Quirk's Blog

How your brand can leverage competitor ads this holiday season

Editor’s note: Jeri Smith is president and CEO of Communicus Inc., a Tucson, Ariz., research firm.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. It’s just coming a bit earlier and lasting longer than expected.

Welcome to the year of the “Christmas Shoppers hurry alongcreep,” as described by Stuart Elliott’s October 15, 2014 column in The New York Times. Retailers have holiday displays up before Halloween. Brands are sharing holiday shopping wish lists earlier than ever before. Consumers are receiving e-mails, mailers, ads and a variety of “shop here now” marketing missives.

Why? It’s all about the competition for consumers’ share of mind, share of word of mouth … and, most importantly, share of wallet.

Every year there is fierce rivalry between top brands. And the longer shopping season means that advertisers are likely buying airtime, print and online placements for a longer period of time. As a result, brands are investing more money in advertising, which raises the stakes to ensure the advertising is delivering a solid ROI.

Most brands focus on how their advertising is cutting through the holiday advertising clutter to reach and persuade shoppers – and at a time when their competitors are likely increasing their ad spend with conflicting claims and messages.

But getting at this answer only scratches the surface. Another important consideration is the extent to which your competitors’ advertising affects how consumers perceive your brand. Our research has found that cross-brand impact occurs quite frequently, and not just when the advertising is making direct competitive claims.

Do you have a brand that has a platform of providing great fashion at an affordable price? Or of being the cool choice for leading edge Millennials? What if a competitive brand is trying to seize that ground? Shouldn’t you find out how successful they are both in positioning their brand but also in unseating yours?

By analyzing changes in brand perceptions that occur over time among three groups – those who’ve seen your ads (but not theirs), those who’ve seen their ads (but not yours) and those who’ve seen both – key insights into what’s really going on in the mind of the consumer can be gleaned.

If ads are persuasive in isolation but the brand deteriorates among those who see their ads, it suggests that building a stronger reason to believe (RTB) may be necessary. Or perhaps your team needs to focus on developing additional communications or promotional strategies that really drive home the brand claim.

If there is ever a time to take on this type of research initiative, it’s now. The all-important purchase decisions are vital around the holiday season, where “sales in November and December can account for as much as 30 percent of a retailer’s annual sales,” according to NRF Foundation’s Retail Insight Center.

As a result, around the holidays, brands are furiously competing for the consumer’s share of wallet via advertising and competitive claims.

But where do you start? Let’s look at a real-world example. One of the fiercest battles this holiday season (and beyond) is in the mobile phone industry – Samsung vs. Apple. In fact, the ad campaigns employed by these two brands use a range of approaches to attempt to win market share.

Our recent study, The Mobile Device Path to Purchase, found that more than half of all kids, tweens and teens specifically ask for Apple iPhones, with pre-K children not far behind as 43 percent ask for iPhones. Samsung only attracts 25 percent of kids’ smartphone requests, with numbers dwindling to 9 percent for pre-K youth.

Why do kids prefer iPhones and what can Samsung do to try to establish stronger preference? In its advertising, Samsung is using a blend of assertive claims (in which they talk about their own features) and hard-hitting comparative advertising and (in which they ridicule the iPhone and – by extension – those who choose to purchase iPhones).

As Samsung studies the impact of this advertising, it will be important to take into account the impact of iPhone’s advertising on perceptions of Samsung devices as well. Conversely Apple brand managers would be wise to study the effects of the Samsung campaigns on perceptions of and purchase intentions for the iPhone. Through this analysis, insights can emerge to help these brands to succeed with the youth demographic.

While the Samsung vs. Apple battle is a prime example of how brands and advertising can influence perceptions, the mobile phone market is just one industry where this type of analysis can lead to strategic and competitive advantage. In fact, this methodology is helpful for any brand which has competitors who advertise to any meaningful degree, as competitive campaigns are undoubtedly affecting perceptions of their own brand.

Brands that are fighting for a similar position are particularly vulnerable to the effects of competitive advertising. Likewise, conducting a cross-brand impact analysis is vital when a competitor has launched a new campaign that includes a solid RTB that may cause consumers to question the claims of the established brand or product.

Even though the holiday season is often the busiest for brands and retailers, when a company takes the time to conduct a thorough cross-brand/advertising analysis, the findings can be leveraged to craft new messaging strategies to improve advertising effectiveness and ultimately brand preference.

The better brands understand the overall category within which they compete, the more they will be able exert positive control over the ever-changing and highly competitive landscape … regardless of the season.


Posted in Advertising Research, Brand and Image Research, Consumer Research, Millennials, Shopper Insights | 3 Comments

Will Millennials tighten belts and save for retirement?

Editor’s note: Paul Abbate is the senior vice president of Ipsos Public Affairs’ Omnibus Services business in the U.S. This is an edited version of a post that originally appeared here under the title, “Millennials bank on a better financial future.”

