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Jeffrey Henning’s #MRX Top 10: Mining the Hive Mind & Cultivating the Beginner’s Mind

Posted by Jeffrey Henning Tuesday, January 6, 2015, 17:59 pm
Posted in category General Information
Here are 10 of the most retweeted stories shared on #MRX in the past two weeks.



By Jeffrey Henning

Here are 10 of the most retweeted stories shared on #MRX in the past two weeks: 

  1. The Enormous Implications of Facebook Indexing 1 Trillion of Our Posts – Writing for TechCrunch, Josh Constine looks at the future possibilities enabled by Facebook’s new status-update search engine.
  2. Embracing Change in MR – A Year-End Perspective – Edward Appleton shares three key lessons from his own year of change.
  3. Revealing the True Unfiltered Voice of the Customer with One Question – Amber Strain of Decooda shares five principles that have informed their research philosophy, sharing some lessons from a study of the Top 20 Inspiring Companies.
  4. The ARF David Ogilvy Award Submissions – Share a case study of using research insights to inform creative advertising.
  5. The Genius of Pooh: A Beginner’s Mind – Frank Zinni of Lieberman Research Worldwide traces the common thread between Winnie the Pooh, Sherlock Holmes and Zen Buddhism to the danger of knowing too much about what you’re researching.
  6. The Role of Empathy in Research – Sandra Mathison takes shelter from some F-bombs to uncover what empathy really means.
  7. This Is What Consumers Want from New Tech: And 4 Startups Trying to Take Those Desires to the BankAd Week showcases an infographic mapping four trends identified by Future Foundation to startups trying to leverage those trends.
  8. Implicit vs. Explicit Techniques in Market Research – The number-one article for the year over at Research Access was this post by Aaron Reid of Sentient Decision Science assessing whether 8 different research techniques provide implicit measurement.
  9. To Nail Your New Year’s Resolutions, Quantify Your Self – Writing for Fast Company, Luke Dormehl argues the best way to honor your personal resolutions is to start by knowing yourself a little better… then acting on it.
  10. 7 Ways to Lie with Focus Groups – Mike Brown of Brainzooming puts tongue firmly in cheek in telling us how to lie with focus groups.

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, ignoring retweets from closely related accounts. Only links with a research angle are considered.


Thinking Outside The “Project”

Don’t let the words “market research” deter you from getting the information you need in order to make the best possible business decisions. Access to that information is available faster than you can imagine, is easier than you think to acquire and is more affordable than ever before!



Editor’s Note: 2014 may very well have been the “Year of Agile”. Companies like Gutcheck, ZappiStore, USamp, Mizzouri, Toluna, Google, and many more all brought solutions to market that allow research to be conducted cheaper, faster, and more iteratively than ever before. Leveraging technology (especially automation) and with a healthy dose of inspiration from new thinking in business process improvement gurus these new solutions are part of a fundamental change in market research that is just beginning to be really felt. One of those fundamentals is the shift away from “the project” to a broader utilization of various research tools to help guide the answer to “the business question” in a much more flexible way.

Today’s post by Janet Kosloff of InCrowd brings that point home very well. InCrowd was “agile” before being agile was cool and for the past four years have pioneered many of the trends that hit the mainstream market research industry last year within their focus area of healthcare. The post uses the context of their offering and experience in that arena to help make the point that research can now truly deliver on it’s efficacy as a strategic tool in ways it was difficult (if not impossible) to do just a few years ago. The sky’s the limit on where this new role can take us, but InCrowd and the other companies leading the charge will surely help us get there.


By Janet Kosloff 

Most people know InCrowd as the folks who do Market Research very quickly.  It’s true, what we do is fast, and, it is market research, but if that’s all you think it is, you are missing the boat.

Here’s the point…. In a more perfect world, market research should not be an isolated event; it should be an ongoing process of obtaining information from the market so one can make better-informed business decisions hence running more successful businesses.

Decisions requiring market input can often be inconveniently timed and are rarely contingent on ones ability to execute a “market research project”. Yet the fact remains that a decision is required and having good data on which to base that decision can be the difference between making a gut decision or bringing to light a more informed efficient solution.

I know what you are thinking (because we did pretty extensive market research on this topic).  You are thinking (I’m paraphrasing here), “I DON’T want to do market research every time I have a question for the market, how exhausting and expensive”.

I don’t blame you for thinking this, especially given the existing internal and external complexities of obtaining reliable data from your target market.  This is the exact problem InCrowd has been designed to solve. Taking the obstacles out of the process of getting answers to business questions requiring market input, such that answers are fast, easy and inexpensive to obtain.

To this end, we’ve created an integrated research system that allows our clients to independently ask structured or unstructured questions of pre-vetted, pre-screened and very targeted respondents (currently MD’s, RN’s Pharmacists, MCO’s, Patients etc.) and obtain aggregated and user ready data back beginning virtually immediately.

  • 24/7 access to thousands of responders in the US and Ex-US
  • Survey engine that was built by and for researchers (which means it has the rigor required, but is easy enough to use independently)
  • Client service team with deep MR experience available to brainstorm and problem solve when needed.

So what’s the game changer here for our clients?

  1. They can integrate actual market data into their everyday workflow with ease allowing them to be closer to the customer.
  1. They can move at a faster pace in meeting the customer and competitive challenges we all face.

In the vertical we currently serve – Life Sciences – the impact can be dramatic.  The drug development and commercialization process is long and arduous.  Every day that a drug is not on the market there are real human consequences, in many cases suffering or even death.   The business impact is also real as many thousands and sometimes millions of dollars are forgone for each week a drug is not on the market, and that’s not even mentioning the impact of the ever ticking patent expiration clock.

