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5 Things That Will Become Obsolete in MR Sooner Than You Think

As someone who believes that embracing the ridiculous is an important element in innovation, I'd like to submit to you my 5 sacred cows in MR that will become obsolete quicker than you and I can imagine.

card punch

 

Editor’s Note:  Pure prophetic brilliance. “Nuff said.

 

By Greg Heist

Business Insider kicked off 2013 with a piece entitled “13 Things That Went Obsolete in 2012.” Among them were some notable standbys of days gone by, including hard drives, buying individual songs or albums, standalone GPS units, non-smartphone cameras and even the venerable alarm clock. All of these examples represent the rapidly escalating phenomenon of creative destruction.

If you’re not familiar with the term, creative destruction is an economic concept articulated by Joseph Schupeter in his 1942 book Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy. He wrote:

“Capitalism…by nature[…]never can be stationary. The opening up of new markets […] illustrates the same process of industrial mutation […] that incessantly revolutionizes the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one. This process of creative destruction is the essential fact about capitalism.”

 

convergence

image from www.ritholtz.com

As technological progress occurs at an increasingly rapid rate, we’re seeing creative destruction happen with alarming regularity. We live in the post-Blockbuster era. The post-landline era. The post-Postal era. And the list continues. As I began to apply this concept to the MR industry, I arrived at conclusions that, for some, may seem utterly ridiculous.

As someone who believes that embracing the ridiculous (to borrow a thought from Albert Camus) is an important element in innovation, I’d like to submit to you my 5 sacred cows in MR that will become obsolete quicker than you and I can imagine.

1. In-Person Focus Groups

While qualitative research is undeniable in its power and immediacy, the traditional in-person focus group, conducted in a sterile boardroom environment, is an endangered species. Although we try to spruce it up with Koosh balls and other lighthearted techniques, it’s increasingly difficult to entice consumers to come to a focus group facility and sit around a table for two hours. Traditional focus group rooms limit creativity on a psychological level, and it’s becoming clear that its value proposition works for a narrowing range of research problems.

In short, the traditional in-person focus group is on life support and ripe for creative destruction.

What will replace it? In the near future, we will see the continued blossoming of non-traditional focus group environments to make focus groups feel like friends chatting at a bar. Definitely more enjoyable for respondents and more conducive for creative exchanges of ideas.

Longer term, we’ll see explosive growth in online virtual focus groups conducted primarily from mobile devices. As collaboration technologies evolve, online focus groups will become the de facto standard. The blossoming of 4G LTE (and beyond) technologies will allow researchers to engage effortlessly with consumers located anywhere.

2. PowerPoint Reports

Love it or hate it, PowerPoint is by far the dominant medium for delivering research results. However, just because it is the standard doesn’t mean it is an efficient or effective platform for its stated purpose. It forces a linear and static frame on information that deserves an engaging, interactive, and multidimensional experience.

As a result, it’s only a matter of time before PowerPoint falls victim to a disruptive technology that will drive users to actively explore, imagine and intuitively grasp the meaning of multiple streams of research simultaneously. This technology will free insights within the entire enterprise, unlocking them from the linear and siloed world of share drives and search functions. I, for one, will be thrilled to see that day!

3. Online Surveys

Though a heretical thought today, the traditional online survey is a dead man walking. In our brave new mobile culture, the idea that a 30+ minute PC-based survey is going to be viable even three years from now is an increasingly absurd belief. We (agencies and clients) need to shake ourselves awake and realize we’re living on borrowed time when it comes to this increasingly anachronistic mindset.

What’s the future? Micro-surveys. Modular data-fusion techniques. Geofence-driven in-the-moment mobile feedback. Indirect measurement. Facial sentiment recognition. Mobile neurofeedback. That’s the future.

4. The Quant / Qual Duality

Today, research is split into two methodological spheres: quant and qual. We think of research as being either one or the other. We think of qual phases preceding quant phases. All sequential. All nicely compartmentalized. A mindset driven by current methodological limitations and the intellectual constructs underpinning what we think of as research.

In an era of time compression and rapidly evolving technologies, this duality will ultimately fade away. Quant or qual will be replaced by quant and qual. The worlds will collide. Both will occur simultaneously. Qual methods will be interwoven with quant methods and vice versa. The result will be research that is deeper, faster and more insightful than today.

5. The Rational Frame

Underpinning the scientific method (and hence social and market research) is the utter dominance of the “rational frame,” the belief that humans react in purely rational ways. Disagree with me? Just take a look at any survey and the innumerable attributes respondents are forced to rate on a five-point rating scale to explain what drives their behavior.

We all know intuitively that this isn’t the way humans operate. Yet we cling to this structure because it helps us feel more confident and in sync with the other social sciences in our approach.

That’s all changing, and the explosion of interest in behavioral economics is evidence that the purely rational frame is ripe for creative disruption. At this point, behavioral economics still lacks breadth of methodological applications, especially on the quant side of the equation. (But I’d like to credit my colleague Michael Alioto, whose passion about identifying behavioral economics principles applicable to the MR industry inspired my thinking on this subject.) However, I think it signals the beginning of a whole new era, one that will allow research to more fully explain and predict the behavior of human beings in all of their wonderful complexity.

So this is my list for the market research “eight-tracks” of the future. And while you might agree with me on this, you may think it won’t happen until 2020 at the earliest. My bet is we’ll be shocked at how quickly this will go down.

Why do I believe this? One of my favorite reads over the past couple of years has been Ray Kurzweil’s seminal work The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology. Regardless of whether you think Kurzweil’s vision is revolutionary or pure bunk, he offers a possible explanation for our inability to keep up. He contends that Moore’s Law (which posits that computational power doubles every two years) places technology and our civilization on an exponential curve. Additionally, he points to the fact that we are approaching the nearly vertical portion of that curve.

As a result, because we have a hard time factoring that nearly vertical trajectory into our thought process, we find ourselves constantly being surprised by how quickly the bedrocks and foundations of our culture become obsolete. And according to Kurzweil, we need to buckle our seat belts because the wild ride is just getting started.

Business Insider kicked off 2013 with a piece entitled “13 Things That Went Obsolete in 2012.”  Among them were some notable standbys of days gone by, including hard drives, buying individual songs or albums, standalone GPS units, non-smartphone cameras and even the venerable alarm clock.  All of these examples represent the rapidly escalating phenomenon of creative destruction.

If you’re not familiar with the term, creative destruction is an economic concept articulated by Joseph Schupeter in his 1942 book Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy.  He wrote:

“Capitalism…by nature[…]never can be stationary. The opening up of new markets […] illustrates the same process of industrial mutation […] that incessantly revolutionizes the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one. This process of creative destruction is the essential fact about capitalism.”

image from www.ritholtz.com

ritzholtz.com

As technological progress occurs at an increasingly rapid rate, we’re seeing creative destruction happen with alarming regularity.  We live in the post-Blockbuster era. The post-landline era.  The post-Postal era. And the list continues. As I began to apply this concept to the MR industry, I arrived at conclusions that, for some, may seem utterly ridiculous.As someone who believes that embracing the ridiculous (to borrow a thought from Albert Camus) is an important element in innovation, I’d like to submit to you my 5 sacred cows in MR that will become obsolete quicker than you and I can imagine.

 

1. In-Person Focus Groups

While qualitative research is undeniable in its power and immediacy, the traditional in-person focus group, conducted in a sterile boardroom environment, is an endangered species.  Although we try to spruce it up with Koosh balls and other lighthearted techniques, it’s increasingly difficult to entice consumers to come to a focus group facility and sit around a table for two hours. Traditional focus group rooms limit creativity on a psychological level, and it’s becoming clear that its value proposition works for a narrowing range of research problems.

In short, the traditional in-person focus group is on life support and ripe for creative destruction.

What will replace it?  In the near future, we will see the continued blossoming of non-traditional focus group environments to make focus groups feel like friends chatting at a bar. Definitely more enjoyable for respondents and more conducive for creative exchanges of ideas.

Longer term, we’ll see explosive growth in online virtual focus groups conducted primarily from mobile devices.  As collaboration technologies evolve, online focus groups will become the de facto standard. The blossoming of 4G LTE (and beyond) technologies will allow researchers to engage effortlessly with consumers located anywhere.

 

2. PowerPoint Reports

Love it or hate it, PowerPoint is by far the dominant medium for delivering research results.  However, just because it is the standard doesn’t mean it is an efficient or effective platform for its stated purpose. It forces a linear and static frame on information that deserves an engaging, interactive, and multidimensional experience.

As a result, it’s only a matter of time before PowerPoint falls victim to a disruptive technology that will drive users to actively explore, imagine and intuitively grasp the meaning of multiple streams of research simultaneously.  This technology will free insights within the entire enterprise, unlocking them from the linear and siloed world of share drives and search functions.  I, for one, will be thrilled to see that day!