Well as much as I would like to say to Millennials, “pull up your boot straps and let’s get it on,” the U.S. is wallowing through its third decade of stagnant wage growth and the gulf between the top 1 percent and the middle class is large.

In fact 15 percent of the Millennials are currently unemployed, many are already pushing back retirement dates and most haven’t even begun to put a strategy in place for long term savings. It’s the sign of the times, and not the sign of the Aquarius.

Millennials have aspirations but are hindered by the economic stagnation. In a recent study by The American Institute of CPAs, three-fourths of Millennials want what others around them have, half use a credit card to pay for ongoing monthly expense and one-fourth have missed a payment on a credit card, bank loan or other debt instrument in the past 12 months.

What’s the court of public opinion have to say on the issue?

In this month’s Though Starter from Ipsos Public Affairs, Most Millennials Eschew Weddings For Retirement Funds, we investigate the financial situation of Millennials, and their spending and saving habits, as they come of age during spend thrifty and belt tightening economic times of the early twenty-first century.

Conducted in October 2014, the results found that the majority (58 percent) of American Millennials currently feel pretty good about their financial situation. This shocks me. Why? Unless I am living on Survivor Island with only a jar of Peanut Butter (I have no nut allergies), I wouldn’t feel pretty good about working and growing up in my formative post college years during a Recession/Depression. It must be the Gen-X in me pouring out from a can of Mountain Dew (the drink not the Jerry Garcia song).

As with most segments of the U.S. population, Millennials aren’t too dissimilar from Johnny and Suzy Q. Public when it comes to what keeps them up at night and causes them financial concern. When asked what are your top financial concerns, Millennials cited money doesn’t go far enough (36 percent), college expenses/loans (32 percent), low wages (27 percent) and paying off credit cards (24 percent) as their top concerns.

Debt du jour with a side order of credit card-poutine has affected more than just Millennials earnings potential and savings potential. Credit scores find themselves sliding down the wire into the abyss.

Bankrate.com fielded a study in February of 2014, which talked about the challenges staying afloat on the S.S. Millennial. It’s about making good decisions, and balancing living expenses with discretionary expenses. One key data point shows the challenges of keeping credit scores in good standing:

  • 18-24 years old (Millennials) 638 (Avg.)
  • 25-34 years old (Millennials) 655 (Avg.)
  • 35-44 years old 660 (Avg.)
  • 45-54 years old 685 (Avg.)
  • 55+ years old 725 (Avg.)

We were curious what Millennials plan to spend their money on in the coming year. So when asked, we were happy to see retirement top the list and weddings (no offense Bridezilla) at the bottom of the list. Saving for retirement came in at 45 percent, closely followed by vacations (44 percent), college tuition/loans (36 percent) and weddings (16 percent).

Millennials on moneyIs it a sign of the sensible times, or the fact an average wedding in 2015 is estimated to run you a cool $25,200, as cited in Wedding Report 2014?



Each week Ipsos U.S. eNation online omnibus completes five national online surveys. Each survey consists of a minimum of 1,000 completes with adults 18 years of age or older in the contiguous U.S.A. The sample consists of individuals selected from the online segment of Ipsos’ iSay/Ampario Panel, and is balanced to be representative of the general population based upon region, gender, age, and household income data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Survey results are tabulated by two standard demographic banners:

  • gender, age, household income, region; and
  • child in household, education, employment status, marital status, race.


Standard data tabulations are provided in a weighted format. The data are weighted to give appropriate representation on various demographic factors, including: age, income, the four national census regions, and gender. The Current Population Survey from the U.S. Census Bureau is used to determine the weighting targets for each demographic factor.


Posted in Behavioral Research, Lifecycle/Lifestyle Research, Millennials, Public Opinion/Social Research | Comment

Millennial dads are leading the digital way

Editor’s note: Donna Sabino is the senior vice president of kids and family insights with Ipsos MediaCT, New York. This is an edited version of a post that originally appeared on MediaPost Communications under the title, “When moms defer to digital dads.”

We tend to think of moms as children’s first teachers, their guides as they learn about and explore the world. But as digital technology becomes a greater part of kids’ everyday lives, are mothers the ones shepherding them online to engage in interactive experiences? When looking at the media and technology co-consumption behaviors of moms and dads with their children, interesting patterns emerge. Father and daughter on computer

In fact, according to our 2014 LMX Family study of the media and technology behaviors and attitudes of parents and kids aged 0-12 years old, dads more often than moms were exploring the digital landscape with their kids. On average, dads spent significantly more time online (over five hours per week) with their children than moms did (under four hours per week). This parental gender skew was even more pronounced when comparing Millennial dads to Millennial moms with the young fathers leading the digital way.

While moms were more likely than dads to do homework or schoolwork with their kids online, dads were more likely than moms to watch online videos with their children. About two-thirds of dads mentioned watching videos as an online activity they shared with their kids – significantly greater than the number of moms who reported sharing that same activity. Again, Millennial dads when compared to Millennial moms were even more likely to partake in online video viewing with their children (74 percent vs 58 percent).