So the challenge is this – don’t let the words “market research” deter you from getting the information you need in order to make the best possible business decisions.

Access to that information is available faster than you can imagine, is easier than you think to acquire and is more affordable than ever before!


The Sony Hacking Case: A Kill Shot to the Global Survey Industry or a Golden Opportunity?

Email security is vital to the industry from a business, cyber-security, and risk mitigation perspective, and, most importantly, from the perspective of maintaining general public trust in the industry. The market research industry can show leadership where many other industries are ignoring this time bomb. The industry has the most to gain – and the most to lose.



Editor’s Note: Data privacy and protection is a BIG deal, and it’s only going to get bigger. I say this as someone who is a libertarian at heart and believes that free market forces have a tendency to work themselves out without legislative intervention. That said, in the Wild West of the digital age Sheriffs are a necessity, and it is in the best interests of many industries, market research included, to develop self-policing procedures. As we recently discussed in this post related to the GRBN survey on Trust and Personal Data, our industry has a unique opportunity to lead in developing world class personal data protection policies.

This is a theme that Neil and Bob Seeman explore more deeply in todays post prompted by the recent Sony Hacking incident. It’s an important post to start 2015 with, and one that I hope all research companies take very, very seriously. It’s only a matter of time before one of the big digital data companies becomes a similar news headline, and we as an industry better be prepared for that day.


By Neil Seeman and Bob Seeman

The Sony hacking case reveals how easy it is for determined hackers to get inside a secure system. However, what about sensitive information that flows outside a secure system though very insecure systems – such as standard email? Few are talking about that – yet. The global market research industry needs to pay attention – now – and at the board level. Here’s why.

Consider an analogy to banking, where security is especially core to public trust – just like in market research. No country can afford a run on the banks. Imagine allowing unarmed bank employees to transport millions dollars of cash between the bank’s branches every day. However, nobody has thought of hiring Brink’s for email.

Email is not secure. Repeat: Email is not secure. Email with a password on an Excel spreadsheet/CSV, SPSS file or PDF is not secure.

Email is more like mailing a postcard – anyone with physical access to an email along its circuitous path from sender to receiver can read the email. Just like a postcard, an email passes through a lot of different people’s easy access. It gets copied to and resides on about six different computers before being read by the recipient. Each computer is a target. However, far less secure than a postcard, an email can reside on one or more of these computers and also be easily searchable – in perpetuity. You can talk to thousands of Sony employees about that. At least, when delivered properly, there is only one copy of the postcard and it can be easily shredded after being read.

Few people understand how email works. Most people think that email works similarly to accessing a website. A website’s information goes non-stop directly from the website’s computer to your computer and its screen. Websites work this way but email does not.

With a variety of readily available software, an email can be surreptitiously copied – or modified ­– whilst resting on any one of those six computers or in transit among them. To mention just one way that any 14 year-old computer whiz can hack your email in minutes, just go to YouTube and search “wifi email hacking”. Caution: you may not want to do the search if you want to sleep well tonight.

Almost all companies use email. However, there may not be an industry more reliant on emails to non-employees – and emails sent outside the secure corporate network – than the market research industry. The board of every market research company in the world, especially public companies, is legally obliged to know associated risk and monitor risk regularly – that is basic risk compliance. It cannot be left to an IT department. Similar to an expert such as an Audit Committee Chair, many public companies are now considering recruiting a security expert to their board to chair their Cybersecurity Committee.

Almost every panel company that we are aware of, and many market research companies, rely on email or social media to broadly distribute surveys or links to a survey. By definition, the industry often collects sensitive personally identifiable information (PII) including income and employer reviews.

Even though the respondent will consent to providing this information, he is not consenting to even a minor risk that his data will be hacked as a result of insecure email communications, thereby providing hackers potential access to medical records or social security numbers. The people who hacked Sony’s system obtained PII on more than 47,000 people, including former and current employees, consultants and movie stars. In the case of the market research industry, any one of the tens of millions of people who have opted in to an insecure system are potentially at risk.

The market research industry cannot afford to lose 100 terabytes of data in hours like Sony did.  The hackers not only posted confidential Sony information on the Internet but they erased massive amounts of data, making the entire Sony internal computer network unusable. For this to happen to the market research industry would be a public relations disaster to the entire sector – even if it happened to just one large company.

This threat is not the unwarranted Y2K scare. It is a real and imminent risk to global commerce – especially market research, given its reliance on email to transmit information to even the most transient of survey takers.

Email security is vital to the industry from a business, cyber-security, and risk mitigation perspective, and, most importantly, from the perspective of maintaining general public trust in the industry. Many customers abruptly stopped using credit cards at Target upon the massive credit card hack that hit Target – but customers still could pay with cash. In contrast, if the Web-based market research industry loses the trust of people online, it could be decimated. Its very product is trust – trust that PII will be handled confidentially. And that is leaving aside the potential regulatory penalties and legal claims thereby associated.

With the future of the industry at stake, this is now an opportunity for the industry to show leadership where other industries have not.

When people sign up for a market research panel, they provide their PII and opt-in consent. Then, some data companies procure panel ‘sample’ from that company. A data firm then often emails out or texts the survey link to the bespoke survey and people answer the survey in the link for sweepstakes or rewards. These links may be secure or insecure. However, since market research companies want as many answers as possible to a survey they may not want to put in too many roadblocks to potential respondents – such as a 10-digit password (with jumbled numbers and upper/lowercase letters) or a secure password recovery method (one that does not rely solely on standard email to recover).

