1. Clear Seas Research
  2. SIS International Research
  3. RN_In_App_Effectiveness_GBook_480_60
  4. imd2014_480x60

CASRO Transformation Spotlight: Schlesinger Associates – Cliff Jumping with Clients

When you hear a story of a company that started at the kitchen table and grew into a $100 million plus business the first thought that comes to mind is a tech company in Silicon Valley. However, this story is about a market research company that uses customer centricity as a primary catalyst for innovation.




Editor’s Note: Over the past year GreenBook and CASRO have been actively exploring opportunities to collaborate and have uncovered many synergies, especially a shared focus on showcasing companies that are navigating the changing research marketplace. With our focus on the future of the industry and CASRO’s leading position of advocating for and guiding the traditional players it is a natural fit for us to support one another.

With that in mind we decided to launch a new series that will be housed here on the GreenBook blog as well as on the just launched CASRO blog focused on presenting stories of companies in our space that are successfully transforming their businesses to flourish in our new world.  Today is the first in that series.

A while back I did an interview with Steve Schlesinger on a similar topic, but Jeff Resnick has done a masterful job of distilling the Schlesinger story into a compelling narrative that we think can be a road map for other companies as well. It’s a success story still being written for sure, but based on the evidence so far Schlesinger Associates should be an inspiration to other leaders in the industry.

CASRO and GreenBook hope you enjoy and find value in these spotlight stories; let us know what you think in the comments!


By Jeff Resnick of Stakeholder Advisory Services

When you hear a story of a company that started at the kitchen table and grew into a $100 million plus business the first thought that comes to mind is a tech company in Silicon Valley. However, this story is about a market research company that uses customer centricity as a primary catalyst for innovation. The aspiration of this firm? — to become the dominant data collection platform out there – period.

I recently had the opportunity to spend time with Steve Schlesinger, CEO of Schlesinger Associates to discuss the issue of business transformation, how the Schlesinger team achieved it and what the future holds. For Schlesinger, transformation is the end result of four key principles – customer centricity, continuous evaluation of business processes, ensuring the right people are in the right jobs and learning to fail faster.

Every great business has a tipping point. For Schlesinger, a company that was founded by the family matriarch in 1965, the tipping point occurred in 2011. Malcolm Gladwell defines a tipping point as the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point – that moment where change accelerates beyond expectation and has a dramatic impact. In 2011, the executive team convened for a discussion about the future. The team knew they had already built a great company. The company had grown every one of its 48 years with one exception – 2009, a year where revenues were flat – and a year most of us in the business world would like to forget. What the team struggled with was how to dramatically grow the company to levels well beyond its current revenue. The answer wasn’t in the room that day but the decision concerning how to find the answer was. Schlesinger held a summit, 25 leaders from around the industry. Clients, business partners and those knowledgeable about the industry participated in a day-long meeting with the first half of the day devoted to understanding trends in the industry and the second half focused on a single question – “If you were in our shoes, what would you do?” The answers formed the foundation of the strategy that Schlesinger now follows and is the reason the Schlesinger team wakes up every morning knowing the best days for the industry and their firm lie ahead.

Customer centricity is a phrase that is bantered around a lot but often poorly defined. For the Schlesinger team, it means digging deep to understand how they can best help their clients solve problems. According to Steve, there isn’t a magic bullet for achieving customer centricity. It takes continuous dialog and a commitment to make customer input part of the foundation of decision making. It is a two way street. Customers continuously tell Steve they value that Schlesinger is always bringing them new ideas – ways to make their data collection process more efficient, new tools and techniques available that drive deeper insights as well as the professionals who know how to use them. At times the Schlesinger team and the client mutually decide to “jump off a cliff together” trying something that might or might not work but offers great potential. This mutual act of courage stretches the envelope of ideas for what its clients will value. It is one antidote to becoming obsolete.

Looking at business process through a different lens – Constant re-examination of how work is completed is essential to transformation. In the case of Schlesinger, ongoing process innovation is driven by the establishment of close interactive working relationships with the insight provider (a full service market research firm or a consulting boutique), the end client and the Schlesinger team. This inter-dependent relationship paradigm is the key to achieving successful outcomes for clients and allows Schlesinger to anticipate needs of clients rather than simply react to requests for data collection. Perhaps even more importantly, this also allows Schlesinger to understand how the needs of their clients are evolving and stay ahead of the evolution curve.

The right people – At times a business cannot be transformed unless new skills and talents are brought into the firm. The importance of leadership in new areas that brings deep expertise in that area cannot be understated, nor can the cultural upheaval this can cause in a tight knit group of people who often see themselves as a family. Over the past three years, Schlesinger has brought in more than 12 senior individuals with expertise in areas where it previously had no or very limited expertise. The decision to move in this direction was key to getting on the path of growth acceleration. Organic internal change would have been too slow. Today, there is a great blend of “new” and “old” with long time members of the Schlesinger team seeing the benefits of external input.

Learning to fail faster – One of the most interesting points of the conversation with Steve Schlesinger was his attitude toward failure. Steve and his team continue to transform quickly and with that, the recognition that failure will happen. However, in his mind, one of the most important elements to infuse within the culture of the organization is permission to fail – “we can’t fear this.” However, the skill elusive to many, is knowing when to walk away from a new person, product, service or process. Steve believes there is great learning in failure but human nature is often to not accept failure and keep working until ‘you get it right.’ This becomes a drain of resources – financial and human capital. Deciding to end an effort is part of making hard choices as a leader. Without failure there can’t be growth.