And dads are really into watching these online videos with their kids as demonstrated by their high levels of self-reported engagement. More than half of dads (53 percent) are “very engaged” when watching online video with their children. Cartoons, sports and video game videos were particular father-child favorites.

Dads’ comfort in the digital playground is also evident in the time they spend sharing apps with their children – two more hours per week than moms. While game apps were most popular for both fathers and mothers to share with kids, video, sports, social networking and TV network apps inspired more father-child involvement.

When it comes to traditional shopping for the family, marketers usually focus on moms but, when it comes to pulling out the credit card to download content for their kids online, dads are significantly more likely than moms to pay (68 percent vs. 56 percent). This was especially true when comparing Millennial parents by gender. Whether games, movies, music or TV Shows, it is dads more so than moms who see the value in spending real money on virtual goods and experiences.

So why are dads more likely than moms to head online when they want to connect with their children? For one thing, today’s dads, often more so than moms, grew up with digital leisure-time pursuits. Video gaming was an important part of dads’ childhoods and they remember the thrill of digitally-enhanced play. Convenience is another factor that drives dads’ inclination towards online fun. Online videos and apps are self-contained experiences that are not only easy to use wherever and whenever they want but also offer a great deal of content variety. Dads and their kids can find things to laugh at, learn about and listen to all with a quick search. And when it comes to super-charging the fun dads appreciate the value they get with paid digital experience enhancements. In addition, dads feel fun time spent online is time well spent. They are significantly more likely than moms to believe that “playing on devices such as computers and tablets is more beneficial for my child’s future than playing with traditional toys.”

As marketers grow investments online, it is useful to remember that in addition to moms, dads are also consumers of digital family fun.

Posted in Behavioral Research, Consumer Research, Millennials | Comment

Understanding the U.S.-EU Safe Harbor Framework

Editor’s note: Abby Devine is the director of government and public affairs for CASRO, Port Jefferson, New York. This is an edited version of a post that originally appeared here the title, “Handling data from Europe? You best understand safe harbor.”

Does your company receive or manage data that originated in the European Union or Switzerland? If so, is the transfer of that EU and Swiss data in compliance with the European Commission’s Data Protection Directive?World data

Every day U.S. research companies transfer vast amounts of personal data from EU citizens across borders and because EU rules about data protection are different than those in the U.S., all of these transactions must comply with the European Commission’s Data Protection Directive.

Under EU law, personal data can only be gathered legally under strict conditions and companies which collect and manage personal information must protect it from misuse and respect certain rights of the data owners which are guaranteed by EU law. The European Commission’s Data Protection Directive also supports specific rules for the transfer of personal data outside the EU to ensure the best possible protection of personal data when exported abroad.

The U.S.-EU and U.S.-Swiss Safe Harbor Frameworks provide a method for U.S. companies to transfer personal data that originates in the EU and Switzerland in a way that is consistent with the European Commission’s Data Protection Directive. To join the Safe Harbor, a company must self-certify to the U.S. Department of Commerce that it complies with the seven Safe Harbor Privacy Principles. The seven Safe Harbor Privacy Principles are:

  1. Notice – Notify individuals about the collection of their personal data.
  2. Choice – Give individuals choices regarding certain uses of their personal data.
  3. Data Integrity – Ensure the accuracy and integrity of personal data.
  4. Access – Allow access, and if necessary, correction of personal data.
  5. Security – Protect the security of personal data.
  6. Onward Transfer – Comply with restrictions on further transfers of personal data.
  7. Enforcement – Provide an independent dispute resolution mechanism for privacy complaints concerning European personal data that is collected, received or processed.

The Federal Trade Commission enforces the promise that companies make when they self-certify their participation in the Safe Harbor and throughout 2014, the FTC has stated that enforcement of the U.S.-EU Safe Harbor Framework is a priority.

Posted in Big Data, Data Privacy, Data Processing, International Research, The Business of Research | Comment

The marketing power behind big data: Q&A with Wells Fargo’s data chief

Editor’s note: In a recent interview presented by Bank Technology News, Wells Fargo Chief Data Officer A. Charles Thomas talked about what it’s like to take on the role of chief data officer; what it means to truly share data between departments; and why his team’s first priority is to deliver useful, cross-selling information to employees on the front lines. The following is an edited version of the interview, adapted from Information Management’s November 5 republication titled, “Monetizing big data: A Q&A with Wells Fargo’s data chief.”

You’ve compared the role of a chief data officer to that of an orchestra conductor, making sure the different sections play in harmony. What’s an example?

A. Charles Thomas: Each line of business and functional area, like human resources, finance or operations, cares deeply about its data. Sometimes they don’t look to the left or right as much as they could to see how data that’s critical for another line of business could be very important to them.

