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Guest Post: An IIeX Virgin Loves His First Time

Dave McCaughan kisses and tells about his first IIeX experience.


By David McCaughan

I get to go to a lot of conferences. I get talk at a lot of conferences, company events, workshops. The last few weeks I was the after lunch speaker at an effectiveness awards conference in Singapore, talked at a workshop for an organization that does economic infrastructure studies in Asia out of it’s Jakarta office, then a luxury personal care brand company event in Tokyo and the same day a real estate market conference. AND then I flew to Atlanta for IIeX.

It says it in the name. Ideas and Insights. It’s fast, it’s hard selling, it’s a bit brash. Most industry conferences use a form of apartheid to separate what happens in the conference hall from the trade show outside. Speakers can’t promote etc. Vendors only get to talk in the meeting rooms in breaks when most people are racing to go mingle around the snacks outside. But this IIeX virgin found the lack of such barriers refreshing. Companies presented what they wanted to sell. Speakers held back or pushed themselves as they saw fit.

But there was more. Exchange sessions that really opened up thought.

Of course there were sessions I was not that interested in, there were vendors who I can forgive for not taking much interest once they had sussed I am a self employed free lancer on the other side of the world, and as has to happen there were some speakers who did not do justice to their story, but what can you expect? There were the usual subjects. Too much regurgitation that big data and mobile and gaming are big. Sure we all know that, old news.

Having said that there was lot’s of inspiration :

  • J. Walter Smith started the first day with probably the biggest thought of the three days : the idea that is easier to track trends by looking at what is going away rather than what is coming. The latter are always likely to disappear, the former indicate big things happening. The art is in figuring what they lead too but he used the great example that the disappearance of younger marriages leads to a whole raft of needs for greater connection in new ways and hence the “kinship economy”. Hence social media, technology and flesh and blood interactions are booming.
  • Dr. Froswa Booker-Drew talked about social capital and diversity with passion. She suggested there is not enough space for “disoriented dilemma breaking”, the situations where we are forced to mix with “others”. Not our regular circles but expanded networks. The risk of the digital world is that we accidentally encounter less. She suggests we need to do less “bonding ( with those like us ) and more “bridging” ( with new relationships ) … which seemed very much in the IIeX spirit to me.
  • Rick West was a passionate proselytiser for the internet of everything and how that will bring us closer to understanding what people are thinking now rather than what they thought. In his formal presentation and then the next day in discussion sessions we had great discussions about my toilet stories and his ideas on how to use linked devices of all kinds to paint better pictures of behavior.
  • David Brudenell raised the well worn subject of dealing with Millennials and asking “ are you a good employer brand”. The research was not terribly new but the conclusion that understanding what they think is good leadership will be a key investment in staff happiness but also advice to clients.
  • Holly Demuro inspired with a simple thought : in an omni-channel world the voice of the customer get’s harder to track because we have quite simply to now start listening to all their conversations. And hence most VOC programs start with a rush of success in fixing “a” problem and then plateau as they fail to deal with the intricacies of reported and non reported, off-line/on-line needs
  • Mary Tarczynski mentioned that there are now 1.8 billion photos posted somewhere every day and then explained technology to spot trends across them. Given my own interest in the movement back to the historically normal form of literacy and the boom of graphic literacy in mediums like LINE I was inspired to find out more about her approach.

And much much more. Of course I could complain that there was not enough on other subjects I work in like cross culture analysis and the absence of discussion and new work with the 65-90 year olds is frustrating. But I did not expect IIeX to cover everything. I thought I would get some new ideas and see some cool technology … it was there in spades.

Glad I went, looking forward to going again and hoping Lenny and the team get the format to Asia soon!

Dave McCaughan IIeX NA 2015 Dave McCaughan, Bibliosexual

After 28 years with world leading advertising agency McCann as planning director first in Australia and then across Asia dave has now embarked on a new adventure in provoking new thoughts and telling stories for companies across the Asia Pacific region. Dave has lived in Bangkok, Hong Kong, Tokyo and now Hong Kong again, made hundreds of business trips across the region, dealt with dozens of major brands and spoken at over 500 conferences. He is a bibliosexual and wants to explain what that really means to you. He is also currently the editor of Research World Connect.



Paradigm Shift: From recall to occurrence

Posted by Tim Rotolo Friday, June 19, 2015, 10:24 am
Tim Rotolo discusses the challenges of recall-based feedback.

Lights of ideas

Image Credit: Saad Faruque

The human capacity for recall is subject to a number of major psychological flaws. The only way to close the gap between what testers do on your site and what they tell you they did on your site is to listen to their thoughts in real-time.

Recall is, quite simply, the retrieval of information stored in the memory. People rely on recall all the time, reaching into the brain’s vast catalogs to answer questions like: Where did I leave my phone charger? Which gas station has the best prices? What filename did I use to save my document under?

In researching our customers, we frequently rely on recall-based feedback from regular users, recruited testers, and focus group members, through surveys, direct questioning, or other methods. We ask things like: What did you think of the registration process? Did you have any trouble finding the contact information? How did the landing page make you feel about our brand?

The problem is that methods like this force users back to their mental caches for the answers, and this exercise is fraught with psychological flaws. A number of factors exert influence on the accuracy of human recall:

  1. Attention – If the respondent’s attention was divided at the time they encoded that memory, their recall later on will be hampered. So for example, if your survey respondent was using your website in one tab, and shopping for Mother’s Day gifts in another, and listening to music, their recollection of the experience is almost sure to be a little mixed-up.
  2. Motivation – When no incentive exists for the respondent, their feedback is likely to be less accurate. Alternatively, when an incentive does exist but emphasizes completion over accuracy, respondents are more likely to provide inaccurate, and ultimately counterproductive, information.
  3. Primacy & Recency Effects – People tend to be worse at remembering the middle elements of a series (or an experience) than they are at remembering the first and last bits. In other words, between the very first impression and the most recent memory, things tend to get hazy. This also makes it easy to overestimate the importance of early- and late-occurring problems in the user flow relative to other issues.
  4. Interference – Recall suffers when time has elapsed between the encoding and the remembering, especially if other actions were taken in the meantime. If respondents aren’t filling out your survey right after they finish using your product, everything they do in between affects their ability to respond accurately.
  5. Context & State Dependency – Recollection is impaired when the respondent is in a different environment or mental state than when they encoded that memory. If they used your product at work, for example, but filled out your questionnaire at home in front of the TV, their answers may not reflect their actual experience.

In addition to all these, respondents may also be affected by issues related to response formats or settings. The framing of the question, for example, can have an enormous influence on people’s answers. If your respondents are participants in a focus group, their feedback may be manipulated by social pressures; people give in to conformity and bandwagoning, they lie to avoid appearing inferior or incompetent, they answer questions the way they believe they are “supposed” to, feeding the administrator what he or she wants to hear.

The human mind does endless twisting and turning, self-deceiving, and overcompensating to satisfy the situation – and as a result, almost none of your recall-based feedback is left untouched by one or another distortions.

There are ways to control for some of these issues; problems like division of attention of context dependency might be diminished by confining testers to a controlled environment, but at the cost of losing a genuine, true-to-life look at the customer’s experience. Primacy, recency, and interference could be combatted by asking testers questions at the end of each individual task, but at the cost of obstructing the natural flow.

Shifting to Occurrence

The only way to close the gap between what people do or feel and what they remember doing and feeling, and what they tell you they did and felt, is to look at their occurrent thoughts – that is, the thoughts that are in their mind at the exact moment of their actions.

By eliminating the need for recall, we eliminate the flawed mental filters, the forgetfulness for middle elements, the transitions between mindsets and environments. Verbalization of the thought process, as it happens, becomes the vehicle for higher-quality feedback.

This is something that comes naturally to people: almost all of us talk to ourselves at times, especially when alone. Now companies are harnessing this natural instinct to create the next generation of customer research. Remote user testing taps into testers’ screens and microphones to capture real-time experiences, allowing researchers to listen to their real-time, occurrent thoughts and get the accurate, unadulterated picture.

Keeping things remote has a number of benefits too:

  • Testers provide feedback in a comfortable, real-life environment – in their own home or office or other frequented space, using their own device that they’re familiar with.
  • Testers are not affected by a compulsion to please the researcher or render the “right” answer since there is no personal connection or interaction between the two.
  • Unhindered by matters of logistics, researchers can access testers anywhere in the world, who are able to provide feedback on their own time.

