May 2, 2012
Having recently assumed the chair of the AMSRS’s Professional Development Program, the first thing that struck me was the enormous range and diversity of subject matter one has to command these days to be a truly effective market researcher. The extent of knowledge required makes it even more important to encourage continuous learning if we are to retain the value of MR as a profession in both the commercial and social sphere.
At the risk of over-simplifying, there wasn’t that much to learn in the late 70s to early 80s. If you were capable of questionnaire design, understood stats and a bit of sampling, could analyse data, and maybe present with some coherence you could work in a research company. Read On..>
April 10, 2012
In the early 90′s, the ‘tagline’ of a leading Japanese agency’s brochure was ‘the key to understanding was to read between the lines of what was not said’. Two decades later, Shobha Prasad re-visited the issue focusing on the layering and subtleties of Asian languages in ‘Listening to the Sounds of Silence’ at ESOMAR’s APAC Conference.
As Asia grows more healthy, wealthy, and wired, superficially its consumers resemble their Western counterparts. Sometimes even, having leapfrogged technological lifecycles, they appear more advanced. Nevertheless, although these new trappings bring an almost ‘stateless’ vocabulary to the world’s languages, the fundamental challenges of interpreting local cultural nuance and international comparisons remain.
Direct questioning methods is felt to be (even) less effective in Asia due to language structure, cultural norms, and social convention. Asian consumers are often not so forthcoming with opinions than Western ones – although researchers in Mumbai or Manila may well disagree. The real issue, though, is the huge variety of expression, both verbally and visually. As well as vocabulary and sentence structure, different expressions also support communication. Cultures displaying emotion less conservatively usually have the mouth as the main focus; a culture that masks its feelings focuses more subtly on the eyes when determining emotion. So, visual cues can be equally important to gauge underlying sentiments. Read On..>
September 6, 2011
I spoke recently, on separate occasions, to a couple of colleagues now at major research buyers. Interestingly, both commented on what they saw as a ‘decline in passion’ from all but their most specialised (i.e. smaller or niche) suppliers.
Both felt that, as well as the harder times in the market economies generally bringing everyone down, the organisational changes arising from consolidation in the industry may also be playing a part in this emotional change. In particular, the increased prevalence of personnel policies, necessitated by organisational complexity, was thought to be a key factor. The structures imposed by such were driving the ‘star players’ upwards (to staff roles) or outwards at many of the larger companies in favour of safe but not necessarily inspiring performers. Read the rest of this entry »
April 5, 2011
Arising and even resulting from the GFC, has been the rapid growth of dynamic small and medium sized research agencies. Most have innovative approaches and distinctive cultures, offering exciting workplaces to their staff who repay with high commitment. Yet this very success makes them prime M&A targets and many will, in the next few years, be bought out. Is this bad for their workforce, and how should these loyal employees react when acquisitions happen? A recent article from Asia-Pacific focused of the plight of researchers whose companies were sold on by management. In essence, the hapless researchers were portrayed as helpless victims whose utopian world was dissolved by forces of evil, represented by the faceless conglomerate. Read On..>
February 7, 2011
A recent Research blog by my ex-boss, Nick Sparrow, founder of ICM, extolled the virtues of offering equity to agency staff. In fact, it was Nick who taught me in the early 80′s how to sell research based on its benefits not its features (which given my statistician’s focus at the time was a revelation!)
Nick expounded his vision of a business “run solely for all the people employed” where a company is best run, and gives the best service to clients, when the people feel a sense of ownership. It’s interesting to note that two of the UK’s ‘thought’ leading agencies (both of whom have won Agency of the Year) Brainjuicer and Truth appear both to have embarked on similar ownership structures.
Although, ICM was owned by 10 shareholders before its sale, Nick was interested to see research businesses go further and make all employees shareholders. Here the clients benefited as their interests were best served and reinforced by the servicing team who in turn profited from satisfied, returning, regular clients. Read On..>
December 9, 2010
I recently viewed a YouTube video where a senior director from a sizeable research agency expressed views on the growing presence of procurement professionals in the selection and purchase of market research services. As might be expected, there were the usual concerns and complaints about the difficulty of communicating quality of thought and creativity of design via the procurement process. This was followed up by the fear that, in the long term, research would become a commodity bought merely on price.
Whilst I can sympathise with the extra administrative process this seems to impose on the agency, I don’t agree that it will lead to a price-driven commodity market. Let’s face it, when we buy things for ourselves, services or products, we only want to pay for what we need and what has value for us. Ideally, we don’t want to pay for superfluous extras or for inefficiencies in the providers’ systems, whether they be features on the Blu-ray player we don’t (can’t) use or paying the banks for the privilege of benefiting from our own money. Read On..>
September 22, 2010
In a recent article in Research World, Chris Forbes of Research Reporter highlighted that the traditional economic success for mid-to-large sized research agencies relied on a combination of research expertise and technological infrastructure. As data is collected and assembled faster (both formally and informally) the weight is shifting more and more to the expertise part of that equation. Thus, the agency side of MR is going to be more and more dependent on research experience and “thinking ability” to create unique value for their clients
In fact, more and more the main (and some would say only) resource the agency researcher has to sell is their time. So, when it comes down to it, the quality of how that time is applied and the creativity to which it is put are ‘de facto’ the value to the client. Future economic strength will rely almost solely on how well the time ‘resource’ is both defined and managed. Read On..>
August 4, 2010
Lately, there’s been a lot of back and forth in the research blogs on the topic of ISO standards being introduced to the US. This has stoked the long-running debate on competency and certification in our industry, ostensibly to ensure that those using research are assured of a certain quality of service. It also leans to a yearning amongst researchers where we’d like our craft seen as a ‘proper’ profession taking its place with the lawyers, architects, accountants, and their ilk.
After all, no-one in their right mind would engage a professional who was not qualified under their particular society’s standards and requirements, irrespective of the fact that unqualified doctors, lawyers, and others are legally not allowed to practice anyway. Read On..>
July 6, 2010
I recently attended an evening audience with Sir Roger Moore at the opulent Art Deco Orpheum Picture Palace on Sydney’s north shore. Although he, himself, admitted to being “no Laurence Olivier”, the erstwhile Agent 007 did give some excellent advice to an aspiring 18 year old actor who asked what was needed to make it to the top of the profession.
First off, Sir Roger pointed out that you needed a lot of luck not only to get your first chance but for it to be the right sort of chance for your style. But, then he emphasised something that is true for all professions and trades, irrespective of time or place, and that was you must learn your craft. Read On..>
May 27, 2010
Recently, several articles and papers have been published bemoaning the dearth of talent in the research industry relative to its size and diversity. They focus on two key areas – the lack of basic ‘craft’ skills and the inability to deliver clear and concise insights in the client’s language. One of the root causes has been put down to the increasing homogenisation resulting from the concentration of the industry into fewer commercially driven mega-agencies, where increasingly more of the leadership (unlike in other fields) has a background from outside the profession itself.
As MR has become more business-like in the last 25 years, many would say that the average level of talent or product quality has not changed, which is at odds with the generally improved margins and overall ROI. Read On..>