Big Data & Market Research – Distant Cousins or Siamese Twins?

November 11, 2013

I recently attended a 2 day Big Data Summit conference in Sydney, run by Innovation Enterprise. From the show of hands, I was one of two market researchers among the 150 strong audience.

There a number of roles and opportunities for market researchers to play in this arena as from the quality and content of the presentations, it is clear Big Data is here stay, can only get ‘bigger’.

The retail, banking, and utilities sectors were well represented (fmcg was conspicuous in its absence) as was the Government sector with the Australian Bureau of Statistics, CSIRO, and the State of Queensland. The attendees’ profile, based on skill sets, was similar to an MR audience for a similar event but with a quantitative bias and an average age around 8-10 years younger.
big data 3 needs

Sportsbet’s Tony Greubner’s succinctly described 8 factors that would drive future of Big Data. His first three, the variety of sources, proscriptive analytics, and increased scope of application are perhaps the most pertinent (with no 6 “Geek is the new cool” being a favourite with the audience). Tony also highlighted three skill sets in short supply (see picture above) and here is where those with solid MR expertise could contribute. Read On..>


The Landscape Of Emotion

February 22, 2012

Measuring emotion is increasingly straightforward – interpreting the results still requires some intellectual subtlety.

Emotion, and the research techniques that measure it, remain hot topics in market research. Many of you will have read of Brainjuicer’s Valentine’s day card to Millward Brown, celebrating the latter’s purported “embracing” of emotion as a key marketing driver. A lot of fun for those of us that are observers of course, but leaving aside the question of whether this unduly caricatures Millward-Brown’s approach to emotional analysis, I detect in the discussion, another caricature: the reduction of ‘emotion’ to something simplistic and monolithic. If only we can measure this emotion stuff, we will ‘have the answer’. Maybe, if we can find the right emotional measurement machine we researchers can all retire?

As some of you know, David and I are working (with nViso SA of Switzerland) with exactly that: an “emotional measurement machine” that directly measures people’s emotional response to stimuli via a method called 3D Facial Imaging. Here’s a chart based on 3D Facial Imaging data – I’ll explain it’s significance later in this post, for the moment just note we can directly measure specific types of emotive response with a standard computer and webcam.

Hills & Valleys in The Landscape of Emotion (See Below for Explanation)

This is, I would argue, much more accurate and granular than any questionnaire based method. Yet, despite being thrilled by the results we are obtaining, I would not argue that we have reached some sort of  “deus ex machinamoment, where researchers and subtle interpretation become redundant.

Read the rest of this entry »


In Praise of Procurement

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..>


The Myth of Market Research’s Failure.

November 23, 2010
Head in Hands

Time To Get Over It - It's NOT that Bad! (Image by Alex E. Proimos via Flickr)

I am getting increasingly angry about the number of posts, books, You Tube Videos and articles – often by market researchers themselves – that imply “conventional Market Research” is a failure.

Here’s a good example, ‘futurist’ Patrick Dixon talking about why market research is “often wrong”: http://tinyurl.com/25kp34z .

These sorts of pronouncements tend to have several things in common:

  • Flashy style and grand pronouncements rather than reasoned argument,
  • Reliance on anecdote or case study (in Dixon’s case it’s his mother),
  • Lack of examples on the other side of the argument (when MR got it right),
  • A (false) assumption that the raison d’etre of MR is predicting “big” changes,
  • Failure to acknowledge that methods other than MR are not all that flash at predicting big changes or seismic shifts in behaviour either,
  • An assertion that “traditional MR” misses out on some extraordinarily key factor in understanding consumers, be it an inability to capture emotion, or failure to understand the role of Social Media or whatever uber-trend the author is fascinated by.

Let me counter this hyperbolic dismissal of the value of our traditional approaches with an equally strong counter claim. I strongly believe that good experienced, senior researchers can – in most markets – answer 70% of the key marketing questions of 70% of major research clients by means of a research programme consisting of not more than a few focus groups, a reasonable sized survey and access to some sales, retail or media trend data. There is an “if” of course – and this is sometimes a big if – they need to allocate enough time and thought to carefully design the study and analyse the results. This does not mean I am not a believer in many of the new MR methods, particularly some of the new neuroscience, customer panel and online qualitative approaches — let us ‘seniors’ incorporate some of those into the research programme and my success estimate goes up to 80 or 90%!   The core point I want to make though is that any systemic “failure” of market research is a failure to apply brainpower and thinking time – not primarily a failure of techniques. Read the rest of this entry »


Minute Wise, Hour Foolish

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..>


It’s The Journey, Not The Destination. ‘Shopper Insights’ and the Value of Holistic Research

August 31, 2010

One of the growth areas of market research in recent years has been in the area of “shopper insights”.  It’s an area I’m interested in and believe can claim some expertise in, but it’s also an area where I think we risk misleading clients by pretending the issues are unique to a certain group of consumers (in this case FMCG/CPG shoppers) or can be solved by focus on a certain aspect of the purchase process (e.g. “point of sale”). Shopper Insights as a focus area is indicative of  a  pressing issue in research, where clients have become dissatisfied with “generalised” research reports and seek ever more specific and granular information. This makes research that promises to reveal a “moment of truth” or “nano-second of purchase” very attractive.

Don't Get Lost In The Landscape

Lots to see in the valley, but at some stage you need to climb up and look around... (c) I .Gordon, 2009

Nothing wrong with more focus on key points like that, and it can certainly be helpful in producing actionable research.

But we should be aware that this is an artificial construction. The reality is that these “aha moments” for consumers are seldom as decisive and isolated from other influences as it appears on the surface.

Read the rest of this entry »


The Cost of Overlooking the Unknown

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..>