Quirk's Blog

Bracketology for America’s top 64 brands

Editor’s note: Jay Waters is senior vice president and chief strategy officer at Luckie & Co., a Birmingham, Ala., advertising agency.

For the past three years in March, when the nation is awash in bracketology, Luckie has joined the frenzy with our annual America’s Favorite Family Brands tournament. The 64 brands we chose three years ago, based on their leadership in key categories purchased and by the size and scope of their marketing efforts, have remained the same. We have lots of interesting results in this year’s bracket, but first, here’s a quick overview of how we measure popularity of the brands.

The Luckie Family Panel is a monthly national survey of American parents that we use to keep our finger on the pulse of the daily lives of families in the U.S. We ask questions about how often they eat at home together, about their social media usage and about health care too. We now have feedback from parents on over 350 topics, broken out by age, sex, marital status and political affiliation (Republican or Democrat).

For the annual brand bracket, our premise is pretty straightforward. In our Luckie Family Panel monthly survey, we ask the respondents to fill out a bracket populated by 64 of America’s best-known brands in a variety of categories (fast food, packaged goods, technology, cars, retail, travel, etc.). The instructions are simple: For each matchup between two brands, pick the brand you like best to advance to the next round.

Luckie chose brands based on the following criteria:

  • national brands that are major marketers;
  • leading brands in their categories;
  • brands in categories that are important to families; and
  • brands that appeal to both men and women.


In the first round, each brand is paired head-to-head with a competitive brand. Winning brands advance to a second-round matchup with a winning brand from a similar but broader category.

The further a brand advances in the bracket, the more it begins to compete with brands from different categories.

The eight “sub-regionals” brand categories were:

  • QSR (KFC, Taco Bell, Subway, Quiznos, Pizza Hut, Domino’s, McDonald’s, Burger King)
  • Packaged food (Hershey’s, M&M’s, Coke, Pepsi, Campbell’s, Kraft, Nabisco, Keebler)
  • Television (ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, ESPN, USA, Fox News, CNN)
  • Web (Google, Yahoo!, Amazon, eBay, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Wikipedia)
  • Retail (Sears, JCPenney, Walgreens, CVS, Walmart, Target, Home Depot, Lowe’s)
  • Tech (PlayStation, Xbox, Dell, HP, DirecTV, Dish Network, iPhone, Android)
  • Auto (Chevrolet, Ford, Honda, Toyota, Geico, Progressive, State Farm, Allstate)
  • Travel (Hilton, Marriott, Expedia, Travelocity, Southwest, Delta, Universal, Disney)

Note: Although we have kept the same brands in the bracket for three years, the results this year – both in the bracket and in the marketplace – are leading the selection committee to rethink who gets invited to the tourney next year.

Here’s how the 2014 matchups played out.


First-round matchups
All of the first-round matchups featured some of America’s most pitched brand rivalries: Coke vs. Pepsi, Target vs. Walmart, Disney vs. Universal.

The full results of the first-round matchups are noted in the graphic above but here are four of the most interesting.

iPhone vs. Android
In our 2012 bracket, iPhone won this head-to-head matchup and made it all the way to the final eight. In 2013, iPhone again won and made it all the way to the final four group of brands, losing out to the eventual overall bracket champion, Disney. 2014 was a much different story, with Android beating iPhone in a first-round squeaker.

At first blush, this might seem to be a story about one brand overtaking another in the marketplace but the fact is that Android in 2012 and 2013 already had more market share than iPhone. To me, this result is more about the Android brand overtaking Apple as the preferred smartphone operating system, since the question asked in this survey was “Which of these two brands is your favorite?”

CBS vs. Fox
In 2012 and 2013, Fox defeated CBS in their head-to-head first-round matchup but in 2014, CBS squeezed out a win. Again, this is likely the result of a long-term trend in the marketplace, as CBS has been regularly winning the prime-time viewing battle most nights and overall. That said, this seems to be another example of a brand losing steam. Fox won the television network battle in each of the past two years, overcoming CBS in the first round and then defeating the ABC/NBC winner (ABC) in both years.

But the major question is whether Fox is still relevant to American families. American Idol, one of its franchise properties, has seemingly passed its peak. Last year during the last week in March, of the 25 highest-rated programs with adults ages 18-to-49, four were Fox programs, with American Idol coming in fourth. This year, Fox has only two shows in the same top 25 list, with American Idol coming in 20th.

JCPenney vs. Sears
The soap opera that has been the JCPenney marketing story for the past few years, at least for those in the advertising business, seems not to have had much impact on how consumers feel about the brand. For the past three years, JCPenney has beaten out Sears in their head-to-head matchup. Last year, at the height of their marketing issues, they edged out Sears by less than 3 percentage points. This year, the margin widened, indicating that the JCPenney brand is moving back into favor with families.

The story here really is what Sears thinks about these results. Long claiming to be where America shops, Sears has a much broader line of products for the whole family, a stronger group of house brands and little of the marketing drama associated with JCPenney. JCPenney can’t brag too much. It hasn’t made it past the second round in our bracket for the past two years, being surpassed each time by Walgreens.

Chevrolet vs. Ford
This is a battle that has gone back and forth over the past three years. Chevrolet beat out Ford in their head-to-head battle in 2012, with Ford surpassing Chevrolet in 2013. In 2014, Chevrolet won the head-to-head matchup.

