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.

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7 Apps For 7 CMOs: Why Emotion Research Needs Focus

February 24, 2011
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (film)

Polygamy is Out: You've Got to Marry The MR Solution To A Specific Business Need.

I wrote earlier how I believed marketers and market researchers needed a more rational approach to that seemingly irrational subject, the measurement and analysis of emotions. As we better measure these “soft aspects” of human response, we risk losing sight of the fact that an understanding of emotion is not an end in itself: it has to be applied to specific business issues. I have to declare an interest here –  we’ve recently tied up with a company that has created a very clever method of directly recording and analyzing emotional response (more about that later). Even so, I do not think that emotional research of any sort, no matter how science-based, stands up on its own. We all need to start thinking a lot harder about applications, not merely methods.

Fundamentally I think there are seven key areas where understanding emotion better can transform marketing. This is a subject I’ve tackled in a chapter on Emotional Research in a book to be published next year called “Leading Edge Marketing Research” (edited by Bob Kaden and Gerry Linda of  “More Guerrilla Marketing Research” fame).

1.    Emotions act as triggers and create change. Strong emotional response is more likely to create a ‘moment of change’ for consumers than any rational evaluation of benefits. Marketing is becoming increasingly granular as Point of Sales and Guerrilla Marketing tactics supplant top-line advertising. Understanding and describing precise emotional tipping points is vital. We need to get better at understanding how emotions operate in very specific real-world choice situations, so emotional research needs to move beyond both “general purpose survey” and “laboratory” settings. Read the rest of this entry »


May 4, 2010

I’m getting increasingly emotional about all the loose talk about emotions going around the market research fraternity these days. Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited about some of the new methods for measuring emotional response that are coming out of the areas of cognitive psychology and neuro-science. These offer exciting possibilities. My concern though, is about the over-use and indeed misuse of the term “emotion” in the research context.

Smiling Bee outside hamburger outlet.

Sometimes it takes more than a smile and a positive attitude to get them in the door! (c) A.Gordon 2007.

We risk confusing marketers, and encouraging faddish and poorly thought out research practices. I have three gripes about this. Gripe #1: “Emotional response” is a term so vague that it actually indicates very little of marketing significance on its own. Emotions come in many flavours, strengths and durations of effect. We need to develop considerably more nuanced ways of measuring and understanding these effects.  Gripe #2: Emotion we are told regularly is at the heart of “90%” of  human behaviour”. Yet, if emotion is in effect “everything”, then what is it explaining? Again, emotion as a concept is only useful if we can identify how various types of emotions interact, contradict each other, and interface with rational thought to produce specific kinds of behaviour. Gripe #3: The Freudian fallacy still casts a long shadow over discussions of emotion. Emotional response is too often represented as somehow being necessarily “deeper”, “more important”, or “harder to uncover” than anything from the frontal cortex. This is simply untrue, and unfortunately leads to marketers often taking a simplistic approach to targeting consumers. It’s this third gripe that I want to focus on in this post.

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Measuring the boring stuff.

August 10, 2009

For years it has seemed to me that market researchers (and our clients) have been a bit too obsessed with the “glamorous” kinds of research: TVC testing, ad campaign tracking, measuring the “emotive” and lifestyle aspects of marketing. All useful stuff of course, but it felt like MR and ad budgets were biased against researching more mundane aspects of how people routinely interact with products and services, or evaluating unexplored opportunities for different marketing approaches.
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