For all of these reasons, there has been a palpable shift from recall-reliant feedback methods towards occurrence-based methods, and the young remote user testing industry has seen massive growth in the past few years – evidence that on a large scale, companies and researchers are rethinking how to get the best data.

The problems with recall have long been known to psychology, but a change in paradigms can only occur when there is something to switch to. Now, with services that connect researchers to users around the world and help them understand what people do and why they do it, recall-centric thinking can and should be laid to rest. After all, why keep peering through a cognitive kaleidoscope when you could be peeking into your customers’ heads?

Tim Rotolo, UX Researcher, TryMyUI

Tim Rotolo, UX Researcher, TryMyUI

Tim Rotolo is a UX Researcher at TryMyUI, a remote usability testing company based in the California bay area. You can reach him at trotolo@trymyui.com or follow @trymyui on Twitter.


The A-Z of IIeX NA

Tom Ewing breaks down the highlights and offers some observations on the Insight Innovation Exchange North America event.



By Tom Ewing

A is for Atlanta, host to this year’s IIeX North America, at the well-appointed Georgia Tech conference facility. IIeX is unlike any other conference – to the point where founder Lenny Murphy claims that it isn’t one, and you almost believe it. It’s a frenzied experience, with well over a hundred different presentations on four different tracks. To try and lasso this festival of content with a narrative, or even themes, wouldn’t do it justice. So I’m trying the alphabetical route to capture the sheer random fullness of the event.

B is for Brand Tracking. Which is broken, according to several speakers. The great engine of continuous research is in need of a severe overhaul – no argument there. Multiple talks offered their prescriptions for change. Jeff Reynolds of LRW looked forward to a disruption in tracking that would slash labor costs by 70% and allow both reinvestment in storytelling and analysis and significant cost savings. For Reynolds, the sweet spot lies somewhere between traditional tracking and social media listening. Larry Friedman of TNS used his final presentation of a 35-year career to go further – brand tracking is simply too slow, and needs to be demolished entirely. His preferred replacement? Something genuinely predictive based on social and search data.

C is for Collaboration. You can’t go far at an IIeX event without hearing about change and disruption. But these buzzwords mask a more subtle reality – lots of yesterday’s disruptor companies have matured and are now stretching themselves by collaboration. Sometimes these alliances can be a bit overstuffed with methods, but there was a good example from Revelation and Affectiva teaming up to give a nuanced read on ads for guys. As well as complementary insights, the collaboration had more immediate effect. One man went ballistic in the online community criticising a commercial – the kind of thing clients notice. But Affectiva’s webcam footage showed he’d never even seen the ad, being stuck under his desk at the time, looking for a dropped phone!

D is for Diversity. In a markedly hostile era of public and social speech, diversity can help bring people together by opening eyes up to different experiences of a shared problem like unemployment or parenting. That was the claim of Dr. Froswa’ Booker-Drew of World Vision, who shared her own experiences and dropped a little social science about the need to create “bridging” social capital (between different groups) not just “bonding” capital (within them). With modern marketing so bent on flattering our existing identities through targeting, this seems a valuable lesson – and a sadly tall order. With only 30% female speakers, IIeX has a diversity challenge of its own to tackle – though in other ways it truly excelled in presenting a range of global voices and varied backgrounds.

E is for Ethnography. A couple of years ago the spotlight was firmly on quant – getting to grips with big data, and crunching social sentiment. But the pendulum is swinging back, as qualitative and tech strike up a happy relationship thanks to the many tools that can capture the texture of how we live our lives and use brands. I saw several good case studies that included ethnographic work – Insites and Breyers showed how they’d captured the ritual of ice cream purchase and use, and Kelsey Saulsbury of Hallmark was positively gleeful about the insights her C_Space mobile ethnography had unearthed. Within qual work, ethnography seems particularly good for identifying distinctive assets – the meaningless, but vital, hooks a brand can own, like the smell of Play-Doh or Breyers’ black packaging.

F is for Facebook. Gone are the days when earnest discussions of “likes” would dominate marketing events. Now Facebook is just part of the background, but it’s still a goldmine of social data. The humble personality tests that infest it can find out more about you than even your mother knows, according to psychometrician Vess Popov of Cambridge University. Such deduction produces seven times greater ROI than normal targeting, Popov’s team claim, and is more discreet too. (Though the example given – deducing whether Hispanic men in their 40s are looking for same-sex relationshops, declared or otherwise – felt like an ethical minefield!)

G is for GRIT. IIeX is the home of the GRIT Report, and this year underlined how much it’s become industry currency. Every bag had a copy, and almost every presentation seemed to mention it, with presenters boasting onstage of their placings in the coveted Innovation rankings. As the Industry begins to care less about size and more about agility and momentum, Grit has become the 21st century version of the Honomichl rankings.

H is for Hacking. Hacking was introduced by Rolfe Swinton of Reality Mine as something research could do with a lot more of – a spirit of playful experimentation and discovery. Hear hear! Though during Swinton’s talk I felt the phrase had broken these boundaries a bit. Academic researchers publishing a paper don’t “hack” their data. They just analyse it, like the rest of us. Sexed-up vocab aside, Swinton is right – big projects nowadays are often improvised, problem-centric and need a lot of fusion of different sources. A bit of hackerish playfulness is surely a help.

I is for Implicit. Two or three years ago, the idea of System 1 needed painstaking explanation. Now, it’s taken for granted. That’s a good thing for those of us who believe the fast, intuitive side of our thinking calls the shots. But a new problem arises. How do you translate that into meaningful, scalable data? Implicit measurement looks set to hold the key. The ability to track unconscious reactions, and relate them to real behaviour, is set to be very valuable. Sentient Decision Science showed one way: their implicit methods combined with more traditional data to more accurately reflect views online of this year’s Super Bowl ads.

J is for June. In Atlanta. It was hot. And humid. Really humid. The choice of a rooftop venue for the event drinks certainly dealt with any lightweights. But help was at hand – no write-up would be complete without acknowledgement of the generous provision of water, soda and edibles by Georgia Tech Conference Center. And – even better – the wonderful ice lollies laid on by King of Pops. Who needs starchy official dinners when you have Mojito, Raspberry Lime and Salted Chocolate popsicles? Amidst the content frenzy, IIeX is always a place to hang out and have fun.

K is for Known Knowns. Research has always walked a tightrope between confirmation and revelation. At conferences, fresh and surprising insights used to be prized, and the counter-intuitive (but real) result was proof of research’s value. At this year’s IIeX the startling truths I learned included: bourbon is often consumed with Coke; mobile app users want notifications to be useful; and young people like the idea they’ll be promoted a lot. These findings had something in common: they’d all been derived from exciting new methods, or new combinations of methods. You might say this is the risk a tech-centred conference runs, but it’s hardly unique to IIeX. There’s a temptation to focus on the method and not worry too much if the results are interesting. But we should remember that tech is most exciting when it tells us what we don’t already know!

L  is for Listening. Nobody doubts how important listening is to a modern brand, and social listening programs are part of almost every marketing manager’s toolkit. The next step, according to startup Ditto Labs, is visual listening. Ditto – whose presentation was one of my favourites of the event – mine photos on Twitter, Tumblr and other sources for brands. People are visual communicators more and more, and Ditto are well placed to extend listening into the world of the image. They focused on how brands cluster together in images. For instance, take all the people with Coca-Cola in their visual feeds – what other brands crop up? Some answers were obvious, some weren’t – the software detected clusters of linked brands, shedding a valuable light on networks of consumption. It seemed to me the results mostly backed up the Robert Ehrenberg school of marketing science: that “loyalty” as a marker of brand strength is severely overrated, and people are mostly quite promiscuous in their brand choice. But they also showed the power of sponsorship and celebrity endorsements to get brands’ distinctive visual assets seen and captured on image. This was the best kind of IIeX presentation – important new tech that’s delivering intriguing results already.

M is for Mobile Survey Score. Remember when every year seemed to be the “year of mobile”? Well, the decade of mobile happened, and research is trying to catch up. Experiments with mobile abound, but not all of them have the user’s interests at heart. Surveys in particular are still tough to implement on mobile, and as we all know, bad surveys mean bad data. Does the future lie in apps, passive data, and so on? Maybe, but meanwhile our respondents want to answer our surveys on mobile – and soaring mobile response levels show they’ll do it whether we’ve designed them that way or not. That was the gist of Research Now’s presentation on the Mobile Survey Score, an excellent initiative that grades every survey for user-friendliness. Want to get a high mark? Junk the grids, for a start.