How do you get employees to care about the bigger picture?

The incentive piece is tough. It’s my job to show how there’s a mutual benefit. Take online bill pay: it tells you a lot about customer relationships. Customers use online bill pay to pay other banks for products they don’t have with us. If a customer has a deposit account in online bill pay with us but not a mortgage and they own a home, they’re paying a mortgage with a different bank, so that’s why you should care about online bill pay if you have the deposit account. If someone’s paying a different credit card with their online bill pay, that’s why you should care about their data.

I can show how we miss opportunities – every month this number of customers uses a different bank to pay our credit card. Wouldn’t you want to know that? Do you think you could win some of that business? They already like us, they transact with a credit card. Perhaps we should give them a nice offer that will give them an incentive to take action with our deposit account.

Bank customers might be identified by name and address in one product database and an eight-digit number somewhere else. Do you feel you have to create one common customer ID?

Yes. We have a program. There are multiple definitions of the customer – that’s a fact. We’re building toward a similar view. The first thing is to at least capture and house all these definitions and none of them are wrong. Each was designed for one thing and now we’re looking horizontally and saying: How do we match these up and reconcile them so we can have a relevant conversation with the right person in the household, with the right household or the right accounts that might be owned by a person who lives in the household? Why mail multiple mailings for a product offering to the same household because we didn’t have the appropriate definition of customer or customer ID there? The regulators are requiring that we have a common definition and so that’s one motivation. But doing the right thing is another great motivation.

Will you need one centralized database for all or most of your products?

About 10 years ago companies and banks were establishing huge data warehouses. Today the pace of new data being created, such as mobile and social media data or recorded data from complaints or quality control, as you add these new streams, it’s hard to generate that uber data warehouse. We have what we call core customer elements including name, address, appropriate IDs and basic product ownership. But rather than try to centralize everything, we’re trying to create pipes into the various other data environments that pick up the additional data. So it’s more important to know where the data are when you need them as opposed to going into a laboratory and for three years building out this enormous data warehouse that costs a lot of money and then figuring out what to do with it. So if you want to optimize the customer experience across channels, you don’t need all the data, you just need specific pieces of it.

Wells Fargo is famous for its Eight is Great cross-sales program, in which every customer household ought to have at least eight Wells Fargo products. It seems like what you’re describing could help make that a more targeted cross-selling pitch: Instead of asking everybody if they want a home equity loan, they could see you already have one and maybe leave you alone or offer another product that’s more relevant.

We have this intense focus on the customer and helping the customer. We believe we have the best products. So cross-sell is something we pride ourselves on. In and of itself, there’s good, better and best. People think, if you bring together all this data, does that mean you’re going to try to sell me more stuff? My answer is, we should be trying to sell less stuff. In other words, relevance and timeliness are really critical. Say you pick up your iPhone and you want to check the balance on your account to see if you can afford lunch. Is that the right time for us to bombard you with a whole bunch of product offerings that you might buy but it’s not the right time to talk about it? We want to make sure we’re relevant and timely.

A lot of bank employees don’t really have a real-time view of customer activity. Is this real-time view and recommendation engine doable today?

Going forward, we’re going to have to decide which [transactions] need to be real time. Trying to strip out everything you’ve ever done and replace it with real-time capability is extremely expensive and you wouldn’t necessarily reap the benefit. Knowing that someone was at an ATM and then they went home and looked at something on their mobile device or went into a store – what strategies are you trying to enable? You might not need to make everything available in real time, only certain data elements. Then you wouldn’t have to strip out the entire engine, maybe just the belts and hoses.

It’s a wonderful opportunity: think about the delighting factor you could have for a customer if they’re looking at their mobile app, they wanted to apply for a credit card and it crashes. They decide to go to their computer, they open it again and the first thing they see is a message saying, do you want to complete what you started? What a delighter, as opposed to having to repeat the process all over again.

That’s a top concern that will keep cropping up in mobile banking, where people feel like they don’t know whether a transaction went through.

We have the capability to track where a mobile app fails and how many people were affected. That’s great from an operational, diagnostic perspective to see what needs to be fixed in aggregate. However, part of the chief data officer’s job is to say, “How can we take that same information and find out who specifically had the problem when the glitch occurred?”

Imagine that now, from an issue-resolution perspective. The technology is there such that if they call, they can be routed to somebody who knows where in the process it failed and what to do about it, as opposed to, “Hold on, let me go check with the right department, do some fact-finding and come back to you maybe by the end of the day.” We could ensure that if that customer goes into a store, maybe to deposit money, a rep can say, “We see that you were trying to apply for a credit card, would you like to finish that?” Right now we know these things but do we pull them together in real time so we can take advantage of those opportunities?

Are there any other areas where you have high hopes for doing something different using better data sharing, quality, analysis and other elements of big data?