3. Online Surveys

Though a heretical thought today, the traditional online survey is a dead man walking.  In our brave new mobile culture, the idea that a 30+ minute PC-based survey is going to be viable even three years from now is an increasingly absurd belief.  We (agencies and clients) need to shake ourselves awake and realize we’re living on borrowed time when it comes to this increasingly anachronistic mindset.

What’s the future?  Micro-surveys.  Modular data-fusion techniques. Geofence-driven in-the-moment mobile feedback. Indirect measurement. Facial sentiment recognition. Mobile neurofeedback. That’s the future.

 

4. The Quant / Qual Duality

Today, research is split into two methodological spheres: quant and qual. We think of research as being either one or the other.  We think of qual phases preceding quant phases. All sequential. All nicely compartmentalized.  A mindset driven by current methodological limitations and the intellectual constructs underpinning what we think of as research.

In an era of time compression and rapidly evolving technologies, this duality will ultimately fade away. Quant or qual will be replaced by quant and qual.  The worlds will collide. Both will occur simultaneously. Qual methods will be interwoven with quant methods and vice versa.  The result will be research that is deeper, faster and more insightful than today.


5. The Rational Frame

Underpinning the scientific method (and hence social and market research) is the utter dominance of the “rational frame,” the belief that humans react in purely rational ways.  Disagree with me?  Just take a look at any survey and the innumerable attributes respondents are forced to rate on a five-point rating scale to explain what drives their behavior.

We all know intuitively that this isn’t the way humans operate.  Yet we cling to this structure because it helps us feel more confident and in sync with the other social sciences in our approach.

That’s all changing, and the explosion of interest in behavioral economics is evidence that the purely rational frame is ripe for creative disruption. At this point, behavioral economics still lacks breadth of methodological applications, especially on the quant side of the equation. (But I’d like to credit my colleague Michael Alioto, whose passion about identifying behavioral economics principles applicable to the MR industry inspired my thinking on this subject.) However, I think it signals the beginning of a whole new era, one that will allow research to more fully explain and predict the behavior of human beings in all of their wonderful complexity.

 

So this is my list for the market research “eight-tracks” of the future. And while you might agree with me on this, you may think it won’t happen until 2020 at the earliest.  My bet is we’ll be shocked at how quickly this will go down.

Why do I believe this? One of my favorite reads over the past couple of years has been Ray Kurzweil’s seminal work The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology.  Regardless of whether you think Kurzweil’s vision is revolutionary or pure bunk, he offers a possible explanation for our inability to keep up. He contends that Moore’s Law (which posits that computational power doubles every two years) places technology and our civilization on an exponential curve. Additionally, he points to the fact that we are approaching the nearly vertical portion of that curve.

As a result, because we have a hard time factoring that nearly vertical trajectory into our thought process, we find ourselves constantly being surprised by how quickly the bedrocks and foundations of our culture become obsolete. And according to Kurzweil, we need to buckle our seat belts because the wild ride is just getting started.

– See more at: http://go-innovate.typepad.com/blog/2013/05/5-things-that-will-become-obsolete-in-mr-sooner-than-you-think.html#sthash.xWkPFPfn.dpuf

Business Insider kicked off 2013 with a piece entitled “13 Things That Went Obsolete in 2012.”  Among them were some notable standbys of days gone by, including hard drives, buying individual songs or albums, standalone GPS units, non-smartphone cameras and even the venerable alarm clock.  All of these examples represent the rapidly escalating phenomenon of creative destruction.

If you’re not familiar with the term, creative destruction is an economic concept articulated by Joseph Schupeter in his 1942 book Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy.  He wrote:

“Capitalism…by nature[…]never can be stationary. The opening up of new markets […] illustrates the same process of industrial mutation […] that incessantly revolutionizes the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one. This process of creative destruction is the essential fact about capitalism.”

image from www.ritholtz.com

ritzholtz.com

As technological progress occurs at an increasingly rapid rate, we’re seeing creative destruction happen with alarming regularity.  We live in the post-Blockbuster era. The post-landline era.  The post-Postal era. And the list continues. As I began to apply this concept to the MR industry, I arrived at conclusions that, for some, may seem utterly ridiculous.As someone who believes that embracing the ridiculous (to borrow a thought from Albert Camus) is an important element in innovation, I’d like to submit to you my 5 sacred cows in MR that will become obsolete quicker than you and I can imagine.

 

1. In-Person Focus Groups

While qualitative research is undeniable in its power and immediacy, the traditional in-person focus group, conducted in a sterile boardroom environment, is an endangered species.  Although we try to spruce it up with Koosh balls and other lighthearted techniques, it’s increasingly difficult to entice consumers to come to a focus group facility and sit around a table for two hours. Traditional focus group rooms limit creativity on a psychological level, and it’s becoming clear that its value proposition works for a narrowing range of research problems.

In short, the traditional in-person focus group is on life support and ripe for creative destruction.

What will replace it?  In the near future, we will see the continued blossoming of non-traditional focus group environments to make focus groups feel like friends chatting at a bar. Definitely more enjoyable for respondents and more conducive for creative exchanges of ideas.

Longer term, we’ll see explosive growth in online virtual focus groups conducted primarily from mobile devices.  As collaboration technologies evolve, online focus groups will become the de facto standard. The blossoming of 4G LTE (and beyond) technologies will allow researchers to engage effortlessly with consumers located anywhere.

 

2. PowerPoint Reports

Love it or hate it, PowerPoint is by far the dominant medium for delivering research results.  However, just because it is the standard doesn’t mean it is an efficient or effective platform for its stated purpose. It forces a linear and static frame on information that deserves an engaging, interactive, and multidimensional experience.

As a result, it’s only a matter of time before PowerPoint falls victim to a disruptive technology that will drive users to actively explore, imagine and intuitively grasp the meaning of multiple streams of research simultaneously.  This technology will free insights within the entire enterprise, unlocking them from the linear and siloed world of share drives and search functions.  I, for one, will be thrilled to see that day!


3. Online Surveys

Though a heretical thought today, the traditional online survey is a dead man walking.  In our brave new mobile culture, the idea that a 30+ minute PC-based survey is going to be viable even three years from now is an increasingly absurd belief.  We (agencies and clients) need to shake ourselves awake and realize we’re living on borrowed time when it comes to this increasingly anachronistic mindset.

What’s the future?  Micro-surveys.  Modular data-fusion techniques. Geofence-driven in-the-moment mobile feedback. Indirect measurement. Facial sentiment recognition. Mobile neurofeedback. That’s the future.

 

4. The Quant / Qual Duality

Today, research is split into two methodological spheres: quant and qual. We think of research as being either one or the other.  We think of qual phases preceding quant phases. All sequential. All nicely compartmentalized.  A mindset driven by current methodological limitations and the intellectual constructs underpinning what we think of as research.

In an era of time compression and rapidly evolving technologies, this duality will ultimately fade away. Quant or qual will be replaced by quant and qual.  The worlds will collide. Both will occur simultaneously. Qual methods will be interwoven with quant methods and vice versa.  The result will be research that is deeper, faster and more insightful than today.


5. The Rational Frame

Underpinning the scientific method (and hence social and market research) is the utter dominance of the “rational frame,” the belief that humans react in purely rational ways.  Disagree with me?  Just take a look at any survey and the innumerable attributes respondents are forced to rate on a five-point rating scale to explain what drives their behavior.

We all know intuitively that this isn’t the way humans operate.  Yet we cling to this structure because it helps us feel more confident and in sync with the other social sciences in our approach.

That’s all changing, and the explosion of interest in behavioral economics is evidence that the purely rational frame is ripe for creative disruption. At this point, behavioral economics still lacks breadth of methodological applications, especially on the quant side of the equation. (But I’d like to credit my colleague Michael Alioto, whose passion about identifying behavioral economics principles applicable to the MR industry inspired my thinking on this subject.) However, I think it signals the beginning of a whole new era, one that will allow research to more fully explain and predict the behavior of human beings in all of their wonderful complexity.

 

So this is my list for the market research “eight-tracks” of the future. And while you might agree with me on this, you may think it won’t happen until 2020 at the earliest.  My bet is we’ll be shocked at how quickly this will go down.

Why do I believe this? One of my favorite reads over the past couple of years has been Ray Kurzweil’s seminal work The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology.  Regardless of whether you think Kurzweil’s vision is revolutionary or pure bunk, he offers a possible explanation for our inability to keep up. He contends that Moore’s Law (which posits that computational power doubles every two years) places technology and our civilization on an exponential curve. Additionally, he points to the fact that we are approaching the nearly vertical portion of that curve.