What’s the bottom line on business transformation at Schlesinger & Associates? Adopt customer centricity as your mantra, keep a constant eye on your business processes, hire the right people even if cultural friction results and learn to fail faster. It is how you make a market research company look more like a maturing Silicon Valley business enterprise.



Schlesinger Associates is a leading market research services provider. With offices strategically located across key markets the US, UK, France and Germany, this talented team provides global solutions for the most challenging of qualitative and quantitative research needs. An uncompromising commitment to their clients’ study experience and research success sets them apart.


Jeffrey Henning’s #MRX Top 10: C’est la Vie, around the World

Of the 2,105 unique links shared on #MRX last week, here are 10 of the most retweeted:


 By Jeffrey Henning

Of the 2,105 unique links shared on #MRX last week, here are 10 of the most retweeted:

  1. Race/Immigration Retains Its Position as the Most Important Issue Facing Britain Today – Immigration remains the top issue for the second month in a row in Britain, after displacing the economy. Third in importance to Brits is the NHS (National Health Service), followed by unemployment.
  2. 80% of Your Research Should Be with Your Customers – Ray Poynter recalls that when he joined the industry in the 1970s, most research was conducted with the entire market (i.e., nationally representative samples).  As categories, companies, and products proliferated, research in the 1980s and ’90s focused on users vs. non-users of product categories. Starting in the 2000s, research has come to focus on customers, where “most good ideas for the brand will be seen”.
  3. Ipsos Global Trends 2014: Navigating the New – Ipsos surveyed 32,000 consumers in 20 major countries in September and October of 2013 on a wide variety of subjects, from society and the economy, to governments and privacy, brands, science and technology, and the environment. They report the results, in detail.
  4. Text Analytics at Disney – Tom H.C. Anderson shares an OdinText case study from AMA TV that looks at how Disney worked around some Hispanics’  Extreme Response Scale pattern of answering questions to dig into what really drove their satisfaction with Disneyland.
  5. A Big Picture of the Trends in Mobile Market Research – Ray Poynter writes, “Mobile devices can do so much more than just surveys; passive data, push notification, and location based services are just the start. The phone is becoming a window into people’s lives.”
  6. So You Think Your Company Is Customer-Centric, But Is It Really? – Vision Critical shares the infographic below about customer-experience-leading companies.
  7. China Overtakes the USA as the World’s Largest Economy – By one measure, that of the economy in Purchasing Power Parity, China is overtaking the US this year. Euromonitor’s new white paper looks at the impact of the continuing growth of China on other markets.
  8. 58% of UK Consumers ‘Unconcerned’ About Data Sharing – Writing for Research, Bronwen Morgan reports on a Webtrends survey of 2,000 UK adults that finds that concern about sharing data with brands is correlated to age: younger respondents are the least concerned.
  9. C’est la Vie – Christine Birkner of Marketing News interviewed Landor Associations about their ongoing ethnographic research with 11 French families, now in its seventh year. Key advice: Dig deep into the contradictions between what consumers say and what they do.
  10. “Visibility is the key to engaging young people” – This is the second in a series of YouTube discussions from VisionsLive discussing why there aren’t more young people in the market research industry.



Note: This list is ordered by the relative measure of each link’s influence in the first week it debuted in the weekly Top 5. A link’s influence is a tally of the influence of each Twitter user who shared the link and tagged it #MRX. Only market research links are considered, although the #MRX hashtag is occasionally used for other types of tweets, including – recently – tweets about Mr. X, an upcoming Indian 3D thriller film.



Do Marketing Measurements Matter in a Real Time World?

Multi-channel marketing in a digital world is a far different cry from the world of reach, exposures and demographic penetrations.



By Ellen Woods
Multi-channel marketing in a digital world is a far different cry from the world of reach, exposures and demographic penetrations. With the majority of content access occurring over tablets and phones, the ability to measure marketing effectiveness via traditional approaches is becoming less and less reliable.

What has become clear is that traditional measurement methods are often not viable and rarely reflective of a consumer’s true interaction with a brand. While it is difficult to tell if consumers overall are more or less dissatisfied than in past generations, it is clear that blunt force measurements of the past (ratings and scales) were really never that accurate. Equally clear is that consumers are fed up with their interactions with many brands, and often choose social media and its virality to voice their dissatisfactions.

It’s also apparent that the majority of consumers simply tune out screaming voices, regardless of the source, and gave an equal cold shoulder to marketers, non-passive advertising and dissatisfied customers. Decisions for larger purchases often engage reviews at third party sites such as Amazon, regardless of intended purchase channels, and smaller purchase decisions are often made at the shelf and based on the perceived value “within the moment”.

However the value of marketing performance is measured within an organization, marketing’s shift into a sales role (now common practice in many organizations) has created additional pressure on performance and in most organizations, has yet to be proved cost effective because the value of unattained business is not a calculable variable, especially without clear corollaries that extend beyond competitive sales data.

Another factor that is often underrated and rarely measured is the constant barrage of negative and shocking news that parlays our worst fears into almost a daily dose of terror and sadness that has changed our cultural imperatives. We are numb to shock value and turn deaf ears to those who aren’t a mix of entertainer and informer.

The response of marketers to these challenges so far has been to become more aggressive by forcing content into our consumption patterns without allowing the consumer white space. Overlay ads, native advertising, and gateway blockers in the form of pop-ups delaying access to or hiding content and forcing response permeate our world. It’s like have the worst salesmen in history hanging out in your living room and…following you into the bathroom.

Apparently irritating people with content on your best brand attributes is ok as long as you can measure how many people you irritated. Does that seem somewhat counter intuitive? How often does a company measure how many consumers they alienate other than in a totally disastrous campaign?