The great beyond for us is employee data, to the extent we can legally access it with all the appropriate privacy considerations. Do we know the attributes of someone who’s likely to be a successful team member at Wells Fargo? We capture lots of data. We can leverage those data to optimize recruitment and hiring. Maybe you find out someone from a totally different industry winds up doing really well at Wells Fargo. Are there specific college majors that might not seem related to banking, but that (correlates) to doing really well (in this industry)?

Posted in Big Data, Business and Product Development, Consumer Research | Comment

B2B vs. B2C? Takeaways from ESOMAR’s first B2B research forum

Editor’s note: Mark Towery is managing director of Geo Strategy Partners, Atlanta. This is an edited version of a post that was published here under the title, “ESOMAR’s first B2B research forum comes to Atlanta, GA.” Geo Strategy Partners participated in the symposium, which was held in October 2014.

B2B market research firms comprise approximately 8 percent of all market research firms and those with an industrial focus comprise only 25 percent of those. You do the math: only 2 percent of market research firms work consistently within industrial markets.

B2B really is different: B2BThere is an emerging conventional wisdom suggesting that the internet and digital marketing are the great levelers. More specifically, a school of thought led primarily by B2C marcom agencies suggests there is no B2B only H2H. While there is a kernel of truth to the notion that technology allows mass personalization of marketing communications, the reality is that B2B market research remains strikingly different than B2C in many ways:

  • complex decision-making across an organization of decision-makers

Researchers must embrace ambiguity and understand organizational behavior.

  • purchases are often in the six to seven figure range

A number of significant elements of the decision process must be analyzed.

  • sales cycles can easily be one to two years.

Short-term insights have to be measured for their long-term impact.

  • decision-makers are hard to identify, find and recruit

Experienced B2B consultants are essential to find and convince these high value respondents to speak to you.

  • respondents are experts in the subject matter being discussed

Moderators must have deep experience covering technical or business issues to extract full value from such interviews.

  • you can’t separate research from strategy

If researchers are not also industry analysts or business strategists, they will fall short in B2B. There is simply no separating the go-to-market business strategy from the insights and analysis.

  • complexity is the norm

There is no prescriptive approach to B2B research. Every project is an exploration. Failure and course corrections must be built into the methodology.


It’s all about the business context
B2C market research is often focused on the science of the methodology, the precision of the sampling, or the behavioral science context within which insights are interpreted. B2B market research is less about the psychology than the business strategy. For that reason, B2B market research conducted in a vacuum is not useful. You have to understand the business context, you have to understand strategy, and you have to be able to interpret insights through the prisms of both.
The use of social media to gather basic data and insights is fine however analysis shows that primary market research performed through social media platforms is terribly skewed and therefore unreliable for a B2B marketer.

  • B2B marketers have tried social media and, despite what the agencies say, most have retracted their investments there. LinkedIn is still viewed as the only credible social media platform for B2B. That being said, qualitative intelligence gathering through social media is still effective, and it can be a useful tool for identifying thought leaders and accessing hard-to-reach decision-makers.


The right target at the right time with the right interviewer
Pre-recruitment of high value, hard-to-reach industrial/B2B interview targets is less effective than catching them where they work. Creative recruitment paired with good screeners and exceptional B2B interviewers are keys to capturing insights from hard-to-reach targets.

Gut feel drives purchase decisions
Most of the business purchase decisions are actually based on emotional rather than objective criteria (even German engineers have to “feel it in their gut”). Interesting research is available supporting how even the most objective criteria is often interpreted emotionally.

Prepare before brainstorming
The key to productive ideation is to prime the internal decision-makers with primary research before asking them to brainstorm. Having them observe customers’ ideation sessions (while restricted from entering the conversation) is a good first step. Having the customers engaged with the internal team later in the process is then much more productive. The challenge is to recruit respondents willing to commit long-term to the product innovation process.

It’s all about the people
Traditional B2C researchers rarely thrive in a B2B world. Engineers seldom succeed at industrial marketing. Pure salesmen struggle with the distance between the cause and effect of marketing. It takes a researcher that is part strategist, part researcher, part mechanic, and most importantly a cynical skeptic that accepts no information at face value until it has been reconfirmed at least three different ways to get B2B research right.

Over the past 10 years, we have refined our approach to screening and interviewing B2B researchers. We have found that while many of the skill sets are shared between B2C and B2B market researchers, the personal characteristics required are vastly different. Personnel who can thrive in a B2B environment are rare, but what do they have in common? We have identified the following traits:

  • Insatiable curiosity – they never stop learning and want to know everything about everything
  • Mechanical inclination – they don’t have to be engineers but they need to understand how things work. They should be familiar with the layout of a factory floor
  • Fear of failure – for better or worse, to excel in this business, analysts must have an existential need to prove themselves on every project. Any lesser motivation and they will crumble under the weight of the first project
  • Business acumen – this is about business strategy – research is only a means to an end. If you don’t understand business in all its complexity, you have no business in a business-to-business environment
  • Off-the-chart cynical – we refer to this as “the chromosome.” Someone possessing this magic ingredient won’t simply tick off the boxes of tasks A, B, and C. They will want to know why the ABCs are capitalized, they will research the linguistic origin of the letters, and they will question why we are not doing one, two and three instead. They are obstinate, ornery, and never satisfied with simple answers. They required a preponderance of evidence before accepting a conclusion drawn from research.



