July 29th, 2013
By Bob Relihan, Senior Vice President
We often encourage consumers to think “metaphorically.” In a focus group or interview, metaphors can be powerful. Those who use them open up. They move in new and unexpected directions. Ultimately, the metaphors put us in touch with the unconscious motivations and beliefs of the consumers who create them.
But, the process doesn’t always work. You ask consumers to discuss a particular product, and they say it is “like a golden retriever.” We have all heard the “golden retriever.” The brand makes them feel good, and a golden retriever makes them feel good. This is stale, predictable. We are tempted to say that we have just gotten into a rut of convention. Ask people to name a dog, and most give the golden retriever.
From the perspective of interviewing technique, the problem is deeper and more basic. We have confused metaphor with simile. Not to be over pedantic, but let me define. Both are figures of speech; both are analogies. But, a simile uses like or as in the analogy. In a metaphor, the comparison is implicit.
The difference between an implicit and an explicit analogy is key in dealing with a respondent. When individuals make a conscious, literal comparison, there is no room for serendipity. You can see the wheels turning.
“Let’s see. Brand A makes me feel good. OK. What else makes me feel good? Golden retrievers make me feel good. So, Brand A is like a golden retriever.”
She has added nothing, and you have learned nothing. She might as well have told you directly that Brand A made her feel good. When consumers switch to “simile mode” they make a simple literal translation. There is no expansion; nothing is in touch with their motivations.
So, how can we encourage more genuine metaphorical thinking?
- Use creative, projective exercises. Have your consumers draw pictures or cartoons. Create a category family. Write a brand obituary. Describe how a brand smells (even if the product has no smell). Do anything that confuses the terms of the explicit analogy the consumer might want to create between her emotions and that brand or product in which you are interested. You can do this by always shifting among senses. If you are interested in the taste of a product, talk about its color. If you want to understand the impact of a product’s color, discuss its aroma.
- Focus on the metaphor’s vehicle. Traditional rhetorical theory distinguishes between the “tenor” and the “vehicle” of a metaphor. The tenor is the object or concept in which you are interested. The vehicle is what is compared to it. For example, in the opening of Dante’s Divine Comedy, a life in error is the tenor described by analogy to a dark forest, the vehicle. If you have the consumer focus solely on the vehicle–the golden retriever in our initial example of a simile–and discuss only the vehicle–what it means, how it looks, how it feels–you will break the conscious connection the consumers might want to make between the tenor and the vehicle. In discussing just the vehicle, she will reveal her subconscious associations with the tenor.
- Tell stories and discuss the images. If you have consumers tell stories about a brand, you will also break down the obvious, explicit connections. For example, I used to ask car owners about the most memorable event they remembered in their cars. And, I would ask them to tell the stories of that event. One woman described driving to the hotel after her first daughter’s wedding. A young man described bringing his new car to show his father. In their descriptions of these events were images that ultimately reflected their sense of the significance of the makes of cars they drove.
- Never frame your question like a simile. This is the basic rule. Never ask what a brand or product is “like.”
If you follow these principles, your metaphoric discussions with consumers will be much more expansive and productive. I will save the value of allegory for a later post.
July 19th, 2013
By Bob Relihan, Senior Vice President
Every so often, one runs into a marvelous confluence of avocation and vocation. I love cars. So, I was reading the blog at Car and Driver and discovered a long discussion of the stagnation of the Honda brand. Cars AND marketing. I couldn’t resist. Toward the end of the piece, Dave Marble described an example of how Honda got in the position of creating underwhelming products.
“The [Honda planning] department concocts customer abstracts so interchangeable business drones can comprehend the intent of a new vehicle. In the case of the first-generation RDX, this abstract was “Jason,” a young, upwardly mobile, urban-residing male that needed a turbocharged engine, “Super Handling All-Wheel Drive,” and room to transport all his lifestyle accouterments. Yeah, okay. As it turned out, there weren’t many “Jasons” buying the RDX. Planning got that part wrong—really wrong.”
I was sympathetic. It reminded me so much of the experience shared by many qualitative researchers of being asked to assemble a focus group composed of members of a specific customer segment (usually the product of a very sophisticated segmentation analysis) only to discover that the particular combination of demographics, psychographics, and behavior apparently does not exist in the real world.