While the problem is so pervasive it’s hard to fault any one company or industry more than another, the real issue is innovation in both products and communication. Virality is a double edged sword and the fastest way for value propositions to be realized or dissected and dematerialized. In order to achieve positive virility, the message has to draw interest in rather than simply be pushed out and the product has to fulfill the expectations put forth by the brand and its messaging. When that happens, the success becomes an easy measurement for both or points to obvious flaws when only one or the other succeed.

Because information exists in an eco-system and consumers have access to both internal and externally generated content, the current measurements within a campaign often fail to look at the extent of influence extended by the campaign on factors such as satisfaction and loyalty as well as factors such as brand equity. Those types of measurements are rarely done in real time or in relation to a single product and when they are, they often use legacy methods. Because most measurements aren’t integrated they don’t measure the brand eco-system, so the impact on brand’s overall strength is indeterminate.

So the realization is that brand measurements do matter, but not in the way we are used to exercising them. For brands to realize their true positioning and the impact of particular products and services, the models need to incorporate a bottom-up approach where activity measurements are identified by buyer segments, messaging is formulated to those buying segments (and their most vocal components), tracked by virality and the impact on all aspects of the brand. This also provides a method for the establishment of an ROI and the ability to establish the true value of products and services, messaging and the analytics that drive that process.

It is the true “voice of the customer” approach and the first step to a trusting relationship with customers. If you doubt that, take a look at the way small businesses grow; it’s not rocket science but rather good listening skills.


The Era of Average is Over – 4 Insights How NOT to get Left Behind

With nothing standing in the way of technologic progress, it is unlikely that our future will be created by average people from average backgrounds using average skills that generate average results.

stand out from the crowd

By Kristof De Wulf 

In the past 30 years, millions of people have lost their jobs to the rise of computerized automation, technology and robots offering unparalleled efficiency, reliability and performance benefits. Experts state that we are at the crucial tipping point often referred to as the ‘great decoupling’, with economic growth for the first time not followed by a similar increase in job creation. Bold predictions state that a robot journalist could win a Pulitzer within 5 years, that all human work will be fully outsourced to robots by 2045 and that humans can even fall in love with and marry robots by 2050.

While many of these predictions seem far-fetched at first sight, it is clear that especially people with ‘ordinary’ skills and abilities will be most affected by this global shift from ‘people having jobs’ to ‘technology taking over’. With nothing standing in the way of technologic progress, it is unlikely that our future will be created by average people from average backgrounds using average skills that generate average results. While our economy will always depend on humans who buy, use, create and connect, we will need to learn more than ever how to go beyond being average and to develop our own unique skills and capabilities. Everyone will need to find their ‘extra’, moving beyond what we have learned and stepping out of our comfort zones.

People with ‘ordinary’ skills and abilities will be most affected by this global shift from ‘people having jobs’ to ‘technology taking over’.

1. Embrace Bias

The term bias is an ugly word to many people. With most of human knowledge grounded in probability theory and drawn from random samples, we instinctively work hard to root out unwanted biases. While some forms of bias are indeed troublesome, we need to embrace other kinds of bias to act intelligently and make progress. Think for example of the way organizational cultures are often biased positively towards a specific purpose. A company like Patagonia serves as a good example here. Every new recruit receives a copy of its founder’s book Let My People Go Surfing, which charts Patagonia’s history and vision; at the headquarters people take their surfboards to work to catch a few waves during breaks; employees can apply for 2-month not-for-profit internships during which they’re still paid by Patagonia. It turns Patagonia people into a special kind of people, living and working according to their own biased rules.

Bias is also present in the capacity of ‘outliers’, i.e. observations that deviate so much from average observations that they arouse the suspicion of being generated by a different mechanism. Many of the world’s greatest inventions are a direct result of looking deeper into the root causes and context of outliers, with Post-it notes, Velcro or Corn Flakes all being the result of accidental discoveries rather than intended innovations. Similarly we see an increased interest in less ‘representative’ research techniques. For example, communities of interested and interesting people working together on a specific topic taking the lead as the fastest growing research method according to the latest edition of the GreenBook Research Industry Trends Report.

Bias is also present in the capacity of ‘outliers’, i.e. observations that deviate so much from average observations that they arouse the suspicion of being generated by a different mechanism.

Finally, social media thrives on bias. While a lot of our thinking is based on the assumption all persons are equal (think for example of elections), in the digital age, people act as an interconnected network rather than a group of randomly isolated individuals, with a limited number of social influencers shaping the opinions of the masses that gravitate towards them.

2. Fight the Norm

Did you ever catch yourself staring at a person who is different from ‘the norm’? It is a deeply rooted human trait to embrace whatever we know and to reject whatever is new to or different from us. It explains why most people desire to fit into society and live by existing rules. I am sure many of you have watched the inspirational TEDx talk by Lizzie Velasquez who suffers from a medical condition that prevents her from gaining weight. The condition is so rare that only two other people in the entire world are known to have it. Instead of trying to comply with the norm and fit in, she decided to turn her non-average condition into a strength, becoming a successful motivational speaker.

A similar path was walked recently in this campaign, where Intermarché launched a brilliant and successful campaign, creating a separate range of oddly looking ‘Inglorious Fruits & Vegetables’ that do not fit the norm, celebrating the beauty of the ‘Grotesque Apple’, the ‘Ridiculous Potato’, the ‘Hideous Orange’ and so many other ‘outcasts’. Scarcity can be a great way to think outside of what is normal. Being confronted with a shortage of cocoa due to World War II rationing, Pietro Ferrero extended his chocolate supply with hazelnuts to develop the famous Nutella spread. By challenging the chocolate norm, he created a far less expensive way for people to enjoy something that tasted great. The product still is a world hit today with 250,000 tons of Nutella being sold in 75 countries each year.