Posted in Behavioral Research, Business-To-Business Research, The Business of Research | Comment

Creating and using real-time data

Editor’s note: John Hood is the president of MCH Strategic Data, Mo.

Database marketing enables you to reach a multitude of market segments from retail to business to education. Yet most compilers collect data annually, which begs the question: Are you just reaching the same people over and over again?files

What about the fresh, eager prospects in each market? For instance, the retail market experienced an increase in 35,000 jobs this September, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In the same month, 81,000 individuals entered a position in professional and business services. As for education, 8 to 10 percent of school staff is new between July and September. Plus, new teachers appear in 10 to 30 percent of schools each month of the academic year.

Why are marketers interested in reaching this untapped demographic? Individuals new to a career or position must learn a lot quickly. They’re hungry for new ideas, approaches and products. For example, in the education market, first-year teachers are 28 percent more likely to buy supplementary materials. Marketers should establish relationships with these newcomers as soon as possible. Where does their money come from? How soon do they start buying?

Turnover is a big problem for everyone. Why? How can employers conduct on-boarding and retention efforts more effectively? How do employer and employee attitudes evolve?

Real-time data offers more accurate market insights. We recently conducted several studies using real-time educational marketing data. The company found that:

  • most school personnel return to school the second or third week of August;
  • in September, schools experience a 5 percent increase in new names, versus a 1 percent monthly average during the school year; and
  • school personnel updates happen year-round, with 10 to 30 percent of schools making changes every month of the school year.

Real-time data allows marketers to gain these insights and reach new customers more quickly. Marketers can access a desirable market segment never before available: potential customers starting out in a new career or in their first job. But how accurate are marketing lists when databases only update information annually?

In those circumstances, compilers identify names that are “new to the file” meaning they were added in the recent compiling cycle. But when did these individuals actually join the company? It could have been any time since the last annual update; since compiling isn’t a perfect science, compilers don’t necessarily cover each company each year. So a “new to file” name could actually be several years old. So what steps should you take to start tracking and using real-time data?

Track customer and prospect information regularly. Conducting surveys on a monthly basis allows marketers to identify changes almost in real-time. This diagnoses changes in e-mail addresses, last names and mailing addresses, ensuring the information is up-to-date.

Identify new leads amongst a regular customer base. If you’re regularly tracking information on customer and prospect Web sites, you’ll be able to target new hires more quickly by pinpointing a reasonably precise window for when they enter a position. This opens endless opportunities. For instance, an educational marketer could create an entire campaign targeting new teachers, reaching a group of new customers and prospects before competitors.

Continue tracking information year-round. Regular monitoring identifies new names as they appear year-round, providing a stockpile of new touch points immediately available as a mailing list, an e-mail list or a phone list. Plus, you won’t waste resources on personnel who have left.

Record more than contact information.Take note of detailed job functions, gender, company characteristics and more. The following year, it will be possible to compare insights, or perhaps conduct follow-up surveys with the individuals who were new this year.

Real-time data significantly improves results, allowing marketers to reach more of the market than competitors. Accurate and up-to-date data often means fewer bounce backs and misdirects as well as higher open rates, ratios and click-through rates.


Posted in Consumer Research, Data Collection/Field Services, Data Processing, Market Research Best Practices | Comment

Social media’s disappearing act: Is the trend here to stay?

Editor’s note: Marianne Hynd is the vice president of operations at Ann Michaels and Associates, Naperville, Ill. This is an edited version of a post that originally appeared here under the title. “Is self-destructing content the new trend?”

There seems to be a new trend starting in social media. It may have started with Snapchat, but maybe not. It could simply be the fact that, years after social media really took off, people are thinking through the implications of social sites and the content they post.phone

First came Snapchat – the social application that allows people to send images or “snaps” to their friends with messages that disappear within a short period of time (typically 10 seconds). When this first hit the scene, there was speculation that those images really didn’t disappear forever into some abyss and were certainly held somewhere. At the same time, concerns were raised surrounding the group this was most attractive to – teens who don’t fully grasp the concept of social activity.

More recently, Facebook has jumped on this bandwagon with two new features – the first is Slingshot – or as I call it, Snapchat on crack. It could be Facebook’s attempt to either, 1) be the “be all, end all” of social sites, trying to include every feature of every other social site possible or 2) get the younger age demographic back to Facebook. At any rate, this app is much like Snapchat, except that it allows users to send to multiple people at once.