What’s interesting is what has happened in the second round each year. In 2012 and again in 2014, Chevrolet not only beat out Ford but also beat out Toyota, three-time winner of the head-to-head matchups with Honda. However, in 2013, when Ford won the head-to-head matchup with Chevrolet, Ford couldn’t get past Toyota and move into the third round. Does this mean Chevrolet is the domestic brand with the biggest edge over import brands? If so, this would be ironic since my perception has been that Ford (unlike other domestic brands) has clearly targeted imports as its primary competition.

On April 14, Luckie & Co. announced the 2014 winner but we won’t spoil the fun if you want to read on and see how the brand bracket played out. Check out Waters’ follow-up blogs, “Our Final Eight Brands,” “Final Four in the 2014 Luckie ‘America’s Favorite Family Brands’ Bracket” and “And the Champion Is…”.

Posted in Brand and Image Research, Quantitative Research | Comment

Why product marketers should care about data privacy and security

463698629The recent experience of Target highlights the risks to a brand of a failure to secure the personal information of its customers. Global brands such as Google and Facebook have been loudly criticized for their data privacy practices. The constant attention of the media on this matter has made data security and privacy front and center in the minds of consumers.

A recent study conducted by Radius Global Market Research shows that consumers take data privacy and security very seriously and are willing to steer their business away from companies that don’t. Consumers expect companies to protect their personal data but don’t feel that any industry or company is doing it particularly well. They accept some responsibility but are looking for an industry to take the lead. The good news for marketers is that an opportunity exists to differentiate their brands in this area – and win over new customers as a result.

How can marketers stake out a leadership position for their brands in the area of data privacy and security? Establishing credibility and trust in this area starts by:

  1. Educating customers on their data privacy practices in a way that provides greater clarity and ease of understanding than the lengthy, legalese-packed privacy disclosures that are currently in practice.
  2. Engaging consumers in a meaningful dialogue about these practices while emphasizing the responsibilities of both parties. Consumers recognize that they share in the responsibility to secure personal data but in most cases place primary responsibility on the company or industry.
  3. Acting as their allies in data privacy and security issues areas rather than an adversary.

Key insights from the study include:

  • Online security, privacy and identity theft are considered more important than thirteen other social issues that included non-tech concerns such as health care, poverty, gun control, obesity and others. Concerns about data security, privacy and identity thefts are particularly strong with older consumers in the U.S.
  • While consumers place high importance on online security, privacy and identity theft they don’t believe that any one industry or company excels in these areas. The implication for marketers is that white space exists to differentiate their brands on issues that consumers take seriously but are found lacking in the market.
  • On the other hand, failure to protect consumer information can have serious consequences for a company. A majority of consumers base their purchase behavior on the perceived ability of a company to protect their personal data.
  • While consumers are concerned about identity theft, many do not actively take steps to avoid it. Few consumers take even simple measures such as changing their passwords regularly. Consumers rely heavily on basic protections such as anti-virus protection and firewalls to safeguard personal information on their own devices.
  • Consumers place the onus on companies to protect their personal information. They are willing to accept some responsibility – particularly with information they provide to social media sites. But they believe that companies have an obligation to consumers to protect their personal information.
  • Consumers express high levels of discomfort with the access that key industries have to their personal data and even higher levels of discomfort to the sharing of information by industries.
  • Financial institutions are regarded as doing a better job at protecting privacy and online data than other industries – including e-shopping, social media, wireless companies, smartphone companies, and operating systems. However, the greatest number of consumers said “none of these” industries are doing the best job. Among financial institutions, PayPal is regarded as the best company at protecting privacy and online data – better than the credit card companies, Square or Google Wallet. In the world of online retail, eBay outperforms others in perceived protection of consumer data. Other industry leaders include Verizon (wireless service), Motorola (cellphone manufacturers), iOS (operating systems) and Facebook (social media).


Jamie Myers and Mark Menne of Radius Global Market Research shared these findings and more in a Quirk’s Webinar in March. Click here to listen to the recorded version of the Webinar.


Posted in Brand and Image Research, Consumer Research, Data Privacy, Research Industry Trends, The Business of Research | Comment

Don’t fear disruption, MR firms. Embrace it.

Editor’s note: Based in London, Richard Thornton is the global sales and operations director at Cint, a Stockholm research firm.

179501303Without a doubt, the trifecta of big data, new technology and social media has disrupted the traditional market research industry as we know it. A study on global market research growth recently published by ESOMAR showed a considerable upswing of 23 percent in the market for new approaches, while spending on traditional practices only grew by 2 percent over the three-year period measured. This would hint that a Big Bang-level disruption is on the way for the industry.

However, the answers become less clear when it comes to responding to this upheaval and weighing the positives against the negatives. On one hand, the significant upsurge in depth and access to consumer insight across the Internet, whether by piecing together a digital footprint or analyzing conversations taking place on social networks, has put our industry in the spotlight – this sudden abundance has created a growing thirst for information as more and more companies recognize the value of insights for decision-making at all levels.

On the other hand, the competition posed by these new players challenges the fundamental business model of many market research firms and those involved with data collection. In order to survive, these agencies must deliver more for their clients, all while operating within restraints posed by downward pressure on pricing and reductions in budget and resources. To meet this challenge, market research agencies need to enhance efficiency, deliver more value for all parties involved in the process and look for savvy solutions.

