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Posts from March 2012

Rethinking Organizational Design

Posted on  28 March 12  by 


Now that spring is here, I’ve been heading outside to enjoy the fresh air, blooming flowers, and newly-green trees (FYI – D.C.’s famous cherry blossom trees had their third-earliest peak bloom last week!). For those of us living in suburbia, springtime also comes with fun activities like lawn-mowing, spring cleaning, and a general dusting-off of things left alone during the winter. This might involve taking stock of a yard and driving to the hardware store for some quick fixes. Other folks begin by first checking out what the neighbors are up to for ideas.

Much like attempting a home DIY project without the right blueprints, tools or inspiration, restructuring an organization can be painful and frustrating. To alleviate these struggles, the Market Research Executive Board provides a handy set of organization profiles as a benchmarking tool, useful for seeing how other teams are structured within the same industry, team size or business model.

While our original profile collection has been popular, we are always looking to keep them current and as interesting for members as possible. For this reason, I am excited to announce that our latest research project will be to create a new set of organization profiles. In particular, we hope to depict in greater detail how companies are arranging regional and global research units, particularly as market research departments become more globalized.

The more companies that participate in this project, the more valuable these profiles will be to anyone using them. We encourage you to be included by taking our survey. Like our original profile collection, all company names will be hidden; the profiles are available simply to give members an anonymous peek into their neighbor’s yard and see what the possibilities are.

As we compile our new profiles over the coming months, we’ll keep you updated on what we’re finding. As always, we would love to hear any feedback, particularly on what you’d like to see in the upcoming collection, so free to email us or leave a comment below!

Poll Results: Primary Research Forum Q1 Data Collection

Posted on  27 March 12  by 


As we wrap up the first quarter of 2012 (where does the time go?  I’m still somewhere in mid- February myself), I thought we could take a look back at some of the one-off poll question our members have posted on our Primary Research Forum.

These questions cover a broad terrain, from global research to ad testing budgets, so hopefully there is something here for everyone.  Let’s get to the numbers:

Incorporating New Methods: An Informal Priority

It seems that identifying and incorporating new methods is definitely a priority for researchers, but the vast majority of respondents are doing so informally.  Only a few members say that they have a formal process for learning about and incorporating new methodologies: 

If you would like to join the ranks of those with a formalized methodology innovation process, check out how Unilever uses a standardized process to identify, develop, and deploy innovation in research methodology.

Global Research: Still More Room to Run

An MREB member from a global organization recently asked his peers to rate their focus on global research efforts, wondering if folks would consider themselves to be:

  • Emerging; we have dedicated staff but struggle to integrate both teams and learnings across markets
  • Average; we have staff dedicated to global research and outsource to local suppliers; we try to regularly share knowledge across markets
  • Superior; we align researchers to geographic markets based on business need instead of location; we proactively share customer and market knowledge across regions; and we empower local teams to handle certain parts of the research process independently

MREB members, see how research departments at DuPont, Reckitt Benckiser, and Unilever support global business needs.

Ad Research: A Smaller Part of the Advertising Budget than you May Expect

When asked what percentage of the total advertising budget is spent on research, almost half said less than 3%, and the vast majority noted that it was fewer than 5%.  Visit our site to access more benchmarking numbers on budget and staff size.

Customer Journey Maps: Research Enters the Realm of Cartography

Finally, we saw a question earlier this year on developing customer touchpoint maps.  While many companies do not have this type of project in place, those who do often call on research to manage the heavy lifting.

For those interested in customer mapping initiatives, stay tuned over the next few months.  We are currently working on a whitepaper about research’s role in building a customer journey framework.

I hope you enjoyed this overview of our Q1 discussions poll results.  If you have your own question to ask please pop over to our forum.  We’ll see you there!

Other Poll Results Blogs:

Market Researchers: Atari Experts in an Xbox Kinect World?

Posted on  27 March 12  by 


This video of today’s generation of kids trying to master the electronics of the 80s elicited some giggles out of my co-worker and me. It really flips the “grandmother trying to use an iPad” stereotype on its head. I have to say I was particularly shocked at the challenge of operating a cassette deck – surely that’s not that old??

Working with new (or even “new-to-me”) technology can be a hard transition to make. “How does it work?” “What is it good for?” “Is it worth it?” “This just feels… wrong!”

Nobody knows this challenge better than the Market Researcher faced with the array of new methods and data sources enabled by technology improvements over the past several years. Is Research keeping up with these changes, or are we still playing Atari?

There are increasingly more – and increasingly sophisticated – ways to collect information about customers and consumers. Advances in data collection methods, storage, and modeling make it possible to gain an understanding of customer behavior to a degree previously unattainable. On the other end of the spectrum are methodological advances like neuroscience and mobile research.