N is for New. Let’s face it, you go to IIeX not just to get a feel for where the industry is, but where it’s going to be next. Central to every IIeX is the competition for new start-ups, pitching their innovative ideas to an eager audience. This year’s winner, Fetch Rewards, has a typically modest aim: to completely disrupt the world of sales data by taking power away from stores and their till rolls and giving it back to the consumer. Let Fetch know what you’ve bought, and get rewards. Panel clashes meant I missed the contest, but congratulations to Fetch and their ambition – and I look forward to hearing how they manage at a future conference.

O is for Online Communities. My first ever conference presentation was about online communities, back when they were the hottest topic going, so I couldn’t resist a panel asking “Are They Still Innovative?” Andrew Leary of Ipsos GMX didn’t quite convince me they were, but he persuaded me that they were cheap, flexible, and seen to be useful. All of which are probably more valuable than innovation in the long run. The event was studded with demonstrations of their use, by the big names in the community space like InSites and C_Space (formerly Communispace). Online Communities are one of the big success stories of “new market research”, and it’s good to see there’s still so much room for them at a future-focused event.

P is for Panelists. Lurking within the 2014 GRIT Consumer Participation In Research report are some uncomfortable truths about online panellists, presented at IIeX by Grant Miller of RIWI. The report looked at “fresh” participants – those who don’t take many surveys – and “frequent” ones – those who do. There were big differences, particularly when it came to the rest of their online activity. It turns out the brave new consumer world of online shopping, enthusiastic social engagement with brands, and post-TV entertainment might be magnified by who joins our panels. Oh, and they’re also a little more socially liberal on some issues. Not surprising when you think about it, but still sobering. It suggests we’re at risk of over-hyping the pace of consumer change. Our job is to represent consumers as they are, not as we’d like them to be. Kudos to GRIT for commissioning this important research.

Q is for Quick. On the modern research event bingo card, a special place exists for the “Faster, Better Cheaper” triangle – and the claim that now we can have all three. Maybe, maybe not. What’s certain is that the “faster” end is making great strides, and the flagship brands of ‘agile research’, like Gutcheck and ZappiStore, were out in force at IIeX. To be useful, as TNS’ Kris Hull put it, research has to move at the tempo of business, and ‘agile research’ is forcing the pace. Agile is one of those buzzwords, like ‘lean’, ‘disruptive’ and ‘growth hacking’, which has filtered down through multiple layers of tech, marketing and innovation discourse before finding its way to research. Ironically, we’re actually rather late to the ‘agile’ idea. But better late than never.

R is for Religion. IIeX attracts evangelists for change, and there was a religious cast to some of the more fevered presentations, like the passionate “Innovate Or Die” by Shane Skillen of Hotspex. Innovation has its credo – change; it has its familiar parables – like Kodak and Instagram; and it has dire warnings for those doubters who give less than 100%. It also has a saint – Steve Jobs, whose example was the inspiration for one of the most seductive presentations of the event, by Dr Mark Goulston. His secret to innovation – back-of-a-beermat simple though it is – came on the back of some softly-spoken storytelling about not just Jobs but Goulston’s own past life as a therapist and suicide counsellor. (The secret in question? “Whoa! Wow. Hmmm… Yes.” OK, you really had to be there. Or buy the book.)

S is for Sales Pitches. IIeX is a commercial event, and it’s always had a place for talented companies and paying sponsors pitching their wares. But there were also rumblings of discontent at some of the more blatant sales pitching happening, unannounced, in the middle of the main tracks. Ironically, the problem isn’t even the pitches – it’s the content-stuffed nature of the event. If you’re wasting time watching an advertorial, you’re missing at least three other things! As founder Lenny Murphy says, IIeX is still learning – and I’d stress there’s still more content than in two other events its size. So, an appeal to presenters and sponsors – if you’re on the stage, don’t just tell us about yourselves. These days we tear into commercial brands who only broadcast sales messages – why should we be any different?

T is for Taking Stock. We are several years into a supposed research revolution, and as honest researchers, we realise it’s time to take stock of what’s working. There were state-of-the-nation presentations on online communities, behaviour change, and agile research. And from TNS’ Kris Hull came an excellent talk asking, quite simply, why hasn’t the change really taken off yet? His answers lay in the industry’s failure to really grasp partnership with clients. As he pointed out, there’s not even a shared language. When clients hear “innovation”, they think “faster and cheaper”. When agencies say it, they mean “upfront investment”.

U is for Uber. From 2008 to around 2011, the most cited company at research conferences was Facebook. From 2012 to 2014, it’s been Google, thanks to their Consumer Surveys product and projects like Glass. This year, the most mentioned tech firm was transportation company Uber. Its bold business model, customer-centric approach and most of all its sky-high growth were all praised. In an age of disruption, Uber’s assault on industry norms serves as a beacon. If there’s an Uber in research, we heard, it’s probably Zappistore, a previous IIeX  innovation winner whose low-cost, high-automation research has seen enviable growth rates. How long will the Uber admiration last? Just as the conference ended, news came through of a legal ruling that might mean Uber drivers are classed as employees after all, with all the expenses and benefits that entailsd. So perhaps there’s another Uber lesson for research, this time in its relationship with the people it relies on: treat ‘em right, or else be made to.

V is for Vanishing Point. IIeX started with a pair of great keynotes – Kristin Luck setting the scene with words on the pace of change and the need for agility (that word again!) and then J Walker Smith of The Futures Company talking about spotting opportunities within change. Smith’s talk was about the “Vanishing Point” – by looking for things that are going away, rather than things that are coming in, we get a much more accurate read on change. His example was the rise in single living – the source of much hand-wringing from commentators who see it as a rising trend gnawing at the bonds of society, blah blah blah. Not so, said Smith. What’s actually happening isn’t that single living is rising, but that early marriage is going away. People are marrying later, which creates a bubble of young single-ness, but the single living ‘trend’ has a ceiling. By understanding things that way round, new opportunities present themselves. This was probably the single most useful idea of IIeX for me: don’t look at the new coming in, you’ll just get it wrong. Look at the old going away.

W is for Why. It’s the question at the heart of research: why? But is it the right one? A few presentations, BrainJuicer’s among them –  preferred to ask “How?”. Whether “How” applies to research – how do we use this? – or to people – “How are they buying, choosing and doing things?” – the question puts the emphasis on action, not on introspection. Why leads to post-rationalisation. How leads to change. Of course, Why? Isn’t going away. The dose of introspection research can provide is too unique and too valuable for that. But it works best when allied to How.

X is for Xtras. (Sorry!) IIeX is many things – a conference, a trade fair, but also a research carnival, and what’s a carnival without its sideshows? This year we had the traditional virtual reality booth from LRW – which continues to bring the wow factor – but also a photobooth and the inaugural “IIeX Games”. This was a gamified way of getting people to visit as many of the exhibitors and take in as much content as possible – you scanned in QR codes and racked up points. Special mention also to Dataga.me Labs and their complete choose your own adventure book, given away in the event bag. As a sometime writer of marketing goodies, I was in awe of their effort!

Y is for Young People. There was, of course, plenty of mention of the M-Word. No, not mobile. The other one. If you’d installed the excellent browser extension that replaces “millennials” with “snake people” then congratulations! Your IIeX Twitter experience would have been a very entertaining one. But – especially as they grow older and the mystique wears off a bit – research on millennials often just turns into plain old research, bad or good. Scotchgard presented a fine qualitative case study which started off as a quest for millennial approval but ended up with a full-scale exploration of what the furniture protection brand means. It seemed to me like they started off chasing a segment, and ended up with a better understanding of the whole market. Which isn’t too surprising, as “millennials” turn out to be just “people” after all.

Z is for Zero. If, as Robert C. Moran informed us on Wednesday, society is becoming a “rateocracy” in which everything will be scored by everyone, then a mark of zero can really mess you up. Luckily, IIeX scores rather more than that. (To nick the rating scale of music site Pitchfork, I’d give it 8.5 – Best New Event). The best thing about IIeX is the sheer density of it – new talks every twenty minutes across four tracks. You might have got to the end of this and recognised almost nothing I’ve written about, and that’s the beauty of this sprawling, overheated, delightful monster of an event. Well done to all the presenters, organisers, and staff.