But, I also know that user archetypes can be incredibly valuable. I have helped develop some. They focus the minds of marketers and new product developers. You may not be able to have an actual customer with you 24/7, but you can have the user archetype of your product taped above your desk.
So, here are four guidelines for creating user archetypes that work.
- Make sure that “real users” drive the process. Accurate user archetypes are based on close observation of real users — their needs, their wants, their behavior. This may seem self-evident, but I suspect that the “Jason” had his genesis not in the lives of real car buyers but out of the need or desire on the part of Honda to assure that the RDX was true to their vision of the Acura nameplate and that the RDX was clearly distinguished from the similar Honda CR-V. To convince themselves that a member of their vehicle portfolio was distinct, they created a “vision” of its buyer that was also distinct, and self-fulfilling. And, evidently, inaccurate.
- Recognize the difference between real and aspirational users. For marketers, their products have two kinds of users — the real flesh and blood user and the person the real user aspires to be by using the product. Understanding both users is crucial to marketers, but confusing them can cause problems. For example, the media behaviors of real and aspirational users can be different. Building a media plan on the tastes of the aspirational user may not reach the real target. Again, Honda may have erred in this direction. Jason seems much more like someone to whom an RDX user might aspire.
- Recognize the difference between a user personality and a brand personality. The marketers or new product developers often have two touchstones to guide their efforts — the brand personality and the user personality. I have known brand managers with two different types of consumer-created collages in their offices. One collected images of users and what the stood for; the other revealed images of the brand’s personality. There can be overlap between the two, but there is rarely identity. A car, such as a compact SUV like the RDX, might well have the personality of a magician which enables the user to have the personality of a superhero.
- Be “real” yourself. Do not overly idealize your user. He may have flaws, but these flaws may be essential to how he or she relates to your product.
Ultimately, take your user archetype out for a test drive. Once you have created the archetype, see if you can actually find real representatives. Talk to them; listen to them. Does the archetype resonate with them? Remember, the archetype is a construct to guide your actions, so they are unlikely to play it back literally and verbatim. But, if the archetype is well constructed, it should reflect their needs, desires, hopes, and fears.
June 21st, 2013
By Walt Dickie, Executive Vice President
Will Oremus just posted a terrific short piece in Slate on the end of the era of commercial telegraphy. Once the Internet of the Victorian Era, the telegraph industry gradually ceded ground to a succession of newer communications technologies, like that Alexander Graham Bell thingy and, eventually its portable, “smart” version and the modern internet.
The telegraph survived, and was last seen in commercial form in India, where its usage peaked in the 1980s. It has continued on, serving a large population that still doesn’t have either landlines (widely thought to be on their sickbeds) or cell phones.
But now, with losses mounting, India’s government-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd. (BSNL) telegraph company is scheduled to close. The world’s last commercial telegram is expected to be sent on July 14, 2013. Counting back to the telegraph invented by Samuel F.B. Morse in 1836, that’s 177 years – a good run by almost any standard.
I’ve posted before about how the members of the MR commentariat consistently go overboard on stories predicting the impending doom of MR at the hands of one innovation or the other, and I’ve tried to provide a better framework for thinking about what actually drives historical change in the industry. In short, we’ve got to stop panicking about rapid change in the technical sphere and focus more on how to leverage technological advantage to serve the needs of corporate decision-making if we’re going to adapt and continue to deliver value to our clients.
And the long tail of the commercial telegraph should be an encouragement to the many companies in every industry that are more interested in carving out stable, profitable business models at a manageable scale than becoming the next billion-dollar IPO.
The last time I wrote about this issue of long tails, I used the classic example of buggy whips to make the point that even in the 21st century someone was still making a living off buggy whips: a powerful argument that even the least promising market niches can be fertile ground for someone, even after they’re poor soil for most companies. I had to search around quite a while on Google before finding a buggy whip manufacturer, but I did eventually find the web site (!) of a company called Ashfield Carriage & Equipment still offering them. I’m sorry to say that if you click the link you’ll find the site is now inactive.
I started writing this post thinking that the demise of Ashfield Carriage would make for a sad sort of ending, but then I thought of searching the world’s marketplace, Amazon. And I’m delighted to report that my search for buggy whips there turned up no fewer than nine choices!
