December 4th, 2012
By Patti Fernandez, Research Director
The Marketing Research Event was buzzing with excitement and anticipation. What tales would we hear, what knowledge would we uncover, what trends would take center stage? And, in the end, on what new paths would we, as researchers, venture?
Insight development via storytelling and storytelling through data visualization were very much in the air. Many a session encouraged us, like Dorothy, to follow the yellow brick road toward our own Emerald City where insights break the confines of numbers and quotes and live within visually compelling stories.
But, in today’s data-driven world, how can we tell a story visually while seamlessly satisfying the needs of the data literalists? And, how can we shake the compulsion to show everything we’ve uncovered because (in our minds) every nugget matters?
The key is not only to tell a story, but also to approach the insight development process in the same way as story-creation. Here are five key elements to a solid storytelling approach:
Relevance is Key
- There is usually a rhyme and reason for everything that is included in a story (foreshadowing, plot-building, etc.).
- In that same way, results and insights should serve as key puzzle pieces that help build and complete a bigger picture.
- Relevance, though, takes time. We must first go treasure-hunting through all of our findings in order to determine which ones truly are worthy of supporting the key insights that need to be communicated.
- Stories follow a natural, rational order that keeps us alert and engaged with the plot.
- Our insights and findings, then, should follow the same path. They should help take the audience on a journey that makes sense and keeps them on the edge of their seats.
Create Conflict and Resolution
- Without conflict there is no resolution – without resolution there is no end to a story.
- Always aim to keep the plot of your story anchored. Your role as a researcher is to tell a story that ultimately helps resolve some sort of conflict.
Define Your Characters and Their Roles
- Characters have set roles in the story – they exist for a reason.
- In order to approach research in an organized and rational manner, we must first define who the characters are and what role they play.
- We may be swayed to think that the brand or product is the hero, but it is the consumer who should wear this badge. Brands are simply the tools that help the hero resolve conflict.
Bring Your Story to Life
- A good story will keep us turning the pages if it’s told in an engaging manner. Overuse of descriptive or circular plots can deter engagement and leave us tossing the story aside without finishing.
- And, just like a poorly written story, research results that are loaded with data that makes the audience have to work too hard to decipher the true message can fall flat.
- Using visual depictions of information to surprise and make data easily digestible will not only make your research more engaging, but also make it easier to present the story in personal and animated manner.
In the end, it’s not simply how you present your insights with iconic figures, captivating prose, and visually stimulating graphics – it’s how you approach the insight-finding process. So, take a leap of faith and follow the rabbit down the hole through a journey of discovery.
November 29th, 2012
By Erin Barber, Vice President
TMRE is the place for all that is new in research. This year was no exception. Not only did we hear about big data — the hottest of “hot” topics — we also heard about mobile, eye tracking, neuroscience, visual storytelling, “infotainment,” social media listening, online communities, Millennials, and much more. So what now? How do we process all of this information?
What do all of these technologies, methods, and reporting requirements mean for the research industry and its future? At the end of the day, what we took away from TMRE is that traditional research methods and the need to present crucial insights will never go away.
TMRE showed us that whatever new approached might appear on the horizon, they will derive power and validity from being integrated with tried and true methods. It is just like life; the new always succeeds by building on what has gone before. We can never forget the “shoulders of giants.”
Well, that’s exactly what we can do with all of the great, newer information we took away from TMRE. As corporations tried to make sense of Big Data…
- We will always need surveys, but now we need to think about how they are taken on mobile devices and tablets. We need to ensure that respondents not only have a good experience so they provide accurate answers, but we also want to make sure that the new mode provides us with the data we need. Mobile is here to stay and we need to account for it. It’s not just about using it for specific projects that we need in-the-moment experiences; it means that our respondents are taking surveys on mobile devices whether we want them to or not.
- Eye tracking and neuroscience provide us with a more complete story of how consumers shop, but we need our surveys and in-store shop-alongs (among other methods) to begin the story and give us that starting point in understanding how consumers plan and some context around why they chose not to buy something they stared at for minutes. Also, it allows us to compare to data from years ago and add new insight.
- The same goes for social media. It’s been incorporated into companies’ research repertoires, but it’s only a piece of the puzzle and alone does not give a perfect answer.
- Our clients have a brief window during which they provide their leadership with solutions. As such, we need to recognize this reality. We need to craft clear stories that our clients can present in 10 minutes or less. We need to help them paint the picture. We may love the “great” information we uncover, but let’s just answer the key questions for our clients and not inundate their stakeholders with data.