Being able to tap into a global creative, interconnected and sharing brain, specialization will overtake generalization.

3. Become the Specialist Among Specialists

Being able to tap into a global creative, interconnected and sharing brain, specialization will overtake generalization. People like Bill Gates and the Beatles have gone beyond our normal understanding of achievement, putting in enormous amounts of time before hitting the big one. Malcolm Gladwell calls it the ’10,000 hour rule’, meaning that to a large extent the key to success in any field is a matter of practicing a specific task for at least 10,000 hours. Or, as the French scientist Louis Pasteur put it: “In the field of observation, chance favors only the prepared mind.” You could argue that specialization is the core secret to Germany becoming the soccer World Cup winner this year. After a terrible ‘Euro 2000’ campaign, Germany introduced national talent centers with more than 1,000 part-timers coaching children aged 8 to 14, defined new Bundesliga rules enabling young German talents to fast-track into the club system and embraced a healthy work ethic putting a dedicated focus on the ball and nothing but the ball. They went through extraordinary lengths to create the world’s best soccer team by narrowly focusing on how young players can progress more rapidly in a redefined German soccer culture and structure.

The key to success in any field is a matter of practicing a specific task for at least 10,000 hours.

4. Cherish Diversity

Traditional management practices have long been cheering the virtues of homogeneity, with organizations grouping individuals that are mainly copycats of one another. In today’s world, diversity clearly outweighs homogeneity. By opening up to diverse sets of people having different backgrounds, interests and skills, we are all able to do better. In line with its purpose and mission, Amnesty International takes special care of recruiting a group of employees who are as diverse as possible, providing the necessary conditions for mutual understanding and progress. Cherishing diversity also means exploring atypical environments that stimulate human creativity. As long as we create the necessary conditions for it, anyone can be creative. Having showers in your office might be a cleverer idea than having meeting rooms. Our creative brain benefits from the dopamine released from and distractive effect of taking a relaxing, warm shower, which is why the best ideas are born in the shower.

By opening up to diverse sets of people having different backgrounds, interests and skills, we are all able to do better.

In a world that is in urgent need of extraordinary thinking, we can no longer rely on average people or solutions. Despite obvious challenges that lie ahead of us, the good thing about today’s society is that everyone in it has the power to be extraordinary in their unique way. I am interested in learning what your ‘extra’ is and how other people can benefit from it!


A Big Picture of the Trends in Mobile Market Research

Marketers, insight professionals, and market researchers need to be aware that mobile is already a major part of existing research methods. So, here is my Big Picture of the Key Trends in Mobile Market Research.

By Ray Poynter

During the last week I have made three separate presentations in Tokyo on the topic of the key trends in mobile market research and I have found that creating a big picture has helped get my message across. I use the big picture as the first and last slide of the presentation to show where I am heading and to sum up the message. The audience seem to feel that a big picture makes the ideas clearer and helps provided an integrated understanding of what is happening and why.

So, here is my Big Picture of the Key Trends in Mobile Market Research.

Why is mobile so interesting?
The key reasons are all shown inside the phone. Ubiquity refers to the fact that about 70%-80% of the world’s adults have a mobile phone, and the penetration is growing. Mobile phones are the most widely owned device on the planet, and they are changing the way humans communicate.

Because people have their phone with them all the time, 24/7, they provide a better way of contacting people. Better than waiting for people to answer the phone, open their email, or answer the door. The phone is with people ‘in the moment’, i.e. when they are actually doing things.

Increasingly phones are smartphones and connected to the internet. In 2014 we can’t assume that enough people have smartphones connected to the internet to ignore other methods and options, but the trend is towards most of the people that we tend to research being fully smartphone and tablet connected.

Mobile devices can do so much more than just surveys, passive data, push notification, and location based services are just the start. The phone is becoming a window into people’s lives.

Mobile is already a major part of ‘traditional’ research
Marketers, insight professionals, and market researchers need to be aware that mobile is already a major part of existing research methods. In terms of CATI, the amount that is conducted via mobile phone has been rising in most developed markets and is currently around 40%-60% in many markets. In the emerging markets, such as most of Africa, the mobile percentage is much HIGHER. In countries where incomes are lower, it tends to be just the well-off who have a fixed-line telephone, most people have just mobile phones.

20%-30% of online surveys are being attempted by people using mobile devices (phones, phablets, and tablets), so most people doing online are already doing mobile.

In terms of face-to-face and qual research, mobile devices are increasingly being used, for example in mCAPI where the interviewer has a tablet or phone instead of a clipboard.

Mobile is creating/expanding other forms of market research
Participative, or WE-research, is enlisting the person previously known as the respondent to be an active player in the research process. Participants are seeking out experiences, capturing photos and videos, and suggesting commentary. This reaches places that researchers could not reach and empowers customers and citizens.

Passive data collection adds objective information to the subjective picture the participant can supply, and with no effort required by the participant, and no reliance on their memory. Passive data is telling us what people do, when then do, how long they do it, and in many cases where and with whom they do it.

In the moment research is reminding us of how bad our memories are. Collecting fresh insights, in the moment when products and services are being experienced is opening the door to much more accurate, detailed, and relevant research.

Location based services are allowing us to follow people through their day and ‘push’ requests to them based on where they are and what they are doing – giving us the best possible in the moment data.