I’m not arguing that it’s better, wiser, or more lucrative for your career or business to live on the backside of a paradigm shift, surviving on the long tail of a dying technology. But I am arguing, strongly, that there are a lot more choices and possibilities than just “get with the new paradigm” or “drop dead” if you’re managing an market research company negotiating a period of great change. The telegraph, even in death, and the continuing life of the buggy whip are proof.
May 29th, 2013
By Bob Relihan, Senior Vice President
Mark Harrington has an interesting note under the title, “Is Surveying Obsolete?” I have a knee-jerk reaction to these articles about the inherent biases of survey research and the folly of asking consumers what they want. Of course consumers can’t always articulate what they want. Their answers can be perfectly sincere, as well as misleading, incomplete, and self-serving. It is the job of analysis, not the consumer, to illuminate their wants and needs.
Harrington continues that in an era of big data, what marketers need to do is observe their customers to assess their true desires. I will leave the question of whether consumer behavior is any more true or accurate than their pronouncements for another day. It is true that we now have an unprecedented opportunity to “observe” a large number of consumers in a variety of “locations,” engaged in multiple relationships with products and friends. And, what many marketers have always wanted to do is immerse themselves in this reality.
But, marketers have also been concerned about the cost of research, and this has resulted in the Rise of D-I-Y research and the tools that make it possible. Yesterday, someone passed on to me a nugget of information he had gleaned from a few questions he had asked using Survey Monkey. And, there are much more sophisticated tools available. But, the question is, “if surveying is obsolete, why isn’t D-I-Y research obsolete?” They have at their core the same “problem”; they both rely on consumers to report their wants and needs.
True D-I-Y research, the D-I-Y of the future, will be a set of tools and services that lets the marketer truly get up to his or her elbows in the lives of consumers.
- It will aggregate data from multiple sources.
- And, it will be able to aggregate and make connections within this data stream over time.
- It will provide tools that allow the marketer to enter the stream and test hypotheses.
- It will provide tools to analyze the stream of consumer behavior and identify trends and themes.
- It will correlate behaviors and make predictions based on these correlations. Ultimately, this kind of research will look more like Moneyball than social science research.
Old-fashioned D-I-Y research is comparatively simple and straightforward. This new D-I-Y is not. Old-fashioned D-I-Y seemed to write the traditional MR industry out of the script. This new vision of D-I-Y, which I prefer to call I-Y (Immerse Yourself), will have plenty of room for the Industry.
- Data streams will need to be aggregated and curated.
- The appropriate tools will need to be assembled into a usable arsenal that can distinguish the signal from the noise.
- The ultimate needs of the marketer need to be synthesized into the functioning of those tools. They will need to be tuned and tweaked.
- Since the immersion is on-going, there will need to be a kind of institution memory that makes sense of the insights and correlations over time.
In the future, the industry will be less involved in the realm of the craftsman, finely honing designs, data, and results and more in the area of event management. The researcher will be an impresario, a director, managing and coordinating all the pieces the marketer will need to be fully immersed in the consumer experience.
May 23rd, 2013
By Bob Relihan, Senior Vice President
The title is meant to be a bit clever. I am not talking about actual focus groups; I am referring to the term. I have always suspected that focus group was used to refer to any casual, open-ended, small sample, non-projectable research method. And, I always thought that those who used the term this way were misinformed. Well, I have to throw in the towel. I have no better authority than the Pew Research Center.
Its recent project exploring teens, their use of social media, and their attitudes to on-line privacy has generated a good deal of buzz in the press. It merits an extended discussion in the future. But, what caught my eye was the research method. There was a phone survey, twenty-four focus groups conducted in four markets, and “two online focus groups…conducted as an asynchronous threaded discussion over three days using an online platform, and the participants were asked to log in twice per day.”
This is what we at C+R Research call a short-term online community. To be sure, we conduct focus groups. We may even conduct focus groups online. But, we are careful to distinguish between the two methods — focus groups and communities. We believe each has its strengths that make each appropriate to particular situations and sets of issues.
- Focus Groups are great when consumers need to be pressed on their reactions by the give-and-take of face-to-face interaction. This is true when it is important to assess how emotionally committed they are in their reactions to something such as a new product concept.
- Online communities make it easier for consumers to describe their behavior and feelings at length, often in a nurturing, unthreatening environment. So, when it is important to explore the behavior of consumers and their emotional involvement in that behavior, online communities are just the ticket. When I want to know the needs that drive category usage and explore the gaps, an online community is a good place to start.