November 27th, 2012
By Mary McIlrath, Senior Vice President
We’re just returning from The Market Research Event in Boca Raton, FL, and in between the keynotes, breakouts, and cocktail hours, the buzz of activity centered around the Exhibition Hall. Our presentation, Falling Dow + Rising Tao: The New Quest for Balance and What It Means for Your Brand, touches on themes of juggling all aspects of the ecosystem of one’s life, and TMRE is a microcosm of that juggling act.
How much time should be spent working on projects back home? How much time should be spent networking with other industry professionals? Chatting with prospective vendors? And, arguably just as important, how to decide which pieces of swag from the 93 exhibitors should make it into the suitcase home?
Anyone who’s been to an exhibit hall knows that it’s easy to get the “fever” to collect as many free baubles as possible (excluding the premium giveaways like the Kindle Fire HD we raffled off). Quirk’s gathered bags and bags to give away to readers. But when the rubber hits the road and it’s time to pack to go home, what makes the cut?
When I looked at what I really brought home instead of abandoning in the hotel room, the “best” swag met three key criteria: 1) It made a logical, even clever tie back to the exhibitor’s brand equity, 2) It was practically useful in a way I was confident I would exploit, and 3) It didn’t take up too much space.
With those criteria in mind, I give you the Top 5 Swag Items from TMRE:
5. Brain stress ball keychain from Ideas to Go: It suggests creativity and mobility, and will make a great post-conference trinket for a colleague back home.
4. Chocolate cell phone from Gongos: A delicious way to remind clients of their mobile capabilities, and slim enough to fit in a briefcase pocket for choco-mergencies on the way home.
3. Remote control car from Research Now: A reminder of their driving video game in the exhibit hall. Way to bring “gamification” to the conference, guys!
2. Digital caricatures from GutCheck: Fits with their “instant gratification” platform, yet took long enough to create that models became a brief captive audience to hear about their services. It created a lot of buzz for the company around the conference.
1. “Chicago Mix” Garrett’s popcorn from C+R: If I do say so myself, there were many, many sticky orange fingers roaming the exhibit hall. Anyone who had lived in Chicago flocked for the freshly-flown-in delicacies. And by the time we presented on the final day of the conference, we were well-known as the company from Chicago with the tastiest treats.
It was hard to name just five. There were many items that came in handy (like the Pert Group’s sunglasses during a blazing hot al fresco lunch) and many pens, desk toys, and some T-shirts too. But these five set the bar for memorability. Now, colleagues, let’s start conspiring for next year’s top items…see you in Nashville for TMRE 2013!
November 6th, 2012
By Scott Hierbaum, CFO
Two colleagues and I recently attended the CASRO Annual Conference in Arizona. It got me out of the trees for a few days…out of the literal hardwood trees of Chicago and the figurative trees of my daily job.
The over-riding theme of this year’s event was the future of market research. Is it dead? Is it alive and thriving? One speaker emphatically referred to MR as sexy. Too bad my wife wasn’t listening.
Looking towards the future is important, but tricky. Especially when you’re simultaneously sticking your neck out and keeping your nose to the grindstone. Sometimes you even have to provide a shoulder to cry on. (Yes, this was an intentional abuse of body-part idioms).
The general consensus is that survey research is not dead. Not even on life support. However, it’s not a time to sit back because our industry is rapidly evolving. We will continue to conduct surveys, moderate focus groups, and facilitate online communities. But we’ll need to start integrating this information with data and findings from a variety of other sources. If you can do this, and do it well, you should find success in the marketplace.
Wharton professor, Eric Bradlow, kicked off the festivities with “The Golden Age of Marketing Research.” The name, in hindsight, was a clever bit of sarcasm because we’re entering our 4th or 5th Golden Age, and more will come. Past Golden Ages revolved around direct mail, store scanners, and the Internet. The next Golden Age will mesh customers’ behaviors with traditional marketing research. Non-survey data can tell us “what,” but our industry will have to continue asking the “why.”
Consultants, Timocin Pervane (OC&C) and Simon Chadwick (Cambiar), each presented research-based assessments of our industry. Pervane’s main point was that many new facets of MR (social media listening, neuroscience, mobile, and DIY) are not substitutes for high-value-added survey research. They are more complimentary than substitutive. This is good, I suppose, but doesn’t change the fact that we’ll probably see an allocation of budget dollars away from traditional survey work. Chadwick focused on the gap between what research providers think and research buyers want. This is a good perspective that we should all keep in mind. The message from both, though, was the same…our industry is evolving and so should we.