Facebook’s second feature has been tested by a small portion of users. It will let you schedule a time for what you post to be deleted. It looks like you will be able to set a post to be deleted within one to seven days, according to an article on this subject.

What’s with all of the new apps, programs and social sites eager to offer deletion of what’s posted on social sites?

This is purely speculation, but I think a few things are coming into play:

1. Social sites are up against public scrutiny over privacy settings. This becomes more prominent as we get further into social media usage. Offering ways to “make content disappear” may be an attempt for social sites to give a sense of security to users and encourage continued usage.

2. In the beginning of social, people would post all kinds of content. As the general public became more aware and educated on online behavior and its implications, users have been (in some cases, not all) more careful about what they post. This “temporary” content option seems to be trying to lull users into posting things that can easily disappear, encouraging more content to be shared and increased usage on social sites that have seen a decline in overall usage (think Facebook).

3. Specific to Facebook, since it seems they are modeling Snapchat with this newest feature, I’m wondering if they won’t try to turn this feature to businesses as a paid advertising option. Companies have started using Snapchat to create promotions and discounts that can be used at the point of sale by users simply opening the Snap at the register to reveal the discount. It creates immediacy because they cannot open it beforehand or it will disappear before they can use it. Perhaps Facebook will allow companies to post with time specific offers on Facebook as competition. It seems features such as this are usually rolled out to users and then turned into a paid advertising option for businesses. I could be wrong, but it was a thought I had after reading the latest social news.

But here are some potential problems with offering these services in the spirit of making content temporary:

1. Users still don’t have the control they think they have. While social sites state that the content will be permanently deleted by the servers, we can’t be sure this is true. It remains to be seen how effective this really is – just because a user cannot see the content they’ve deleted, no one for sure knows where it goes, and if it’s somehow stored in the depths of Facebook somewhere.

2. Even if you delete content, it doesn’t mean someone else didn’t save it. You can delete a post, tweet, text or image, and it will be gone as far as you’re concerned, but what if someone took a screen shot, saved it to their computer or did something else with it? As we’ve seen with Snapchat, people find workarounds. Do a search on iTunes or Google Play for Snapchat saving apps. There are plenty out there – it didn’t take long for someone to find a way to make the temporary, permanent.

3. Social media monitoring programs can archive data – if you’re worried about what you’ve recently posted, as you are looking for a new job and have heard that employers check social media when selecting applicants, simply deleting the post may not work. Social media monitoring programs are sophisticated, with many archiving databases for as long as a couple of years. This means that even though you deleted your content it may still be hanging around an archive for a while. If employers use a formal social media monitoring tool, this content still may be visible to them.

4. By offering temporary content, we are doing a disservice to our younger generation. It is already an uphill battle educating teens on the implications of their social activity. Despite education at home and school, teens just don’t get it yet. Offering these types of service to this particular age demographic doesn’t help. As the future of social, these young adults need to fully understand how to responsibly use social media and grasp the implications of what they post online today may have in their adult lives.

The trend to offer “temporarily available” social content is worrisome. It comes across as a bit misleading and has the potential to cause bigger issues down the road. To be honest, when Snapchat was first available, I thought it would be a brief, passing trend. The news that Facebook jumped on the bandwagon made me realize that this may be a new trend in social.


Posted in Behavioral Research, Consumer Research, Social Media and Marketing Research | 1 Comment

Busting myths on the tablet purchase journey

Editor’s note: Chris Neal leads Chadwick Martin Bailey’s Tech Practice, Boston. This is an edited version of a post that originally appeared here under the title, “Tablet purchase journey relies heavily on mobile Web.”

We all know the consumer purchase journey has changed dramatically since the “mobile Web” explosion and continues to evolve rapidly. In order to understand the current state of this evolving journey, CMB surveyed 2,000 recent buyers of tablets in the U.S. We confirmed several things that we expected to see but we also busted a few Digital tabletmyths along the way:

1. TRUE: “Online media and advertising are now essential to influence consumers.”

  • Reading about tablets online and online advertisements are the top ways in which consumers learn about new brands or products.
  • Nearly everyone we surveyed does some type of research and evaluation online before buying – most commonly using online-only shopping sites (e.g., Amazon, eBay, etc.), general Web searches, consumer electronics store Web sites, review Web sites (e.g., CNET, Engadget, etc.) or tablet manufacturer Web sites.

2. TRUE: “The mobile Web is becoming more important in the consumer purchase journey.”

  • Over half of buyers use the mobile Web during the research and evaluation phase, and nearly 40 percent of buyers do so as a part of the final purchase decision (although very few people actually purchase a tablet using a mobile device).

3. FALSE: Mobile applications are becoming very important in the consumer purchase journey.”

  • Although the mobile Web is now highly influential, very little purchase journey activity actually happens from within a mobile application per se. This could be because tablet purchasing isn’t something that happens frequently for more individual consumers (high-frequency activities lend themselves better to a dedicated app to expedite and track them).