Even emailed “secure” links are generally easily hackable. If someone’s email has been hacked, the typical password reset method through email has also been compromised. It has been completely compromised if the password reset method does not offer multiple difficult challenge questions – like most banks have now established. If the reset method does not involve a manual type-in to the URL bar (address bar) of the reset link, as opposed to just clicking on a link, it may be a phishing scam perpetrated by the very same people who initiated the hack.

A person’s email account is the central location for almost all of his or her passwords. It is the key to their electronic soul.

Some data companies even send to their client – by standard unencrypted email – spreadsheets of attitudinal data including respondents’ email addresses.

And unlike in-house transactional data like at Sony, survey data are communicated less safely – and also less effectively – over insecure email. The market research industry should be a leader in Big Data analytics. It is difficult to build a ‘Big Data strategy’ if a company’s entire modality of collecting data is insecure and liable to easy breach.

The solution begins with either abandoning standard email-based communication or introducing higher-security measures as one might have on an internal corporate network. Rigorous password standards must be introduced. Do not encourage people to click on links in emails that encourage phishing by spammers. Transmit all PII, survey invitations and responses by secure encrypted channels or secure encrypted email. The industry must seriously consider moving to non-email based platforms or to the many secure specialized do-it-yourself platforms. Some (a small minority) of apps have been independently vetted as secure and private and do not require email input – yet this custom-made solution is potentially compromised by the reality that apps have a terrible reputation in cyber-security since they are capable of collecting (with user “consent”) exactly where a person is located or has travelled ever since they installed the app, Web histories, e-mail contacts, and connect to other ‘game’ apps that may be even less secure.

The market research industry can show leadership where many other industries are ignoring this time bomb. The industry has the most to gain – and the most to lose.


Bob Seeman is Chair of The RIWI Corporation, a global Internet data collection and risk company, Chairman of the Advisory Board of EOPN, a secure encrypted email company, an engineer and former Head of Strategy for Microsoft Network, UK. Neil Seeman is a Senior Fellow at Massey College in the University of Toronto and CEO of The RIWI Corporation. They are both non-practicing lawyers.


Finding the Right Balance in RFPs

RFPs that provide no flexibility for the research vendor to offer some good ideas are often unwise.  RFPs that leave everything up to the vendor are also highly problematic.  The challenge for research clients is in finding the right balance between providing too much guidance and too little.  The quality of your insights project will depend on finding this balance.



By Ron Sellers

RFPs are at the same time the bane of the research vendor’s existence and the thing which keeps us in business.

I’ve run my own research company, worked for a research vendor, and headed primary research for a major corporation.  I’ve sent out lots of research RFPs (Request for Proposal; sometimes Request for Quote, Bid, or Information), and received more than I can remember from everything from a small local church to some of the biggest corporations in the world.  But I continue to be floored at how much variation there is in the RFP process from one potential client to the next.

The RFPs I get run the gamut from “Here are the exact specifications I want and I’m not open to changes – just give me a price” on one end of the spectrum, to “Here’s the basic business issue – please design a complete research process for us as part of your bid” on the other.

With the first approach, my company is given no freedom at all to act as anything more than a pricing spreadsheet (which most likely means price will be the decision driver).  Often, we get these bids from purchasing departments that know nothing more about research than they do about which wood is best for pencils.

Even if the RFP comes from a highly experienced and competent client-side researcher, this approach reduces the research vendor to an order taker.  Even the most experienced researchers can still learn from others, as iron sharpens iron.  Sometimes an outside view brings fresh ideas and perspectives that can heighten efficiency, reduce cost, or shine a whole new light on a business issue.  Fieldwork is usually driven by specs, but things such as project design require creativity as well as the science of research.

I have no problem at all with an RFP containing detailed specifications.  It’s when the RFP (or the client) leaves no room for suggestions or potential improvements that it can become frustrating.  If we’re not allowed to be collaborators at any level on the RFP, the chances we can actually be collaborators on the project itself are pretty slim.

On the other end of the spectrum, however, is where the real frustration can emerge.  Grey Matter Research frequently receives RFPs that provide little or no guidance.  “Our sales for this product category are shrinking and we need to do some research to figure out why and what to do about it – please design the methodology and tell us what it will cost, and submit it all in an RFP.”  We even got a request once from a major corporation that sold products through resellers, and the RFP didn’t specify whether the target of the research was the consumers or the resellers (it was our job to recommend which one to research).

There are many problems with this approach.  One is that we have to spend considerable time mapping out an entire research strategy, with no defense against the client taking our approach and handing the whole thing over to another vendor to conduct.

Another problem is that we’re forced to develop the entire research strategy in a vacuum, without critical corporate history and knowledge that resides with the client.

A third problem is that this approach also squashes collaboration, because instead of the client making all the decisions, now it’s just handed over to the research vendors with little relevant client input.  I well remember a nebulous RFP for a bank that provided very little guidance.  When I contacted the client and started asking some questions, I was castigated.  “None of the other vendors had any questions – why do you?”  My goal was to design a project that would be best for the bank rather than for my company, but the client saw collaboration as a weakness rather than a strength.   The best  research is not a package you take off the shelf and put in your cart – it’s a partnership between client and vendor.