Is it worth it? Early indicators point to yes. More data certainly presents an opportunity to generate more holistic customer insights. From the opposite perspective, might the expanding sources of customer data present a potential threat to the unique value that Research has for the business?

The MREB is tackling this topic in its major research initiative for 2012, Rebalancing the Insight Portfolio. Members, read more about our latest observations pulled from interviews with your peers and take a look at some of our early hypotheses.

Future of Research: Share Your View

 This week’s guest blog comes from Ian Lewis, Director, Research Impact Consulting at Cambiar.  Ian was an MREB member when he led the Consumer Research & Insights team at Time Inc.

Cambiar launched the Future of Research Study in 2011, with invaluable help from MREB members. We learned that most corporate market researchers expect major transformation of the research industry that will be evident within three years from now. Further, almost half expect that by 2020 the leading supplier will be Google, Facebook or a company that doesn’t exist today! Corporate researchers believe that social media listening, mining of information and emotion measurement will be part of the standard toolkit. And that the successful market researchers will be great consultants (or risk being replaced by a management consultant!).

In 2012, our study will focus on implementation - on what corporate researchers are doing and what is happening with research transformation in 2012. How much progress are we making, what are the bright spots, what’s working and what isn’t? Here are some of the questions we’ll address:

  • Are corporate researchers becoming thought partners, part of the core team, conducting more strategic research and making the “Now What” recommendations using storytelling?
  • To what extent are corporate researchers integrating research innovation into their market research solutions? Which new research innovations are taking hold, and for which solutions?  Are processes being reinvented?
  • There’s been much talk about the need for synthesis in recent years.  Is synthesis finally taking hold? What types of information are being synthesized, and what processes are being used?
  • Hiring and training is more critical than ever. What are the profiles of those being hired? And what type of training is taking place?
  • We’ll also keep a few benchmark questions looking ahead to 2020, to see how expectations are evolving

We need your help to chart how research transformation is – or isn’t –progressing.  Participate and provide your email address and you’ll have the opportunity to win one of the two iPad prizes. Plus you’ll receive our Research Transformation: From Idea to Reality report as a “thank you”.

Applying Neuroscience to Business Decisions

Posted on  20 March 12  by 


“Using neuroscience makes Market Research a bit of a hero because we’ve got new news.”

Ah, the draw of having something new to say.  And as the researcher from a chemicals company quoted above said in a recent conversation, companies are drawn to neuroscience methodologies because it might give them something new to base their decisions on. 

But researchers trying to figure out when and how to apply neuroscience know that it’s not that simple.  We recently brought a few researchers who have experience with neuroscience methodologies together to talk about how they are applying neuroscience to business decisions, and the general consensus was that we still have a lot of homework to do.  Some of the more intriguing mysteries include:

  • Sample size-are the smaller sample sizes suppliers rely on really representative?
  • Global applicability-how do cultural variances impact neuroscience results?
  • Tying physical reactions to behaviors-will neuroscience become a new qualitative data source difficult to use to formulate business recommendations?

Read more about these and other issues as we investigate the use of neuroscience for market research.

Bargain Priced Neuroscience

As much as we love our customers, they are often frustratingly imperfect test subjects. Most researchers have struggled with the gap between what consumers are able and willing to share about themselves, and their actual preferences, motivations, and actions. Neuroscience vendors promise to address this gap by providing access to consumers’ unfiltered reactions, without the veil of conscious thought that can obscure true insight.

Much of the recent buzz around neuroscience in market research has centered on expensive brain scans, but if your research budget isn’t quite on par with that of a large university lab, there’s no need to be discouraged. Research functions with fewer resources can still harness the power of neuroscience in more budget-friendly ways. Here are some “neuro-lite” options that utilize what we know about how the brain works in order to access consumers’ subconscious reactions:

  • The Implicit Association Test (IAT) relies on the theory that people can make quicker connections between concepts that are already closely tied in their minds.
  •  The Zaltman Metaphor Elicitation Technique (ZMET®) is built on the idea that the metaphors that people frequently use in conversation can reveal hidden meaning.
  •  The Facial Action Coding System (FACS) classifies 46 distinct facial movements to identify consumers’ true emotions. FACS also aids trained observers in catching “microexpressions” that are difficult to fake or conceal and flash across the face only momentarily.

Read about other low-tech neuroscience options, as well as how and when to use them, in the Market Research Executive Board’s new white paper: Using Neuroscience Techniques to Gain Deeper Insight.

The Best Time of Day to Be Creative? Not When You Think

Posted on  13 March 12  by 

Comment (1)

Do you remember that Seinfeld episode with the astronaut pen?  A pen that could write upside-down was such a great idea because Jerry often got stand-up ideas in the middle of the night and wanted to write them down without pivoting onto his elbow to make the pen work. 