As a result, because we have a hard time factoring that nearly vertical trajectory into our thought process, we find ourselves constantly being surprised by how quickly the bedrocks and foundations of our culture become obsolete. And according to Kurzweil, we need to buckle our seat belts because the wild ride is just getting started.

– See more at: http://go-innovate.typepad.com/blog/2013/05/5-things-that-will-become-obsolete-in-mr-sooner-than-you-think.html#sthash.xWkPFPfn.dpuf

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49 Responses to “5 Things That Will Become Obsolete in MR Sooner Than You Think”

  1. Gerard O'Neill says:

    July 9th, 2013 at 7:27 am

    An interesting post Greg. I tend not to take the singularity scenario too seriously because it leaves out the rather important role of human beings. What if they gave a singularity and nobody came? So to speak. With all technology the question always boils down to ‘cui bono’? If the losers outnumber the winners then the chances are the adoption curve will be far from exponential.

    All that said, I agree with you that we are in for a period of rapid change in the MR industry. I prefer Brynjolfsson and McAfee’s analogy of the ‘second half of the chess board’ to explain what’s going on. It’s not the next technology that matters so much as the accumulation of previous technologies that triggers unforeseen and rapid change.

    Like in your photo image, the smart phone doesn’t do anything new as such, it just does a lot of things far more conveniently/effectively than before.

    But back to people: I’m not sure the client side of the MR industry is as ready for change as the agency side. In my experience individual client needs (to impress bosses, justify their position, spend budget) will often (i.e.: nearly always) trump doing something original and innovative (and therefore potentially risky).

    Still, economics usually triumphs in the end (the cost/benefit sort, not behavioural!) – so yes, we can look forward to a lot more change to come…

  2. Greg Heist says:

    July 9th, 2013 at 10:08 am

    Gerard, thanks for your thoughts on this post! The whole transhumanist vision is clearly one that many leading technologists are shooting towards, and it could be that smartphones, Google glass and similar technologies are baby steps in that direction. To what degree it will ultimately play out (and, as you state, whether mankind will ultimately come along for the ride) is certainly TBD.

    Building on your “second half of the chessboard” analogy, you can certainly imagine that this rapid proliferation of new technologies holds the potential to catalyze culture (and MR) in disruptive and–from a 2013 perspective–almost unimaginable ways. As an innovation leader, I live for that kind of stuff and look forward to seeing what opportunities they create as we move forward into the next stage of our discipline’s evolution.

    Thanks again for sharing your insights!!

  3. Ben Leet says:

    July 9th, 2013 at 10:43 am

    Nice post! Ties in well with some of my own thoughts on the future of MR, especially with respect to the online surveys and in person groups. At the end of the day time is an increasingly precious commodity, and if we can’t attract respondents to spend their time on MR then we have a big problem as an industry!

  4. andrew barnes says:

    July 10th, 2013 at 9:39 am

    I mostly agree with Greg, and I am particularly pleased to see another voice predicting the demise of online surveys. However I see the demise coming as a result of poor quality issues more so than time constraints. I believe that online surveys (and especially panel surveys) have a problem generating honest feedback simply because there is no onus on the participant to do so. At the outset it takes only one or two surveys for informants to “know” the required” responses to make them eligible participants and thus secure their small payout. And it is really all about generating a small payout, to the extent that I believe (contrary to industry assurances) that many panelists have multiple personas in order to maximize their revenue. These are the issues that will erode current enthusiasm for “cheap” online surveys.

  5. Bob Baranoff says:

    July 10th, 2013 at 9:43 am

    I don’t disagree with your thinking, but I can’t help but wonder if the medium will indeed become the message, rather than the underlying inherent message that we are ultimately seeking. I don’t doubt that this may always have been the case, but I do wonder if it will be exacerbated as the new technologies proliferate.

  6. maritza disciullo says:

    July 10th, 2013 at 10:06 am

    Prior to the 1960s, the most popular forms of data collection were in-person interviewing and US Postal mail. Literally, people walking around door to door (or standing in public places) asking questions on paper, or printing out paper surveys that had to be licked sealed, stamped and carried to a Post Office for delivery. When telephone surveys became popular sometime in the 1960s – 1970s, there was talk of how in-person interviewing would disappear in this brave new world of telephone interviewing. Sometime in the 1990s, when email surveys became the popular method, everyone said telephone interviewing would go away entirely and be replaced by online surveys. By the way, they said the same thing about in-person focus groups in 1990 as well. (“Why use a facility when you can have a chat online?”) . Funny thing… 50 years later and I think in-person interviews are still used. I’ve even recently gotten a survey in the mail. Maybe not as often, but they are still there especially if you have a hard group of people to interview and few ways to contact them otherwise. Its been 20+ years later and surveys are still being done by phone– maybe fewer of them, but they are still there. Whats my point? Instead of rushing to say that a tool is about to become “obsolete” why not evaluate the tool for its best possible purpose and application? As technology develops, more and more tools will be available to us as researchers to use, when and where the best fit is. Often what is old, becomes new again (think about the width of men’s neckties, for example) So don’t be so quick to throw out the old tools (you may need them 50 years from now). We should of course try new tools, but we need to TEST and PROVE these tools before rushing to adopt them, else you may not be prepared when the latest “trend” proves to be just a trend– and not a proven, reliable method of collecting and analyzing, neutral observations.

  7. Leonard Murphy says:

    July 10th, 2013 at 10:19 am

    Great points @Maritza (and good to hear from you! How’s life?). I don’t think anyone is saying that established tools and techniques will disappear entirely, but rather that we as an industry need to be flexible and adaptive to new advances that disrupt traditional models. Our tool box is expanding at an ever increasing rate and that is a good thing, but our training on these tools isn’t keeping pace and from a supplier standpoint our business models often can’t accommodate them easily and that is the concern I have.So let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater for sure, but we’d be wise to pay attention to what’s coming down the pike and be prepared to adapt to new technology, cultural trends, and knowledge as it occurs. In the meatime, let’s use the best tool fit for the job rather than falling into the trap of thinking everything is a nail because we prefer the hammer. 🙂

  8. Ray Poynter says:

    July 10th, 2013 at 10:23 am

    Hi Greg, I’d agree with parts of this, but I think most of your timelines are out, and I think in a few cases you’ve missed the nub of the issue.
    One interesting point is in your list of examples of things that became obsolete in 2013. The non-smartphone camera is not obsolete, indeed if you visit the tech shop in any duty free lounge you will see the section for standalone cameras has increased over the last few years. Most of us have smartphone with 8 megapixel cameras and we know the limitations of what they can do – which is mostly an optical lens thing. I was at my son’s graduation this week and I would estimate that one-in-three parents had a standalone camera – we don’t take really important pictures (e.g. weddings) on smartphones.
    In-person focus groups are growing, not declining. I would agree that they answer a smaller range of problems than they used to, but they also meet some new needs. I have been struck by how many MROCs have found it useful to bring some of their members into a physical location from time-to-time. My own learning is that easy problems are cheaper/faster if dealt with by online approaches (online focus groups or asynchronous approaches) – but anything needing real interaction, especially interaction between the participants, is better face-to-face.
    PowerPoint is not only not dead; it is not even threatened yet. Indeed, you say it is only a matter of time until it falls prey to a disruptive change. I agree, but many people have been trying for many years to come up with something better, but to no avail. Think about Prezi, a truly limited idea, but we all flocked to try it. Why? Because we all wanted to move on from PowerPoint – but Prezi has fallen back to the fringes because it can’t deliver. Yes, PowerPoint will disappear, in 2, or 10, or 20, or 50 years – but we don’t know when.
    Online surveys. About four years ago I caused a real fuss at the MRS conference by saying surveys will be dead in 20 years. I still think that is true. But at the moment the number of surveys is still climbing. In three years we may have passed peak long survey, but they won’t be dead – more’s the pity.
    The qual/quant duality. In the future we will have more projects that use both qual and quant. However, the duality cannot be removed because they depend on different models of knowledge. The risk with most blending approaches is that they lack any rigour, they lack the rigour of quant and the rigour of qual – which means the risks in the project are typically unknowable and clients will end up being burned. However, I think a future where research is replaced by mumbo jumbo is perfectly possible, perhaps even likely, and in that world people will claim to offer QualQuant, describing it as beyond just qual and quant, but I will resist it with every blog and tweet!
    The scientific method is not predicated on a belief that people behave rationally. The scientific method is one where data are collected and where people are not allowed to introduce elves, fairies, gods, or mystic effects, where different people should be able to repeat the method, and where people design their findings in ways that they can be disproved (i.e. falsifiability). Qual researchers have always been reaching out to the unconscious, the whole basis of conjoint and choice based modelling is that people do not know or understand their own motivations. The horrible scales and attribute lists, the stated importance weights, and bogus customer satisfaction recall of cause and effect are not weaknesses of design – they are based in laziness, speed, and budget. I would like to see a swing to the scientific method, but I suspect we will see a continuation of the swing towards asking dumb, leading questions, but in shorter, bite-sized, chunks.
    I think I probably have two main concerns with your thought provoking piece a) I think the timelines are slower than you predict, b) I think you are assuming things will get better, and I am less than convinced on this point – but in both cases I hope you are right.