Enhance efficiency

Rather than fear the new technologies behind this shift in the industry, firms should embrace them. Change may also be forced. Many organizations today are under increased pressure in terms of extracting value out of their existing business models while maintaining operational margins and profitability. One of the most effective ways to do this is to focus on parts of processes and ways of doing things that can be automated, normally through technology. In market research, we are seeing this play out in the way organizations up and down the value chain are reviewing their strategies and workflow when it comes to supply chain management and procurement.

Seamless API integration options, for example, present a valuable opportunity to streamline the entire process of sourcing and delivering insights. (API stands for “application programming interface” – a set of programming instructions for accessing Web-based software so software components understand how to interact with each other). By standardizing some steps and automating others, API “connections” between different platforms and software can save time and energy every step of the way. Additionally, these solutions offer increasing levels of control, transparency and flexibility when accessing intelligence through open panel marketplaces – all of which can combine to help agencies save time and plan expenditures more strategically, thus helping them to deliver on-budget.

For those agencies managing their market research panels, the true costs of conducting research can sometimes be hard to predict and quantify, ranging from recruitment and sourcing costs, which are generally on the up, to the resources involved in ongoing maintenance and management involved in keeping a panel asset healthy and engaged. This is why many buyers of sample are looking towards sourcing from more open, platform-like marketplaces, whilst suppliers are increasingly understanding the benefit of hooking up to such platforms to create a more efficient distribution of their excess “inventory” of respondents.

By accessing reputable double-opt-in research only panels through a hub of open market research communities, agencies can source sample in a very transparent and controlled environment, with fixed pricing, accurate feasibility around delivery and with the opportunity to tap into millions of people’s opinions extremely quickly. Further potential efficiencies can be gained by blending samples from different panels, either by combining insights from the agency’s own panelists with answers from another or by incorporating responses from a few trusted panels representing different demographics to create a more comprehensive picture at a lower comparative cost. This can also help address single source bias within a panel or particular supply source.

Deliver more value for every stakeholder

As the industry adjusts to this new landscape of information sourcing, one key ingredient remains the same: quality. This applies not only to the data being gathered and the insights being parsed but also to the experience of everyone involved in market research interactions. Engaged and committed respondents, especially those who have had positive experiences previously when responding to surveys, participate more frequently and provide more valuable intelligence than those who feel disenchanted, disinterested or noncommittal. Not rocket science of course but it is still extremely frustrating to see a research process in many cases where very little consideration is given to the respondent experience, from questionnaire design to appropriateness of methodology, all the way down the supply chain to how a survey is presented to a respondent.

With the increasing sophistication of survey technology, there has been a remarkable proliferation of online panel communities but they are not all created equal. Many stand-alone survey Web sites offer payments and rewards for anyone to sign up and complete surveys, without stringent screening procedures or techniques in place to ensure honest and reliable answers. While it may be inexpensive to access information from these types of panels, it often can be difficult to identify the companies responsible for running the sites, the entities administering the surveys and the detailed demographics of people answering them. This “catchall” approach and anonymity can undermine trust and potentially cast doubt on the validity of the results.

Fortunately, there are also an increasing number of publishers, brands, non-profits and other organizations that have created open market research panel communities of readers, consumers, supporters and other individuals who feel an affinity for their work and a connection to their brands. As these groups use their panels for their own research purposes, they have a vested interest in keeping the experience relevant, engaging and non-intrusive. Many of these types of panels are also now connecting to panel platforms and marketplaces to offer up further survey opportunities and rewards for participation, which enables the broader market research community and beyond the benefit of tapping into these valuable and affinity-based panels to gather market insight.

Create savvy solutions

Just because the industry is changing doesn’t mean market research agencies must reinvent the wheel. In fact, studies have shown that many of the most successful ideas are not completely original but rather a combination of current knowledge or practice with a twist of novelty thrown in. This means that coming up with a savvy response to the changing climate should involve building on the inherent strengths of longstanding processes, products and experience – then adding a layer of innovation and mixing things up a bit to create a dynamic solution. Change should be embraced as a challenge to celebrate the traditional methods, the power of past successes and the knowledge gained with time and practice by integrating them with the exciting new opportunities flourishing in the industry today – forming innovative offerings that succeed with the just the right combination of the old and the new.

Posted in Panels, Quantitative Research, Research Industry Trends, State of the Research Industry, The Business of Research | Comment

When customers contact companies, phone still preferred

186319409While consumers have been happy to replace the traditional with the digital in so many aspects of their lives, the e-love doesn’t seem to extend to their interactions with companies. A recent study found that the good old-fashioned telephone often trumps the Web and social media as the most satisfying way to talk to firms.

The Touchpoint Study, from CX Act Inc. (formerly TARP Worldwide), a Rosslyn, Va., customer experience improvement firm, aimed to shed light on which contact levers are most important to customers now and in the future, as well as the current state of contact-handling by interaction method and by industry.

With the proliferation of customer contact channels and the rise of digital and social media touchpoints in a Web 2.0 ecosystem, customer experience effectiveness and efficiency is evolving rapidly and becoming a critical focal point for brands, with the potential to either positively or negatively impact bottom-line results and marketing ROI.

