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Posts from November 2010

Social Media- A Source of Original Insight?

By Aaron Field

There’s a lot of noise about monitoring social media. Some would call it the birth of a new insights engine. Others take a more nuanced view. Marshall Sponder’s overview of Social Media monitoring is a nuanced perspectives. His point is that Social Media monitoring is in its infancy. It lacks common definitions or user-friendly tools. Technologies like meme tracking and sentiment analysis promise much for the future. But it is a tool not a new source. It will be best as a merged piece in a larger business intelligence picture. Frankly it’s nice to read a balanced view in a world of hype.

The MREB agrees strongly that Social Media is part of a larger Insights machine. In fact we argue even more strongly for the flip side. Social Media has been a poor source of original insight – despite considerable hype. An informal survey of research functions reported no new insights from their social media monitoring. None. Admittedly it was a small sample but the results have been consistent. For now social media has not resulted in an insight inundation. And it’s been a serious time drag to use monitoring tools.

On the plus side social media has some nice advantages for Research

  • Relatively fast confirmation of existing insights
  • Quick access to lead users- MREB Members: check out Lego’s Specialist-Direct Model.
  • Great collector of customer language (not just teen-speak but the hot terms among business travelers or accountant slang)

And social media isn’t going away. Marketing spend via social media is likely to rise x3 – x4 by 2014 according to the Board’s Social Media Report. And where marketing goes – market research will follow.

So it is nice to read Marhsall’s balanced perspective.

Connect. Communicate. Collaborate. C3 and the ResearchNetwork

This week’s guest blog entry comes from Sherri Hartlen-Neely, Associate Director of Market Research at Computer Sciences Corporation.

I have a confession to make: I am not a market research analyst. I am an organizational communications professional working in a corporate market research and competitive intelligence team. I’ve always believed in the power of research and analysis but, before joining my current team, the entire research process was shrouded in mystery. I’d ask the research team a question and they would deliver an answer. There was no discussion back and forth; it was simply delivered to me and I moved on with my project du jour.

Then there’s CSC’s ResearchNetwork. This team lives, breathes and eats communication and collaboration. The belief is that research departments need collaboration in order to gather additional insights and perspectives and connect with the internal and external subject matter- experts who are going to bolster their research projects and help the organization exceed goals while providing a continuous stream of value to clients.

For years, CSC has had a variety of intranets, portals and wikis and the ResearchNetwork exploited these resources to “get the word out” about our services and the insight and value we add to internal and external projects and clients. Then comes enterprise social networking with the simple motto of “Connect. Communicate. Collaborate.” And here’s where the story really begins. Read More »

Tapping into the Unconscious

By Anthony Bell

In a recent article, Dan Hill, author of Emotionomics, discusses the shift from the traditional rational approach to an emotional awareness in the research process. Science has shown that human beings have three brains, the rational, emotional and sensory.  As we become more knowledgeable around brain activity, scientists have found that rational activity is almost an afterthought. The emotional brain sends ten times as many signals to the rational as vice versa. The emotional response happens first and happens five times more quickly than the rational response.  Innovative tools, such as facial recognition systems, are being introduced to capture emotional responses. Since verbal abilities reside in the rational part of the brain, researchers in the future are going to need to be emotionally literate. Research must go beyond the traditional rational understanding to capture intuitive, subconscious reactions.

MREB View: Dan Hill explains that only 5% of thought occurs consciously. That means focus groups, surveys, and interviews, staples of the research process, only assess 5% of a consumer’s decision. Research needs to tap into the other 95% of the brain that is driving their purchase decisions.  Implicit research techniques can uncover those emotional drivers that aren’t triggered in a traditional research setting. Read More »

Discussion Spotlight: The Influence of “Don’t Know” on Surveys

By Kirsten Robinson

I have a confession. Recently, I copped out of taking an online survey, because I “didn’t know” how to respond. Let me back up for a second. I had just finished completing the transaction for an unnecessary purchase, when I was asked to take a survey on the experience and shopping habits in general. I looked at a question, and at the possible responses, and my heart sank. I couldn’t say “yes”; but I also didn’t want to say “no.” And those were my only options. “Maybe” or “I don’t know” were nowhere to be found. So, I closed my browser and walked away from the computer feeling frustrated.