  9. Mike Thompson says:

    July 10th, 2013 at 10:36 am

    I disagree with everything that Greg wrote up to the point he stated ‘Micro-surveys. Modular data-fusion techniques. Geofence-driven in-the-moment mobile feedback’ I had to giggle and could read no more. Why do you guys have to constantly re-invent the industry. All forms of data capture and analysis are relevant. As it is the access panel as all but ruined the industry by de-skilling practioners and devaluing MR as a credible source of insight. When the CEO want to know how many people are going to buy his new Gismo and what colour it should be, he ceryainly won’t be using ‘ Facial sentiment recognition and Mobile neurofeedback’ to find the answer

  10. Dmitry Gaiduk says:

    July 10th, 2013 at 11:15 am

    Good post Greg. Coherent with my vision of the MR Future and mission of my company. Wild ride is just getting started, but let’s go for it. New techniques, tools, digitalized and automated solutions are already available and are used by the players aware of rapid rate of technological progress and creative destruction.

  11. Greg Heist says:

    July 10th, 2013 at 11:44 am

    Ray, thanks for your thoughtful response!

    As you well know, blogging is ultimately about provoking discussion, and I’m glad to see so much of it going on with respect to this post.

    At the end of the day, I’m an innovation leader, not a prophet. To wit, I stake no special claim to foreknowledge of the future, or the rate at which it will play out (though wouldn’t it be fab if we could possess such an ability!).

    However, when I look at the increasingly littered landscape of corporations and business models that have been rendered irrelevant by innovation, I personally would rather (like Andy Grove’s famous book) be “paranoid” and prepared for disruption rather than remain complacent and maintain a linear forward projection of the status quo into the future. Quite simply, while there will be notable exceptions (and some of my topics could be among them) it ain’t gonna play out that way in general. Not by a long shot…

  12. Greg Heist says:

    July 10th, 2013 at 11:55 am

    Mike, I think you might be missing the point of my post entirely. I’m not asserting in any way, shape or form that these emerging technologies are going to be able to supplant our standard methods in the near term.

    In terms of your comment about “why do you guys constantly re-invent the industry,” I would direct you to pull the Honomichl 50 list from, say, 2006 and 2012 and do an analysis of the hard data contained therein.

    I did just such an analysis for internal consumption and found the following: many of the big, traditional players in the industry are flat to negative in revenue over those past 6 years (even comprehending their acquisitions) and nearly half of the players in the 2012 Honomichl 50 weren’t on the list in 2006. The new players are mostly that: technology firms like Vision Critical, specialists like Communispace and Affinova, and other “new research” firms not wedded to delivering the same old approaches of yesteryear.

    You can certainly argue about the timing and future relative importance of some of these new technologies. However, to say that a significant revisioning of our discipline isn’t taking place is a classic example of normalcy bias and denial.

  13. Chris Robinson says:

    July 10th, 2013 at 12:58 pm

    @RayPoynter welcome to the real world. Have you noticed how the “disruptive” arguments start to look flaky when the poster starts saying “well that isn’t what I really meant” or “I am only trying to provoke”.

    What all of these new-agers seem unable to understand, as @Maritza points out, is that these challenges are nothing new to the research industry, are hardly complex, raise no significant barriers to entry and so far do not seem to be delivering fabulous strategic insights.

    The “irrational consumer” story is as old as time, well since the 70’s. Most good researchers know the only way to understand brand drivers is by indirect associations, in other words not what people say, but what they says that correlates with known key indicators. Or by observation. Wow that last one sounds like new methodology. It’s so exciting now!!!

    Are we so jaundiced that we need to go after PowerPoint? What drives this whole “get with the program or disappear” crap. Is this just journalistic stuff or do these people really believe their own nonsense? The answer is yeap. Look at this from @Greg Heist – “to say that a significant revisioning of our discipline isn’t taking place is a classic example of normalcy bias and denial”. Duh! Give me that old time religion cause I ain’t seen that revisioning light, just a lot of hot air.

    And @Mike Thompson, you old dinosaur you! What a classic statement that had me on the floor laughing. “I disagree with everything that Greg wrote up to the point he stated ‘Micro-surveys. Modular data-fusion techniques. Geofence-driven in-the-moment mobile feedback’ I had to giggle and could read no more. Why do you guys have to constantly re-invent the industry”. Loved it.

    What client is buying micro-surveys? I think I need some “gamificated, micro-survey, big data, fusion, co-creation” stuff to be seen as a leading market researcher! Geo-fence. Why are people turning off their geo-locators?? Enough said!!!

    The day that Online research and classic FGD’s tank will be as likely as the day the Greenbook says “well you know we may have been overselling all this disruption nonsense”. Please, Online wins on the very basics, cost and timeliness, hardly marginal drivers of client demand. I could give you the whole box and dice on the problems with Online, but one thing I am sure of is mobile will never deliver in that category. Read the MRSUK’s pitiful analysis on the potential for mobile research. Talk about misplaced optimism.

    I can hardly wait for the day of reckoning. Actually it/s already there in poor results reported by big brands playing this whole new, new area. Twitter is useless, Mobile ads flop. customers don’t trust social media, Facebook fails to deliver, sentiment analysis reveals nothing, etc.

    The next stage, yes I get to prognosticate, is that anything remotely “push” will be rejected by social media users. These guys will get canny and see all this “we are just like you” stuff from 40 years plus marketing directors will be seen for what it is, disingenuous, worthless and the brands behind it untrustworthy.

  14. Greg Heist says:

    July 10th, 2013 at 1:03 pm

    Ray, as a guy who at this moment has a Canon DSLR with an L Series macro lens on my desk, it pains me to say this, but the digital camera HAS been disrupted by the smart phone. This article from the Telegraph (http://bit.ly/12mhzga) tells the story: The UK digital camera market is down almost a third since 2006 and 8% of UK consumers say they won’t even replace their current digital camera when it breaks.

    That, coupled with the coming 18+ MP sensors and improved (and removable) lenses on smartphones will only hasten the decline. While you’re right in saying there will always be a market for digital cameras (weddings, serious photographers, etc), casual photography is being dominated by the smart phone in the same way that streaming video is dominating the higher quality (though less convenient) traditional Blu-ray disk.

    As avid a photographer as I am, I don’t use my DSLR nearly as much as I used to, simply because the experience of carrying it, transferring/processing photos and sharing output is too burdensome for all but special occasions. 🙂

  15. Greg Heist says:

    July 10th, 2013 at 1:28 pm

    Chris, I think you’re so triggered by what you THINK I’m saying that you might be missing what I AM saying here.

    First, I stand by every one of my points. I think all of them are ripe for disruption and won’t be surprised in the least if any one–or all–of them are disrupted faster than any of us can imagine. My rationale? Look around you at nearly any industry you care to pick. What is it about the revered MR industry that makes you believe it is somehow impervious to this kind of change???

    Second, the rate at which things have changed in the past is no predictor of what their future shelf life will be. Just because you and I have moderated focus groups for years is no guarantee we’ll do nearly as many of them in the future. Could you have imagined 10 years ago that we’d be doing live video-based focus groups now? Could you imagine they would represent a significant % of overall focus groups? I bet the answer is that none of us did.

    Let’s use another example: MROCs. Who would have imagined 10 years ago that MROCs could become a core research methodology for many major client organizations? I bet outside of Diane Hessen (and maybe it’s even outstripped her imagination), no one reading this blog could have predicted it. Yet, it happened. Here, in our seemingly staid MR industry.

    Now, let’s apply the same logic projecting forward 5-10 years from now. Based on what I’m hearing you say, it seems like you’re in the camp that would say things that far forward in the future will be more similar to today than different from today.

    I’d say the weight of evidence in the world outside the narrow walls of MR would suggest otherwise. THAT’S where I’m coming from…

    When I talk about provoking discussion, it’s not about being provocative for its own sake. It’s about getting us all to think more broadly and take an honest look around at world as it is and say, “guess what…what happened to Blockbuster, Kodak, Blackberry et al can happen here in this industry.”