That is why experience is so important. When the marketing manager says, “We need to do focus groups,” he/she probably means we need to collect information in a way that isn’t a survey. It is the experienced qualitative researcher, familiar with a range of methods and categories, who can determine whether those “focus groups” should be online communities, individual interviews, ethnographies, in-store observations, or, yes, focus groups.
April 3rd, 2013
By Walt Dickie
I have argued that change in the marketing research industry is driven by changes in the corporate communication culture and in corporate decision-making protocols. The first happens frequently, and we see it every day. The second, however, occurs less frequently, but it can happen instantly and represent a sea of change. But, what will help us predict the timing or nature of this kind of change? The answer – at least the answer predicted by this model – is that change will come from developments in the greater corporate management environment, which alone has both the power and the interest to alter corporate decision-making structures, rather from change within the marketing department alone.
Let’s look at this a little more closely. What kind of information do current corporate decision-making protocols demand? This is a little tricky to answer succinctly; it seems as though it might require a recitation of all of the types and styles of MR projects that clients commission. But consider that markets as a whole are abstract entities and any analysis or recommendations about them must, out of necessity, be inferential. You can’t go out and talk to a “market” directly; you have to infer its properties. Customers – consumers and businesses – on the other hand, can be addressed directly although you may also infer much about them from various kinds of data.
Looking back at the 30-some years I’ve spent in MR, one repeated demand from clients when customers, rather than whole markets, are concerned, and, one that has only increased over the years, has been for “direct evidence” with “face validity” that bears immediately upon the decision to be made. More simply: modern corporations demand and pride themselves for demanding a certain style of evidence for “evidence-based decision making” when addressing customer-level decisions, and one of MR’s jobs has been to focus increasingly on the collection of data that plainly and, on its face, bears on the customer decision at hand.
So, following the reasoning I’ve laid out so far, we would predict that (a) any new approach that can be reasonably represented as providing more direct evidence for or against the specific customer-level decision at hand will be supported by clients, at least tentatively pending further evidence, and (b) any new approach that does not fit the model of “direct evidence” will wither on the vine unless client companies implement new decision-making protocols or new client companies appear based on different protocols.
I think this perspective helps explain the periodic rush to methods for obtaining consumer data more “directly,” “precisely,” and “scientifically” than the opinion-based methods that MR has always relied on. If, indeed, neuroscience, eye movement, facial expression, galvanic skin response, or quantum entangled ethnography were shown to be more capable of providing unmediated access to consumers’ “true,” interior experience of a product, then that approach would be understood as obviously superior in supporting marketing decisions and would, in fact, sweep the industry. This has not happened yet, however, despite repeated trials.
Will the inferential analysis of consumer behavior – the statistical modeling of customer data, browsing behavior, location, real-world shopping behavior, social media networks, and on- and offline purchasing – prove better at this? The jury is waiting and, of course, some of those “early results” for “Big Data” are tantalizing, but the larger problem seems to be that inferential statistical models are a poor fit for existing corporate decision support systems for customer-level decisions.
Senior-level corporate thinkers and decision makers express regular displeasure with their MR suppliers – and, by extension, their own internal MR departments – for failing to innovate and adapt to powerful new models for generating insight because most customer decision-making protocols favor a “direct” style of customer interrogation while MR departments continue to commission fairly traditional research designs.
What this means for the MR industry as a whole
I draw three main conclusions from this argument:
- The pace of change in MR data collection will generally match the pace of change in consumer communication technologies and norms and will be driven by new whatever opportunities and restrictions that accompany those technologies and norms. Since both are currently undergoing rapid change driven principally, but not exclusively, by mobile technology, methodological change will be both rapid and thoroughgoing. Companies that do not stay close to the leading edge of this change will be overtaken by it and suffer in the long run.
- Client pressure on MR is now and will likely continue to generally be a conservative, stabilizing force, especially for customer-level decisions. MR companies whose businesses are based on customer-level decision support will see most clients sending RFPs implicitly (if not explicitly) requiring traditional project designs using now-standard “evidence based Q&A” approaches providing “face validity.”Clients will, of course, continue to press for lower costs and shorter timelines. They may adopt “DIY” approaches quite broadly bringing evidence collection closer to the decision, and may require methods based on new consumer communication approaches as they recognize the pace of change in this area. But, radically new research approaches using new kinds of data and reliant on inferential modeling rather than direct interrogation will not occur at anything like the same pace.
