On this page, we intend to place occasional items, pictures or notes that – while relevant to Market Research don’t seem to fit in our main blog. (To read our usual POV articles, covering a variety of MR related topics, click on the Home tab above).
LOVE, PEACE & “THE FAMILY LIFE” -
What Executives Really Desire?
A (August, 2010) Linkedin “Executive Suite” discussion started by Rashmi Chopra asked members to say “In one word, what do you live for ?” it has got an incredible 400+ responses in a few days from a wide variety of Executives. Like many Linkedin forums, this one is a bit overweight on responses from smaller business owners, consultants and the USA, but as I scanned the people responding there was actually a wide range of people, with quite a few mid/senior people from larger firms and a wide range of functions and a fair range of geographies. So I suspect the words that were chosen might be quite common for many executives, including market researchers and their clients!
The Wordle above (See earlier article below for description of Wordles) is based on approximately the first 300 words, with some basic recoding (God includes, Jesus, Creator, Allah etc., Enlightenment includes related concepts, “Multiple” is people who just refused to describe their life purpose in 1-2 words!). It is above all interesting in terms of how many of these serious business executives went on record as living primarily for Family and Love.
Several obvious caveats apply, notably that Executives who live for “God and Family” may be more likely to answer this than ones that exist for “Sex and Rock & Roll”. Only a few people were brave enough to say “Power” or “Beer”, although more said “Fun” and a number of the more “dour” (or honest?) admitted they lived mainly for “Work” (Oddly quite a few said “life” as in they live for life?). More importantly this is NOT serious Social Media research and should not be seen as such – it’s a bit of fun (for all the very good reasons why you should not take the first 300 words from a forum like this and treat it as real MR, see Annie Pettit’s useful article in the recent Quirk’s newsletter at: http://is.gd/e38mw).
However, taken as a bit of unstructured Quali and if we accept that this at best represents many executives “idealized” vision of their purpose, not actual drivers of behaviour, it does still represent an interesting set of “top-of-mind” thoughts that a wide range of executives took the time to record. The big words undoubtedly mean a lot to a lot of people. This in turn raises a couple of questions we might like to ponder about ourselves and our clients.
Firstly one of the most common complaints of MR executives is that they are time starved and lack time for a proper family life (I recall several young executives telling me that if they kept working for our company they feared they’d never have time to get married or have a family!) . Maybe that big word “Family” is one we need to acknowledge much more in our HR policies and practices. Indeed, perhaps, given acute skill shortages in some markets, companies that think creatively on this one, may well have a competitive edge? Maybe too, (as Gordon & McCallum frequently points out!), MR companies need to spend more effort looking at issues of researcher’s working practices, productivity and the overall research process. Researchers are, in our view, often spending a lot of time doing work that is of little value to their company or clients – work that detracts from their time with family! This is, ultimately, quite a common reason for staff turnover in our industry – and it’s one that we could do more to tackle (and improve margins at the same time!). (Quite a few of our posts reflect on the “human” factors that waste time and money in the research process, e.g.: “5 Tweaks To Tune A MR Business”: http://wp.me/pBmtI-6Y).
Secondly, if we assume this driver is also strong among our clients, it is worth thinking about how our offerings can free them up as well and make it easier for them to get out of the office and back home. We should remember as we interact with them or market our services that, like us, ultimately they are not simply working for “the Corporation”, but may be more driven by fundamentals of security, happiness and a better life with their family. Just as with any respondent we survey, the drivers of executive decisions will have both rational and emoti0nal components – so the next time you have an “exciting, innovative and challenging” proposal turned down, consider: did the client sub-consciously read that as “complex, time-consuming and risky” – not at all the kind of thing to enhance their desire for peace and time with the family! Maybe the next piece of research you should do is into your clients’ value systems (but, if you do, take Annie’s advice and don’t rely on a Wordle of 300 words!).
MR Web Pages – What Do They Really Say?
We were looking at some MR text analysis software a few weeks ago (October 2009), and at the same time playing with http://www.wordle.net (a lot of fun) and decided it would be enjoyable to take the “big 5″ MR websites (Nielsen, TNS, IPSOS, GfK, Synovate) and analyse the words on their front-pages. After some editing (combining a few words, deleting irrelevant ones, changing IPSOS, GfK etc. to “OurBrand” etc.) and merging the lot we got the following (both wordles shown here were created via http://www.wordle.net):
As you can see, much of the written word on these five sites consists simply of the respective brand names of the companies. The phrase “Market Research” is the next most prevalent. So the big companies leave no-one who clicks on their websites in any doubt about who they are or what industry they are in! Note that this wordle reflects simple word-counts. Obviously, in terms of size and prominence it makes sense to show off your brand, but we were surprised at the sheer extent that the brand name is repeated in the text. Interestingly the “sub-brands” (products and sub-services, which one might expect to need more awareness raising than the parent brand) are a lot less mentioned in the text. The other thing that surprised us about this was that the five brands actually differed quite a bit in this area: IPSOS and TNS mention their brand names (relative to the total words on each page) a lot more than Nielsen for instance.
The big MR brands are sometimes criticised for over using clichés by their smaller competitors, so we thought it would be interesting to see what words came up most often if we removed the dominating influence of branding and “market research”.
Firstly note that, despite all the talk of “consultancy”, that word is not strongly featured, and words like “expertise” and “solutions” are far less prominent than plain old “research” and” services”. “Insights” is prominent across all sites, however, and it might be time for MR people to start to consider alternatives to that much abused and ill-defined offering (has anyone managed to get a consistent definition of “insight” from their clients yet?).
But it is the word “global” that is the most common over all the home pages, clearly showing the way the big companies want to position themselves against the rest. Yet, if all of the big five are talking “global”, does that then really differentiate among them? And if (as Sir Martin Sorrell suggested in a recent comment), the big growth in MR is to come from “local/regional giants”, then is the emphasis on global footprint sufficiently appealing to draw them in? It will be fascinating to see what words start to appear in these pages over the next year or two!
Finally, here is a diagram that attempts to map (purely on the basis of front-page words), how close the “big 5″ front-pages are. IPSOS and TNS use (relatively) similar language. Synovate and Nielsen are pulled apart from the others as much by the fact that they used some of the common words much less than their peers, rather than by big use of unique words (although Nielsen had a large number of words like “grocery” etc., that reflected it’s retail base and Synovate had more POV textual material ).
We found this an interesting map: it would be fascinating to compare this with staff and client perceptions and to see if language chosen on websites in any way reflects the reality of company cultures and styles! (BTW, sorry this is a bit small – for those who do not know, TNS is Pink, IPSOS is blue on left, Nielsen blue on right, Synovate yellow, GfK is orange. For comparison we also added in a smaller Australian company, Leading Edge which is the red box here. We thought it might be more distinctive, but it used words very similar to TNS and IPSOS)
Disclaimer: This is a bit of fun, not a comprehensive MR analysis! For example, we have not looked (here) at phrases and word groupings, and it is a “point-in-time” analysis, so we could easily have picked an atypical period (we don’t think so however!). We may take this further, if time allows.