LRW’s 2015 Top 25 Market Research Twitter Influencers List

Posted by Joan Cassidy Wednesday, June 17, 2015, 8:01 am
Posted in category General Information, Social Media
Using Advanced Influence Mapping (AIM) software, LRW looks at whose “voice” was most likely to be disseminated across the broader market research audience engaged with Twitter.

Just about a year after the publishing of our first list of MRX’s top influencers on Twitter, we thought it time to take a new look whose “voice” was most likely to be disseminated across the broader market research audience engaged with Twitter.

To create our list, we use our Advanced Influence Mapping (AIM) software that was developed by US intelligence analysts to understand terror networks. LRW’s AIM uses advanced math — Eigenvector centrality techniques– to identify the most important nodes of an interconnected set of networks to obtain a multi-dimensional picture of social relationships.  We identify and rank the leaders of these networks on their ability to guide a discussion or promote an idea across the network.

For more about our methodology, click here.

The market research community is a close-knit, interconnected group. Here’s who’s had the most influence from May 9 – June 9, 2015.


For the full list of the top 50 Influencers, go to www.LRWblog.net.


CASRO Transformation Series: LRW Says Transformation – So What?

Posted by Leonard Murphy Tuesday, June 16, 2015, 8:33 am
Posted in category General Information


By Jeff Resnick of Stakeholder Advisory Services


HIgh-Res Bio Pic-Jeff A98H9942_Dave's Headshot

LRW (Lieberman Research Worldwide) has a long history of innovation and ranks in the top ten most innovative market research firms in the recently released GRIT rankings.  I had the opportunity to speak with Dave Sackman (CEO) and Jeff Reynolds (President) to better understand the “secret sauce” that drives LRW toward new frontiers at an accelerated pace.   Dave Sackman might argue that the company has not “transformed” but rather is the product of a continual focus on delivering on one of its core values – being a company that answers the question “So what?” for its clients.  Let’s explore the mantra of what keeps LRW vibrant, growing, and relevant.

Ditch the R&D department.  Dave and Jeff firmly believe that transformative ideas cannot be manufactured in an R&D department, packaged and then sold as a cookie cutter product.   They believe great ideas arise as a result of a culture that inspires the creativity and freedom to create new concepts and consulting services that will help clients more effectively address their business issues and lead to their greater business success.  Many minds focused on the passionate exploration of new ideas will produce a better result than the traditional efforts of an R&D department – without the overhead cost.

Innovate pragmatically.    LRW has developed an effective “gating” process for maximizing the potential success of new products and services.   The process begins with identifying new concepts germinating as the result of ongoing client work or addressing a particularly difficult client problem.  These concepts are nurtured through collaboration and modest funding as required.   Concepts that begin to demonstrate commercial success are then put to a broader test – more clients, more investment.  Staff may be given dedicated time for further concept development.  Continued commercial success results in a full-scale product or service launch.  While the process does not guarantee success, it has resulted in a number of highly successful, profitable services such as LRW’s Pragmatic Brain Science®, Virtual Reality and its social media analytics offering.

Fail fast but move forward.  This concept is followed by other CEOs we have spoken with as well.  LRW drained their “LRW Shark Tank”—their first innovation process that mimicked the TV show– when results were less than favorable.  This failure was a symbolic moment, demonstrating that the senior most executives were willing to take risks – and accept the potential for failure associated with taking risks.  Pride in failure can be a powerful motivator as long as decisions are made quickly and movement to the next possible success story is swift.

Give your talent a chance to fly.  It is seemingly impossible to screen new talent for the ‘innovation gene”.  However, Dave and Jeff do believe can hire the best and the brightest, encourage them to be creative and support their instincts.  Talent will see opportunity as a result and will spread the word among others looking for similar environments.  This is the antidote to putting bright young people into boring positions from which they will eventually drift away.

Aim for something bigger than market research – perhaps a trip to the White House.   Jeff and Dave shared that several weeks ago they traveled to the White House to demonstrate the potential impact of virtual reality for solving societal problems.  It is well-known that LRW is one of the leaders in the virtual reality space.  What is probably less well-known is the depth of the science behind what they do.  Imagine the use of virtual reality to address social issues such as racial bias in law enforcement, the modification of behavior to address health issues and the like.  What began with roots in market research has resulted in a technology and approach that can be truly instrumental in addressing some of society’s ills.  It answers the calling for a higher purpose that so many seek as part of their career journey.  Watching Dave Sackman’s TedX talk on how virtual reality can impact the world is well worth the time.

Transformation at LRW hasn’t been the result of a single event.  It isn’t even a formal process espoused by leadership.  Rather, it is ingrained in the culture, history and philosophy of the firm.  Without doubt, continuous transformation will continue to be core to the firm’s future success.



Lieberman Research Worldwide (LRW) is a full-service, custom market research provider known for its ability to turn insight into impact for its clients. LRW employs a unique “so what?®” research-based consulting model, leveraging its industry-leading Marketing Science team and Pragmatic Brain Science Institute® to help clients improve their financial performance. LRW works on a range of business issues, including market segmentation, brand strategy, advertising and communications, customer experience and new product development. LRW utilizes survey research and data from a wide variety of sources, such as social media data, customer data, and other forms of Big Data in their engagements.


Science is Dead – Long Live Marketing Research

Research-on-research is a good thing, but not if we build our biases into the design.

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Dr. Stephen Needel

There are some days when I think I should just stay in bed. But today I’m working off jet-lag in Shanghai, so I’m up at 4am, catching up on my RBDR Daily News Report. There’s Bob Lederer’s smiling face, on his 28 May broadcast (free plug, Bob), extolling the importance of a study done by Instantly. This study purports to show interesting differences between using a mobile device and PC online to respond to surveys. I believe research-on-research is a good thing for us to do, but this study isn’t a very good exemplar. Because it is getting talked about in a number of blogs, it deserves some skewering.

Instantly begins by claiming, “This research was… designed with an open mind to prove or disprove that mobile gives more accurate insights than online.” First, nobody who isn’t selling mobile research claims or believes that mobile necessarily gives more accurate insights, so proving or disproving this isn’t a burning issue in researcher’s lives. As you read the report, you’ll notice that the writing either favors mobile or apologizes for mobile’s shortcomings; at least the latter are reported.

To run this study, Instantly recruits two panels of shoppers, one who participates via mobile and one who responds on a PC (the online sample). It’s a three-part test. The first part is a shopability study for Lays potato crisps/chips – Prawn Cocktail in the UK and Cheesy Garlic Bread in the US. Prawn Cocktail has been around as long as I’ve been doing research internationally – since 1995 at least. Cheesy Garlic Bread was an in-and-out product for Lays in 2013. Shoppers were asked to go to the store and buy this product, then answer some questions about it – how long it took them to find it and where it was located on the shelf. Mobile shoppers could do this “in the moment” (a phrase I’m coming to abhor for its misuse and overuse), while the online panel had to wait to get back home to respond (at the earliest).

You, dear reader, should be banging your head on the nearest hard surface, asking who, in their right mind, would do a shopability study with an online sample? You’ll be shocked to learn that the study finds major differences between mobile and online responses – shocked I say! (with apologies to Claude Rains).  Mobile users were much more accurate in recalling the location of the product and claimed much shorter shopping times. This is a blinding flash of the obvious. Moreover, any researcher who did a shopability study like this online deserves the bad data they get. NOBODY should ever, ever, ever do this – there is just no excuse. Indeed, mobile is perfect for this type of work.

The next phase of the test was an in-home usage test. Now, I’ve always thought an IHUT was pretty simple. You ask the participant to try your product and then respond to some questions about it. In the case of a one-time trial, like a snack product, you might say something like, “When you’re ready, we’d like you to try the [Prawn Cocktail/Cheesy Garlic Bread] product you bought, then log in to take a quick survey”. Apparently, this was too sophisticated an instruction set. 25% of the mobile users and over half of the online users answered the questions three or more hours after trying the product. I’m thinking that if this were my study, I’d delete those who didn’t taste the product just before answering some sensory questions as part of data cleaning.