There was an interesting roundtable session titled “Transformative Times: The Corner Office View.” Three very different personalities offered three very contrasting visions. But they each represented very different organizations. Unlike politics (which can have only one right answer), there is room for more than one profitable business philosophy in market research.
The roundtable featured the notion that CASRO’s name is outdated. One person suggested simply swapping out the word “survey” with “social.” CASRO…The Council of American Social Research Organizations. Not perfect; but as a CFO, I respect the possibility of not having to get a new web site, logo, banners, etc.
As is the case with most conferences there was also time for catching up with old friends, making new ones, eating, and having a wee bit of fun. One dinner featured an improv troupe that displayed a spot-on grasp of professional respondents, attempting to navigate their way through a screener to the incentive at the end. Respondents don’t do that, do they?
So now it’s back to the office. I’m trying to catch up, do my regular job, disseminate what I learned, and help steer C+R towards the future. The conference and the participants did give me an outlook adjustment, providing some excellent advice on leading, facilitating change, hiring, and inspiring. The nature geek in me would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that Arizona has cactuses, and cactuses are technically trees. So I didn’t truly escape the literal trees. But I did hover over the forest of market research for a few days. All in all, I liked what I saw.
October 29th, 2012
By Shaili Bhatt, Senior Analyst
What a marvelous immersion at the QRCA Conference in Montreal!
Nearly 300 qualitative market researcher consultants (QRCs) met up at the Hyatt Regency in Montreal, Quebec, Canada on October 3-5, 2012. Many of us arrived early to take advantage of QRCA’s social networking opportunities for “Early Arrivals” and to spend time in our charming French-speaking host city. (Never has a breakfast croissant or dessert pastry tasted so perfect outside of Paris! Wow!)
The QRCA Conference is an annual celebration of qualitative research. I always see more hugs than handshakes among attendees, which reaffirms the highly collegial nature of this event.
Some of the remarkable sessions I attended included Ted Frank’s (@tedfrank), “How to Tell an Insights Story,” a presentation on storytelling. Frank revealed fresh, compelling video clips that are edited into a movie. While our teams currently offer video highlight reels that pair up nicely with our reports, it was great to dream-up new video deliverables that illustrate even more of our insights, which we can offer to clients as a movie. As Frank said, “Clients can’t just understand, they have to be inspired and believe.”
In “Baker’s Dozen: Recipes for Tasty, Filling Research Reports,” Liz Van Patten provided reaffirming tips to increase researchers’ confidence in their deliverables. Her tips on managing the “back end” of what we do are always relevant, and this was nothing short of a comprehensive presentation for new and experienced researchers. My fave tip: “Don’t be afraid to incorporate parts of the story that you’ve learned elsewhere!”
Our former QRCA President, Abby Leafe (@abbyleafe), presented “Dear Diary: A Practical Guide to Creating Meaningful Respondent Journals,” in which she shared practical tips on tracking consumers’ behaviors and feelings to lend powerful insights, beyond open-ends. For our group discussion, I shared a popular tip with the audience from what I’ve learned: For journal entries, I usually ask participants to complete a weekly summary to provide a fresh overview of their journey and share their favorite video/pictures uploads for the week. This allows them to play the hero and often cuts down on my analysis time.
Daniel Berkal (@danielberkal) shared his thoughts on “Creating Jaw Dropping Proposals,” including everything from tiered pricing options to adding that special panache to proposals that can inspire and engage clients. Daniel maintained that we should all strive to “make our proposals clear enough, so clients just have to read it once.”
On Friday, C+R’s Emily Prozeller and I presented a 90-minute session, “Unleashing the Power of Advanced Online Qualitative” — sharing a high-level tour through 15-20 case studies, all mini-teasers of our latest advanced online qualitative approaches. (Fun fact: I have presented my tips and research techniques at every QRCA Conference since 2004, excluding last year.)
We shared many of our online research designs and provided a first-hand look at our visual reporting style that has lead to our clients’ satisfaction. It was fun to see the audience so fully engaged and really sparking to our approaches and tips during our presentation.
Next year’s QRCA Conference will be held in San Diego from October 16-18, 2013 at the Hyatt Regency Mission Bay.
