the same pictures repeated in several collages.  It is evidence that magazines are much less a part of everyone’s daily life.  When I conduct ethnogaphies, many houses I visit have no evidence of magazines.

    It was commonplace for collages created by men to have pictures from the sports page of the local newspaper or from Sports Illustrated.  No more.  All sports news is on-line.  And, as more and more people use smart phones, they are getting their sports news in such a way they can’t even print a picture.

    And, the images that do appear on the collages are almost exclusively from advertising. This change is a bit more difficult to explain.  What qualities do the images from advertising possess that other images do not?  As I listen to men and women discuss their collages, the answer becomes obvious.  Advertising magnifies and simplifies the representation of emotions.  Its images are designed so that consumers “get it.”  I can only conclude that generations raised on the media can understand their own emotions only through the intensifying lens of advertising.
  • The collages also reveal what is a complementary trend.  The Internet, in effect, has short-circuited creative thinking.  I used to see collage creation as a serendipitous process in which my participants wandered through magazines or their homes and happened upon pictures and objects that triggered a response they might not otherwise have felt.

    Now, however, collages have become more logical and literal.  I see a trophy in a collage, and I ask its creator to explain it.  Oh, he says, I felt successful, so I Googled “trophy” and printed the first picture I found.  So the search for images had become less about metaphorical and and more interpretation.

    I can’t help but feel that this presents a problem for my collage exercise.  The Internet enables consumers to get THE answer, and that answer more often than not is verbal and logical.  The emotional dimension is lost.

What this all suggests is that in the age of the Internet, with Millennials as targets, we need new ways to tap into the emotions of consumers.  Or, we ourselves need new metaphors for that emotional response.

Tags: market research tools, qualitative research, Online qualitative research

The Key to Reporting Discovered?

Posted on Fri, Jul 22, 2011

By Walt Dickie, Executive Vice President

Marketing research reports tend toward data-laden step-by-step arguments. Detailed discussion about specific data may – or, to the frustration of clients, may not – lead to a conclusion about the overall business implications of the analysis. 

This traditional narrative approach is under pressure from many quarters: a sound bite culture; the sometimes cryptic style of text messaging, Twitter, and email; an increasing reliance on visual display over written exposition; and a general disinterest in, and even distrust of, data and evidence.

How should a report be structured that has the power to change minds and generate consensus?

Many believe that the key lies in more and better graphics and everyone seems to call upon Tufte as a guide to graphic design. His The Visual Display of Quantitative Information (1983), Minard’s famous graph of Napoleon’s march to Moscow and its aftermath, and Tufte’s later books can be found, I think, in every MR industry office, and his influence has been largely responsible for the industry’s infatuation with graphing data.

Yet the more we try to create engaging representations of our data with novel graphical treatments, the more we run the risk of confusing those we hope to excite with our results.Market Research Rsporting

This seems to be an impasse. To grab the attention of an audience that may not already be involved deeply requires novelty, but novelty impairs communication. Now what?

The Poynter Institute is a journalism school in St. Petersburg, and they’ve been conducting studies on the impact of layout and design on newspaper reading since 1990. In 2006, they used three different formats to set up the same news story about bird flu, and then tested the effects of the designs. The information in all three versions was identical. (The three prototypes have apparently been removed from the Poynter web site, which indicates that they have been published in book form.)

The Institute describes them this way (emphasis added): "Prototype 1 was conventional, with headline, narrative and photograph … Prototype 2 contained a narrative story with some of the information broken out in a map and some in a fact box. Prototype 3 was very visual with no traditional narrative. It featured . . . a map, a Q&A, a numbers chart and other graphic storytelling."

The Poynter study used eye tracking to follow what people were looking at and for how long, and they also tested recall of the stories. Miner again: “Readers read the prototypes for five minutes and then were quizzed on bird flu. Readers of Prototype 3, the one that did away with narrative, got the most answers right. What's more, these readers came away most interested in the subject of bird flu and most open to learning more.”

This is an amazing result: a non-narrative presentation of the disjointed components of a story generated more reader involvement and better recall of the facts.