Want more?
Of course, whilst a big picture is all some people need, a detailed picture is what others want. For mobile market research the detailed picture is going to be available in about a month with the release of our new book, “The Handbook of Mobile Market Research”, which is being published by Wiley and is available from Amazon. You can download a free chapter from the NewMR website, click here.


Chart The Future Of Research: Participate In The Summer 2014 GreenBook Research Industry Trends (GRIT) Survey

We’d like to invite you to share your experiences and perspective with us in the Summer 2014 GreenBook Research Industry Trends (GRIT) Survey.

GRIT Fall 2014


It’s that time of year again folks! Time for the marketing insights space to take our own pulse, reflect on the course of 2014 so far and how we think 2015 may look for us, and set our sights toward charting the course of what the future may hold for us all.

We’d like to invite you to share your experiences and perspective with us in the Summer 2014 GreenBook Research Industry Trends (GRIT) Survey

Only with the support of marketing and insights professionals like you can GRIT continue to yield insights into how research buyers and providers are adapting to the rapidly evolving research landscape.

Join thousands of global researchers and help our community better understand where we are and where we’re headed.


The survey takes less than 15 minutes to complete (really; we have timed it many times over and made some adjustments to make it shorter!).

What we’ll be covering: 

  • Usage of traditional methods and technology
  • Adoption of new methods and technology
  • Profiling the researcher of the future: what skills and qualities are necessary for success
  • Budget/revenue projections for 2015
  • Engagement with and influence of media channels, trade bodies and industry resources

What’s new: 

  • Hacking Market Research: Based off an interactive problem solving session at IIeX, take part in this trade off exercise to identify solutions for bridging the gap between client needs and supplier offerings.
  • “Chunking”: the survey instrument has been divided into randomized “chunks” so no respondent will get all the questions, but hundreds of respondents will answer each question

Don’t miss this chance to give back and support your profession.

All who complete the survey will receive:

  • Full version of the GRIT report detailing the results of this survey
  • Exclusive access to an interactive online dashboard with the complete dataset for your own analysis
  • Priority registration to webinars featuring industry experts and thought leaders who will discuss GRIT’s results and implications

As our industry changes rapidly, it’s more important than ever to truly understand what is happening and what the implications are for the business and profession of market research.

Who should participate: 

  • Market research suppliers, technology providers, and consultants
  • Client-side marketing and insights professionals
  • Academics

 Special thanks to all GRIT partners: 


Bottom-Line Analytics



Gen2 Advisors


Insites Consulting

Q Research Software


Vision Critical











Insight Innovation Group

International Market Research Society

Market Research Field Directors





Neuromarketing Group






Research & Results


The Research Club


Wisconsin School of Business


Thank you in advance for sharing your time and experience with us!


Gathering Consumer Feedback Has Morphed over the Years … or Has It?

Market research has come a long way in the past 60 years as the methods used to collect information have evolved. One thing that hasn’t changed though is the importance of observation and conversation in research, and the nuanced information that such approaches can provide.

By Donna Taglione

Market research has come a long way in the past 60 years as the methods used to collect information have evolved. One thing that hasn’t changed though is the importance of observation and conversation in research, and the nuanced information that such approaches can provide.

Once upon a time, (way back during the 1950’s and 60’s) women wearing hats and white gloves went to neighborhoods all over the country knocking on doors to find out how the lady of the house used a certain product, how she might want use it and what she liked and disliked about certain brands. Under the guidance of ‘Doc’ Smelser, P&G’s first head of market research, and tapping into a familiar business model of the time – the door-to-door salesman (think Fuller Brush and Hoover vacuums) – these interviewers were trained to ask questions conversationally.

These professionals were perhaps the first qualitative market researchers as they were literally conducting in-home interviews. They carried no clip boards or writing materials. Only upon leaving the house did they record, from memory, the key points of each exchange. These first product tests used the technology of the time – observation and conversation – to get consumer feedback.

Fast forward to 2014 … considering the explosion of technology over the past 50+ years what is one of the most requested research techniques? In-home interviews. You know what they say – what goes around comes around!  Observation and conversation are still a vital part of the qualitative research tool box today for a lot of really good reasons. Chief among them is the ability to watch the consumer interact with a product and talk with her (or him) as the interaction takes place.  Ethnographers have always knows that respondents can’t tell us about things they don’t notice or do so unconsciously they’re not even aware they’re doing it. Observation is a powerful tool. There’s no failed memory, no “I think” this or “I’m pretty sure” that.

The ability to reach out and touch consumers in-the-moment provides marketers, packagers, R&D and consumer insight generators the ability to see the delights or experience the frustrations with a product as they are experienced. Research has always been conducted with the intent of making products better. Over time, the importance of observation and conversation has ebbed and flowed. In the mid-1960’s, as telephone interviewing capabilities surged, companies found they could conduct surveys across a wider target much more efficiently than going door-to-door. What they lacked in candid responses to a few questions they made up for with statistically valid data – tremendous amounts of data. But marketers wanted and needed more. More detail, more depth, more involvement and interaction.

Trying to understand the reasons behind the numbers, focus groups came out of suburban basements in the early 1980’s and facilities were built in nearly every major market across the country. Exploring the motivation behind a purchase, or understanding why an advertisement was successful (or wasn’t) was easier to accomplish with groups of like-minded or demographically similar people than it was going street by street knocking on doors.