Thanks for the memories, and I hope to see you at the conference next year. You can find me on Twitter @ShailiBhatt right now!
C+R’s Mary McIlrath Ph.D., Senior Vice President, and Erin Barber, Vice President, will be speaking on Wednesday, November 14, 2012.
In their session “Falling Dow + Rising Tao: What the Quest for Balance Means for Your Brand,” Mary and Erin will discuss how hard economic times have shifted the way consumers prioritize the pieces of their lives, and the way they select brands to help them walk their chosen path. Using mobile and video ethnography, they have captured the latest balancing act and will show you what it means for your brand.
Also, swing by our booth and chat with our experts about your next complex research project. And, while you’re there, grab a Chicago favorite—Garrett’s Popcorn!
Still need to register for the conference? Receive 25% off your registration by using our discount code TMRE12CR on The Market Research Event site.
June 13th, 2012
C+R’s Hispanic research experts, Brenda Hurley, Senior Vice President, and Juan Ruiz, Research Director, will be speaking on July 18th at the Shopper Insights in Action Conference which is being held at the Chicago Marriott Downtown Magnificent Mile.
In their session “Filling Up the Shopping Cart – A Look at Bicultural Hispanic Shoppers,” Juan and Brenda will help you identify ways to reach your Hispanic customers and challenge you to think in new ways about this evolving segment. Topics discussed include understanding:
- How Hispanics choose where to shop;
- Brand loyalty;
- The main factors influencing new product trial;
- Attitudes and usage of national brands vs. store brands vs. Latin American brands;
- The influence of coupons, promotions, rebates, bilingual packaging, celebrity endorsements, etc.; and finally,
- The role that the Internet plays for them when shopping.
To register for the conference and receive 25% off your registration, use our discount code SHOP12CR on the Shopper Insights in Action website.
C+R’s Brenda Hurley, Senior Vice President, and Juan Ruiz, Research Director will be speaking at the Millennial Mega Mashup Conference on May 8th at the Perry South Beach Hotel (formerly the Gansevoort Miami).
In their session “Millennial Parents: A Segmentation of Different Parenting Styles,” Juan and Brenda will discuss the ways in which Millennial parents view the job of raising today’s children. Using data from our annual YouthBeat® study and online community, ParentSpeak.com, they will look at:
- How this cohort crafts its own rules, its own notions of the “rights” of parents, and its own resources for helping them navigate through circumstances that look very different from those of the generation before them
- How values and rules differ between moms and dads within this segment
- How the Hispanic Millennial parent defines his or her role
- How parenting styles impact shopping and consumption habits, and its marketing implications
To register for the conference and receive 25% off your registration, use our discount code MASHUP12CR on the Millennial Mega Mashup site.
December 20th, 2011
By Shaili Bhatt, Senior Analyst
Projective questions from in-person interviewing flow smoothly into online qualitative activities! Nancy Hardwick gave a wonderful presentation on projectives at the 2011 QRCA Conference in Las Vegas, and here we explore how these activities work well online.
Most, if not all, of my favorite projective activities in new qualitative research are derived from traditional qualitative research methods.
Online discussions or communities feature an extended interviewing phase (multiple days, weeks or months beyond traditional 2-hour focus groups), which essentially provides researchers with a welcome abundance of time to harvest and probe an always-impressive incoming flow of information. How can researchers effectively utilize this time to engage online participants and immerse them in the topic at hand?
For the time being, quick “top-of-mind” free association exercises are just as important as creative projective questions, requiring online participants to reflect for a few moments (or days!) to capture a particular feeling or experience in a thoughtful post or activity page.
Written exercises like storytelling and other creative activities like collages, when used at opportune times, can be the key ingredients to insightful and interesting new qualitative research. No stimuli are required, and natural dialogue helps to tie it all together. Nancy Hardwick of Hardwick Research presented, “Projectives in Practice,” a detailed compilation of projective techniques at the 2011 QRCA Annual Conference, which was held at the luxurious Venetian & Palazzo Resort in Las Vegas.
Hardwick encouraged the audience to interact and build upon the listed activities during her in-depth, power-packed presentation. While the focus of the presentation highlighted “what works” with in-person interviewing, the ideas and energy in the room quickly catapulted this to a presentation that refreshed my perspective and sparked the most NewQual inspiration in my notebook.