But possibly the biggest issue with this approach is that there is simply no good way to compare RFPs that could be dramatically different.  One vendor might recommend focus groups while another suggests a large online study and a third targets a small study with galvanic skin response and eye tracking, all at vastly different price points  and providing vastly different kinds of feedback.  It’s like test driving a Lamborghini, a Dodge pickup, and a Smart car and trying to decide which one is “better” without knowing the budget or the needs of the buyer.

Even if there is a little methodological guidance given, we get RFPs with notes such as “vendor to recommend sample size” or “vendor to suggest number of focus groups.”  The challenge with this approach is that there is no right answer to these questions.  Most researchers would agree that a sample of 50 people is usually insufficient for a quantitative study, and that a sample of 10,000 is overkill in most cases.  And most of us would agree that a sample of 1,000 is “better” than a sample of 400 – more subgroup flexibility, more data points, lower sampling error, etc.  But is 1,000 “better” if it costs 50% more and takes another two weeks in the field?  In some situations, the trade-off is worth it; in other cases, it’s not.  That’s a case-by-case decision, and one that usually needs to be made by the end client, since it’s their budget that has to pay for the additional respondents and their timeline which has to allow for them to be done.

Particularly difficult is when absolutely no budget guidance is given.  I’ve designed research projects from $7,500 to $750,000, with everything in between.  When reading your RFP, I have no idea whether you’ll look at a project with four focus groups and 400 interviews and like the fact that I’ve kept it small and lower-priced, or laugh at the fact that it’s so small and insufficient compared to what you want (and possibly to what some other vendor responding to the RFP has guessed in recommending 12 groups and 1,600 completed interviews).

I’ve quoted price tags of $50,000 to small companies and had them suggest enlarging the project, and I’ve quoted the same price to major corporations and had them tell me that’s way beyond what they can spend.  I’ve lost projects because another vendor was “able to solve our problem with fewer focus groups.”  Uh, no – apparently they just guessed right at what you actually wanted.  My company could also do fewer focus groups, and possibly even at a lower price had I been given that opportunity.

From a vendor standpoint, the ideal RFP provides solid background on what the project is meant to accomplish (and what the current business situation is), thoughts or guidance on methodology (at least the basics of whether you’re looking for qualitative or quantitative information and who you actually want to research), guidance on your budget or scope expectations, and the freedom for Grey Matter to collaborate with you and, between the two of us, design the best approach for what you need.

So please, Mr. or Ms. Client, don’t reduce your vendors to simple order takers and remove our ability to provide some ideas that may prove valuable to your work.  On the other hand, don’t expect us to design the ideal project for you in a vacuum, with no guidance other than a whole lot of guesswork, and give you a final product you can then send to someone else to complete while we’re left with no compensation for our time and good ideas.

Find good vendors that can collaborate with you and be research partners that will sharpen your thinking and help you achieve even greater success.  Then give us the necessary guidance and background and see what more we can add to the design.  Shackling us with parameters that are inflexible or forcing us to guess at what you need will both end up limiting what we can do for you.


Embracing Change In MR – A Year End Perspective

The best way to prepare for change is to assume that what you are currently doing may not last as long as you think, and to reach out constantly to embrace the new.



By Edward Appleton

2014 was for me a year of change – whilst staying client side in Market Research, I changed job, changed the town I live in, the industry I work in, changed my route to work, the time I spend at work, changed my work colleagues. Changed a lot, in fact.

For me, the process was full of surprises – some good, some less so.

Looking back, and with my Market Research lens on, it made me very aware of how myopic we become with our methodological fixations, our anxieties and enthusiasms about New MR, DIY, commoditization of group discussions to name a few.

Technology is changing the world we live in so radically, and in ways that are so difficult to anticipate, that it’s easy to run after the next big thing, only to arrive out of breath and disappointed to discover a mirage, or somebody setting a new agenda with something else.

So rather than talking about how shopper research/predictive analytics/holistic analyses/storytelling ability are going to be THE NEXT BIG THING sometime soon, here are a few of the thoughts that stayed with me in my year of change.

1. Prepare daily for change by reaching out to new people, new thoughts, new things

The best way to prepare for change is to assume that what you are currently doing may not last as long as you think, and to reach out constantly to embrace the new. Whatever that new may be – a skill, a language, new people, new behaviours and sure, a new MR methodology (structural equation modelling maybe ;)….Embrace things that aren’t necessarily natural to you. Play out of your comfort zone – before change forces your hand.

Why? It helps make change less bumpy – you’re constantly preparing for it in a way. You simply don’t know what tomorrow’s environment might look like, and the most unexpected people turn out to be the most helpful and meaningful to you.

Increasing your reach – hopefully Mssrs. B. Sharp and A. Ehrenberg wouldn’t disagree – is also likely to be the best way of finding people who truly appreciate you.

2. Network differently: share, stay in touch, be personal. 

Managing change is often seen in terms of skills refreshment – I agree with that, but think it’s actually only half the story. We need to foster broader networks in different ways that goes beyond the purely transactional.

Effectively networking means ditching the concept of the Sales Funnel and thinking about people as people, not business contacts, and for the longer term. If it’s time to send good wishes – a birthday, Christmas, good luck etc – writing something personal, in your own handwriting is likely to resonate more than an email or a corporate card with signatures you don’t recognise.

3. Help Others.

Change is a constant and often painful process. Learning new things means we make more mistakes, are less efficient, encounter more moments where we are not expert.

Humbling stuff.

For me, one of the take-outs of this was a heightened empathy to people struggling, and asking myself what I could do to help. Researchers have the reputation of being “nice” people – do we actually do enough to help people who could use our expertise in some form? Students looking for an entry point into MR? Start-ups that don’t even know how small-scale ethnographies or shoppalongs could help?