- Clients that do, at some point, begin to demand that marketing decision-making incorporate and integrate a wider range of modeled consumer behavioral data may change “overnight” from supporting a traditional “evidence-based Q&A” decision model, but only if driven by top-down, wholesale corporate re-structuring of the decision-making environment. MR firms doing business with these clients may be asked to conduct research that incorporates continued efforts based on “evidence based Q&A” with “big” customer data from CRM systems, social media, purchase data, etc., or they may find themselves frozen out by new suppliers whose methods eliminate the need for traditional customer-level MR decision support research.
MR firms that do not stay close to the leading edge of “big data” integration and are not already known for their abilities and interest in this area will have little chance of negotiating this transition. But, not all companies will follow this path and those that do may do so over an extended a period of time. Still, it is quite possible that the pace of change, once established, will accelerate and become essentially universal in a handful of years as new decision models penetrate management training programs and become established in the corporate sphere.
March 29th, 2013
By Walt Dickie
Most marketing researchers are like sports fans: they’re not content to watch the game and see that Team A beat Team B last weekend. They need to work out a story about the strengths and weaknesses of the teams and develop a prediction about what that implies for next week’s games and the teams’ season performances.
I think this personality quirk explains at least some of the current obsession about the industry’s future. Some days it seems like every MR person in the universe is so busy reading and writing blog posts, making and listening to conference presentations, and sniffing out the next clue to the “Next Big Thing” or the “End of MR as We Know It” that no one is getting any paid work done. On this charge, by the way, I’m as guilty as the next guy.
But I’m conscious of feeling a growing antsiness about all of this − not because I think we’ve all gone overboard and should stop, but because I’m increasingly aware that the theory driving most of the blogging, conferencing, and sniffing is way too simplistic.
Here’s how I’d summarize the general approach behind most of the MR blogging I read (and some I’ve written):
There is a new technology/analytic approach/data gathering technique that has produced some very impressive results. A small number of innovative suppliers and their forward-thinking clients have been quietly developing this for a while now, and their efforts are beginning to move beyond the experimental stage. Real tools and platforms are starting to appear, and the leading edge tools and platforms are now coming out of beta and attracting both more investment and more client interest. The buzz is growing among clients/suppliers that this new approach could very well revolutionize/eliminate marketing research as we know it …
What is actually driving this model? What is the underlying mechanism that’s being proposed to drive the model from “some very impressive results” to “revolutionize/eliminate marketing research?”
As anyone will tell you who has ever tried to manage something from the “very impressive results” stage to an actual ongoing business, much less a business capable of overthrowing an industry, early success doesn’t come close to guaranteeing sustainability. A theory that can be reduced to neophilia – Look! A new thing! New things rule! – just isn’t adequate.
So what would a more complete theory of change in marketing research look like?
A good place to start with many questions like this one is to ask, “What defines marketing research as a distinctive activity and business?” I’ve thought about this question a lot over the years, and here’s the best answer I’ve come up with:
“MR is research conducted among the consumers/businesses that purchase or may potentially purchase a product/service, and is carried out to support a corporate marketing decision-making process.”
There are two important points in this definition:
- It locates MR as a business between a paying client on the one hand and a customer base on the other. MR plays the role of middleman communicating between these two poles when the client is engaged in making decisions about the customer market.
- It distinguishes MR from other kinds of commercial research by specifying the particular institutional role it serves: the client’s marketing function. Other kinds of commercial research, even if they involve the client’s customer base, fall under some other “research” umbrella, not MR.
The usefulness of this approach that it gives us leverage to predict where the drivers of change in MR are likely to be found: consumer communication and corporate decision making.
I’ve long argued that MR should be understood as being driven by communications – You can go so far as to say that at least the data collection side of the business can be best understood by recasting it in communications terms. How do we communicate with consumers in a way that will enable them to communicate their perceptions, opinions, beliefs, and behaviors so that we can produce, and subsequently communicate, useful analyses and guidance for our clients?
Not only the way we communicate with consumers, but also the content of those communications are determined by the mechanisms, technologies, and norms of communication in the culture. This is one of the drivers of change: we follow as consumers drop telephone and print and take up the web, email, texting/messaging, and social networking.