Online has a higher Purchase Intent score than does mobile, which the authors believe is another argument in favor of mobile (remember – they are claiming objectivity). The authors state, “…product owners following the online data would over-invest on positioning and product supply”. They do not state the obverse – that believing the lower mobile-generated PI scores could lead to under-investment and product out-of-stocks. They do not do the obvious – tell us which version gives the more accurate sales forecast. Actual sales was a known quantity – they could have told us whether online over-projected or mobile under-projected. In claiming big differences, they also ignore the fact that UK top 2 box scores are identical; this would be the likely case for an existing product.  They make no mention of the demographics of the two groups of panelists – if they are different, this could very well account for PI differences. Salty snacks are one of those categories that have an age profile for flavor preferences – different ages, different responses. And we would expect an older online sample compared to a younger mobile sample (I note that space limitations in a promotional piece may have kept them from telling us about the sample).

Finally, they want to claim that the diagnostic data one gets from mobile is much richer. Mobile panelists use an average of eight words per diagnostic, while online users only employ seven words. Such a big difference should overwhelm us? While statistics may show this to be statistically significant, I’m not sure how meaningful that difference is. But then, I’m a quant type of guy, not a qual expert. I do note that they quickly gloss over the fact that sensory ratings show little difference between the panels and are directionally inconsistent, suggesting nothing is there.

While working hard to appear unbiased, they do mention that mobile had a significantly higher drop-out rate, took twice as long to run, and costs 55% more than the online study. But, remaining unbiased, they ask, Is it wise to spend money on an online study for in-store work when it is proven to be flawed and subject to inaccurate data?” No, it’s not wise to do an online study for in-store work like this. But choosing this topic and technique to compare mobile and online research is at best a straw man game with a foregone conclusion, and not much of an addition to our body of knowledge about the differences between the tools.


Running, Everyday, for 1000 Days! For Life, and against Cancer

Posted by Vanessa Oshima Monday, June 15, 2015, 8:12 am
Posted in category Fresh Voices, Health
Vannessa Oshima insights professional, VP of Strategy and Insights for Coca-Cola Japan has an important and inspirational story everyone should read.

This is about Me (Vanessa) and Caroline… we have known each other since we were kids. Both growing up in the small town of Matamata in New Zealand (now famous as it is Shire in lord of the rings – yes we are from Hobbiton …and No we do not have hairy feet …or at least yet!) Like with most small town high school friends – we ended up in different universities and different towns (in our case different countries – Caroline in New Zealand and Vanessa in Japan).

Vanessa1-167x300We hadn’t really kept in touch. And then came along Facebook smile emoticon… and this is when we got reconnected. On September 11th of 2012, Vanessa posted on her Facebook page a simple message “felt great to get out there a run – it really livens you up” … a fairly simple “daily FB comment”. That Evening a message was waiting in Vanessa’s messenger box … It was from Caroline.

Caroline had been diagnosed with Breast cancer one month earlier and had just been through her mastectomy. She was getting ready to start Chemo in October. Her message was simple. “I saw your running message – at the moment I barely have enough strength to walk to the car in the hospital car park… but I’m going to try to make an effort”

And that was it – the few simple words that started so much.

Vanessa2-166x300Vanessa messaged Caroline and said … OK if me running inspires you to go fight this thing … then I will run …I will run every day until you are done …

And that is what we have been doing – Caroline Fighting cancer every day and Vanesa fighting the weather and schedules to run 5km outdoors every day.

The history looks a little bit like this:

Caroline had Chemo from October to April, Radiation from May to July, Reconstruction in January 2014 and January 2015. She has been on Tamoxifen since July 2013 and this will last for the next 5 years.

Vanessa started the “run for the cure” On September 11, 2012. In the space of 6 months and running every day she lost 11kg! She got fit enough to run the Tokyo marathon and then New York and finally fast enough to qualify for Boston. She has run in the snow, in the ice, in typhoons. At 3am before getting on a plane. She has run with blisters, sore tendons, influenza and hangovers. For those of us who are researchers we will know the crazy schedules we keep with deadlines, late night focus groups and weekend work – those conference calls at crazy hours because you have people in three different continents. I have run with the ESOMAR team at Congress, I have run home from work, showered and then got on a conference call. I have even done a conference call while running. The rules of the run is 5km and outdoors. (Treadmills are easy and Cancer is not … there will be good days and bad days …just like running outdoors)

Vanessa3-224x300All the while we fight – and raise awareness. Vanessa has found many running partners through the years.

And so here we are …On June 8th 2015 we hit the 1000 days mark. We want to try to get 1000 friends to donate 1000 cents/yen etc (which equates to about $10:00) and so we ask you to support us as we aim to raise 10,000 dollars for the Cancer Society.

1000 days of fighting … and running.


So, having read Vanessa and Caroline story, let’s make sure that the market research industry steps up to the mark and ensures that Vanessa and Caroline hit their $10,000 target. Please visit their fundraising page by clicking here.

Note: this post was originally posted on the NewMR Blog.


Guest Post – Agile Research: Mindset or Method?  

Analyzing your creative throughout the development process will protect you against catastrophic failure.



By Ryan Barry

According to Eric Ries, author of The Lean Startup, lean thinking answers the following question: “What is the least amount of resources I can devote to this question in order to validate my core hypothesis?”

Lean startup principles originally centered on the concept of a minimum viable product – a proof of concept. Applying market research validated learning with an eye toward marketing automation, however, represents a new and novel application of lean business practices. The core tenet is as simple as it is powerful – build-measure-learn. For marketing, insight, and innovations departments, these principles can be used to arrive at minimum viable insights.


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Testing is not a four-letter word

One all-too-common approach in insights departments is to go through the development process and test only a handful of preferred versions before launch, or not even to test because traditional research tools are too slow. Meanwhile, you may have turned your back on a truly resonant idea, like Apple nearly did with their iconic iPod silhouette campaign.

It’s not surprising that when we visit with Fortune 500 companies the mere mention of the word ‘test’ is taboo, like wearing Puma sneakers to a meeting at adidas. We, the market research industry, have ourselves to blame. Testing historically has been done as a blind pass or fail. Good students know exactly what they will get on the test as soon as they hand it in because they have done the work. In reality, over 70% of new CPG products fail within the first year and a majority of the advertisements on TV fail to break through the noise because we have not been studying. If we bring the consumer to our board tables and into our marketing and creative departments early and often we will know with statistical confidence that we will pass the test because we have done our homework.

In the case of creative, especially, it makes economic sense to move testing up-funnel. Products like Millward Brown’s LinkNow let you pay for validated learning regarding your core assumptions around creative so you make informed decisions as to which ideas to bet on:

  • Does it make economic sense to earmark the same or greater spend only for the final cut stage of your creative development process?
  • What if all of the iterations you’re considering fail to resonate with audiences?
  • What if a discarded, outside-of-the-box idea held unrealized potential?

Evaluating multiple ideas early and often will give you a better chance of identifying the execution that truly resonates with your target consumer.

Minimum Viable Insight

The true value of constant, iterative analysis is the improved executions you will generate. At each iteration, you derive the minimum viable insight that allows you to move the creative, innovation, or new product through to its next iteration, until you arrive at the ideal execution.

This is why the agile mindset is so key. You need to know when to be lean, when to say that an insight is good enough, and also when to dive deep to get at the core of understanding the impact your execution will have on your business. Cost savings in research, media, and development spend are ancillary The true value in your business adopting the agile research mindset comes from inviting the consumer into the process throughout, and knowing that what you do will not just move the needle with them, but blow it up!

What should a good ad look like?

We’ve all seen groupthink. Maybe it’s too many notes from the studio in the runup to a big budget movie. Maybe it’s an overly polished line in a politician’s stump speech. Or maybe it’s a new product launch that debuts to crickets on the market, a Crystal Pepsi for the digital age.

In each scenario, the shared misstep occurred long before the market spoke. Not testing early and often hamstrings your business, leaving it without certain ideas that might have better resonated with your core audience. Had you tested from the start, along the way you would have focused your spend on the creative that had passed some hurdle of quality, rather than trying to reshape irrelevant creative through focus group feedback.

In other words, you would already have proved the business case in support of each proposed piece of creative, or new product. Your market research spend therefore would be more efficient, and your subsequent learning would allow you to iterate on and improve already-relevant creative.

Would you rather spend $27,000 for the in-depth testing of just a handful of final cuts, and some number of man hours pulling together your findings into a polished, digestible presentation only to find out that you don’t have a single good option in the bunch? Or would you rather spend some significantly smaller sum to gauge many ideas at an earlier stage of development, so that you identify those ideas that most strongly resonate with your customers’ expectations? We might as well ask if you’d rather start on third base.

The Power of Iteration

The steps you take are clearly defined in any validated learning process.