It’s something I personally aim to put near the top of my 2015 Resolution lists – under the heading “Give Something Back”.

So that’s it. 2014 was an interesting year, and one that I couldn’t possibly have planned or anticipated. It’s been ultimately invigorating – and has sensitised me to the need of taking a practical, hopefully optimistic rather than irritated approach to the cliche that change is a constant.

Curious, as ever, as to others’ views.


Revealing The True Unfiltered Voice Of The Customer With One Question

As technology and media make the voice of the customer ever more accessible, marketers need to be ready to discard their established belief systems and listen instead to the sentiment and beliefs of the crowd.

1 question


Editor’s Note: Last week I was invited to moderate a panel discussion during a webinar for my friends at Decooda (winners of the inaugural Insight Innovation Competition and a company I sit on the Board of). The topic was an overview of recent work they had done with Forbes & Terry Barber of Performance Inspired to develop a one question verbatim delivered via a crowdsourced survey to power their annual “Most Inspiring Companies” list. By using advanced text analytics, they were able to capture an amazing level of insight not previously available via a traditional, structured surveys. It’s phenomenal research, and in line with a trend by many clients and suppliers to develop text analytics powered solutions to redefine the data collection & analysis process and deliver heretofore unavailable (at least at scale and inexpensively) insights.

I asked Dr. Amber Strain, the Director of Cognitive Sciences at Decooda to build on what they learned from this project in a blog post, and today we’re sharing that with you. There is also a much more detailed paper on the methodology and learnings from the project available here:  http://decooda.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Decooda-Performance-Inspired-WP.pdf. To get a copy of the Forbes Most Inspiring Companies report you can register here: http://www.performanceinspired.tv/

This is important, ground-breaking work that deserves a deep dive: the new generation of advanced, big-data driven text analytics is poised to be one of the most transformative technologies to ever impact business insights and the market research industry as a whole needs to actively become engaged in exploring use cases.

If you’d like to listen to the webinar, you can access that here: https://decooda.adobeconnect.com/p5qp8v6mhdp/


By Amber Strain, Ph.D.

Market research is a science. It is about collecting qualitative and quantitative data about customers in order to understand their needs. Done correctly, market research helps businesses look past their own preconceived notions or hypotheses about what is needed in the marketplace and instead gives them direct access into the mind of the customer. The attainment of these insights may be relatively straightforward. However, their interpretation is far more challenging. As individuals, we are all driven by our own beliefs about the marketplace and the world more generally. When information about the marketplace or world bumps up against our established beliefs, we tend to reject this information and instead turn to insights that are more familiar or expected.

This tendency is ingrained in our DNA and is perpetuated by today’s segmented approach to personalized engagement. Search engines like Google and Yahoo present us with information that is uniquely crafted to match our preferences based on our web-surfing behaviors. This tacit reinforcement of our own preferences minimizes our exposure to information that could threaten our present world view. What’s more, with features like “unfriending” embedded in popular social media channels, we are able to eliminate any social commentary that we find incongruous with our personal preferences. Rather than opening the door to diverse perspectives, we often construct our social media pages to reflect only perspectives that reinforce our own. Diversity threatens one’s belief system. It’s safer to stick with what fits our own narrative than to take a risk on something novel, unexpected, or contradictory to our own beliefs.

It is this deep seated tendency that aspiring change-agents must rail against if we want to truly revolutionize market research. At Decooda, we see ourselves as such change-agents. We seek out other change-agents who share our vision of disrupting the marketplace by exposing the unfiltered voice of the customer. Yesterday, Forbes magazine debuted our work in collaboration with change-agent Terry Barber from Performance Inspired, in which we revealed the Top 20 Inspiring Companies in 2014. For details about the methodology and outcome of the study, see our short video here. When we tabulated our results and constructed the final Top 20 list, there were several unexpected findings. Some businesses who have consistently made the Top 20 list in years past did not make the list at all this year (most notably Wal-Mart). There were some companies on the list who have encountered some serious setbacks over the years, which made their presence on the list a little surprising. Perhaps most unexpected was the finding that the #1 most inspirational company, Tesla, made its debut to the list this year and outranked veterans to the list such as Google, Apple, and Coca-Cola.

We were a little surprised by these findings ourselves. Why did Target, who faced one of the biggest electronic security breaches in history, beat out top companies like Amazon or Google who have largely avoided such issues? How did Chick-Fil-A rank 7th on the list even after the controversy related to its stance on same-sex marriage? These were questions that unsettled us.

A closer look at the data revealed that the unexpected findings really aren’t that surprising if we’re willing to suspend our own market-driven notions of what makes a company inspirational. We found that the most inspirational companies – at least in the eyes of the customer – are not always the most popular, exotic, or lucrative companies. Indeed, inspirational companies in 2014 appeared to be those that either (1) got back on their feet following a significant set-back this year, (2) rose above obstacles that might have stymied their success, (3) stood up for their values or beliefs in spite of the effect it might have on their bottom line, (4) showed superior care or concern for their employees, or (5) chose to put the needs of their customers (or humanity in general) above their need for revenue.

Of course, every year is different. What resonates with customers this year might not resonate next year. We speculate that what drives customers’ perceptions of inspiration may be largely due to events that have taken place on the domestic and world stage this year, and the social commentary surrounding those events. For instance, in 2014 America witnessed a flux of businesses who were picketed by their own employees over issues of fair pay and employee treatment. Between the media coverage and the preponderance of social media banter about these events, it’s unsurprising that customers this year were inspired by companies who demonstrated superior concern for their employees. Though employee treatment may not always be a prime indicator of inspiration, it is a very strong indicator this year because issues related to employee treatment are so prevalent in the social sphere.