This has several implications for MR reporting:

  • It isn’t novelty, “creative” graphics, or bright colors that compel attention; it’s a clear presentation of all of the elements of the story.
  • We are shooting ourselves in the foot by trying to lead an audience through our arguments in step-by-step fashion. This is yet another indictment of PowerPoint, with its bullet-pointed lists on slide after slide. We need to develop a “collage” mentality and present the parts of the story simultaneously.
  • Our reports should encourage a kind of do-it-yourself involvement with the story we want to tell, encouraging the reader to impose order on them. Discussion is likely to be more powerful than exposition. Anything that encourages the audience to work things out for themselves will generate involvement and recall. This means laying out all the steps to the conclusion, but letting the conclusion itself be discovered.
  • We needn’t constantly come up with new graphic formats to present the data we include; in fact, we can rely on the familiarity of standard graphic forms to enhance the clarity of the presentation. This doesn’t mean we can’t use more creative graphics; only that we don’t need to rely on them to do the job alone.
  • When we use the “infographics” approach, we should avoid a linear narrative, and, instead, strive for a presentation that gives each story element space to breathe and encourages the eye to wander from one to the other.

I’ll let Miner have the final word: “Enjoyable as it may be, linear narrative is nowhere near as predictably efficient as is deconstruction of a story into its…components…the reader creates the narrative rather than having the writer impose it on him or her.”

PS: It is either ironic or pathetic that this post is in the form of an essay.

Tags: Market Research, market research tools, Misc

Driving Down Your Smartphone Screen

Posted on Mon, Jul 11, 2011

By Robert Relihan, Senior Vice President

A little while ago I noted that technology, principally Smartphone technology, was changing the way we interacted with brick-and-mortar stores.  Technology is altering the shopping experience and, consequently, the discipline of shopper insights.  I am back with more evidence.

Recent research has asked the question, “Why do consumers ‘friend’ companies on Facebook?”  A good question.  The answer is obvious; they do it to get deals and offers.  They do it because they are customers. Are brands buying love?  We will see.  But, buried in the data was an interesting tidbit.  23% of those surveyed had downloaded a brand-specific App to their Smartphones.

Apps are another way to get offers, but they have another feature — a store finder — that can alter the way consumers shop.  I have often asked consumers, “Say you are driving down the street and you see a McDonald’s on your left and a Burger King on right.  Which do you choose and why?”

But, now, when I find myself in an unfamiliar neighborhood or on the road and the uncontrollable urge for a burger comes over me, I swipe across my Smartphone screen, hit the McDonald’s App, find the nearest Golden Arches, and head for it like a laser.  No scanning the signs, no getting waylaid by a Burger King.  I am there.

When I want a cup of coffee, I do the same thing.  I tap on the Starbuck’s App, and I am there.Smartphone Apps

These Apps are that nirvana of marketers, something that short circuits the consumer’s normal behavior and puts a single brand squarely before her eyes to the exclusion of all others.  In the future, I may have to ask consumers, “Say you are looking at (driving down?) your Smartphone screen and you see Apps for McDonald’s and Burger King.  Which do you tap?” This example is hypothetical as there appears to be no Burger King App at the moment.

Another way that Smortphones can alter the shopping experience is by blurring the line between on-line and off-line.  Tesco has driven up sales at its Home Plus stores in South Korea by plastering the walls of subway stations with full-size representations of grocery store aisles.  Each item is accompanied by a QR code.  All busy commuters have to do is scan the items they want with the Home Plus App on their Smartphones, and it is delivered to their home that day.  Is this on-line shopping?  Is it brick-and-mortar shopping?  Thanks to the Smartphone, Tesco has converted bricks-and-mortar to paper-and-paste.

Shopping in the future is going to be very interesting and exceptionally varied.

Tags: Shopper Insights, mobile research, Market Research, market research tools

MROC Engagement! The Magic of Friday Night

Posted on Tue, Jun 28, 2011

By Shaili Bhatt, Senior Analyst

It’s Friday night, and I am logging in to check posts in the online community. It’s true that we can find and recruit people who are ready to talk/type in the day (and night), and yet their enthusiastic, sustained engagement can be an issue for long-term communities.

Your opportunity to connect on a personal level with each participant, particularly at a natural time for conversations, is where the magic happens…Consumer Engagement Secret 540x360

One of my secrets is to spend an hour or two to moderate the discussion on a Friday night.