  16. Tom Murphy says:

    July 10th, 2013 at 1:58 pm

    Interesting article, Greg, but as the saying goes, “Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future.” A counterpoint article on in-person focus groups, for example, could just as easily been written and convincingly supported under the title “One of the 5 things in MR that is likely to continue, despite exciting new technologies”. Not as much of an attention grabbing headline as claiming that something is about to become ‘obsolete’, but I suspect ultimately much more likely to be true. Some research traditions, such as in-person interviewing and discussion, have too much insight value to ever be discarded like the horse and buggy of yesteryear, no matter how ‘mobile’ we become.

  17. Dr Evan M Stark Phd says:

    July 10th, 2013 at 3:22 pm

    Thank you for your provocative and probably accurate article.

    PowerPoints were destined to die after year one. But what will replace them. Can you please explain what this means: Thank. Evan.

    “As a result, it’s only a matter of time before PowerPoint falls victim to a disruptive technology that will drive users to actively explore, imagine and intuitively grasp the meaning of multiple streams of research simultaneously. This technology will free insights within the entire enterprise, unlocking them from the linear and siloed world of share drives and search functions. I, for one, will be thrilled to see that day!”

  18. Dan Gersten says:

    July 10th, 2013 at 4:08 pm

    Kind of “sad”. Not that some of the items mentioned as becoming obsolete are going to be obsolete, just that Marketing Research is, in my view, dying. But then, what do I know…I’m a dinosaur of sorts who strongly believes that some personal interaction — between the researcher (or interviewer/moderator) and consumers (respondents) is necessary to understand what makes people (consumers) tick and, thus, market to them as effectively (and efficiently) as one can. So when I hear that personal focus groups will be going bye-bye, I shake my head and wonder whether this wonderful technological age that we’re in is just distancing people (and researchers) from one-another, at least on a personal level. I also lament the “death” of the qualitative and quantitative duality. Perhaps it’s because of having taken chemistry in high school and recognizing that qual and quant are both needed. Qual to tell you what something is made of and quant to tell you how much of what something is made of there is in that something. Relative to MR…qual identifies issues, problems, needs, etc. while quant tells you how big each issue, problem, need, etc. is…so you know on what to focus your marketing (or new product development, satisfaction efforts, etc.) Lastly, if there’s a “rational frame”, then I do celebrate it become obsolete. Shouldn’t have even been “alive” to begin with. IMO, any MR worth his/her “salt” should understand that emotions drive behavior and that to get a consumer (person) to do what you’d like them to do, you need to understand those emotions — and how to trigger/leverage them. Hell, everyone should know that. Just witness the attempts by some in the worlds of politics and religion to trigger hate, fear and divisiveness. But…I digress. Anyhow, please let me know where I should send my condolences.

  19. Susan Scarlet says:

    July 10th, 2013 at 5:16 pm

    Greg merely asserts that qual [insert OR] quant and the standard sequential nature of it what will change. He clearly states both will exist, rather more harmoniously. And I would add, they certainly won’t be the only two players in the mix.

    On FGFs, the mostly generic four-walls, two-way mirror “interrogation” room format is what will become repurposed real estate. QRCA’s own Views mag just a month ago showcased ranch-style and coffee house backdrops for such in-depth and far more personalized discussions. If this doesn’t convince you, try to get VC funding for a FGF anytime in the future, go ahead, try.

    In 2011, one “Fortune 50″ MR heavy-hitter suggested MRers are their own worst enemy when it comes to communicating about their craft. She passionately suggested that “method categorization and nomenclature ends up dominating (our) discussions…” This thread is certainly indicative of that.

  20. Frankie Johnson says:

    July 10th, 2013 at 5:28 pm

    What a great discussion. Kudos to Greg for kicking it off. I ditto what others have said here – “Obsolete? Not so fast.”
    While I also love to play with shiny new things, the classics have their place. Indeed outside of the echo chamber of BIG CORP market research, a bunch of small / medium businesses and organizations are just discovering the usefulness of in-person focus groups and online surveys. Indeed there is tremendous growth globally in these “dying” methods. While we talk about the imminent decline of online surveys, companies like Survey Monkey are managing to convince hard-nose VCs to part with a bunch of money for something that is about to become obsolete? I’ve noticed a tendency to write off anything that is not in the portfolio of the big vendors as merely DIY. Well, it may not show up in Honomichl’s numbers (don’t get me started), but to the wider world, this is indeed “market research”. Ignore the long tail, and you’ll leave money on the table for someone else to pick up.
    As for PowerPoint, and Keynote, these apps now do a lot more than previous versions and can be used to produce rich, multimedia presentations. If you equate PP with boring text bullet points, then the problem is with your production chops not the tool.
    I agree with Lenny… let’s use the best tool for the job. Or rather, let’s celebrate the fact that the toolbox now has some shiny new gadgets to try while still being big enough to leave room for the well-worn classics that work.

  21. Brett Watkins says:

    July 10th, 2013 at 5:54 pm

    Greg, I appreciate you taking the time to blog and thought provoke: it’s what will help us all evolve. I’ll apologize in advance for the length of my response…but it’s a subject of interest for me.

    Noting our biases (mine heavily invested in in-person qual, yours in “innovation”) and a believer in technology a great deal (and invested in it heavily, though more to focus on improved recruiting itself…I’ll save that for another post another day), one has to pause however to note that technology has rarely, if ever, been the arbiter of change. It has merely been the tool that facilitated it. Thus, what is the fundamental change agent for MR? I would argue its clients seeking better data to make smarter decisions. I see some technologies facilitating that in certain situations, but many are still way early in the due diligence process (or have failed outright). The comment on VC being dumped into facilities (try it for a reality house as well…the reality is VC invests in things far bigger than either)…well lots of VC getting dumped into social media analysis tools that are dying left and right.

    Validation by end client to justify their position I wholly concur is one of two primary reasons in-person qual is not going anywhere soon: I know plenty of my reports (in my past life) are on the shelf collecting dust, but my client assured me, it served its purpose. Having the senior leadership at the groups hear the voice of the customer…the other primary reason I don’t see it dying anytime soon. It’s very hard for video to convey that power. Will this change as leadership changes (i.e. younger generations take over)? Maybe…I think in-person qual changes shapes, just as you suggest in the qual/quant combinative formats where clients look to maximize resources, but is a long ways from being extinct.

    The one thing I cannot disagree with you more on however is this whole notion of “reality house” qualitative being the future, and cooperation rates of consumers being tied to the sterility of our industry. Regarding reality houses, every argument I have read advocating this is they get more “real” feedback. This is always anecdotal, based upon the notion that because participants are “someplace like home” or “cool,” participants have greater comfort (and thus engagement). Would you feel more comfortable if your financial advisor turned their lobby into a living room? Pretty sure they researched this, and found professionalism gives customers comfort and engagement. I’ve also seen zero studies supporting this reality house notion: plenty of time has passed to have one, hasn’t happened.

    The truth is (and this is something I HAVE researched scientifically, as well as am supported with scientific journals based upon the origins of qualitative research), consumers see office environments as a safer place: it most accurately conveys the consultant/client relationship (professionalism and trust, which results in candor and comfort). I get people wanting to convey the next revolutionary change in qual (facilities, then recording and streaming technologies, now changing the facility itself), but the argument that supports reality houses is simply false: the fundamental change that revolutionizes qual IMO will be a better recruiting process.

    Flagging cooperation rates: professionalism/trust is a primary factor in consumers agreeing to become participants. It’s also a primary factor in identifying why cooperation rates are flagging (i.e. lack thereof). If we want to get more consumers engaged in the qualitative research process, here’s how:

    1. Treat them professionally, for what they are: our customers! Value and respect their time, and compensate them accordingly. Respecting time includes ending 30 minute screeners that end in “Sorry, you don’t qualify.” The people that opt out of participating in research…#1 reason right here, and can you blame them? BTW, these are the people we really want to talk to!

    2. Invest more as an industry in the education of the public of who we are/what we do. Contrary to popular belief, the vast majority of society does not really know what a focus group/qualitative research is. I’ve done the research, and its 80% that really don’t know (50% THINK they know, but when probed really cannot accurately define it). Its not lack of interest generally, its lack of knowledge (hence why general advertising has so little impact on getting people to sign up and participate). There has to be education/marketing from the industry as a whole…to advocate for the value of it (may help too in our political lobbying to protect our industry if large percentages of society were aware, and supported us).

    3. Stop treating research participants like the enemy: this whole notion of professional respondents is highly overblown and with better technology, can easily defeat the vast majority of this small population. Engage more, make it easier for people to participate…this recipe works for every organization out there trying to get a more active “base.” With engagement and education (and again, technology to better track people/behaviors and tag bad apples), we can effectively get more people involved, resulting in better data.