As technology and media make the voice of the customer ever more accessible, marketers need to be ready to discard their established belief systems and listen instead to the sentiment and beliefs of the crowd. Customers flock to social media and other online outlets to voice their opinion because they want to be heard. It’s time to climb out of the ivory tower of market experience and instead listen to what customers have to say. So, here are our suggestions for how today’s change-agents can innovate credible, reliable insights that shake up the marketplace:

Start with a research question that is timely and relevant

Every good scientific endeavor starts with a really great research question. The best research questions challenge individuals to gain a new perspective on relevant issues and learn something new. Market researchers should begin forming research questions by contemplating their personal experiences in the marketplace. What are the aspects of the research space that are unwieldy or problematic? What are the behaviors of customers that don’t make sense? Identify a problem that most market researchers seem to be stumped by and create a research question that aims at understanding the problem better. Finding a solution might not be feasible given the complexity, ambiguity, or pervasiveness of the problem. In those cases, the goal should be to chip away at the problem in a novel and innovative way and invite others to do the same.

Create testable hypotheses based on experience and prior knowledge

We are fans of deriving novel insights that defy commonly held beliefs. However, we acknowledge that experience and prior knowledge (which give rise to such beliefs) are of tremendous value, especially in terms of creating hypotheses. Hypotheses are a priori, declarative statements about the expected answer to the research question. Hypotheses provide a theoretical framework for the research and are useful for explaining the outcomes. Prior knowledge and experience help to inform researchers of what kinds of outcomes are reasonable, given what is already known. If the outcomes don’t match the hypothesis, the researcher must decide if the unexpected findings are reasonable, in spite of what was already known. If the hypothesis is wrong but there is a reasonable explanation for the unexpected findings, then a novel insight has been discovered.

Blend traditional and exploratory methodologies

Traditional methodologies such as panels, focus groups, and quantitative surveys are staples of market research because they work. Even the boldest change-agents use these methods when appropriate because they are often standardized and give insights that are relatively straightforward. However, today’s best innovators are always seeking exploratory methodologies that will move the needle even further. Researchers shouldn’t forsake the tried and true methodologies of the past, but should instead focus on blending exploratory methodologies with their favorite traditional methods.

A few years ago, Decooda began experimenting with different ways to ask survey questions. We had learned that asking customers to respond to open-ended questions about what they like and dislike about a product led to dull, lifeless responses and a low response rates. We replaced open-ended questions about likes and dislikes with questions like, “Pretend that you are trying to convince your best friend to buy (or not to buy) this product. What would you say to persuade this friend?” We found that asking such imaginative questions led to emotionally-charged, detailed, and descriptive responses. These questions also increased response rates by 300%.

Our methodology and fully automated, real-time cognitive analytics platform has been optimized to reflect the utility of imaginative open-ended questions. Rather than creating hundreds of scaled or multiple choice questions that are boring and time-consuming, we are now beginning with a small number (usually 1-3) of imaginative open-ended questions that can be analyzed in real-time. We use insights that are derived from these open-ends to inform what kind of structured, quantitative questions we should follow up with. In the past, we might have asked 100 scaled questions about a product and found that only 20 of them provided useful insights. By analyzing the robust responses to our open-ended questions, we are able to pinpoint the most relevant questions and discard the unnecessary ones. This approach has the benefit of reducing the amount of cognitive load on customers taking the survey, and eliminating useless or irrelevant data.

Automate the process for increased accuracy and reliability 

It’s hard to be innovative when everyone on the research team is working over capacity. Tedious, boring work kills creativity. Is there anything more taxing, monotonous, or boring than a team of people hand-coding open-ended verbatims? We find that the majority of researchers have to either cut corners by coding only a small proportion of their open-ended verbatims, or suffer the tedium of coding thousands of responses by hand. Some researchers simply lack resources and time, forcing them to ignore their open-ended responses altogether.

We have found that the best way to engender the creative spark is to automate such tasks so that valuable cognitive resources are freed up for innovative thinking. We have spent the last three years developing a platform that fully automates the task of coding structured and unstructured data for broad sentiment, fine-grained emotions, personas, cognitive states, and attributes (or topics of conversation). Our platform has been externally validated and boasts precision rates of 95-98% and above 70% recall. With the time saved as a result of automating our coding process, members of our team focus on crafting novel and innovative research.

Be willing to prove your hypotheses wrong

Finally, if market researchers are not prepared to discard their theories or hypotheses when they encounter unexpected findings, then they aren’t real change-agents. In Decooda’s world, the data often tells us something that surprises us. That is, we make educated guesses about how modern customers feel about business, brands, or products, and the data reveals results that are contradictory to our expectations. We have made a commitment to give the data a voice – to let it speak its own truth without imposing our preconceived notions upon it. We don’t allow our CEO, our CMO, or our Ph.D’s to be the loudest voice in the room when it comes to deriving insights. The loudest voice in the room will always be the data. So, when the data tells us something that bumps against our scientific and marketing sensibilities, we don’t try to make the data fit our expectations. Instead, we take the opportunity to let the data reshape our expectations.


Happy Holidays From GreenBook (With A Little Help From LRW)!

The LRW team sent us one of the most awesome holiday cards ever. We loved it so much we asked them if we could borrow it and they graciously agreed. Click on the image below and you'll see why we just had to share it!