Friday nights are not just for “going out,” even if it’s one of the first warm Fridays of Spring or Summer (like tonight when I began to write this)—For some participants, it’s their time to connect with friends and family, and even other members in the online community.

My secret is to login to the discussion after work and dinner to connect and let them know that I am right there with them. From prior years of experience, the gesture goes a long way, and the connection that forms among us on these nights is often deep and long-lasting.

Share your questions or experiences with online community engagement in the comments!

Tags: Market Research, market research tools, Online qualitative research

Reality Check: Online Communities Are Here

Posted on Fri, Jun 24, 2011

By Robert Relihan, Senior Vice President

Last week, I saw David Sirota discuss his book, Back to Our Future: How the 1980s Explains the World We Live in Now - Our Culture, Our Politics, Our Everything. His thesis is that, beginning in the ‘80s, American society has become increasingly focused on the individual.  He, of course, used words such as “narcissism” to describe this.  One piece of evidence he offered was that the number of people who were members of a civic organization had almost halved over a 15 year period beginning in the early ‘90s. Online Communities

Well, we have heard this all before; it’s the “Bowling Alone” argument.

But, as I listened this time, my first reaction, probably influenced by all of the online research C+R has been conducting of late, was to think, “Hey, wait a minute.  What about all of those online communities and social networks?  Aren’t communities both growing and proliferating?  Isn’t there lots of interaction among the members of these communities?  Hasn’t our ‘social capital’ merely moved online?  Isn’t the tendency of people to select their own affinity groups a replacement for traditional communities?”

The answer is yes and no.  It is important for marketers to keep in mind the differences between online communities and physical communities when they plan their strategies and conduct their research.

  • Online communities are not physical; they do not have locations.  This observation may be in the category of “Duh.”  But, what does the difference mean?  We conduct surveys that use a “nationally representative sample.”  That sample reflects general population distribution.  Perhaps, it is more important to reflect the density of different self-selected communities.  A traditional qualitative project might be conducted in different markets to achieve a “national representation.”  Might it be better to be in a single market, but reflect different communities — evangelical Christians, environmentalist, and the like — in separate focus groups?  And, most obviously, if online communities are the way people are organizing themselves, shouldn’t we really be talking to consumers online?
  • Online communities are more homogeneous.  Members of online communities consciously select themselves.  They seek members with whom they share beliefs and interests.  And, if that is the case, do my samples of members of these online communities need to be as large as a sample of a physical community?
  • Online communities are more fragile, less stable.  Recent news suggests that Facebook traffic is declining.  There are a number of ways to interpret this data, but the trend highlights the fact that people enter and leave online communities with much greater frequency than they enter and leave physical communities.  I might have confidence in the results I obtained from a well-designed survey of my town for three years.  But, if I were to rely on a survey of an online community, I might want to revisit my results in half that time.

Online communities are the new reality.  They are indeed a rich, focused source of information.  But, a changed world requires changed methods and perspectives, and C+R is prepared to guide you through this new territory.

Tags: MROCs, market research tools, qualitative research, Online qualitative research

“Are you Scared of Change?” Top Barriers for Technology in Research Innovation

Posted on Thu, Jun 16, 2011

By Shaili Bhatt, Senior Analyst

Event coverage for IIR’s 2011 Technology Driven Research Event in Chicago: “Are you Scared of Change?” Dr. William MacElroy, Socratic Technologies

Risk-aversion can be a common characteristic of large companies.  In the final presentation slot at the TMDR event, Dr. William MacElroy from Socratic Technologies explained his research behind a common complaint by technology-driven researchers:  Why do research companies hate technology?

Putting Technology into Perspective

Dr. MacElroy attended a different presentation five years ago, where another presenter announced a list of things “that will be dead in five years”… yet everything on the list was discussed at this 2011 Technology-Driven event.

According to Dr. MacElroy, many researchers enable themselves and their teams to “hate technology” by promoting some of its possible risks.  To identify such researchers, Dr. MacElroy shared some of the ideas that researchers who are averse to these new tools and methods have said about technology:

Technology in research …

  • “is expensive.”
  • “may change the organization in a negative way.”
  • “may be a dead end.”
  • “is time consuming and expensive to provide client education.”
  • “is a chaotic, problematic process to implement.”