The same process also drives what we can communicate about: as consumers expand the sphere across which they are comfortable communicating and sharing personal information, they become more comfortable sharing those things with us. This is one way to understand some of the hesitancy we encounter from time to time.
Corporate Decision Support
In most large successful companies, the process of making marketing decisions is not free-form, intuitive, or invented on the fly. Most companies have expended a significant amount of thought and effort developing protocols for making decisions: fixed, well-defined procedures to be followed, questions to be asked, tests to be performed, information to be obtained, and criteria to be met.
Corporate marketing decisions can be seen as being made at two levels: a “higher,” more general level that concerns markets as a whole – their composition, structure, dynamics, and prospects – and a “lower,” more specific level that concerns the marketing of specific products/services within markets. “Higher level” research generally supports broad, strategic decisions; “lower level” research generally supports narrower, more tactical decisions – although this distinction is not always sharply drawn. In order to easily differentiate between the two levels, I’ll refer to these as “market level” research and “customer level” research in what follows.
These protocols are embodied in standard operating procedures, and are followed as a matter of course. Client teams negotiate exactly how to apply these protocols to the specific issues at hand, what corporate resources to expend in following them for a specific case, and how to fit that process into larger timelines. But they don’t question or re-invent the protocols themselves as a normal part of their business responsibilities.
Predicting Change in MR
Considering the different contributions of communication norms and decision protocols and the way these two key drivers evolve lead to what may be a somewhat startling conclusion:
- The aspects of marketing research driven by the cultural norms of communication – primarily the data collection side of the business – will change regularly and, possibly, rapidly in periods of rapid changes in communication. Such changes will be heavily driven by the processes of development and adoption of new technology.
- The aspects of marketing research driven by decision-making protocols – client RFPs, many aspects of study design, analysis, and reporting – will tend to change slowly because corporate decision-making standards are created by corporations to interlock with the larger corporate management environment of which marketing is but a small part.
In other words, rapidly changing new communications technology will be put to the service of unchanging corporate needs for some unspecified, but significant period of time. Put more fancifully and colorfully: even if quantum entanglement hyper-neurology is adopted as a data gathering technique, the MR industry will respond by adapting traditional project designs to use quantum entanglement hyper-neurological methods rather than explore radically different approaches made possible by QEHN as long as client decision-making protocols demand the same kind of output – QEHN will be used to evaluate large attribute grids with 10-point scales.
February 14th, 2013
By Shaili Bhatt, Senior Analyst
In this era of over-sharing, curated storytelling is imperative. While many of us own and use smartphones as cameras, it’s a challenge to remember to do something with the pictures and videos that we capture with these devices.
Many of us love to capture pictures and videos on our phones, and more often than not, we try to publish the most irresistible moments in our social galleries. (There’s an undeniable sense of accomplishment when I can share my stories and memories—perhaps you can relate.)
This is no different for our market research projects. If anything, it’s even more important to share key pictures and videos from our projects to help tell the story across clients’ reports and presentations.
Whether we want to make an album, an elaborate scrapbook, float it all in the Cloud on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, or deliver an outstanding report or presentation that really gets to the heart of the story with consumers and clients—most DIY options can be overwhelming, expensive, and for some, it can feel like a chore.
It is time to rethink the way we share mobile pictures and videos—and consume other mobile media—and look for tech-savvy time-savers.
Recently, I was excited to run across a bunch of new, free iPhone apps with robust movie-making and storytelling capabilities: Qwiki, Givit, Magisto, Viddy and Splice. These tools allow anyone with an iPhone to turn pictures and videos into a brief movie that you can share in minutes! On my way home last night, I snapped some pictures and videos of advertising paraphernalia that I used to created this video collage (click image for link).
Again, I got that research-geek thrill to uncover how these tools could potentially benefit all areas of market research:
- “On-demand” Movie/Video Collage Activity
Our participants are able to capture so many timely moments for us on a variety of mobile devices (smartphones, iPads, digital cameras, you name it!). It’s really up to us to deliver a system that organizes and focuses all of this data.
Qwiki is my favorite app of the bunch, as it automates the picture/video selection process into a one-click movie. The app works by automatically stitching together media from the iPhone camera roll and creates a 30-second to one-minute mashup from a certain day or album.
