July 22nd, 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.
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.
July 11th, 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.
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 Smartphones 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.
July 7th, 2011
By Darren Breese, Director
The recent Youth Mega Mashup Event was a tremendous opportunity to learn the latest trends in the Youth and Millennial space. There is considerable agreement among leaders in the field. This is a new generation of consumers who value the environment and social causes, interaction with each other and with brands, entrepreneurship, customization and personalization, technology, and above all else—authenticity. The implications for brands and businesses are vast as this new generation’s spending power becomes stronger and stronger.
One of the most anticipated presentations of the Mashup Event came from Jane McGonigal, PhD, an acclaimed game developer, researcher, and author. Her research in the field of gaming underscores the idea that gaming produces positive stress which creates “Super-Powered Hopeful Individuals.” She presented the shocking statistic that human-beings spend 3 billion hours/week worldwide playing video games. In comparison, 100 million TOTAL man hours have been spent creating maybe the most widely used online resource—Wikipedia. To ask, “Is it worth it?” is an understatement to some. But, McGonigal is convinced it is, and she answers the question with the acronym PeRMA (Positive emotion, Relationships, Meaning, Accomplishment) created by Dr. Martin Seligman, which she contends is a by-product of playing games. She contends that games can actually solve larger social problems by increasing individuals’ PeRMA. Her perspective suggests that researchers should be building more feedback loops into their instruments. We need an approach to this new generation that is less task-based and more game-like to help engage research respondents and, in turn, elicit higher quality insights and feedback.
McGonigal’s keynote was foreshadowed by an earlier presentation by the insights and research folks at MTV that argued “Gamification” is the future of Marketing. By making a game of Marketing, brands and companies engage and motivate their consumers while also creating lasting relationships with them. Brands using games as part of their Marketing campaigns are in a better position to create emotional relationships with their consumers.
Connecting with consumers by letting them create the content of their Marketing strengthens consumers’ perception of a brand’s authenticity. Doritos and Ford presented ways in which they engaged their consumers by allowing them to create video content and let their voices be heard. Brands and companies have seen increased success through transparency and allowing their consumers to tell them what they’re all about.
The use of social media within the generation was a hot topic as well. Social media allows Millennials to share their opinions and recommendations and to spread influence. This new generation of consumers harnesses the power of peer-to-peer relationships to democratize influence and recommendations. The term “Repfluence” was used to describe this trend in consumer interaction. To make an even more informed decision, consumers can decide how trustworthy their peers’ influence is by their Klout score, which measures not the quantity of content but the quality with which they spread it. The younger generation of consumers is more likely to be influenced by their peers than by traditional advertising, which means today’s Marketers are re-thinking the way they connect with consumers.