We’ll only be posting intermittently over the holidays, so hopefully all the fun stuff in this card will help keep you occupied over the break. :)

Happy Holidays from all of us to all of you!


The Qual Hackathon – A Chance To Co-Create Cutting Edge Qualitative Solutions

To facilitate innovation in Qualitative Research, IIeX has created the Qual Hackathon, an all day, interactive, co-creation session where participants will be challenged to create new solutions to real business problems. The event is being run as part of IIeX Europe, and will take place 19 February in Amsterdam.

Hackathon-logo (1)

By Ray Poynter 

Many people seem to think innovation starts with tech, but we believe it starts with people, and in particular innovations in qualitative research are all about people, interactions, and imagination. To facilitate this innovation IIeX has created the Qual Hackathon, an all day, interactive, co-creation session where participants will be challenged to create new solutions to real business problems. The event is being run as part of IIeX Europe, and will take place 19 February in Amsterdam.

This highly interactive session will be facilitated by leading qualitative researchers from across Europe, giving participants the chance to learn by doing and creating cutting edge qualitative solutions.

The team of facilitators are:

The day will be split into four sections, with each section having a goal:

  • Methods of defining a problem and designing an outline solution.
  • Adding detail to a solution and working out how the data/artefacts/information are going to be collected/acquired.
  • How is the information going to be assessed/analysed/processed? How are the insights going to be created/discovered?
  • How are the insights going to be communicated? Strategies for making the stories come alive.

The results of the hackathon will be posted on the GreenBook website, and will be available as ‘idea starters’ for anybody interested – the session is ostentatiously open-source and collaborative – the ideas are intended to be shared, borrowed, and improved..

The Qual Hackathon is being run as part of IIeX Amsterdam. You can come along just for the Hackathon, make it part of your two days at IIeX, or come for part of the day and spend the rest of your time in the other IIeX streams.

To book a place or for more information visit http://iiex-eu.insightinnovation.org/


2015 Insights-Driven eCommerce Resolutions

Customers are the reason for ecommerce success. And today, we have access to the tools that connect our businesses directly to those customers’ insights. So get the most out of 2015 and the research technology you have at your fingertips.

Thumb up 2015


By Malcolm Stewart

The ecommerce landscape is vastly different today than 10 years ago. As technology and communications advance, ecommerce experiences need to keep up, and it can be a challenge to pinpoint exactly what steps will keep you ahead of the game.

With the new year almost upon us, now is a great time to identify some resolutions for propelling your ecommerce strategy. To do that, ecommerce leaders need to be people-driven, not just number-driven. On that note, we’ve come up with three ways to help you build ecommerce experiences that are centered on the customer, not the quantitative data.

1. Invest in Technology That Drives Real Customer Insights

Consider the prediction that CMOs will be spending more on IT than CIOs by 2017. Sadly, much of this investment is not efficient. Making smarter technological investments in data and research can mean wiser ecommerce strategies.

It oftentimes feels like there’s a new “big data” analytics tool on the market every month. Before you know it, ecommerce leaders are managing a half dozen different tools, and dashboard after dashboard, graph after graph. Ultimately, this data is telling you the same information, just from different points of where your customer happens to be.

We’re setting ourselves up to fail when we add more data, not better data.

The addition of qualitative research data is a smart investment when so much is on the line. Qualitative research can help you understand the “why” behind your KPIs, instead of just adding a dozen more KPIs to track.

2. Treat Customers as People, Not Data Points

That’s right: Stop treating customers as data points and start treating them as people. With the plethora of big data, it’s understandable that ecommerce leaders inadvertently start shaping images of a customer based on numbers rather than human feedback, but the habit is a dangerous one.

In order to really leverage big data, you must connect to the humans behind the numbers.

Today, quantitative data plus “instinct” drives a lot of our ecommerce campaigns. Because we have the ability to collect massive portions of quantitative data, however, qualitative data still falls by the wayside. Until today, large-scale qualitative research did not exist.

The hard truth is that quantitative data can plateau – a fact reflected in the very existence of “standard” conversion rates. So next year, avoid getting wrapped up in the numbers and missing out on real customer insight by using qualitative data as a complement to your other analytics tools..

3. Develop an eCommerce Experience That Creates a Story

In 2015, resolve to create an experience that actually lays out a story that engages your customers versus just trying to get them to click one button after another. This is about being a seamless part of the “cognitive funnel” – the cognition process that a target customer experiences when making purchasing decisions.

Founder of YouEye, Kyle Henderson, discusses this idea more in an interview that you can read here. He points out how qualitative research can help ecommerce brands be a part of this decision-making process.

Through qualitative research, ecommerce brands can discover meaningful offerings that align with the e-commerce cognitive funnel; one example Kyle gave highlighted that qualitative research was able to identify that the confirmation of free shipping very early in the shopping process “led to additional confidence and eagerness to purchase from a vendor that was no longer in question.”

A great e-commerce experience is going to build a story, help inspire confidence and establish trust. It’s about discovering the order in which information is presented to the customer. Big data oftentimes points ecommerce leaders to create a checklist of all the different things that they need to have on their website in order to be at “best practices.”

But the problem with big data is that it doesn’t tell you what order each item on that checklist needs to be in to create a story. And that’s what qualitative research can do.

Make Ecommerce More Human in 2015

Customers are the reason for ecommerce success. And today, we have access to the tools that connect our businesses directly to those customers’ insights. So get the most out of 2015 and the research technology you have at your fingertips. Your customer – and your bottom line – will thank you.