And I think we all have had that experience—brilliant insights coming to us when we least expect them.  Well, a study released earlier this year may help explain why some of us strike gold in the morning (I remembered the Seinfeld episode on my morning walk), while others wish they had their own astronaut pen to write down the idea that hits in the middle of the night. 

When it comes to developing creative insights, the study found that self-described morning people are more creative at night, while night owls did better in the morning.  Although difficult to say exactly why this is the case, the authors postulate that being sleepy can create a vague brain that finds unlikely connections between seemingly unconnected ideas.  (explaining how I connected a 20+ year old TV clip to a creativity blog this morning)

Once you figure out your best time to be creative, use the 15 tools in our Insight Generation Toolkit to create and articulate new ideas.  But remember, although great ideas can come from a clouded state of mind, it’s always best to vet them when you are better able to focus.  And once you’ve confirmed the winners, use our communications skills resources to push them throughout the organization.

Related blogs:

How to Teach a Know-It-All

Posted on  12 March 12  by 


We’ve all had to deal with them – the “Know-it-All,” steamrolling over people with their opinions, impervious to criticism, closed off to the possibility that they may have something to learn. Now, “Know-it-All” is a somewhat flip and derogatory title for people who have unshakeable confidence in what they know; but people like this are a real, and really distressing, challenge for Market Researchers.

Executives’ “gut” understanding of the customer/ marketplace, built through experience, is liable to all sorts of cognitive biases and has the danger of being outdated. But when an executive is making a customer-facing decision, they rely mostly on that gut – a phenomenon that threatens smart decision-making.  How can Research break through to people who are mistakenly confident in an outdated or biased view of the customer?

The answer lies in attacking the root cause – the confidence. Leading Researchers are shaking up executive confidence by demonstrating the wrongness or incompleteness of executive knowledge, provoking insecurity and curiosity

That’s not enough, though – Research then has to re-shape the gut correctly. Using highly authentic, realistic, and interactive teaching (mimicking the experience that had contributed to their original gut) re-builds executive knowledge, and re-builds their confidence in the new knowledge.

(A great aspect to these approaches? They work across the spectrum of decision-makers, from the resistant-to-learning type to the naturally curious.)

MREB Members, learn more about engineering learning moments.

Related blogs:

Stretching Shopper Insights Resources

Posted on  9 March 12  by 


Pocketbooks across the country are feeling a bit squeezed. Personal financial counselors tout the importance of “spending wisely” – thinking about what you really must spend on and cutting out unnecessary extras. This advice applies equally to personal finances and research function budgeting. By figuring out what research projects are strategically important, shopper insights can stretch a small budget to have big impact.

ConAgra Foods’ shopper insights department approached the research agenda setting process by implementing a retailer-manufacturer Co-Business Planning process which delivers specific actionable research findings to a wide variety of retailer partners.

Here are the steps they take:

  1. Figure out what they want: Through a series of meetings, ConAgra Foods develops an understanding of the strategic priorities of its key retail partners, and associated research needs.
  2. Look for overlaps with what you want: Research interests are then tested against internal capacity, and projects are selected based on areas where retailer interests overlap with ConAgra’s strategic priorities.
  3. Look for overlaps in what they want: When the planning process shows that multiple retailers are looking for similar information, work is conducted as foundational research than can be repackaged for multiple retailers.

By developing customer learning plans in conjunction with retailers and internal business partners, shopper insights at ConAgra Foods is able to determine and produce insights and actionable recommendations that retail partners will be interested and engaged in.   

Additional information about ConAgra’s Co-Business Planning process is available in our new whitepaper, Boosting the Impact of Shopper Insights.

The same agenda setting principles can be applied by consumer insights teams – ConAgra’s Customer Learning Plan process is a shopper insights-specific example of a tested consumer insights learning process. Johnson and Johnson’s Strategy-Driven learning agenda process to identify company-level known’s and unknowns is similar in its structure and approach.

Related blogs:

The Final Awards of the Movie Season

Posted on  7 March 12  by 


With all of the Oscars handed out we have made it to the end of another award-winning awards-show season.  But thanks to the folks at Brandchannel there is one more round of awards, and these might be the most interesting to you: the Brandcameo Product Placement Awards.

Congratulations to Apple for appearing in almost half of all #1 movies (according to US receipts) last year.  And a shout-out to Transformers: Dark of the Moon for squeezing 71 identifiable brands and products into its 91 minute running time—that’s almost 1 product every one-and-a-quarter minutes.  I’ve seen commercials struggle to get to that concentration of product featuring!

The Brandchannel article also provides a few takes on the return on these movie investments.  Do you have questions on measuring the success of product placement, sponsorship, or other types of advertising?  Learn from your peers by posting your questions to our Primary Research Forum.