Accelerate time even more to the late 1990’s and early 2000’s and recall when access to the Internet expanded the scope of marketing research even further. Respondents were no longer required to answer questions when the interviewer knocked or dialed; they could answer at a time that was convenient for them. Yet the more we change, the more we stay the same. Technology has helped us improve our ability to process information with speed and efficiency. But there simply is no replacing the detailed information and nuance that can be learned through observation and conversation. Keep in mind, though, these aren’t your grandmother’s in-homes! Today, we can enter the home of a consumer to watch them interact with a product and, with the placement of a small lipstick camera, we can also watch them interact with the product over time. We can drive around town with consumers and we can even follow them on vacation.

It is in these one-on-one observational situations that we truly pick up on distinctions that aren’t available online, by phone or via a completed mail or web survey. Sometimes we can’t even pick up on the same level of detail in a focus group. That’s why the 2014 researcher’s qualitative tool box needs to be extensive. Most importantly it should definitely include in-home interviews.

That doesn’t mean we have unlimited freedom to observe how consumers interact with a product in their home. We have found that a maximum of four researchers is an acceptable number of “observers” before the end user feels like she’s being watched a little too closely. Casual observation suddenly feels like surveillance! After all, how “normal” would you act with seven pairs of eyes watching your every move?

Besides with access to streaming video, not all observers even have to be in the house. Advances in technology allow researchers to see the in-home details that they would otherwise miss if they were not onsite. In addition, texting probes to onsite moderators actually allow clients to interact with the consumers while maintaining a sense of normalcy.
Naomi Henderson, RIVA founder and author of Secrets of a Master Moderator, explains it this way: “Quantitative research asks the questions, qualitative research questions the answers.” It is true that hearing, seeing, watching, and interacting with a consumer in their own environment trumps any biases that might exist utilizing an observational approach.
That’s one of the major reasons why observation and conversation, the only way to gather respondent feedback in the infancy of marketing research, are still a vital part of the consumer feedback loop today. Lucky for us we no longer have to go door-to-door to get them.

Donna Taglione is a vice president at Morpace Inc. with more than 20 years of experience in qualitative research on both the client and supplier sides. She can be reached at dtaglione@morpace.com


Designing Research in an Insta-Everything World

When designing market research, micro methodologies accommodate shorter attention spans by asking respondents to complete surveys in just 2-5 minutes. A “micro experience” offers respondents the convenience of participating in between other important daily activities without having to set aside a large block of time for market research.


By Caleb Costa

Research suggests attention spans are shortening.

Sociologist David Moxon of Lloyds conducted a study with 1000 people that showed the average attention span has fallen to just 5 minutes, down from 12 minutes 10 years prior. “More than ever, research is highlighting a trend in reduced attention and concentration spans, and as our experiment suggests, the younger generation appear to be the worst afflicted,” said Dr. Moxon, who led the survey.

I recently read an interesting article that discussed a new practice gaining popularity in top medical schools to help combat shortened attention spans in young physicians. It’s called a “museum intervention” and is mandatory at Yale’s School of Medicine for all first-year medical students. The goal of the course is to enhance observational skills and improve diagnostic knack by teaching students to slow down and focus on the details by describing what they see in Victorian era paintings.

When designing market research, micro methodologies accommodate shorter attention spans by asking respondents to complete surveys in just 2-5 minutes. A “micro experience” offers respondents the convenience of participating in between other important daily activities without having to set aside a large block of time for market research. Fundamentally, micro methods capture a respondent’s attention because they fit the way we’ve grown accustomed to interacting in an insta-everything world. In my own personal experience with surveys, I begin to repeatedly check the status bar after about 5 minutes to see how close I am to completion and to earning my reward. Ask yourself, when was the last time you spent 30 or 45 minutes intently taking a survey?

One of the most memorable lessons a colleague of mine shared after some 30 years as a social scientist was, “don’t forget respondents are people too”. It’s a fairly simple concept but is often overlooked as we design surveys using complex methodologies and with exploratory aspirations. It’s easy to forget to focus on the respondent experience; after all we presume a meager honorarium is sufficient motivation for continued attention to each battery of questions.

Getting closer to your (respondent) customer means interacting in ways that are convenient for them, which in turn will yield the best quality data for you. A well-constructed micro survey drills down to focus on only what’s most important. Micro surveys or mini qualitative interviews aren’t designed to replace large-scale market research, such as forecasting or segmentation projects, but rather to help drive improved clarity and strategic decision-making before and after these pivotal longer term projects. A healthy blend of micro experience research with your target audience enables you to reach them more often and in ways that fit their lifestyle, providing additional insight into past and future behavior.

When thinking about lifestyle and convenience for respondents I would be remiss not to mention the continued increase in mobile survey usage. During the month of April in our own research with some 1,661 physicians, we found that 54% completed surveys on their mobile phones, 8% on a tablet and these numbers continue to increase. Perhaps it’s not surprising that a greater number of physicians prefer to engage in market research using mobile devices, but it does mean that all online research should always be designed with this in mind.

I’d like to share a few best practices we’ve grown to adopt at InCrowd after analyzing response rates and dropout data from hundreds of micro surveys with physicians globally. When designing a micro-survey, start by selecting a user friendly and intuitive survey application. The good news is technology in this area is continuing to improve and isn’t too hard to locate. You will also need some familiarity with the way your selected application renders the survey on mobile devices to optimize for a positive mobile user experience.

Three key mobile survey design considerations:

• Question type:
o Keep it simple! Asking complex or clunky questions is never a good idea, especially in mobile surveys. On the rare occasion that you must ask a matrix or grid question, do so at the end of the survey in order to improve response rates and user experience. We’ve seen our internal response rates improve by as much as 11% when following this simple practice. Again, it’s about attention span and learning how to hold a respondent’s interest long enough to acquire the needed information.