    4. Give them more of an incentive than cash. People that participate would LOVE to know how the discussions on the new product being researched concluded. This has long since been proven in BTB world…you don’t have to tell them everything, but a little teaser would make participants feel “included.” We need to start treating the research process more holistically and engage participants with feedback: I guarantee it will greatly improve the entire research process.

    5. And finally…the industry has to pursue more vigilantly companies that use research as a means to sell.

    Better data that results in smarter decisions: I argue that our industry is more in need of better processes…and while technology and innovation can aid this, it does not change the fundamentals. Greg’s post (and the many like it) is a wake-up call IMO however…we need to be investing in our business (and making it better): technology is part of this, but a bigger element to me is more rudimentary, and that’s education. Otherwise, end clients WILL start looking elsewhere for answers.

  22. Leonard Murphy says:

    July 10th, 2013 at 7:50 pm

    Wow, what a great debate! It’s wonderful to see so many new folks, as well as our regulars (yes, I mean you @Chris) and some returning favorites (Where have you been @Mike? Welcome back Frankie! Always a pleasure to have you chime in @Ray) wading into the fray.

    Since I love a good tussle, time for me to throw in my $.02. And you guys know how much I love to get on a soap box so apologies in advance. :)

    First, as we’ve all said the rate of change is certainly open for debate, but the fact of change itself can’t be disputed. As folks who value evidence, can anyone really defend the position that our entire civilization, let alone our little industry, isn’t changing at an ever increasing pace? And yes, technology has been both a cause and a result of these changes just like the printing press, steam engine, electricity, automobile, radio, TV, transistor, and PC produced profound disruptive & social change in the past. In the past 5 years alone we’ve seen the duality of mobile and social media connect people in unimaginable ways, produce new economic sectors, contribute to the radical reorganization of whole populations (the Arab Spring is just one example) and yes, begin the process of changing how marketers (and as a results researchers) think about their business and practice their craft. OF COURSE disruption will continue to happen; it’s the nature of the world.

    Speaking of evidence, here are few things to chew on:

    In the last 2 days I’ve spoken to several very well respected and experienced qualitative researchers who said they are seeing traditional FGFs scrambling to find new business (especially in secondary markets) due to the shift to F2F in major markets only and augmenting with online and mobile groups in all other markets. And Bob Lederer reported on the same decline today: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wGspG_CqFlY .

    Is qual going away? No way. Has qual been disrupted by technology. Absolutely.

    I also spoke to a major retailer who is spending tons of money to build a lab to test new approaches (many of them focused on mobile, neuro/emotional measurement, and social media analytics). This same researcher also shifted their tracking work to microsurveys without skipping a beat. And on that note, I can tell you that the microsurvey approach is getting LOTS of money thrown at it right now by some of the largest organizations in the world (both public and private) and delivering the results these folks are looking for. I agree that online surveys are alive and well, but the era of the big survey (especially the big tracker) is coming to a very rapid close.

    Are surveys going away? Nope. Have surveys been disrupted? Yep.

    @Ray, I agree that standalone cameras won’t disappear, but I can tell you my family LOVES pictures and we haven’t bought a new camera in years; our phones displaced them. I also don’t plan to replace my laptop with another laptop; it will be a tablet and when this desktop dies in a few years I doubt I will buy another one of those, although a cloud-connected terminal with a big touchscreen is probably in the budget somewhere.

    Re: Powerpoint, I don't think the issue is PowerPoint as much as it is data visualization, and I fully expect to see new models of data displays displacing traditional charts and graphs and as that emerges those capabilities will be integrated into PowerPoint. I actually just saw a great demo by OfficeReports that makes production of .ppt slides 100X easier and they are playing with integration of tools from Wolfram and Dapresy as well as interactive dashboards to make it even more efficient. As along as we are seeing incremental innovation on the visualization front the delivery system will probably remain kind of static. No one has disrupted MS Office yet, but continual efforts to do so sure do keep the MS folks on their toes!

    To address a few points brought up in comments specifically @Chris this data just came from Forbes today (http://www.forbes.com/sites/jenniferrooney/2013/03/14/annual-effies-survey-getting-comfortable-with-instinct-and-complexity/)

    The survey gauges advertising executives’ overall take on the most pressing industry issues, including metrics management, media investment, and marketing priorities in 2013.

    Mobile took the top spot in terms of spend increase: 21% of respondents indicated it was the area of greatest planned investment, followed by social media (16%) and content marketing (13%). Best ROI, however, is coming from TV (22%), SEO (17%) and CRM (12%).

    So do the judges see it as ironic that the areas of greatest spend increase—content, mobile—are opposite areas of greatest ROI—TV, SEO, CRM?

    “Not really, because they are where there is phenomenal opportunity for experimenting and phenomenal opportunity for disproportionate return,” said Carl Johnson, founder of Anomaly and chairman of the board of Effie Worldwide. “You can’t win that big with a great TV ad. You can win superbig with something non-traditional.”

    So if those things are so discredited, why are folks allocating more budget to them? I guess there are going to be a lot of unemployed marketing decision makers, huh?

    @Mike, according to the Harvard Business Review, marketers depend on data for just 11% of all customer-related decisions (August 2012). A key culprit is the time and cost of traditional market research where a typical project takes 2 – 3 months and costs 5 – 6 figures. So, solutions that are cheaper/faster are by definition better here because at least decision makers are using data to make decisions. And based on the validation that I have seen from many of these technologies, they ARE producing good results that people can make decision on and feel safe with.

    I wrote this earlier this week and it bears repeating here:

    There has been much news lately about slowed or declining growth in MR. The MRA Research Industry Index (RII), The 2013 Honomichl Top 50 Report, The MRS, and many individual firms have reported the trend. Simultaneously we have seen continual news of new investment capital as well as new business deals into disruptive or emerging insights solutions that are generally not included in most industry tracking initiatives (Simon Chadwick of Cambiar Consulting gave a fantastic presentation at IIeX on these trends). I have long maintained that the decline in traditional MR is not due (at least not entirely) to declining budgets, but rather to budgetary shifts AWAY from traditional MR and TO new approaches. To complicate matters, often these expenditures are coming from IT or Marketing organizations rather than the MR groups, making it difficult to get an accurate picture of the shift.

    At IIeX we were able to get some clarity through the almost 100 private meetings we established for our Corporate Partners to meet with suppliers of interest to them, and based on that evidence alone my belief was corroborated. The vast majority of those meetings were with new entrants offering new solutions, with most being technology providers. Micro-surveys, unconscious measurement, mobile media measurement, Big Data, text analytics, video analytics, DIY solutions, gamification and co-creation platforms were of most interest and gained new clients.

    What was even more interesting was the leadership shown by TNS, Ipsos & GfK who demonstrated their efforts to augment and synthesize new approaches with traditional methods to create new value for clients, and the comments from many client-side attendees on the need for full-service agencies to work with new technology solutions to deliver maximum value. Obviously the larger firms have gotten the message and are working to meet the demands of the marketplace, and judging from the interest from other traditional firms in attendance this much needed convergence is picking up speed. That is good news for an industry in clear trouble and hopefully the downward trend can be reversed. If not, clients will continue to go where they can most effectively get their needs met, as they should.


    I could go on and on with hard data from GRIT, ESOMAR, AAPOR, and many other sources as well as quotes from across the industry from suppliers and clients that support this position. I certainly don't need more convincing, and for what it's worth since I make my living (and it's a very nice living nowadays) helping both clients and suppliers navigate these changes, lots of other folks have reached the same conclusions based on the evidence available.

    In any event, I guess we’ll see how it all plays out, but in the meantime why would anyone resist doing some contingency planning and trying to get ahead of the curve? That’s just good business planning folks…

  23. Adriana Rocha says:

    July 10th, 2013 at 7:58 pm

    What a great discussion here! @Evan, data boards as this one http://think.withgoogle.com/databoard/ created by Google is an example of interactive report that can potentially replace Power Point for MR Insights.

  24. Leonard Murphy says:

    July 10th, 2013 at 10:18 pm

    Great find on Data Board @Adriana. Here is more: http://gigaom.com/2013/07/10/google-just-put-the-market-research-biz-on-notice/

    The times they are a changin'...

  25. mike louca says:

    July 10th, 2013 at 9:39 pm

    obsolete is too extreme for a lot of these. there may be viable alternatives in the near future but most of these won’t be obsolete for a many many years.

    everybody has said PowerPoint has been on its death bed for years, but what is the alternative solution that has been utilized efficiently and practically.

    Micro-surveys/Modular data-fusion techniques will most certainly be a force, but it will take time for people to do it well and practically.

    And the idea that a 30+ minute PC-based survey is viable TODAY is absurd. Feels like it has been for a while. But this will force integration of survey research and analytics which will be a very good thing for MRX.