The national study of over 3,000 respondents quantifies the result of contact handling on loyalty and word-of-mouth – both online and offline. “In today’s marketplace, product differentiation is no longer enough to gain an edge and stand above the crowd,” said Crystal Collier, CEO, CX Act, in a press release. “The real ability to grow market share comes from differentiating the customer experience. To win on the CX margin, brands must understand the preferred method of contact from their customer base and seek out opportunities to constantly improve those channels.”

Among the key takeaways:

Effective contact-handling impacts the bottom line. Customers satisfied with how their contact was handled are more likely to intend to remain a customer than those who were dissatisfied with contact-handling, by a ratio of 74 percent to 17 percent.

Despite digital growth, customers still prefer the personal touch. Contacting via phone is considered the most effective channel for resolving issues, with little difference by industry: 52 percent reach out by phone, versus 23 percent by e-mail, 17 percent via in-person contact and only 1 percent via social media or mobile app.

Asking questions dominates the customer reach-out. Seventy-five percent of survey respondents contacted a brand simply to ask a question, more than any other reason. And there is still a strong disposition to use customer contacts to complain rather than compliment, by a ratio of 2:1. Interestingly, more consumers still send a letter or a fax rather than post on a company’s social media site or use a mobile app.

Customers are contacting about bills and financial issues. Five of the top-six most contacted industries are either in the financial industry or have a large percentage of their contacts related to billing.

Only half are satisfied; personal touch prevails. Only half of surveyed customers are very satisfied with how their complaint/question was handled in their first interaction; satisfaction is highest for those who contact in-person and lowest if done via social media.

Harsh penalties for brands who fail “first-contact” test. Customer satisfaction scores drop by over 50 percentage points among those who have to contact multiple times to address or resolve an issue or question.

One-in-five shares via social media. Among those who share their experience via social media, Facebook dominates over Twitter by a 4:1 ratio – but Twitter followers are more engaged.

Banks rise to the top on contact-handling. Banks are one of the most frequently contacted industries and also boast the highest industry first-contact resolution and satisfaction rate.

“Consumers in 2014 have so many more ways to reach a company than they did just a few years ago,” said Jim Stone, chief customer officer, CX Act. “Yet when we have a problem or question, the vast majority still prefer the personal touch of a phone call. Social media in customer service is on the front burner and can’t be ignored but brands seeking to excel at customer service need to be certain their call center talent understand the customers’ needs and are prepared to respond appropriately. Failing to properly navigate the new terrain of customer service touchpoints can adversely impact the bottom line, while getting it right can drive profits and deepen brand loyalty.”

A summary of the study can be found here (free; registration required).

The CX Act Touchpoint Study was conducted in the fourth quarter of 2013 through interviews with 3,000 consumers in a nationally representative online panel. The survey queried consumers who had a customer contact experience in the prior 90 days. The survey sought customer feedback involving touchpoint satisfaction and impact of contact handling on loyalty across 16 different industries: investment; auto, home or life insurance; banks; medical insurance; automotive services; credit card issuers; wireless provider; airline; hospital; hotel; consumer electronic; TV, cable or Internet provider; retailer; supermarket; restaurant; and consumer packaged goods.

Posted in Brand and Image Research, Customer Satisfaction, Financial Services Research, Social Media and Marketing Research | Comment

What can advertisers learn from hit songs?

461870433A Newswise press release reports that researchers from North Carolina State University have analyzed 50 years’ worth of hit songs to identify key themes that marketing professionals can use to craft advertisements that will resonate with audiences.

“People are exposed to a barrage of advertisements and they often respond by tuning out those advertisements. We wanted to see what we could learn from hit songs to help advertisers break through all that clutter,” said Dr. David Henard, a professor of marketing at NC State and lead author of a paper describing the research, in the press release. “We also wanted to see if there were specific themes that could help companies engage with consumers in a positive way via social media.

“Our work shows that there is a limited range of widely accepted themes that get at the heart of human experience and resonate with a large and diverse population of consumers,” Henard said. “We’re not saying that every marketing effort should center on one or more of these themes but the implication is that efforts incorporating these themes will be more successful than efforts that don’t.”

The researchers began by compiling a list of every song that hit No. 1 on Billboard magazine’s “Hot 100” song list between January 1960 and December 2009. The tracks ranged from “El Paso” by Marty Robbins on Jan. 4 and 11 in 1960 to “Empire State of Mind” by Jay-Z and Alicia Keys in the last five weeks of 2009.

The researchers used computer programs to run textual analysis of the lyrics for all of those songs and analyzed the results to identify key themes.

The researchers identified 12 key themes, and related terms, that came up most often in the hit songs. These themes are: loss, desire, aspiration, breakup, pain, inspiration, nostalgia, rebellion, jaded, desperation, escapism and confusion. But while these themes are common across the 50-year study period, the most prominent themes have varied over time. “Rebellion,” a prominent theme in the ’60s and ’70s, did not break the top 10 in the ’80s – and was in the middle of the pack in the ’90s and ’00s. The themes of “desperation” and “inspirational” leapt to the top of the list in the ’00s for the first time – possibly, Henard noted, due to the cultural effects of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

“These themes overwhelmingly reflect emotional content, rather than rational content,” Henard said. “It reinforces the idea that communications centered on emotional themes will have mass audience appeal. Hit songs reflect what consumers respond to, and that’s information that advertisers can use to craft messages that will capture people’s attention.”

The paper, “All you need is love? Communication insights from pop music’s number-one hits,” appears in the Journal of Advertising Research. The paper was co-authored by Dr. Christian Rossetti, an assistant professor of business management at NC State.