7 Tricks For Cracking Trackers

Start cracking your tracker and make its data more impactful for marketers and end users. Combining the focus on relevant brand performance dimensions with the additional context deep dives will allow you to finally bring your tracker data to life again.
7 tricks for cracking trackers


Many brands continuously measure their performance on several key performance indicators. Yet, if you are working with tracker data, whether you are a researcher or research user, it will not come as a surprise that trackers often lead to many frustrations amongst its users.

One of the key frustrations is that tracker data – coming from your brand or customer experience tracking – is often too static. The data does give an impression of the brand performance across different key performance dimensions, tracking this over time, however – whether it is on a monthly, a quarterly or a yearly basis – often does not reveal anything new. Most tracker reports bring a similar story over and over again. On the other hand, when you actually see a disruption in the data pattern, the traditional measurement questions do not allow you to capture the ‘why’ behind the data movement.

Should brands just ditch their tracker studies? Considering the above mentioned shortcomings of traditional tracker research, both researchers and research users need to start evaluating their existing trackers critically. Here are 7 tips to become a real ‘Tracker Cracker’:

Tweetaway redTweetaway: 7 tips to get more out of your tracker studies insit.es/1Ag1xCS by @KPallini #mrx #surveys #tracking

Tip 1: Stop tracking for the sake of tracking

Firstly, you need to ask yourself which key performance indicators are worth tracking over time. Evaluate the significance of each performance criterion in your survey critically. Does the item directly influence your brand strength and impact your strategy? If the answer is ‘no’, you should instantly discard that question from your survey. It is not because you have always measured your brand performance through the traditional brand funnel thinking that you should continue doing so. The same goes for those 3 touchpoint NPS scores that are doing the tour of the organization: don’t be afraid to let go of those irrelevant KPIs and focus on the core. So stop tracking for the sake of tracking and revise your tracker survey question by question. Furthermore, it is essential that each metric is owned by a stakeholder in your organization. Assign people to be responsible for all the different metrics, ownership is key to guarantee tracker relevance!

Tip 2: Is it possible for consumers to give a truthful answer?

Once you have critically evaluated your tracker as to assure it only contains relevant questions, the next step is to assess whether it is possible for consumers to actually provide you with an accurate answer. Recall of information depends on one’s memory, which is imperfect and therefore often unreliable. Avoid questions which require for participants to look too far back in time, it is better to limit your question’s timeframe. Use the repurchase timeframe of your product or service as a guide in the matter.

Tip 3: Can your next-door neighbor answer this?

Subsequently, you need to make sure that each question is written in clear consumer language. Always ask yourself if your average consumer can answer your questions. Researchers and marketers need to keep in mind that the average consumer is not like them. Avoid using marketing jargon. Here’s a trick: simply ask yourself whether your next-door neighbor would be able to answer your survey questions.
Confused man

Tip 4: Be available in relevant context or moments

Especially when your brand experience is lived in different customer touchpoints, you need to make sure your survey is available throughout those touchpoints, allowing consumers to provide in-the-heat-of-the-moment feedback. Ensure that your tracker survey is available on any device used by your consumers. These days mobile is part of the device usage of any target group, so make sure you design your questionnaire smartly to fit the mobile screen.

Tip 5: It is not just what you collect, but also how you collect it

It is essential that you correspondingly think about how your data is collected: depending on the objectives, you can choose either continuous or pulse tracking. By using continuous tracking, where you have a continuous inflow of interviews during your field period, you can smoothen out (wanted or unwanted) marketing effects (e.g. media exposure, PR actions, etc.), assuring comparability across waves. Continuous tracking is in contrast with pulse tracking, where fieldwork is condensed in field waves (e.g. a two-week field period every quarter). Pulse tracking makes it easier to assess specific marketing actions, but can be strongly influenced by a marketing event happening close to or during fieldwork; events happening between field periods may even be unnoticed.

Tip 6: Building a modular approach

Apart from making sure that your tracker consists only of relevant performance indicators, namely those criteria which need continuous follow-up and determine your brand health, you additionally need to make sure that there is room to put your data into perspective. Trackers should not be entirely static, you do need some repetition to allow comparability (that is what the key performance indicators are for). Yet trackers can truly benefit from a modular build-up, combining a fixed part of performance tracking with a variable module depending on your content needs. These deep-dive modules can allow to zoom in on specific marketing efforts, allowing to bring additional insights to better comprehend variations in your tracker data.

Building a modular approach

Tip 7: From tracking to structural collaboration

Modular trackers allow to continuously measure your brand performance while also leaving room for some deep-dive moments to measure ad hoc marketing effects. But we can take this even one step further by combining this continuous validation stream with an ongoing collaboration approach, using a structural Consumer Consulting Board (also know as online research community). The latter empowers consumers to help you understand them better, detect insights, develop innovations, strengthen your brand power, optimize your go-to-market strategy or improve customer experience, every single day. This new eco system will allow you to better comprehend your tracker data, while at the same time permitting to validate the consumer input from your community in the modular tracker component. The interaction between the inspirational content from these boards and the continuous validation form a powerful tool for your decision-making on brand, product and strategic level.

From tracking to structural collaboration

Tweetaway blueTweetaway: From ad hoc #tracking to structural #collaboration insit.es/1Ag1xCS by @KPallini #mrx #surveys

Start cracking your tracker and make its data more impactful for marketers and end users. Combining the focus on relevant brand performance dimensions with the additional context deep dives will allow you to finally bring your tracker data to life again. Because, let’s be honest… how many marketers actually read those tracker reports?