  26. Frankie Johnson says:

    July 10th, 2013 at 10:45 pm

    Lenny, you know I think you are brilliant. You deserve the Man if the Year award for what you have brought to our industry. You bring a fresh perspective – an overview of industry trends and bringing together the many players in a way that has never been done before.

    That said, there are those of us who are more micro than macro in our view of the business. We start with a particular client and market context, then figure out how we can help them solve a problem or gain fresh insight. The methodology tends to grow organically out of this. Good researchers will use what works, try something new off the shelf, or make up an approach that is truly innovative. On the qual side, many of us have had to be creative this way, and only recently have had third party apps from which to choose. We don’t think of “focus groups” as facility based. They are simply interactive and personal. We’ve been playing with location, length, size, co-moderating and so on for years. And many of us cobbled together our own online products for projects without scaling them up into “start-ups”. What I am trying to say is, innovation isn’t new on the qual side. We are not a bunch of moderators who cling to the traditional. But because qual has been largely ignored by the mainstream MR community and dominated by small shops, only recently has it entered the conversation at the macro level.

    I’ve tried pretty much all of the “new” qual approaches and find that what’s needed is a major renovation of the high-touch methods – not to make them more efficient and profitable business models, but because we still need subtle and nuanced research done by humans. Most client side marketers know this.

    Finally, and I’m going to open my big mouth again. Most of the comments about the “industry” seem to be coming from people in sales and business roles, not researchers who are on the front line of design. I sometimes wonder how many focus groups the most ardent critics have seen. Lately, I’ve gone old school and conducted groups in homes again thanks to the wonder of the new audio-video portable options. Not sure how many people are doing this, but it surely goes uncounted in the industry stats.

    Sorry… far too long. Just feeling the need to stick up for micro and the little guys.

  27. Ashoke Bose says:

    July 11th, 2013 at 5:58 am

    Greg, thank you for the post. It is very thought provoking and helpful for people interested in evolution of MR. It is a fact that new tools and technology will allow MR to evolve. However, the fundamentals of MR should retain the value. The technology of car industry has changed significantly; but the laws of Physics have not changed. I believe that the basic principles of MR will remain constant, but the process of data collection and methodology should change in time as consumers use new way of communication and new tools for entertainment. What do you think?

  28. Brett Watkins says:

    July 11th, 2013 at 10:27 am

    Leonard, I hear what you are saying…and I also get where you are coming from. To paraphrase Sidney Deans, I don’t just listen to Jimmy, I hear Jimmy.

    And to Greg…his post was “things that will be obsolete sooner than you think.” So despite all my droning on about qualitative…his post is relevant, as sooner than you think is a perspective based comment, given without a definitive time table (I too see one possible future without it, though I think its relatively far off, and believe the odds are low, otherwise, I wouldn’t be investing in qualitative 🙂

    As my knowledge base is in qualitative and technology (having a great deal of familiarity through both my own experiences and through CEO relations with tech companies in RTP where I live, including several that sold for 8-9 figures while others, including some chasing the social media “golden ring” for MR effectiveness that now sit in the trash heap), I’ll close with the following:

    1. No one is denying change, but comparing current new MR technologies (and some just technologies with a potential MR application) to the steam engine and the PC is beyond a stretch. At a recent CASRO M&A conference, big data and social media were taking the vast majority of VC funding, but overall MR is not seen as a VC hotbed. While this shows a potential future (and for big data, a proven, though I’m sure SAS and the like would argue big data has been around a while, its just getting better), it also shows a lot of smart people are trying to all figure it out, because for the most part, it hasn’t been figured out. Social media as an MR tool specifically is being propped up by some…but I hear a lot less talk now about it being the replacement of qualitative now that, once the lights have been turned on and the roaches started scurrying for the exits, further analyze of social media as a qualitative tool showed holes. As for marketers spending on SM, one should consider that marketers often do run to places when their senior leadership asks “why aren’t we doing this?” Big difference in marketing…to drive sales…and MR, to validate/defend action. Not suggesting there isn’t a future for it…but I am suggesting we’re not sure where that future will rest: for marketing or MR.

    2. The shift you refer to in qualitative from secondary markets I would caution against confusing causative and correlative, as I think there’s room for debate on why those secondary FGF’s are losing business (I lead facilities in three secondary markets that are seeing record growth). The reality is qualitative is a commodity…as is market research now in general. Hence why more and more Fortune 500 decisions for research buying are being made at the purchasing level versus marketing/market research. Having quite a bit of “behind the scenes data” on this subject, I see FGF’s in both primary and secondary markets suffering…just as I see others succeeding (again in both market types). As the latest 2012 report came out you quoted that saw qualitative grow roughly 2% (but slightly down when adjusted for inflation), this is not overly different from the last 5-7 years. I would argue that some companies are simply getting bigger shares of the pie. Only two ways to grow business: increase sales or reduce costs. Those that haven’t done either…well its no surprise that they area struggling in a commodity industry. Most FGF’s I see suffering/dying simply didn’t invest in business improvement (and by invest I mean more than put a new video recording system in), and it would not surprise me to see this trend of haves and have nots continue.

    3. The big MR firms using newer tools and approaches to supplement existing ones is not surprising: again we are a commodity in the eyes of the Fortune 500 barring some proprietary systems (and truly few of those exist in MR IMO). This means you either do it cheaper, or you bring something else to the table. I don’t see this as replacement, I see this as added These companies, like all of us invested in the industry, are seeking a competitive advantage. I applaud them doing this…just as I scold the FGF industry (myself included) when looking at qualitative for not offering up more solutions, as QRC’s and the Ipsos/NPR of the world are seeking them, and if FGF’s don’t provide them…they will go elsewhere.

    Again, IMO technology in our industry is merely tools, it is not the impetus of change. In commodity service industries, clients want it faster and cheaper, or better (or all three), that is the impetus. I would ask, to your 11% decision making model, what was this percentage 10 years ago? I would suspect its not that much different…the buyers of MR are still predominantly Fortune 500, they need validation to take action, it is why they typically move slower. If solutions can be delivered that prove reliability to substantiate action better/faster/cheaper than traditional MR, then they will do that. But I doubt many will rely solely, when their job is on the line, on “the new thing.” “No one got fired for choosing IBM” I think is very applicable here.

    Thanks Leonard for the forum…its a subject we need to talk a lot more about. As I stated in my previous post, I hope we will spend time talking about, in addition to technology, public relations and brand image of MR as an important facet to our future. Consider: research would be faster/cheaper/better if a higher % of consumers were receptive to our entreaties. Technology can help that…but what would help more is the public being aware this exists, how it benefits them and encourage them to engage in the process.

  29. Leonard Murphy says:

    July 11th, 2013 at 1:26 pm

    @Frankie, you are too kind by far, but thank you very much for the sentiment nonetheless! You are a gem. 🙂

    You and @Brett bring up some wonderful points on qualitative that are important and actually play into my own view of where I think the market may be going. I'll get into that in a minute...

    Just a point of clarification: my view on technology changes (and I think Greg probably shares this) is that MR, just like virtually every other industry, is reacting and adapting to broader trends. I think my analogy of other transformative technologies in the past is appropriate: the PC spawned a whole host of connected technologies and most importantly the internet. The internet forced the development of broadband which enabled the mobile revolution. Today we have an evolved system of global commerce and personal connectivity through a variety of devices that has arguably transformed just about every aspect of our civilization (and some studies indicate the actual physical evolution of our species). Since this Digital world is driven by data, it’s impact on MR is really just beginning to be felt.

    And that brings me back to our industry. I have been very vocal in my opinion that data related to who, what, when, where, and how is no longer the purview of MR; it's readily available through many other channels today. Yes, there will always be a need to fill in the gaps of data with additional attitudinal and behavioral data that MR can (and should) own, but our real value will be in being "keepers of the why" and that open the door to 3 primary offerings from MR suppliers: qualitative (in all it's permutations), unconscious measurement (neuroscience, behavioral economics, cognitive psychology and all variations thereof) and strategic data synthesis & analysis (pulling it all together and offering guidance to decision makers).

    The gist here is that the methods, technologies, and deliverables in our industry MUST adapt to broader shifts in our civilization and to data collection not being the primary driver of the business model, while embracing new modes that can deliver data to help generate business impact. Qual from the QRC perspective is very well positioned to make that shift (and already is), while quant is going to have a much harder time.

    Debates like this are helpful in framing the issues we as an industry and individual practitioners must grapple with. We need to start at the macro to understand the forces impacting us and then drill down to the micro, which I think everyone on this thread has helped accomplish. None of us know how it's all going to turn out, but at least if we're thinking about these issues (whether you agree with the implications or not) we can all be more effective in positioning ourselves for success.