Posted in Advertising Research, Consumer Psychology | Comment

The right food marketing can trigger imagined smells

78816134Looking at a picture of a hot chocolate chip cookie fresh from the oven, you can almost smell it. According to new research from Aradhna Krishna, a professor in the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan, with that picture and some suggestions, it turns out you can – at least in your mind. And that imagined smell can trigger an increased desire for the food.

“Scents are used often for personal hygiene products like perfume or deodorant but we find that food marketers are missing out,” she said, in a press release on the study. “Even if you can’t embed the smell of a food in the ad, like scent marketers do with a scratch-and-sniff, merely asking consumers to imagine what the food smells like, along with a strong visual, can be very effective.”

Krishna is the lead author on the paper, “Smellizing cookies and salivating: a focus on olfactory imagery,” which was co-written with Eda Sayin, a doctoral student at Koc University in Istanbul who spent a year in Krishna’s sensory marketing laboratory, and Maureen Morrin of Temple University. The paper appears in the Journal of Consumer Research.

The authors performed four controlled experiments to see if and how ads could trigger smell memories, a process they call “smellizing.” Two experiments focused on the interplay between visual and olfactory image processing. They found that test subjects who were prompted to imagine the smell of a cookie while looking at a picture of the treat salivated more heavily than those who were not prompted. The tests also showed that the visual image was necessary to induce the response. “We decided to measure physiological responses, because self-reporting can be fraught with credibility issues,” Krishna said.

Krishna and her co-authors also measured the effect of these types of ads on consumption. Instead of measuring salivation, test subjects were given cookies after the advertising portion and asked to evaluate them (which provided a cover story for the blind test). They were told to put any unfinished cookies back into the bag provided and were asked questions about their hunger level and mood.

Those prompted to imagine the scent of cookies consumed more only when the ad also had a picture. They also found that actual scents in a food ad enhance responses whether or not they’re accompanied by a picture.

Overall, Krishna says her research shows that food advertisers can make better use of real and imagined scents. “Smell is a powerful sense that triggers images and memories,” Krishna said. “But it’s not always possible to present your scent to consumers, especially in advertising. We show a way you can get similar benefits with an imagined smell but you have to accompany that with a strong visual image. So this would be effective in print advertising or television but not so much in radio or a computer banner ad.”

Posted in Advertising Research, Behavioral Research, Consumer Psychology, Food/Sensory Research | Comment

Why the view for MR in 2014 is positive

465986029Editor’s note: Peter Harris is managing director of Vision Critical Australia/New Zealand. This is an edited version of a post that originally appeared here under the title “Why this is the year market research will really shine.”

Thinking about the future of marketing and market research in 2014, I can’t help but feel positive – and it’s not necessarily because of business growth for everyone involved in marketing and research. Rather, it’s because professionals who can play a role in helping marketers make better decisions, quicker, will flourish. This year will be more about getting research outputs and insights into a flow that gets research professionals into the decision-making processes of big business and government, and less about research methodology or new approaches to data collection.

In recent years, everyone in the market research industry has heard more claims that the research space is dying but I would challenge this hypothesis. In fact, research is in a dramatic stage of flux.

Over a year ago, Fast Company floated the concept of Generation Flux, the general idea that today’s environment is so chaotic that we must constantly rethink everything, including our value propositions and business models. The perspective of Generation Flux is brilliant – and very relevant in market research. The art and science of better decision-making isn’t going away – but the institutions and the structures, even the nostalgia, that brought this industry this far, might. Moving forward, we need different paradigms, ones that leverage the best that each of our innovations have to offer.

Most global studies suggest that market research professionals want to change. Consumer empowerment and putting the customer at the center of decision-making is a shift, not a fad. In simple terms, the market is heading towards us and we need to be flexible as we continue to evolve.

So why am I excited about market research this year?

For one, technology is helping to get research into the larger business conversation. Business and government leaders are finally starting to understand the power of having a continuous conversation with customers, consumers or constituents instead of one that is ad hoc.

When Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg spoke at the Y Combinator Startup School, he told his audience about how Facebook figured out that users want to share photos on the site: “We really listened to what our users wanted, both qualitatively listening to the words they say and quantitatively looking at behavior that they take.” While users didn’t explicitly say they wanted photos, they were uploading new profile pics every day, allowing Facebook to infer what people wanted. More recently, Facebook launched a user feedback tool, suggesting that the social network plans to continue having conversations with its users.

Zuckerberg may have thought this is a novel approach to new product development but most research professionals are already doing this day in and day out.

Second, research teams have tremendous opportunities to expand their influence in their organizations. In today’s world, companies can pull consumer understanding from multiple sources and research teams are struggling to keep control of the flow. But there’s a shift happening where research teams are starting to redistribute and share insights more into the constant decision-making flow of the company instead of keeping the knowledge to themselves. That’s exciting, as it gets insight into a flow that gets research teams into the decision-making processes of big businesses and government.

To do this, however, we need to shift from ad hoc consumer conversations to an ongoing approach. We also need to merge survey data with passively-collected behavioral data and, more importantly, get our customer/consumer outputs to input and talk to existing information and reporting ecosystems that businesses and governments use. The insight ecosystem will only integrate into other decision-making ecosystems if we share the knowledge and build the bridge outside or the research department.