You start with the exploration phase, centered on customer interviews and surveys. Exploration generates broad insight into the market’s expectations for and reactions to your various creative.

From exploration you progress to the pitch – asking a potential customer for something in exchange for you solving a specific problem they have.

The final step in your evaluation is the concierge service – you deliver your pitch with as little overhead as possible, to as few customers as possible, until they’re giddy with your product.

Each element – exploration, pitch, and concierge – is integral to true validated learning. Each step must be undertaken in order. Each step increases the total cost of your market research and creative development. And each step is best suited to a particular stage of your creative development process.

Analyzing your creative throughout the development process will protect you against catastrophic failure on the scale of New Coke, M. Night Shyamalan movies, and Homer Simpson-designed luxury automobiles. That’s how agile research breaks down barriers to doing market research.


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You’ll have proved, ahead of the investment of scaling up to deliver your idea to a broad audience, that your idea is a winner. It will be like taking an open-book final exam – meanwhile, your competition doesn’t even know there’s a test today.

At its core, any business decision is about achieving the greatest possible return for the least amount of risk and with the smallest possible investment. Think back to your days at university – sure, there were classes where you were able to roll in and ace a test. But how much more confident did you feel in those other instances, when you’d diligently reviewed your notes, read the textbook, and gone to the study sessions?

The goal for a modern creative department or agile marketing team, then, must be to collect information on how their output is perceived from as many potential customers as possible, as quickly and for as little money as possible.

What would such “holy grail” look like? It would be a standardized survey that can be implemented quickly, with results available in hours, not weeks. If you would like to find out if such a holy grail exists, or if you just want to continue the debate and discussion further, feel free to email me at ryan.barry@zappistore.com

Ryan Barry is the Senior Vice President for ZappiStore North America. He recently completed his term as President of the New England MRA and his passion about the market research is its ability to drive real business impact. Outside of his market research life, he runs a dog walking business with his wife Gillian.


Guest Post: Why Video is about to Cross the Chasm for Research

Short-format, user-generated video will become a cornerstone of market research moving forward as we cross the adoption chasm.



By Dave Carruthers

At VoxPopMe we focus on the capture and analysis of short-form videos for market research. Through mobile apps, communities and the integration of our technology into larger quant studies we have captured more than 250,000 short 15-60 second selfie-style videos in the past two years.

But before we take the dive into video I wanted to look at how the research industry adopts new technologies. When I read this year’s GRIT Report it was clear to me that the lines between technologists and researchers are becoming ever more blurred.

Technology is providing so many new and innovative ways for researchers to capture and understand data, at the bleeding edge we now are seeing presentations at IIeX focusing on wearables, drones and virtual reality where just two or three years ago big data, mobile and social analysis were the buzzwords. Now these methods and technologies are considered the norm.

So whilst I, as a technology guy (geek), love to see the new and shiny, the reality is that with any new technology there is an adoption curve which takes time. In addition, there needs to be broader adoption on both sides of the market for new technologies to become a mainstream, valuable part of our industry and ecosystem.


The above graph shows the classic technology adoption curve, we can see how the first 2.5 percent of people are innovators: they break the rules and push boundaries to try everything that’s new. The next 13.5 percent are early adopters. In this segment of the population, we start to see interest building, after some basic assumptions have been proved by the innovators. Early adopters know at a fundamental level that a new technology not only works but can it also scale and add real value.

The transition from early adopters to the early majority is what is known as make or break time for technology. This phenomenon is the topic of one of my favorite books Crossing the Chasm. This book explores the way that many companies/technologies fail to make that leap of faith which converts early adopter traction into a mainstream product for the early majority.

At the next stage of adoption (late majority), we are now seeing industry “staples” like Mobile Surveys and Online communities break the mark in the last 12 months. So, if you’re not using those two methodologies yet, you are now officially a late adopter.

So where does video sit on this adoption spectrum? As a medium, it spans many of the methodologies already mentioned but is not singled out in the Annual Market Research Technology Report. Firstly, let’s look at video as a trend in the wider digital marketplace. There is no doubt video is exploding with popular consumer apps like SnapChat, Vine and Instagram all leading the charge.

Just a few months ago Mark Zuckerberg said,

Videos fit very well into the newsfeed form factor that people consume on Facebook. I think we’re going to see a lot of user-generated and public-content videos over the next few years (…) If you go back five years, most of the content was text. Now a lot of it is photos and if you look in the future a lot of the content that people share will be video. It’s just very compelling.”

And in Mary Meeker’s highly regarded 2015 Internet Trends report we can see simple user-generated video content through Snapchat attracting millions of views in just 24 hours and Facebook’s video views increasing from 1 billion per day to 4 billion per day in just the last six months.


So there is little doubt in my mind that user- generated video is a huge trend which is only going to rise.

So what does this mean for research?

In short, we believe that short-format, user-generated video will become a cornerstone of market research moving forward as we cross the chasm.

VoxPopMe’s short-format open video responses have been shown to provide six times more content than traditional open-end text responses, over 50 percent more themes and, when supporting existing quant data,can make a real difference in the stakeholders understanding and propensity to take action from the data.

However, despite this, researchers have historically been nervous about video. It is seen as expensive, difficult to analyze and extremely time consuming to work with – hence the lack of widespread adoption.

With VoxPopMe, we set out to change this by making video simple to capture and even easier to analyze at scale. The goal was to enable video use within large quant studies, brand trackers and csat projects.

On Monday, at IIeX North America we are launching a new product which will completely change the way researchers approach video: allowing them to take a data set of hundreds or thousands of videos. Through transcription, sentiment, filtering and thematic coding, users can instantly understand and socialize the data. What previously took hours and days now will take minutes. We’re truly excited to be a contributor to this new era in market research.


Sneak Peek Book Excerpt: The Science Of Why by Dr. David Forbes

An exclusive first look excerpt from "The Science of Why" by Dr. David Forbes.



Editor’s Note: Today we have a rare treat for you, dear reader: a first look excerpt from an amazing book that I think you’ll enjoy immensely. The book is “The Science of Why” by my good friend Dr. David Forbes, CEO of Forbes Consulting Group (a Copernicus Company and part of the Dentsu Aegis Network).  I have the privilege of serving in an Advisory role for David and have done so for many years, so this is a pretty cool deal for me too: I’ve been along for the ride as he started writing this book and have had many discussions with him on it’s evolution for the past few years. Helping to share the results with the world is exciting! David has generously given us permission to serialize a few chapters from his forthcoming book here, so we’re starting today with the beginning of Chapter 1!

What’s ‘The Science of Why” about? Here is a description to whet your appetite:

Why do consumers do what they do? What’s really behind the choices they make? What moves them, what delights them, what truly fulfills them? And how can I reach them in their heart of hearts?

Questions like these have probably vexed marketers since the days when shells and spears were the most popular Fast Moving Consumer Goods. The Science of Why will answer those challenges and change your vision of consumer marketing in the process.

In this book Dr. Forbes brings together up-to-the-minute details of the new marketplace, advances in consumer research methods, and new information on uncovering, understanding, and targeting the emotional motivations that drive the actions of every consumer, all of the time. He has created a simple, easy to understand and easy to apply model of human motivation—a kind of ‘periodic table’ of motives that identifies, organizes, and explains the nine core motivations. This matrix contains all we need to know about why consumers do the things they do the way they do them.

Dr. Forbes enhances his material with fascinating examples, anecdotes and illustrations, and supplements his narrative with real world marketing case studies. Sharing the insight, humor, and understanding he’s gained from over 30 years as a psychologist, researcher, and marketing consultant to CEO’s worldwide, he will deliver game-changing insights and tactics to help you connect the dots from consumer motivations to business bottom lines.

David will be speaking next week at IIeX North America as well as doing a book signing on site. Stop by an pick up a free copy!


By Dr. David Forbes

Marketing to Motivation

The drive to persuade and to sell is part of what makes us human. We are, if nothing else, a social and a political species. From early childhood, we seek to persuade and to influence the situations and people around us. If you’ve ever seen a child work though sixteen reasons why it’s not yet time to go home from the playground, you know exactly what I mean. Ever since we’ve had something to sell, trade, or barter, we’ve been trying to persuade someone else to buy it.

From Lascaux to Twitter

We have taken a long strange trip from the caves at Lascaux to the welter of communications in the bold new world around us today. The clutter we navigate every second far exceeds anything we could ever have imagined even just one generation ago. In fact, it’s probably not an exaggeration to characterize the great, sweeping momentum of that change—in media, in communication, in popular culture—as transformational.