Song selection for the Qwiki occurs from the phone’s music library or from “soundtracks” preloaded in the app. Perfectionists and those of us with additional interest can easily play around with media configurations and change the audio track, which gives us an even deeper look into the mood of the visuals.
Indeed, video collages and movie mashups can bring impressive creativity and flexibility to qualitative research.
- Introductions/Warm-up: share a brief video collage or slideshow of their family, interests, typical day
- Homework or “On-demand” Movie/Video Collage Activity: create video collages and movie mash-up from experiences captured on their phones
- Reporting: integrate a video collage (that we’ve created) of participants’ key pictures and videos for a quick debrief/recap
- Presentations: show a similar video collage to get the discussion started, bringing the project to life!
The seamlessness of such videos add richness and energy to our stories in all of the ways above, as well as any others that we can dream up.
The days of creative departments and contracting with a video editor are by no means “over.” These apps lack the ability to output a professionally designed highlight reel with exact precision, multiple formats, or perfect image resolution, and its related audio effects and capabilities are limited, at best.
Still, these new apps are remarkably efficient, and we’ve certainly found another cool solution to elevate our perceptions of the smarts in our smartphones! Telling a great story is even easier as we ramp up our use of video collages—and make them faster, better and cheaper with today’s mobile capabilities.
What are your suggestions and feedback around these new apps? How are you integrating videos into your current market research efforts? Post a comment to share what you think!
January 9th, 2013
By Bob Relihan, Senior Vice President
Walt Dickie had done a very nice job of knitting together the trends in the adoption of various electronic devices. Certainly PCs are flattening out and will eventually decline. And, I agree there will be a time when virtually every cell phone is a SmartPhone. Walt also plots a curve that predicts exponential growth in the tablet/e-reader market, but backs off from the implications. “I’ve gone with a growth curve that can’t be right in the long term – it has to flatten out – but might be okay in the short term.”
I am not so sure.
Now, it is likely true that all but a few high flyers and the tech obsessed (as well as those involved in illicit activities) will ever have more than one smart phone. The device, after all, is tied to one’s personal phone number. But, the same constraining logic does not apply to tablets and e-readers, particularly when they merge into one category with vaguely similar features and price points ranging from $79 to over $800.
So, in the next few years, as more and more users acquire new tablets with better features and still have serviceable old ones on hand, it is easy to imagine a home with a first generation Kindle by the beside, an older iPad on the kitchen table for reading the news and checking the weather in the morning, and the latest tablet sitting on the coffee table in front of the television. Will there be a television? Why carry a tablet with you? You can have one wherever you turn.
There was a time when the household was dominated by one large console television in the living room. Over the years conducting focus groups, I have asked in passing, “So, how many TVs do you have?” Seven is no longer an uncommon answer…in a household of two. A future with a tablet in every room is not that far fetched.
By Walt Dickie, Executive Vice President
I love the Pew Research Center, especially their Internet & American Life Project. I can always find something interesting to think about on their website, and I admire their invariably solid methods. We use Pew data to make strategic decisions, but we also go to Pew for inspiration when imagining future scenarios.
A recent Pew post, including data through September 2012, based on a long-running tracking study and a more recent update on smartphone ownership brings together information about consumer ownership of desktop computers, laptops, cell phones, smartphones, and tablets among U.S. adults.
Some of the most important parts of the dataset are still a bit sketchy. Not because Pew didn’t do their usual excellent job collecting it, but because the number of data points is still pretty limited. In the spirit of fooling around with numbers and the informality of blogging, I decided to analyze this data to generate some hypotheses about smartphone and tablet adoption. The analysis that follows plays somewhat fast and loose–extrapolating trends beyond the range of the data and basing these trends on an inadequate number of data points. This sort of thing is fun and may be stimulating; it is not conclusive, nor is it meant to be.
Here’s a selection from Pew’s device ownership data plotted together on a single graph:
Desktops + Laptops (“PCs”)
I aggregated Pew’s data on desktop and laptop ownership to create this curve for traditional “personal computers,” which goes above 100% because it’s quite possible for someone to own one or more of each species. If you look at the original Pew data for laptops and desktops separately (not shown here), you’ll see that laptop sales are still rising while desktop sales are dropping precipitously. The curve shown represents a leveling-off of PC ownership at somewhere between 1.1 and 1.2 PC’s per household, which the Pew data suggests will be mostly laptops as desktops die and are not replaced.