As a global profession, the biggest opportunity and biggest threat for research will be defined and determined by how much we ourselves as practitioners are willing to be flexible in a digital-driven world. We need to find ways to keep up with change and feel comfortable in a land where we don’t know what’s around the corner and a world where we need to share more.

It’s hard for many research professionals to do this (as we love to be in control and understand) but we need to try.

Posted in Big Data, State of the Research Industry, The Business of Research | Comment

Who innovates better – men or women?

200288348-001Editor’s note: Drew Boyd is co-author of Inside the Box: A Proven System of Creativity for Breakthrough Results (Simon & Schuster). Previously a Johnson & Johnson executive, Boyd is an assistant professor of marketing and innovation at the University of Cincinnati.

Would you guess whether a man or a woman invented each of the following items: the zipper, a circular saw, the sewing machine, Kevlar and LTE technology? Some of the answers may surprise you. But it may be even more surprising to realize how much gender affects innovation.

Studies show that gender of the inventor can affect perceived level of creativity and perceived level of inventiveness. Furthermore, men and women inherently create ideas differently. So who are better inventors – men or women?

Research by Lynne Millward and Helen Freeman found that while men and women are equally innovative, their gender role within the context of an organization can affect how they are perceived and how they behave when innovating and sharing ideas. Highlights of their research included:

• Men were perceived as more innovative and risk-taking. Women were perceived as more adaptive and risk-adverse. Millward and Freeman suggest that “gender roles may interact with the role of the manager to inhibit (in the case of women) or facilitate (in the case of men) the likelihood of innovative behavior.”
• People perceived that innovative solutions came from a male manager and adaptive solutions came from a female manager.
• Innovative solutions were more likely to be implemented if they were suggested by a male manager.
• Innovation carried different levels of risk for men than for women. Men were expected to take more risks when innovating and sharing ideas. Failure was less damaging to men because risk-taking was expected of them. Women were expected to be less risky, which appeared to limit both their degree of innovation and their willingness to share ideas. Failure was found to be more damaging for women so they behaved more adaptively in innovation exercises.

In another study, researchers Izabela Lebuda and Maciej Karwowski tested how gender of the inventor and the uniqueness of the inventor’s name affect perception of the invention itself. They divided participants into groups to evaluate creative products in poetry, science, music and art. Each group evaluated the same products, which were signed by different fictional names: a unique male name, a common male name, a unique female name and a common female name. They found the following:

• The highest creativity score was earned by a painting signed with a unique female name, while the lowest went to that same painting with a common female name.

• For the science-related products, works signed by any male name scored much higher than the same products signed by women. In fact, the science product signed by a common female name scored even lower than the anonymous control group.

• In the area of music, any piece signed by a unique male name was rated highest.

• Poems received the best scores when signed by a unique female name and the lowest from a common male name.

In our daily work, systematic bias caused by gender and other factors can lead us astray. For example, science is still perceived as male-dominated and we may tend to downgrade new science concepts generated by women. In other domains, literary and artistic, we may put too much of a premium on works generated by women with unique names.

In addition, how we judge a creative idea is affected by how we perceive its inventor. Without realizing it, we may overvalue or undervalue a new concept and make poor choices in the product-development process as a result.

How can we overcome these conundrums? My advice is to be aware of the biases but embrace the differences. In observing hundreds of innovation exercises, I have found that neither gender is the better innovator. In fact, I have observed that they innovate better together. In fact, optimal creativity occurs when there is a balanced blend of men and women using a systematic process to innovate.

To combat gender bias, innovation workshops need a process to assure that women feel they can innovate “bigger” and share those ideas with the group. If, as the research suggests, women are more likely to hold back, then the facilitation approach has to break through it. Otherwise, we lose the inherent value of the equal innovation talent they bring to the table.

On the up side, gender differences can be beneficial. The adaptive behavior in women and more risk-taking behavior in men provide a balance during innovation. I have observed a complementary effect that seems to yield better results – each partner holds the other accountable for ideas that are both novel and adoptable. Working in pairs, men and women also do a better job of expressing jointly developed new ideas. Workshop processes that pair men and women will be more fruitful.

To avoid gender bias during the innovation process, try these techniques:

Use a facilitated approach to innovation that puts people into groups of two or three. When sharing ideas, make sure participants don’t give credit to one person for a specific idea. When an idea emerges from a group (as opposed to an individual), people associate the idea with the team, not with any one person.

Share ideas outside of the innovation space. Set up a collaboration tool such as Google Docs where teams can submit ideas in real time. Make sure the idea collection software does not track who entered each idea. Assign team numbers instead of people’s names.

Have ideas evaluated by a different team than the one that generated them. Use a weighted decision model to assess ideas. Use scoring criteria that are relevant to the issue the team is facing and weight them based on importance. Test the scoring model on past successful ventures as well as past unsuccessful ones. Testing your scoring model on both known successes and known failures lets you see if the model works.

Using these approaches helps teams recognize that although men and women create ideas differently, allowing them to work cooperatively helps them achieve greater outcomes. In addition, these techniques break down gender bias and eliminate the risk of losing great ideas that could have resulted in valuable, actionable innovations.