And MREB members agree, even though market researchers want to collect as much definitive information from their consumers as possible. Read More »

When People Thrive with Less Choice

Posted on  15 November 10  by 


Andrew McAfee, principal research scientist at the MIT Sloan School of Management, recently blogged about why some of the most popular technologies are those that purposely limit individual choice or autonomy.  We all know that consumer will tend to always say that they want more: more bells, more whistles, more independence.  But McAfee points out that too much freedom and choice can be paralyzing, and whether in consumer or business applications, sometimes the best technologies are those that help users find a slot in pre-defined roles.

MREB view: Forced choice models are a staple of consumer research. However research departments spend far less time thinking about choice when it comes to consuming the results of research. Too much choice – the proverbial data dump – actually stops our business partners from seeing the big picture (or even trying to read the volumes of information.) Essentially our business partners are information consumers with the same need for focus as any consumer. Research departments have seen a lot of return on their investments in “guard railed” technology.  Whether dealing with complicated data sets or robust information canons, your entire organization benefits from controlled access: balancing information availability with guidelines and limitations so that information isn’t overwhelming, unusable, or (perhaps worst of all) misused.  Read More »

Insight Drives Sales!

By Aaron Field

Our parent organization the Corporate Executive Board recently released its findings on Achieving Intelligent Growth, and one of their main findings is that the best companies marry the focus on what they sell with an equally intense focus on how they sell.  Insight has always been a vital if not always visible part of sales success. The best sales reps, however, kick off the sales interaction with insight about their customer. Condé Nast reps do this systematically, in partnership with Research.

Condé Nast publishes some of the world’s premier magazines but faces sharp competition. Just about any magazine, website, or TV station can make a slick presentation to potential advertisers. So instead of “selling,” Condé Nast turns to “teaching.” Their insights team partners with Sales to teach advertisers new and valuable insights about how to market to particular consumer segments. In return, Condé Nast enjoys unparalleled access even when competitors are shut out of conversations.

Regardless of industry, the lesson is the same. The right kind of insight is an advantage to any sales force. The Board’s sister program – the Sales Executive Council – calculated that 53% of customer loyalty comes from the “sales experience” and that the primary experience driver is teaching. That is why the Corporate Executive Board’s Executive Guidance for 2011 tells business leaders to:

“Treat sales channels as the education arm of the corporation” Read More »

Social Sensitivity: It’s What Makes Groups Smart

Posted on  8 November 10  by 


A recent study by researchers at Carnegie-Mellon, Union College, and MIT finds that three factors significantly correlate to a group’s collective intelligence (its ability to perform tasks together):

  1. average social sensitivity of group members
  2. equality in distribution of conversational turn-taking
  3. proportion of females in the group (as they tended to score higher on social sensitivity).

Not only is it a bit surprising that social sensitivity would play such a strong role in group performance, but researchers were also interested to learn which factors did not strongly correlate with collective intelligence: intelligence of the smartest in the group, average group intelligence, satisfaction in the group, and group motivation (among others).

MREB view:  As Research functions have evolved from being data providers to delivering strategic value through insights, the decision-making environment within which they operate makes collective intelligence more important.  While tactical research often involved a single decision maker looking for specific facts to inform (or justify) a decision, strategic research generally involves multiple stakeholder making complex choices.  To ensure impact, it’s not enough for researchers to present a great business recommendation with clear logic and implications for action.  We need to learn how to engage business partners on both their emotional and rational concerns. Read More »

Customer Experience Analysis and Organization

Posted on  1 November 10  by 


Innovation consultant Adam Richardson posted the first of a series of blogs regarding customer experience a few days ago.  All companies who have customers have a customer experience, but Richardson believes that until recently it has been a relatively untapped opportunity for differentiation and excellence.  To optimize your customer experience he notes that you must have a deep understanding of:

  • Customer Journey-from informing your customers of your service to actually serving them, what does the journey that you take your customers on look like?
  • Touchpoints-what are the company-managed channels that your customers interact with—ads, call centers, Web sites, etc.?
  • Ecosystems-how can you develop integrated ecosystems to create new customer journeys and experiences?

MREB view: Clearly, Research has a big role to play in understanding and optimizing customer experience, and many organizations don’t even realize the amount of existing data that they have to inform these strategic decisions.  And that’s where customer experience analysis can actually help Research (in addition to Research informing it)—use your understanding of your customer touchpoints to organize and synthesize disparate data streams. Read More »