(As you may know, projective techniques are subjective questions that researchers use to elicit the underlying emotions or subconscious drivers that influence choice, as an alternative or complement to asking direct questions. Many of these techniques originally stem from projective personality tests in Psychology, which were designed for people to respond to fairly nebulous, ever-inconclusive stimuli, presumably uncovering hidden emotions and internal conflicts in the process.)
Throughout the presentation, Hardwick included a steady stream of projective techniques, resulting in a compilation of audience favorites in several important categories:
- Written Exercises
- Photo/Drawing Exercises
- Sorting Exercises
The variety of projectives serve as a reminder for how many of these time-tested exercises can be incorporated into online research.
Written exercises transition smoothly into the online world.
A few of my favorite activities are as follows (sans embellishments):
- Famous Owners—Pick a favorite/popular celebrity, and describe 1-2 thoughts about who they are. Then, ask what this celebrity’s version of (insert client’s product/service) would be like? What would it look like? How it would perform, and why? Note: This is a great technique for exploring an existing client’s products or services as well as innovation and co-creation.
- Storytelling: Describe a specific experience from the last time that you…(insert scenario). What Did You Think? Say? Feel?
- Tribute/Eulogy—Pretend that (insert product/service) no longer exists. What did it accomplish? What will you miss most about it? Describe all that you feel and want to say about the product, even if you are viewing it in a new light. Note: variations on the theme, such as a “Lifetime Achievement Award” can be more attractive for certain products/services, particularly category leaders.
- Picture Your World—Pick a picture/color that represents how you feel about (insert product/service). How does this picture/color represent how they feel, and why?
There’s no need to reinvent the wheel.
Very often, writing a discussion guide for online research is about applying techniques that are already available and crafting projective activities to capture the level of insights you can hypothesize…and then some!Hardwick advises to begin with a written exercise “early on” in the discussion, which also works well with new qualitative –even if it’s typed; this early activity serves to challenge the participants to think independently and also allows them to “own” their ideas and suggestions. A well-executed written activity that provokes thoughtful posts is also a great way to encourage insightful group discussions.Online discussion guides written like quantitative-type surveys, with numerous objective questions, can certainly be cringe-worthy. Please do not be afraid to ask creative in-depth questions: the online medium suits that well!
Leave room for the unexpected when writing questions and avoid mechanical dialogue. Don’t be overly repetitious.
When using projectives, encourage honesty and spontaneity while asking for details. I like to throw in a few natural quips at the end of questions, for example, “It could be anything!” (As in, “What’s your favorite part about ______? It could be anything!”) It is interesting to note how such a brief invitation can lead to a wider variety of posts. Treat it like a conversation, because it is!
November 22nd, 2011
By Darren Breese, Research Director
With all the talk of new technologies and the like in the air, we may overlook the basics. Yet, one of the themes running through the recent Market Research Event was the notion of simply empathizing with consumers. This is nothing new of course; it is the core of what we do every day — understand consumers, bring them to life, connect them to marketers. Every day we put ourselves in the consumer’s shoes, or in some cases actually watching them put on their shoes.
Sometimes it is hard for clients to truly empathize with their consumers, because quite often they aren’t in the same boat. They may be more affluent, live different lifestyles, and have upbrings and life experiences that are poles apart. Despite all of the differences — perhaps because of them — it is the researcher’s job to do as much as to connect marketers and their consumers, and to do this in a way that makes the experience as engaging as possible.
A technique used successfully by one researcher at the conference was to force marketers to consume as their consumer does.
- Shop on a strict budget (like many of their customers).
- Shop with children in tow, even if that means “borrowing” kids for a day.
- Immerse marketers with triads of like-minded consumers
- Engage in other non-shopping activities common to the target consumers.
- And, of course, keep journals to drive their immersion home.
We know and do Immersion extremely well, but Immersion research only works as well as the client wants it to, so we have to constantly look for way to keep things fresh and fun.
Another way insight managers are using empathy is bringing together cross-functional teams. We all know how different right- and left-brained individuals think and process information. It can be extremely difficult for them all to difficult to work on the same page. By placing cross-functional teams together in the same room with consumers, and holding immersion sessions that help each team member empathize with their consumers, an insights manager got his team to think similarly—like their consumer. He was then able to hold Ideation sessions that led to productive concept development work.
In other words, walking in someone else’s shoes has the added benefit of forcing marketers to take of their own.
As we strive to provide marketers with actionable insights and help them connect with their consumers, we must also be consistently looking for new and innovative ways to help them foster empathy for their consumers. Empathy makes insights real.