In case you were wondering, women invented the circular saw (Tabitha Babbit) and Kevlar (Stephanie Kwolek). Men invented the zipper (Whitcomb Judson) and the first sewing machine (Barthélemy Thimonnier). And a female-male team, Hedy Lamarr and George Anthiel, co-invented LTE (long-term evolution) technology, a telecommunication solution used to help end World War II and a system that has advanced the very same cellular phone functionality and wireless Internet access we use today.

Millward and Freeman. “Role Expectations as Constraints to Innovation: The Case of Female Managers.” Creativity Research Journal. 14:1, 2002. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1207/S15326934CRJ1401_8. Accessed 6/24/13.
Lebuda and Karwowski. “Tell Me Your Name and I’ll Tell You How Creative Your Work Is: Author’s Name and Gender as Factors Influencing Assessment of Products’ Creativity in Four Different Domains.” Creativity Research Journal. 25:1, 2013. 137-142.


Posted in Brainstorming Research, Brand and Image Research, Concept Research, Qualitative Research | Comment

5 takeaways from the CASRO Digital Research Conference

Editor’s note: Jared Huizenga is director of field services at Boston research firm Chadwick Martin Bailey (CMB). This is an edited version of a post that originally appeared here under the title “What’s the Story? 5 Insights from CASRO’s Digital Research Conference.”

Who says market research isn’t exciting? I’ve been a market researcher for 16 years and I’ve seen the industry change dramatically since the days when telephone questionnaires were the norm. (I still remember my excitement when disk-by-mail became popular!) But I don’t think I’ve ever felt as excited about market research as I do right now. The presentations at the recent CASRO Digital Research Conference confirmed what I already knew: big changes are happening in the market research world. Here are five key takeaways from the conference.

1. “Market research” is an antiquated term. It was even suggested that we change the name of our industry from market research to “insights.” In fact, the word “insights” came up multiple times throughout the conference by different presenters. This makes a lot of sense to me. Many people view market research as a process whereas insights are the end result we deliver to our clients. Speaking for CMB, partnering with our clients to provide critical insights is a much more accurate description of our mission and focus. We and our clients know that percentages by themselves fail to tell the whole story and can in fact lead to more confusion about which direction to take.

2. Big data means different things to different people. If you ask 10 people to define big data you’ll probably get 10 different answers. Some define it as omnipresent data that follows us wherever we go. Others define it as vast amounts of unstructured data, some of which might be useful and some not. Still others call it an outdated buzzword. No matter what your own definition of big data is, the market research industry seems to be in somewhat of a quandary about what to do with it. Clients want it and researchers want to oblige but do adequate tools currently exist to deliver meaningful big data? Where does the big data come from, who owns it and how do you integrate it with traditional forms of data? These are all questions that have not been fully answered by the market research (or insights) industry. Regardless, tons of investment dollars are currently being pumped into big data infrastructure and tools. Big data is going to be, well, BIG. However, there’s a long way to go before most will be able to use it to its potential.

3. Empathy is the hottest new research tool. Understanding others’ feelings, thoughts and experiences allows us to understand the “why behind the what.” Before you dismiss this as just a qualitative research thing, don’t be so sure. While qualitative research is an effective tool for understanding the why, the lines are blurring between qualitative and quantitative research. Picking one over the other simply doesn’t seem wise in today’s world. Unlike with big data, tools do currently exist that allow us to empathize with people and tell a more complete story. When you look at a respondent, you shouldn’t only see a number, spreadsheet or fancy graphic that shows cost is the most important factor when purchasing fabric softener. You should see the man who recently lost his wife to cancer and who is buying fabric softener solely based on cost because he has five years of medical bills. There is value in knowing the whole story. When you look at a person, you should see a person.

4. Synthesizers are increasingly important. I’m not talking about the synthesizers from Soft Cell’s version of “Tainted Love” or Van Halen’s “Jump.” The goal here is to once again tell a complete story and, in order to do this, multiple skill sets are required. Analytics have traditionally been the backbone of market research and will continue to play a major role in the future. However, with more and more information coming from multiple sources, synthesizers are also needed to pull all of it together in a meaningful way. In many cases, those who are good at analytics are not as good at synthesizing information and vice versa. This may require a shift in the way market research companies staff for success in the future.

5. Mobile devices are changing the way questionnaires are designed. A time will come when very few respondents are willing to take a questionnaire over 20 minutes long and some are saying that day is coming within two years. The fact is, no matter how much mobile optimization you apply to your questionnaire, the time to take it on a smartphone is still going to be longer than on PCs and tablets. Forcing respondents to complete on a PC isn’t a good solution, especially since the already-elusive sub-25-year-old population spends more time on mobile devices than PCs. So what’s a researcher to do? The option of “chunking” long questionnaires into several modules is showing potential but requires careful questionnaire design and a trusted sampling plan. This method isn’t a good fit for all studies where analysis dictates each respondent complete the entire questionnaire. And, the number of overall respondents needed is likely to increase using this methodology. It also requires client buy-in. But it’s something that we at CMB believe is worth pursuing as we leverage mobile technologies.

* * *

Change is happening faster than ever. If you thought the transition from telephone to online research was fast – if you were even around back in the good old days when that happened – you’d better hold onto your seat! Information surrounds every consumer. The challenge for insights companies is not only to capture that information but to empathize, analyze and synthesize it in order to tell a complete story. This requires multiple skill sets as well as the appropriate tools and honestly the industry as a whole simply isn’t there yet. However, I strongly believe that those of us who are working feverishly to not just “deal” with change but to leverage it, and who are making progress with these rapidly changing technological advances, will be well-equipped for success.