4. FALSE: “Social Media is becoming very important in the consumer purchase journey.”

  • The purchase journey for tablets is indeed very “social” (i.e., word-of-mouth and consumer reviews are hugely influential), but precious little of this socialization actually happens on social media platforms in the case of U.S. tablet buyers.

5. FALSE: “The brick and mortar retail store is dead.”

  • The rise of all things online does not spell the death of brick and mortar retail in the consumer electronics category. In-store experiences (including speaking with retail sales associated and doing hands-on demos of tablets) were one of the top sources of influence during the research and evaluation phase, regardless of whether they ultimately bought their tablet in a physical store.
  • Next to ads, in-store experiences were the top source of awareness for new tablet brands and models. Forty-one percent of those who learned about new makes/models during the process did so inside a physical retail store.
  • Half of all buyers surveyed actually bought their tablet in a physical retail store.

6. TRUE: The line between “online” and “offline” purchase journeys is becoming blurred.

  • Most people use both online and offline sources during their purchase journey, and they typically influence one another. People doing research online may discover that a tablet model they are interested in is on sale at a particular retailer. At the same time, something a retail sales associate recommends to a shopper in a store may spur an online search in order to read other consumer reviews and see where they can get the recommended model the cheapest and fastest. Smartphone-based activities from within a retail store are just as common as interacting with an actual salesperson face-to-face at this point.

The mobile Web is undoubtedly here to stay and how consumers go about making various different buying decisions will continue to evolve along with future changes in the mobile Web.

Posted in Advertising Research, Consumer Research, Product Research, Shopper Insights, Social Media and Marketing Research | Comment

Is it time to break up with your moderator?

Editor’s note: Jon Hall is the managing partner at SpencerHall, Inc. This is an edited version of a post that originally appeared here under the title, “How to know when it’s time to break up with your moderator.”

Most marketing research professionals know that having a long-term relationship with an experienced research moderator can offer an array of benefits for uncovering consumer insights. From knowing best practices within the company to knowing what snacks you like, a moderator who really knows your business or brand can bring many dimensions of value to a project. It’s not unusual or unexpected for a business or brand to become directionscomfortable and depend on the same moderator across many years of use.

However, these same businesses could find themselves in situations in which the moderator’s familiarity or over-dependence on a status quo approach leads to a reduced ability to drive fresh perspectives on challenges, opportunities and possible solutions.

It’s quite normal for any business relationship to experience a sort of ebb and flow or to start feeling as though the efforts of your collaboration have reached a plateau – which means the benefits have actually started to decline. It’s easy to stay in a less-than-perfect relationship with a moderator simply because you’ve been working together for a long time, probably even been through some corporate battles together and came out scarred but victorious. All the more reason to be on the lookout for some key red flags that may point to it being time to break up with your moderator, including:

  • Your moderator assumes that he/she knows what you want, or what your internal client wants, rather than continuing to have the important conversations that will push them – and you – into fresh territory. If your moderator isn’t regularly exposing you to new ways of thinking about a research challenge because she thinks she knows what you want, you’re probably missing out. Your moderator should make you feel a little uncomfortable by pushing boundaries such as exploring new uses of technology, or creating techniques that trigger more inventive participant thinking.
  • Your moderator uses the same approach with all consumers or prospects, without recognizing that the way consumers interact and communicate is changing and the best results comes from working on their terms, not hers.
  • Your moderator doesn’t offer new ways to engage your respondents, even in a traditional format like focus groups, and isn’t aggressively exploring new techniques, situations, stimuli and technologies that could be far more effective in triggering inventive, problem-solving thinking.


If you’ve identified with any of the above red flags, don’t panic. Starting a new relationship with a different moderator may be just what you need. We’ve all heard W.L. Bateman’s quote, “If you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep getting what you’ve always got.” In this case, because human behavior is changing rapidly, staying with status quo approaches can mean diminishing results and effectiveness.

When looking for a new moderator who can be a change agent, ask for his perspective on some of your most recent projects, and push him for ideas on ways to improve. Challenge him to come up with alternatives to protocols that have been successful for you in the past.

Similarly, ask potential research moderators to share a difficult question they’ve received from an existing client or team that they’re currently thinking through. Use this conversation as an opportunity to experience and get a good feel for how they think on the spot. Do they approach their own learning challenge or objective beyond expected methodologies, and are they able to articulate why a certain approach makes sense?

What kind of critical thinking and problem solving skills do they demonstrate spontaneously?

Don’t be afraid of a moderator who’s willing to take some risks to explore new territories – after all, that’s where the gold is!

If you’re seeing warning signs that signal complacency or over-dependence on the comfort of the status quo, it’s time to start looking for a new relationship. And in a world that really only cares about your most recent results, the right time to start addressing a deficiency is the moment you identify it.

Posted in Moderating, The Business of Research | Comment