A big part of that change manifests in the way we consume media and messages today. When I was a kid,in the late fifties there were three channels of TV available. Everyone watched the same three channels. We all absorbed the same messages, available for the same amount of time, night after night. At 11 p.m., the three channels signed off. It was time for the country to go to bed. And so we did.

We consumed most of our other media in collectively standardized fashion as well. Our favorite musical artists regularly released standard-length albums, complete with catchy liner notes and mesmerizing cover art. We listened to them—in real time—with our friends, from beginning to end, day in and day out, until their grooves literally wore away. Then we taped quarters to the stylus of our record players and kept right on listening.

Like everyone around us, we knew those lyrics by heart and used the most personally meaningful of them to create a soundtrack for our lives. As we faithfully listened to that music and watched those shows, we progressed through a succession of predictable life stages together. We didn’t all like the same things, of course, but we shared a basic understanding of the options available to us. We saw those options as paths to reject or embrace as we made our way in the world. They embodied the zeitgeist of the era, the social bonds that held my generational cohort together.

The world began to change for my generation when Ted Turner created a fourth option to compete with our beloved three networks. CNN and the 24-hour news cycle stormed the scene in 1980, and the world would never be the same again. Suddenly we could consume media around the clock—and suddenly it was less of a “given” that we’d all watch or hear the same things.

Of course, Turner’s revolutionary concept and the offerings of subscription television quickly evolved further still, and now these too are becoming quaint and obsolete. Faced with this tsunami of stimuli, we fall back on the psychological mechanisms that have served us well since the time of the cave drawings. Our ancient brains are filters. They continuously pay attention to some things and shut out others. They tell us when to turn a glance into a gaze; they filter out the important signals from the cacophony of noise going on around us. They tell us when to start paying attention, and they tell us when to stop.

Foremost among these filters are the emotional filters. With every stimulus that comes in as a candidate for our attention, our emotional filters almost instantaneously ask these questions: “How do I feel about this?” “Will this be useful to me?” “Should I run away from this, or should I attack it?” Our emotional brain asks these questions over and over as we move through our day—and it does so faster than the speed of light and almost always below the threshold of our consciousness. This emotional processing lets us take action in situations that matter to us, helps us take advantage of situations that can benefit us, and keeps us safe in city crosswalks just as it once kept us safe from predators on the savanna .

Our brains still start the emotional processing of every new stimulus with the amygdala and its “fight or flight or freeze” judgment. But this is just the beginning of the complex emotional filtering that occurs with every new thing we encounter. Our emotional brain evaluates the emotional significance of what our senses bring to our attention. At this point, our core motivations—the ones we’ll be exploring in this book—come into full play. The question about “Will this be useful; can this help me out?” are answered foremost by reference to the core motivational forces that drive us all. These questions become “Could this represent a chance to fulfill any of my aspirational yearnings?” or “Might it give me a chance to overcome some of the frustrations that nag me as I move through my life?”

If a particular stimulus passes the threshold of emotional relevance, then we move on to the intellectual evaluations that will help us take best advantage of the opportunity—and get the most emotionally fulfilling outcome: “Should I react to this now or later?” “Will this go well with what I’m doing at the moment, or will taking advantage of it require a change of plan?” All these and many more intellectual questions need answers before we fully formulate how we will respond to a new situation that our senses present to us.

As we perform these evaluations, in thousandths of a second, we determine whether what we perceive represents something we feel good—or bad—about and whether it gives us an opportunity to change our lives for the better. And so it is that the very first questions we will ask are linked to the aspirations and frustrations we carry along with us as we move through life. These psychological motivations not only drive what we do but literally form a set of lenses through which we perceive the world around us.

Marketers widely complain about the clutter of messages in the marketplace today, but that’s really just the half of it. The clutter of marketing messages is only a subset of the broader clutter of stimuli that surround us in the world in which we now live. That’s why marketing messages—if they are to stand any chance of gaining access to our brains—must first pass through our emotional filters by communicating immediately and on a visceral level. They must be redolent with the promise of positive emotional experience. And they must arouse one of our core emotional motivations. Otherwise the print ad will lose out to the article on the facing page or to the child in the room asking about breakfast. The television advertisement will lose out to the vase of flowers that needs watering or to the rumbling of our stomachs that signals it’s snack time. The billboard advertisement may lose out to the attractive person passing in front of us or to the cute kid in the stroller just ahead. Likewise, the pop-up ad may lose out to the video link. And so it goes with every stimulus we encounter. The process of making these almost continuous emotional evaluations is largely instinctive – a function that is as old as or older than our first recorded steps toward motivation and persuasion in those “advertorials” on the ancient cave walls.

A Brief History of the Marketplace

Starting with trading beads like those discovered in the earliest human cave dwellings, the market has both created and answered consumers’ needs for products and services. Since those first primitive exchanges, “manufacturers” have scrambled to improve their products and to invent new ones at a dizzying pace, always chasing the signals and signs of what people want. Of course, unlocking the secrets behind what consumers really want is the province of motivational theory and emotional research—a journey we’re just beginning.

We can trace the early beginnings of marketing as we now practice it in the business world back to the beginning of the agricultural revolution. In the eons before we learned sedentary agriculture and animal husbandry, humans were nomadic, living hand to mouth and always engaged in the pursuit of food, safety, shelter, and the primal directive to reproduce.

In those early days, staying alive took up all of our time and all of our energy—calorically, physically, mentally, emotionally, and even culturally. In fact, before we invented cooking food over a fire, we literally spent more than half of our day just chewing our food.

We didn’t have the luxury of downtime to drive production, consumption, and ownership, and we didn’t yet have permanent homes to fill with the things we cherished. Only after our basic physiological needs were met did we begin to have the freedom to consider less urgent concerns. Only then did we become able to dream of and build a better life.

Through a series of pivotal developments, the agricultural revolution took hold, allowing members of those nomadic groups to put down literal and metaphorical roots. Over the course of many generations—again, in terms of evolution, just the blink of an eye—we became experts in planting and harvesting food and inventing and using tools. Cereals and grains were among our first domesticated crops. Gourds were reimagined as bowls. We kept our own animals as helpers and tamed them for use as food (like cattle and pigs and other livestock), as providers of commodities like wool (provided by sheep and llamas), transportation (horses, mules, camels, and elephants), protection (dogs), and eventually as companions.. We made pottery and learned food preservation techniques. At last, we became comfortable enough to feed our minds as well as our bellies. And all of this steadily increased our capacity to look beyond our physical selves and our immediate needs to imagine and yearn for a veritable host of ways we could improve our lives and make ourselves happier.

As we developed permanent homes, they became spaces we could improve over time, places our children could live and play in , and places to protect us, to house our possessions, and to preserve our legacies. We filled them with items of necessity, to be sure, but also with things that meant something to us on emotional and spiritual levels. As the significance of these items grew, we began to treasure them and to struggle to preserve them.

Not too far into this process, the day came when we found ourselves with significant excess time and excess provisions. This left us with the building blocks of the first “products” we could now trade with our neighbors, who were also newly able to produce more than they needed to survive. As time passed we devised methods to produce more and better products—sturdier shoes, clothes that fit and felt better, and soap that really got things clean. Meanwhile, our neighbors were also hard at work and devised systems and innovations that let them produce their products at a higher quality as well. And in this freest of free markets there were naturally redundancies in what everyone was making, and that’s what gave rise to competition.

This also led to the beginning of marketing (“Hey, look,” said John, “my soap is better than the other guys’!”). As insights, inventions, and new products sprang up to populate the marketplace, new options only succeeded over competing ones if they delivered a better way (or the perception of a better way) to improve the lives of the people who bought them. That is, to prevail in the market, products and services had to possess a compelling ability either to bring consumers closer to their aspirations and hopes or to help them move farther from their frustrations and fears.

The idea of “branding” began to emerge, as specialization, innovation, and word-of-mouth endorsements propelled generations of fortunate craftsmen to develop the reputation for making the best shoes (or clothes or soap) possible. Whole neighborhoods and whole villages became expert in making a small number of products.

For many generations at the beginning of our marketplace culture, we did business with our neighbors and friends in our own general neighborhood of small villages where people were well acquainted with each other. Most of those exchanges occurred in homes or commons. We knew the quality of products because we intimately knew the producers and the users of them, and we had known their parents and clan for all our lives. In this society of consumers and producers, reputations were made and lost on the basis of how well our products performed; everyone knew firsthand or heard from trusted friends and neighbors that John’s (and John’s son’s) soaps, for example, really worked.