Posted in Big Data, Mobile Interviewing, State of the Research Industry, The Business of Research | Comment

Retailers weigh in on role, impact of big data

120899081A study from New York-based information firm 1010data Inc. shows that while retailers are facing challenges in delivering the reporting functionality that business users need to enable data-driven decision-making, they are optimistic about big data’s ability to provide breakthroughs in analysis capabilities across a number of retail processes.

In fact, almost all surveyed executives (96 percent) agreed that big data initiatives are important in helping retailers stay competitive. They said big data insights are most beneficial for merchandising (53 percent) and marketing (48 percent), followed by store operations (42 percent), e-commerce (42 percent), supply chain (27 percent), finance (23 percent) and loss prevention (21 percent).

The full report can be accessed here (free; registration required).

“This study shows that while the retail sector is being impacted by big data today, there are still many more opportunities for retailers to use big data analytics to optimize demand forecasting, merchandising, promotions, and loyalty program management,” said Sandy Steier, co-founder and CEO of 1010data, in a press statement. “When retailers truly embrace data discovery, they quickly move beyond intuition and guesswork and instead rely on data-driven decision.”

For the study, 201 U.S. retail executives were interviewed across a range of retail subsegments including grocery, drug, specialty, discount, department store, restaurant and hospitality.

Most retail executives (62 percent) believe leading retailers will capitalize on big data’s competitive advantage in the next five years. This was followed by 18 percent of executives who believe retail is already there and 15 percent who said that big data would reach its potential by the end of 2014.

Question: When do you believe leading retailers will capitalize on big data to deliver a competitive advantage?

While executives are starting to acknowledge the competitive advantages of big data, nearly half of the respondents (46 percent) agreed that retailers require a better understanding of how big data can advance their business. In addition, all but a few (7 percent) respondents indicated that they perceive retailers as holding out on using big data. Key reasons why retailers are holding out include:

  • the cost and/or complexity of implementing big data needs to come down (42 percent);
  • need simplified big data solutions that are intuitive to business users (30 percent);
  • retailers are still challenged with basic business reporting and not ready for big data (22 percent);
  • need big data solutions to better address the needs of retailers (21 percent);
  • need better time to value for big data (17 percent).


Executives further elaborated on retailers’ biggest obstacles to getting the reporting and analytics tools which retailers need to make better data driven business decisions, with 41 percent admitting that different users and departments have different ways of measuring the business. This was followed by:

  • can’t analyze data at low enough level of detail (e.g., store-SKU day-transaction-customer) (38 percent);
  • difficulty accessing and integrating the enterprise or third-party data users need to analyze (34 percent);
  • queries take too long to run (16 percent);
  • reporting tools can’t handle the level of sophistication of retailers’ business questions (15 percent);
  • lack of service and long queues in reporting requests to IT (13 percent).


Despite the retail industry’s perception of obstacles, executives believe that big data can have a positive impact on business processes, with targeted offers and promotions receiving the greatest benefit (50 percent), followed by demand forecasting and supply chain modelling (49 percent), customer-centric marketing (43 percent), loyalty program management (35 percent), workforce management (28 percent), store design (18 percent), and loss prevention (16 percent).

Question: On which of these retail business processes do you think big data technology can have the greatest impact?

Additionally, with on-shelf availability representing an $800 billion-plus problem for retailers across the globe, two-thirds (66 percent) responded that big data can help retailers do a better job of managing product availability for consumers by reducing out-of-stock situations, which can lead to lost sales and dissatisfied customers. Other essential areas of improvement include predicting future demand to inform supply chain decisions (50 percent); reducing overstocks that negatively impact turns and could lead to margin erosion (47 percent); ensuring product assortments are finely tuned to store and channel-based demand (41 percent); and enabling alternative fulfillment means such as ship-to-store and ship-from store (29 percent).

Executives also understand that big data’s benefits extend beyond a business’ internal processes, including sharing data, such as POS, inventory and customer loyalty with suppliers. The areas of greatest benefit include:

  • suppliers can better forecast and meet consumer demand (67 percent);
  • retailers can strengthen partnerships with their suppliers (52 percent);
  • retailers’ merchandising strategies can benefit from suppliers products and category knowledge (52 percent);
  • sharing data with suppliers can help retailers increase sales (41 percent).


Only 2 percent of respondents said that there are not any benefits to sharing data with suppliers.

Although nearly all executives believe that using big data is important if retailers want to remain competitive (38 percent said important, followed by 35 percent very important and 23 percent moderately important), many retailers do not conduct more tests to introduce a new product assortment, promotion, store format or other initiative because their resources are stretched too thin to dedicate time to testing (45 percent). Other key reasons include: retailers require better tools and processed to set up tests and analyze results (43 percent); tests are too expensive or cumbersome to execute with all of the data involved (38 percent); and gathering and organizing data from test results is too difficult (18 percent).

The study was commissioned by 1010data and fielded by research company uSamp using uSamp’s online market research panel. The 201 participating executives represented a range of retail subsegments including grocery, drug, specialty, discount, department store, restaurant, hospitality and more. Respondents represent nearly every department across the retail enterprise from businesses of all sizes, including more than 50 respondents from retailers with annual revenues great than $1 billion.

Posted in Big Data, Market Research Findings, Panels, Retailing | Comment