While the benefits from early adoption are unclear, and some of the risks above have been valid concerns in less-than-agile organizations, the ability to gain a technological edge is advantageous and attractive in the marketplace.  Nevertheless,  constant demands from competitive parties for research companies to stay current and relevant to the broader picture can be difficult, and for some, short-lived.market research tools 

Barriers to Adopting Technology
There are existing technologies that can assist research teams with Project Management, yet there are evidently some firms that do not take advantage of them.  Professor of Management at Bentley University, Hans J. Thamhain, an expert in R&D Risk management who has held management positions with Verizon & General Electric, has studied the corporate barriers to adopting technology.  Within his findings, he cultivated a list of their barriers to adopting technologies related to project management, some of which simplify to the following ideas…

  • value of technology is not known
  • how to apply technology is not known
  • how to use technology is not known
  • lack of agreement about technology
  • technology involves too much paperwork
  • technology reduces personal drive and problem solving
  • technology create too much work
  • misuse of technology
  • high cost of technology
  • too busy for technology
  • technology is a threat to personal freedom
  • technology is different from established work processes and procedures
  • technology will have a negative impact on teamwork and cooperation
  • bad experiences with technology in the past
  • technology is not appropriate for our clients or products

To understand how technophilic companies operate beyond these barriers, Dr. MacElroy conducted another field study to interview the Senior Managers and Research Managers in various-sized organizations.

According to Dr. MacElroy’s findings, without growth, the success rate and profitability  of technophilic firms that are smaller and younger tend to decrease over time.  He cited that only three firms exhibiting at a 2001 conference about technology in market research are still independent and in business in 2011.

In addition, Dr. MacElroy commented that, in most circumstances, the size of the agency is inversely related to their propensity to adopt new research technologies.  For many of these firms, guarding the current technological investment is more important than new experimentation.  For example, when online research was initially introduced, Dr. MacElroy suggests that some research firms were averse to online research because they were guarding their phone houses.  Now, when telephones are no longer the preferred method of research communications, it is more acceptable to love online research in 2011.

Moreover, only 14% of research firms in the study tend to have technology adoption as a core value.  Assignments to learn a new tool or technology are seen as a burden in larger organizations, and a majority of research firms (86%) tend to be constrained.market research tools

Technophilic and Breaking Free!

According to Dr. MacElroy, we are moving from “crunched numbers to crunchy words and crunchy videos.” Our current research is based on feelings and emotions, and remote participation, and we can take advantage of that in the tools that we currently have.

Are technophilic companies going to be better off than those that don’t move forward?

Sources at TDMR say “YES!”   When it comes to technology, some clients may shrug, and some may be scared of change, but for those who move forward, only time and our ROI will truly tell our stories.

Tags: Market Research, market research tools, Online qualitative research

Mobile Payment Is the Biggest Opportunity for MR since the Social Internet

Posted on Tue, Jun 7, 2011

By Walt Dickie, Executive Vice President

A recent article in The Atlantic proclaims that “the mobile payment wars are officially underway.” Visa was the first out of the gate, in late 2010, but a coalition of MasterCard and Google, with partners Citibank, First Data, and Sprint quickly followed. Google’s announcement – just a few days ago as of this writing – has, of course, set the technology world abuzz. Now all eyes are on Apple, which has a filed patent on a mobile payment system but, as usual, is being completely close-mouthed about when the necessary near-field communication support will appear on the iPhone (click here for millions of rumors). And, of course, start-ups, such as tech darling, Square, are appearing around the payment space and clever new applications are showing up to make use of NFC.

Normally, I take a dim view of buzz. It’s just too simple to jump on board every juggernaut and start proclaiming the end (or beginning) of the world. But marketing researchers should be getting excited about mobile payment because it’s potentially the most important thing since “friend” became a verb.Mobile Research

Here’s what Google said in their press release about Google Wallet: “… an open commerce ecosystem that … will make it possible for you to pay with an NFC wallet and redeem consumer promotions … while shopping offline.” Notice: They’re not talking about “payment,” they’re talking about “commerce.” And this is “offline,” not “online.” But the big idea is hidden behind “redeem consumer promotions.”