• Presenting stimuli, i.e. an image or product profile:
o Size is highly relevant and, more importantly, the amount of scrolling/navigation required when viewing stimuli on a small screen should be minimized. This can vary somewhat based on the application you’re using but a general best practice for optimized online and mobile viewing is to use images 315 pixels wide and 450 for height.

• Time to launch:
o There is a best time to launch micro surveys and send reminder emails to respondents. Not surprisingly, response rates are highest in the early morning before people start their day. Remember to account for time zone changes and if the application you are using doesn’t allow you to send invitations by time zone, consider 8:30-10am EST, giving you a good chance to reach a wide east and west coast audience.

Given the continued increase in mobile usage across all categories of consumers, be they physicians or other highly sought after professionals, an optimized mobile survey experience provides better data when collecting market research online. This is the case whether your respondents interact with the survey via a mobile app or using the mobile web. Our most successful clients use the best practices outlined above to harness micro methodologies. This allows them to fill knowledge gaps in real-time, often providing them with more time to analyze insights and support decisions in an ever-changing insta-everything world. If you aren’t doing so already, consider implementing a healthy mix of micro experience based real-time market research into your marketing arsenal. After all, how valuable do you feel a customer’s attention span is to your research?

Photo by Dr. Farouk


Increasing Intimacy Through Rapport 

With intimacy becoming the new buzz word in the industry, it is important to step back and think about not only the opportunities we have to promote closer relationships, but also the barriers in front of us by way of past and current practices.

connected_sm_500By Will Pirkey of iModerate

Reading the title you might think this is a self-help article on relationships. In a way it is, but rather than the relationships you typically think about (romantic, family, friendship) this is about the relationship with your respondents. Much like our personal relationships, our connection with those that participate in research can be improved by increasing intimacy. Intimacy produces greater trust, understanding, and knowledge of another person’s experiences, perceptions and perspectives. It’s what allows us to truly get to know another person or group of people. And isn’t that what we are after as researchers? If we are going to build intimacy we have to build rapport with the people we are asking to take part in our research projects.

The concept of intimacy is receiving increased attention in market research. Recently, large companies such as General Mills[1] and Intel[2] have expressed their commitment to building more intimate relationships and achieving a better understanding of consumers’ stories as essential aspects of their research approach. Additionally, a recent study on the desires of CMOs cites the crucial need to build and maintain intimacy with customers[3]. Our blog has also recently opined about the importance of intimacy in a Big Data world.

With intimacy becoming the new buzz word in the industry, I believe it is important to step back and think about not only the opportunities we have to promote closer relationships, but also the barriers in front of us by way of past and current practices. That is the thing with buzzwords: they sound great as ideas, but too often reality makes turning those ideas into action difficult. If we are to achieve greater intimacy in our research and with our consumers, then we need to start by thinking about what changes and new innovations are necessary.

One of the first things I noticed when I started working in the field of online market research is the lack of a relationship we have with our respondents. We bid with sample vendors to supply respondents. They are sent through an exercise once and usually never engaged again. We take no time to get to know them. Even if we wanted to build more long-term relationships with respondents it is difficult due to the high turnover rates on most panels. Not to mention, we also treat people as a commodity for which we can get the lowest price per complete. In turn, we have many respondents who are only engaged via the incentive they get for completing a survey. This can result in bad data (e.g. straight-lining, bad open ends, etc.) and does little to create intimacy. I have to ask: Is this the best way to engage and build relationships with respondents? Can we find intimacy in a purely commoditized relationship? While incentives will always be a part of the deal with respondents, can we deepen our relationship by creating more of a community feel and reciprocity that goes beyond dollars, cents, and panel points?

Coming from a background in Cultural Anthropology, the impersonal relationship plaguing online market research is definitely a new experience. As an anthropologist, the backbone to any research started and finished with building strong relationships with the people participating, or better yet, collaborating in my research. On day one of grad school developing rapport was stressed as one of the most important aspects of successful, quality research. And by rapport I mean building a close relationship through developing trust, communication and emotional connections. I found that once people realized you are truly interested in learning about their experiences, opinions, and lives they open up and begin to share on a much deeper level. While monetary incentives were used, they were not the basis of the relationship that developed. Now I realize that online market research and ethnographic fieldwork are two very different animals; however, if our industry wants to move to more intimate relationships with consumers in research, we can learn a lot from the latter to do just that.

When conducting fieldwork the connections I created were on a personal level. I thought of these people more like friends and family and not research subjects (and I think they felt similarly towards me).  This type of relationship allowed me to learn about the lives of people in, my case, Belize, but also for them to learn about my life back home and my experience living in their community. It was a two-way street where the exchange of knowledge went in both directions. This might be a larger point for another time, but through building greater rapport and more long-term research collaborations (as I think is best to think about the research process), the act of conducting research can be an important touch point. If the groundwork is laid properly people begin to feel some sort of belonging and thus intimacy is created beyond the research process. It just may be the case where conducting more thoughtful research can lead to stronger relationships between brand and consumer as people feel more connected to the companies they truly engage with.

Now for the difficult part, how do we actualize more intimate research in an environment that currently is structured to promote the opposite? Is it possible to develop true rapport in an online environment? What would it look like? How do we make respondents feel more like collaborators? Are there new ways to keep participants engaged, engaged for longer periods of time, and increase the ease of re-contacting them? As an industry, answering questions such as these are crucial for developing deeper, more long-term relationships.