  30. Brett Watkins says:

    July 11th, 2013 at 1:54 pm

    “We need to start at the macro to understand the forces impacting us and then drill down to the micro…”

    Amen. The “why”, and as you indicate the keeper of it, is essential to our progress as an industry. IMO, the question is whether we seize the opportunity, or allow someone else to make us irrelevant. Simon Sinek, “Start with Why”…may not seem relevant to some but I believe it to be 100% so in this discussion.

    Thanks again, Greg and Leonard, for introducing this thread.

  31. Dr Evan M Stark Phd says:

    July 11th, 2013 at 6:30 pm

    @Adriana: Yes, of course. Thank you.

  32. Kathryn Korostoff (@ResearchRocks) says:

    July 12th, 2013 at 6:32 am

    Wow, what great comments! Thanks to @Greg for challenging tired market research dogma. While I don’t agree with everything he said, kudos for taking a bold stand!

    Many excellent comments above (sometimes I think Ray Poynter reads my mind!!!), that I won’t bother being redundant with. Frankie & Lenny also seem to have been doing a vulcan mind meld with me.

    BUT I do want to say that, as an industry, we do need to raise awareness that market research is not defined by surveys and focus groups (and, as @Brett says,to raise understanding among research participants of what these conventional methods really are too!). There are LOTS of other market research methods out there.

    MY BIGGEST FEAR: I know too many researchers (client side and agency side) who default to surveys and focus groups. But if we researchers don’t seize the new methods, other professions will (and anecdotally, I know many cases where they already are). SO people without our vigilance about objectivity, sampling, etc are in effect DOING market research.

    I need to refresh a mini ebook I wrote last year called “Think Outside the Survey” (just a year later and I already need to add more topics to it!). But the link is here if you want to help educate others about how market research is more–much more–than surveys and focus groups. http://www.researchrockstar.com/think-outside-the-survey-free-ebook/

  33. Frankie Johnson says:

    July 12th, 2013 at 12:56 pm

    Thanks, Kathryn. Love your little book filled with big ideas. Yes, well worth an update.. can’t wait for the next installment. Hope lots of people download it and get to know what an excellent teacher you are.
    You, me and Lenny in a vulcan mind meld – sounds like fun!
    Happy weekend to all who have contributed to this great discussion.

  34. 5 Things That Will Become Obsolete in MR Sooner Than You Think | Thanks @aparnaray | Stuart Henshall says:

    July 12th, 2013 at 9:22 pm

    […] See the Original Post: […]

  35. The Research Superhighway | Research Design Review says:

    July 15th, 2013 at 3:44 pm

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  36. Kinesis Survey Technologies5 Market Rsearch Tools That Will Survive | Kinesis Survey Technologies says:

    July 17th, 2013 at 11:02 am

    […] that is rapidly morphing due to underlying technological and sociological change. (You can read it here.) While no specific time frame is offered, all of us can see the impact that social media, mobile […]

  37. What Marketers Could Learn from Techies | March Communications says:

    July 17th, 2013 at 12:54 pm

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  38. 3 Ways the World of Market Research is Evolving | March Communications says:

    September 13th, 2013 at 1:31 pm

    […] pick-up of anecdotes in conjunction with hard statistics.  As Greg Heist, a VP at Gongos Research puts it, “Quant or qual will be replaced by quant and qual.  The worlds will collide. Both will occur […]

  39. How the world of Market research is evolving? | LEARNfree | Free Online Certificate courses List | MOOC | eBooks Audio books says:

    October 8th, 2013 at 12:47 pm

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  40. Is Mobile Market Research Using Archaic Methods? | Sentient Insight says:

    October 15th, 2013 at 10:51 am

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  41. Five thought leaders shaping the future of market research | says:

    November 29th, 2013 at 9:19 am

    […] ways in which we need to adapt in response to the changing landscape. With top posts including ‘Five Things That Will Become Obsolete in MR Sooner Than you Think’ and ‘Millennials Will Disrupt Consumer Research. Here’s How …’ the blog is forward-thinking […]

  42. Peter says:

    December 27th, 2013 at 9:59 pm

    A great discussion with many interesting points being shared and discussed.

    Nonetheless, it seems to me that anything survey performed via the web or internet is considered Online survey. It does challenge my thinking that this isn’t going to go away anytime in the foreseeable future, where I do agree that How we perform the online survey would need to change.

    As for Focus group, this again would evolve too. The “old fashion” 2 hour or even 1 hour sitting in a room simply discussing and sharing isn’t going to work very well. However, if I were to gather a small group during an exhibition or expo where I’m launching new products & services, perform an on-the-spot Focus group type survey (less than 30 mins) to gather consumer insights with interactive observations on user experience – Isn’t this still a focus group approach?

    I suppose technologies are changing our lifestyle, the ways we communicate and interact, but fundamentally there are still some basic approaches that shouldn’t simply disappear.

  43. Steven Struhl says:

    December 28th, 2013 at 1:28 pm

    Interestingly enough, in all the many comments here a search for the word “innovation” turns up nothing. One of the principal problems with assertions about “the demise of” proclamations is that they look at research as unitary, that is, as supporting one type of activity. The methods slated for obsolescence are methods uniquely suited to experimentation and to testing of innovative ideas and approaches. I suspect that none of the minimal methods mentioned as disruptive and displacing will ever do a reasonable job with either of those goals in mind. They may prove to be useful for “temperature taking” types of activities, which unfortunately are a large part of the research business now, and perhaps its largest source of recurring revenues at that. This part of the research industry is indeed under attack, but to confuse this with all of research is to ignore the role of thinking and creativity. There is no doubt that research will need to deliver more of these, and along the way, embrace better analytics delivering deeper insights. But this does not suggest that these activities are doomed, unless we are looking forward to a long future of everything remaining much the same while we measure it in excruciating detail.

  44. Ari Popper says:

    February 4th, 2014 at 3:18 pm

    To quote the legendary sci fi writer and scientist, Arthur C. Clarke: “To have any hope of predicting the future, you have to be so outrageous that people will laugh you to scorn, only then will you have any chance of having a reasonable attempt at predicting the future.”

    Google: ‘Arthur C. Clarke BBC 1964.’

    I am not laughing Greg, I am admiring.

  45. Greg Heist says:

    February 4th, 2014 at 6:13 pm

    Ari,

    What a great quote. Love it!!

    Thanks for sharing it and the kind sentiments. You made my week.

  46. Michael Jennings says:

    February 11th, 2014 at 12:53 pm

    Greg, thanks for being the catalyst for an interesting discussion. One aspect that is under- appreciated is the traditional predicate for MR in the first place.

    I believe that the historic perception of the clients supporting MR is that it provided information that reduced risk in the development and marketing of products and services with traditionally long lead times and large capital requirements. The MR process and time frame was a fraction of that traditional product and service development process.

    With onrushing disruptive technology platforms like Facebook’s origami and 3D printing the whole risk reward factors for product, service and business development are changing. If a variation of a product can be conceived and manufactured in a week, what does that mean to an MR process that takes 3 months? To be relevant the information collection and customer based learning has to be responsive to this accelerating and collapsing timeframe.

    Companies like Shapeways are creating collections of contributed products from a universe of creators. The only cost/risk to Shapeways in offering these designs to the market is the cost to digitally catalogue and display the object.

    This is a world changing from lengthy and costly development of mass produced items with captive and often proprietary, unit cost optimized manufacturing, tooling and techniques to one that sells customized fulfillment, in quantities of one using digital open manufacturing.

    The MR process has to react to this disruptive progression, which will test it’s ability to contribute value in dramatically compressed timeframes. If the MR processes cannot react and retool to create timely value, it will lose influence and perhaps be replaced by CR (Consumer Response) after a digitally created product or experience has occurred.

  47. Is Mobile Market Research Using Archaic Methods? | Sentient Decision Science says:

    April 1st, 2014 at 12:07 pm

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  48. How Disruptions are Born—and How It Applies to the Market Research Discipline | GreenBook says:

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    […] Normalcy Bias: It’s fairly clear that normalcy bias is strongly at play in the mainstream of our industry. There’s a common feeling that, while change is encroaching on our profession, it will be slow, gradual and orderly. After all, our 70 years spent fixating on methodical purity and sample representativeness got us to where we are today. Therefore it’s not surprising that ten years in, MROCs are still not as fully adopted as online surveys. [As qualitative evidence of this, see below comments from a 7/9/13 post "5 Things That Will Become Obsolete in MR Sooner Than You Think."]1 […]

  49. Kinesis Survey Technologies5 Market Research Tools That will Survive says:

    June 26th, 2014 at 10:33 am

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