As increasingly efficient methods of manufacturing evolved, a growing surplus of goods outstripped the needs of people living within the boundaries of the known neighborhood area. Marketers needed ways to increase their reach. This gave rise to another game-changing shift.

Growing the marketplace beyond the local neighborhood of villages and engaging in trade with more distant and larger audiences ushered in a new era of sales-driven business practices as we looked for new ways to compete. To succeed we had to motivate new consumers to buy our products—customers that we’d never seen or met and who did not know us and our goods at all. To reach consumers at a distance beyond word-of-mouth reputation it became necessary to broadcast, and that’s how product advertising was born – and the business of consumer persuasion began..

The Evolution of Motivational Marketing

These early forays into the art of persuasion still focused on the reputation of the individual or the craftsmen. And presentation of the products from these master craftsmen focused on the functional benefits, and a reputation for quality and value was everything.

But with a steadily increasing barrage of products, manufacturers, and advertisers working for them, it quickly became apparent that many excellent brands of almost any product type were available. Faced with the inability to compete simply on quality and value, manufacturers needed a way to persuade their customers to buy their brand even without an obvious or provable advantage.

Meanwhile, inventors and entrepreneurs used their brainpower to create new products that had never existed before, and they needed to create a need in consumers’ minds where there previously had been none. In these new marketplace contexts, the idea of “higher-order benefits” and the activity of “brand positioning” became an inexorable part of global commerce. Thus, a manufacturer of products competing with other brands of equal quality and value could appeal to his long and caring relationship with customers (“Johnson’s Soap—helping you stay fresh since 1892”), an example of the nurturance motivation in action (see chapter 13), or he could talk about his brand as “the one to trust” if a security motivation (see chapter 4) was more appropriate. And for the entrepreneur with the previously unknown product, new rhetoric aimed at the marketplace identified the “unmet need” as a topic of advertising: “Wouldn’t you love to stop struggling with the buttons on your pants? Now there’s the zipper!” In all of these cases, consumers first needed to be sold on what was lacking in their lives and then had to be convinced that their life would be much better if they had the missing “it.” All of these changes in how brands were presented to consumers and especially the rise of references to “higher order benefits” in positioning and new product advertising created a new need for businesspeople to think about their consumers’ lives by looking at the big picture. They had to focus on what people “really” needed or wanted and identify the kinds of product promises that might truly motivate them at their emotional core. Brand marketers who had until then just talked about products needed to start talking about how consumers might feel if they used a particular brand or tried a particular new product and how the item might change their lives for the better. The need then arose for marketers to get to know consumers and their motivations in a whole new way.

The Medium and the Message

At the same time these changes in the landscape of production and promotion were happening, the ways to get the message out to the masses changed as well. Word of mouth was the dominant form of advertising in the earliest marketplaces, even after Gutenberg rolled out his printing machine and produced the first printed Bible in 1455.

And word of mouth worked. As we travelled, we spread the word to the people we encountered that Johnson’s soap was indeed the best in the world. Later, merchants hired dedicated salespeople who travelled to consumers and attempted to sell them their products. The job of the traveling salesman, the Fuller Brush man, and the Avon lady started there.

Over time, as people continued to migrate to cities, everyone began to have access to public notices and newspapers. These papers in turn became cheaper, appeared more frequently, and became accessible to all. Very slowly, literacy rates improved, and the public no longer had to wait for information to come from an educated minority who consumed it first. As literacy and readership of media grew, the media itself transformed, and illustrations and the first grainy photographs appeared to communicate more vividly (and one hoped persuasively) the indescribable qualities of products – and the feelings consumers could get from using them — that words alone could not do justice to.

Remarkably quickly then, innovations in printing and transportation meant that newspapers could be delivered almost anywhere quickly and reliably. And inside each of those issues, tucked between the news and the opinions, were messages about products. The era of print advertising had arrived.

Thus, changes in methods and capabilities of production, development of new modes of distribution, and transformation in the technologies of communication all came together to radically transform the little village marketplace where John’s son had built his shop (and where the demand for his soap had grown to a point where his wife kicked the business out of the house). National product brands became the new marketplace norm, and products were advertised to national audiences by way of sophisticated print media with national reach. The need to talk about products evolved into its own special discipline as people who were exceptionally clever at devising persuasive ideas joined with people equally clever with words and other people equally creative at design. Together, they put themselves to work creating messages for multiple companies and product brands. Advertising agencies emerged as businesses in their own right, and brought with them their own culture, jargon, and values. And eventually, consumer research came into being, and experts in this new science developed ways of learning more about consumers and the effectiveness of messages designed to reach and persuade them. Not coincidentally, these first forays into the science of consumer behavior were called motivational research. From the very beginning, there has been an (unfocused) awareness that consumer activity began with the motivation to imagine, try, and buy.

Consumer Motivation and the American Dream

As people returned from the Second World War, changes in the worldview of the average household began to take place that would revolutionize consumer culture. Class barriers were breaking down among soldiers who had been united in the fight for freedom, and economic status became defined by what one could afford to buy instead of by inherited social class. And we rapidly began to develop a fantastic material culture for consumers: marvels of engineering (television, the automatic transmission!) and miracles of “Better Living Through Chemistry” (plastics!) that promised continuous changes for the better in our lives. The ideal of the American Dream became a dominant life aspirations not just in the United States but around the Western world, based on the conviction that we were entitled to a better life than our parents had, namely, a life filled with opportunity and options. Soldiers returning from war were often given loans that put more families into homes of their own. College tuition was provided for every veteran who could gain admittance, and levels of education and upward mobility led to the creation of a new culture focused on getting ahead in life.

This vision of ever expanding possibilities for progress took hold of our imagination, and the ideal of living up to our dreams and outstripping the successes of our parents took hold. The ambition to “keep up with the Joneses” became widespread, and a culture of material success blossomed. Almost all of us came to feel sure that with the requisite Buick in the driveway, the washing machine, and the new television set we could be really happy.

By this point, almost all of us could read and newspapers arrived daily at our doors. Radios sat in the living rooms of every home, and televisions were rapidly entering most homes. Electricity was no longer just about light. We wanted electric appliances to improve the quality of our lives, to amuse, distract, and enlighten us.

At the same time as this “perfect storm” of events that brought us into the modern age of consumer culture and that transformed the marketing world, the largest and most sweeping population surge in history took place. A single age group that was to dominate the landscape for decades was born in the demographic earthquake we now know as the baby boom.

This generation became the first to grow up completely under the sway of omnipresent communication, continuous innovation, and relentless consumerism. When the baby boomers were children, TV dinners, fast-food restaurants, and the commuter lifestyle of suburbia shaped a new perspective on domestic life. As adolescents, baby boomers embraced snack foods and soft drinks and changed the way we fed ourselves. College years of war protests and rock and roll changed the mores of our social lives. Young, upwardly mobile boomer yuppies took on Wall Street, acquired luxury cars and created the condo. Today, as retirees, they’re driving a revolution in leisure activities and retirement planning. The boomer generation was the first generation that was thoroughly marketed to, and the ways they behaved in this ever attentive marketplace reshaped the world as we know it today.

The process will continue with coming generations. While none of them may have quite the impact of the first real market-driving generation, each forthcoming generation — their values and attitudes, their behaviors and styles, and the needs and motivations linked to these will continue to reshape the culture as marketers continuously scurry to adapt to and adopt the perspective of emerging consumers.

And through all of this, success in the world of business will continue to depend on the ability to understand the psychological big picture of consumers’ wants and needs, their deep emotional motivations—and the capacity to translate these insights into messages about how products can change the experience of living for the better.


1. One impact of our “connected” revolution is that we are engulfed in media stimuli whose complexity outstrips the processing capacity of our brains.

2. This complexity makes it necessary for us to filter incoming stimuli to pay attention to those that promise to be most important or meaningful to us. The most powerful of these filters focus on emotional relevance.

3. The realities of consumer filtering and the complex and crowded information marketplace set a high standard for effective consumer communication—and much of what is out there will simply not get through to consumers.

4. For marketing messages to penetrate the media cacophony, they must make it past consumers’ perceptual filters.

5. The surest way to do this is to appeal to the consumers’strongest emotions –i.e., their dominant psychological motivations.