I feel reasonably okay with fitting this flattening curve to the cellphone data, and although projecting curves forward in time like this always gives me the willies, the result looks at least somewhat plausible. Cell phone ownership is clearly flattening out with something like 15% of the population being reported as doing without. Cell ownership will probably never hit 100%–landline phones never did–but it will certainly get further into the 80s, and maybe even into the 90s, as landlines pretty much fade away and all the people who grew up in the pre-cell phone era disappear. Of all the curves on this graph, I think this one may be the most realistic.
Fitting a curve to the four data points on smartphone ownership is clearly beyond the pale, but having decided to work with what we’ve got why not do it anyway? An exponential growth curve may capture what, by all accounts, has been a startling adoption rate, but of course no trend, even a really powerful one, will continue into the future without slowing-probably more noticeably than is predicted here. Smartphone ownership seems to have paused in the middle of this year, but with the phenomenal sales figures being reported for the iPhone 5 maybe predicting penetration to continue its strong growth isn’t so bad, at least in the short term. In any case, I wanted an aggressive scenario to explore the impact of smart phone growth, and that’s what this curve represents.
Not many data points (5) here either but tablet adoption sure sounds like it’s accelerating according to the news reports, and an exponential curve fits the existing data almost perfectly. I’m writing this immediately in the wake of “Cyber Monday,” and the news outlets and blogosphere are reporting tales of tablet frenzy following the debut of the iPad mini and Amazon Fire. Again, whether exponential growth will be sustained is questionable, but it doesn’t seem wildly off to estimate that we’ll experience that kind of growth in the short term.
Interestingly, the curve of e-Reader ownership shows an almost identical rate and pattern of growth, which raises the question of whether these are one species or two. Although tablets and readers started out as separate species, it’s hard to imagine how they continue to evolve without merging into a functional/price continuum competing in a single market, even if some of them continue to be distinguished by very different screen technologies adapting them for use under different lighting levels. If the two combine into a single product line the case for exponential growth may be strengthened.
So, again, with some basis in statistics and observation, but mostly because I want to create a best-case scenario for new device adoption, I’ve gone with a growth curve that can’t be right in the long term – it has to flatten out – but might be okay in the short term.
Using some obviously bogus methods but maintaining at least a nodding relationship to “reality,” I hereby predict that smartphones will essentially eliminate “feature phones” from the cell phone marketplace in about 3 years; at which point, everyone who owns a cell phone—something on the order of 85% of US adults—may own a smartphone. I further predict that in about 1 year ownership of tablets in the US will equal ownership of traditional PCs, with most households owning one or more mini/maxi/reader “tablets.”
All of which means that MR has a very short window for adapting its data collection methods from a PC-centric paradigm to one centered on smartphones and tablets.
This will be one of the biggest challenges in our immediate future for both C+R and in the MR industry as a whole. We simply have to get “mobile” right. As long as our clients demand data-driven insights, we’re going to depend on consumers being willing to share their perceptions and opinions with us, and we depend on technological means to collect that data.
Looking back, the conversion from phone/mall/mail survey data collection to online methods at the end of the 90s seemed like a major revolution that upended almost everything and rang in a new era. But, in hindsight, although the mechanisms of research changed a lot during that period, what now seems to stand out is that the basic paradigm of question-and-answer surveys changed very little. Other than porting surveys from “CRT terminals” in the phone room to PC screens in the nation’s family rooms, dens, bedrooms, and kitchens, the underlying form of the survey hardly changed at all. Surveys grew images, videos, and Flash widgets but the great majority of MR surveys created today for online administration could be ported (back) to the phone room quickly and with ease.
But mobile is going to be different. Cellphone use is dominated by short interactions while few online surveys take less than 20 minutes (and many take more). Today’s surveys, though they can be taken using a mobile device, are a miserable experience because the industry mindset is still fixated on the PC. (My friend and colleague, Bob Relihan, says that the most miserable experience on a cell phone is trying to fill out a web form, and online surveys are composed of one web form after another.) A whole new survey paradigm will have to be invented to model a virtual “long survey” from a series of very short interactions on a mobile device or something resembling a Google Survey. And the sampling industry is going to have to reinvent itself once again.
The “PC revolution” (the 80s) and the “Web revolution” (the 90s) are going to give way to the “Mobile revolution.” The question is “When?” and the answer could easily be, “Very soon!”