While changes in how we sample need to be made by research and panel companies, if we are going to move to greater intimacy, we can also think of designing new research projects that intend to engage participants in a more collaborative relationship. This will ultimately involve conducting more qualitative research since it is the approach best suited to develop rapport. We should also ask – how would trackers look if we qualitatively gauged changing perceptions/attitudes with the same set of participants over a whole year? How could the R&D phase improve if we had future consumers collaborating in the entire process?  Can we work together with research participants in the creation of concepts instead of showing them a set of previously developed options? Can we find new ways to connect on a more emotional level?

To wrap things up, if we want to cultivate greater intimacy with our research participants and consumers we have think of new and innovative ways to create more human relationships with them. This is essentially what rapport is all about – connecting on a personal level with someone in order to deepen relationships and develop a mutual respect and understanding. In my mind, you can’t separate intimacy and rapport; they’re two sides of the same coin. If greater intimacy is the goal, then rapport is path to that goal.


[1] http://www.warc.com/LatestNews/News/General_Mills_seeks_consumer_intimacy.news?ID=32423

[2] http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/16/technology/intels-sharp-eyed-social-scientist.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20140216&_r=1

[3] http://www-935.ibm.com/services/us/cmo/cmostudy2011/downloads.htm


80% Of Your Research Should Be With Your Customers

For most brands and services my research has led me to suggest that about 80% of research budgets should be spent researching customers.



By Ray Poynter

When I joined the market research industry in the 1970s, most market research was conducted with the whole market, i.e. with nationally representative samples. But that approach reflected the times. There were fewer products, fewer brands, and fewer channels for advertising. Markets were less mature, brands were establishing themselves, they often had genuine product differences, and market researchers were like explorers, mapping an unfamiliar land.

The later 1980s and the 1990s saw a shift to researching target groups and customers. Ad and brand tracking focused on target groups and customer satisfaction focused almost exclusively on customers. Concept and product testing, which had previously used whole market samples, started to focus on heavy users versus light users versus non-users – i.e. most of the sample were users, even for brands with say a 10% share. This change in focus represented changes in the market place, the number of brands and lines had grown, product advantages were proving to be illusory or temporary, and the battleground was shifting to logistics, sourcing, and image based advertising.

Since 2000 the focus in marketing has moved on again. Most brands manage to achieve product, service and advertising parity. Organisations have become much smarter about calculating the cost of customer acquisition, lifetime value, and the problem of churn. For many brands the issue has become increasing share of throat, size of shopping basket, and total usage, ahead of growing the customer base.

Over the last 15 years the focus in much of the business literature has focused on the use of customers, and co-creation, as a key source of competitive advantage. The writings of authors such as Mark Earls (Herd) and Rijn Vogelaar (The Superpromoter) have highlighted that brands tend to succeed through social copying, rather than through non-users being ‘persuaded’ by marketing or advertising.

In many cases, perhaps most cases, the best way to grow a brand is to increase the number of customers who ‘love’ it, because these people will recommend it, use it ostentatiously, and offer it in group settings. In most cases, a new line, a new campaign, a new service will only succeed if existing customers respond positively to it.

According to reports such as the GreenBook GRIT study the fastest growing major new research methodology is the use of research communities, such as insight communities and MROCs. Given the shift from the whole market to customers in the wider research world, it is not surprising that most research communities focus on customers. There is a community of interest between a brand and its customers, they all benefit if the products and services are improved. Customers know about the strengths and the weaknesses of the brand, they are in a position to give insight into where the brand should go next.

What proportion of research should be with customers?

For most brands and services (I will mention some exceptions in a moment) my research has led me to suggest that about 80% of research budgets should be spent researching customers. This would include measuring satisfaction, usage, the largest part of the ad and brand tracking sample, testing product and service concepts, product and service refinements, and co-creating the future.

The 20% conducted with the wider market would include market sizing, mapping needs in the market, and competitive intelligence (for example why do users of competitive brands use those brands).

This 80:20 prediction is based on two key points:

  1. The brand is most likely to grow through social copying/recommendation/word of mouth.
  2. Most good ideas for the brand will be seen as good ideas by customers.

The exceptions?

The main exception to the 80:20 rule is where the main focus is to massively grow the number of users, either from a zero start (a product launch) or from a very small base. Examples of this situation would include Apple when it launched the iPod, iPhone, and iPad. When these products were launched Apple had no customers in these segments, and the users of existing MP3 players, smartphones, and tablets were not their primary target – so researching customers was not a viable strategy.

Sometimes a brand tries to re-gain customers, a sugar-loaded soft drink launches a diet version, a popular beer tries an alcohol free option, and a coffee brand tries a decaff option. In these sorts of cases there is scope to research non-users, particularly lapsed users, but success tends to occur (when it occurs) by appealing to current users who are considering defecting. For example, Diet Coke is mostly drunk by people who moved from regular Coke to Diet Coke, not people who moved from not drinking Coke to Diet Coke.

In summary

Most brands and services focus on customer retention, providing the right products and services to delight their customers. The thinking behind Fred Reichheld’s Net Promoter Score is based on data that shows that brands that do well have more people who recommend them. A key finding from Andrew Ehrenberg’s double-jeopardy model is that dominant brands have customers who are more loyal.

Most market research, for most brands, most of the time, should focus on customers. I believe that this customer focus is one of the key reasons why insight communities are currently so popular. Insight communities are not pushing brands to focus on customers; the focus on customers is pushing brands and organisations to use communities in order to get closer to their customers.

So, what are your thoughts?

I’d love to hear your comments, or perhaps you can vote on the poll below.