Here’s what happens when you haul out your Google Wallet – a phone app – to pay for something. First, your phone provides a unique identifier – it tells the system that you’re you – and, of course, it says that you want to pay for your purchase using your credit card account. But in the middle of the transaction the system also handles “consumer promotions.” It takes data it has – maybe the name and location of the store, your name, the article you’re buying, the price of the thing, maybe whether you presented a “coupon” – and it checks to see if, based on all that, you’re entitled to a special price.

You see the magic part? It checks a database in the middle of the transaction and acts on the data it finds there.

You can easily imagine all kinds of marketing opportunities: bank-, store-, or brand-based, maybe neighborhood-based “reward” or “frequent shopper” systems, “Groupon-like” sign-up promotional programs, and programs based on combining your online and offline purchasing came to my mind almost immediately.

MR-related applications, like in-the-moment short surveys, possibly incented by a discount calculated on the purchase, become straightforward. What if a marketing research supplier acted like the operator of a “preferred shopper” program and collected shopping behavior from a panel, making possible not only accurate in-the-moment research but also day-after, week-after, or month-after follow-ups, or instantaneous online qualitative with purchasers of newly introduced products or low-incidence products?

Accurate, individualized, real-time purchase data has always been available for web commerce, but now the same kind of data could be available in the offline world. Mobile payment makes the real world work more like the web.

Let’s take this a bit further: have a look in your wallet, and make a pile of all the things that could be represented as data records. Everything I carry, with the exception of a compact emergency car key, is nothing but data carried in a wallet-size form factor. Every single piece of it could be on my phone, and all of it could be added to a “mobile wallet” (which won’t be confined to payment for very long). Your membership card at the gym. Your driver’s license. Gift cards. Preferred cards. The pictures of your kids and dogs. A system for sharing those pictures with your “friends” and only your friends.

If you drive a newer car, the spare that activates its keyless ignition is also just a string of data sent via an NFC link. If my car wasn’t so old even my emergency key would fit nicely in my phone.

A mobile phone is nothing but a pocket-sized computer that can communicate with various kinds of networks after providing a unique identifier that identifies you, its owner, as having network privileges. Mobile “payment” or “wallet” systems put databases at the other end of those communications, and take action based on that data. Visa, MasterCard, Google, and Apple all want to control those databases, which will be the most important in the world in a very short time. Ambitious marketing researchers should be planning how they will play in this arena, and doing it sooner rather than later.

Tags: mobile research, Market Research, market research tools

Marketing Research Sexy Tools of Inquiry

Posted on Tue, May 24, 2011

By Steve Stallard, Senior Vice President

When I look at all of the new technology-driven methodologies, it seems that technology and research are finally in sync.  The explosion is unmistakable and the excitement is palpable.  I have to say that using mobile technology to get feedback from customers at the moment of purchase or upon their first use of a product has me stoked.  No phony research setting, but in-the-natural-moment!  I mean, C’mon!!!!  OK, it’s true – perhaps only a geeky researcher could get excited by this, but it’s so cool!

It’s easy to get caught up and blinded by the new technologies and the excitement around them.  It’s not uncommon to be so enamored with a sexy new approach that it becomes the only approach you turn to.  I have a faded quote from Kaplan’s Conduct of Inquiry that’s been on my bulletin board for 20 years, “…the logician becomes so absorbed with enhancing the power and beauty of his instrument that he loses sight of the material with which it must work.”  This can happen to the best of us so be wary.

I belong to a polling website with a simple premise:  the moreMobile Research questions you answer, the more points you accrue.  And, with points you get to pose questions to other users. Not a bad idea leveraging online technology and rewarding business people with something of real value—information.  The website recently had a contest and I entered on a whim.  My entry was an essay critiquing the site.

The problem was that the questions asked by non-researchers were horrible.  Double-barreled, leading, incomplete response categories, you name it.  I suggested that a “tips page” be offered so that poor questions would not lead to misleading results.  Hah!  Go figure, I won an iPad!  We do ourselves well, by keeping a constant eye on the point of our inquiry and the foundational research aspects that remain relevant.  You might even win an iPad or better yet, generate good research.

Tags: mobile research, Market Research, market research tools