at the intersection of brands, media and culture

Posts Tagged ‘market research’

The Reason Segmentation Is Dead

In Uncategorized on August 19, 2008 at 11:01 am

As brand strategists, we’ve been looking at the slow death of traditional segmentation analysis for a while now and talking clients through other ways to group their audiences. This video shows you why the hassle:

Steve points us to another fun article from The New Yorker. My favorite quote: “In sharp contrast to last year’s similar polling question, conducted by the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles for Indiana State University, only seventy-five per cent of respondents this year thought “with certainty” that they were being interviewed.”

Get Out of the Room!

In advertising, Branding, communications, Consumers, marketing on April 13, 2008 at 2:24 am


Originally uploaded by distillerymedia

There is something nice, predictable, and safe about focus group rooms. The anonymity provided by double-sided mirrors, the predictability of recruits and the comfort of peanut M&M’s. But when the results are nice, predictable, and safe, is it time to try something else?

Now, I know I’ve defended focus groups in the past but it’s sort of like defending why you left the dishes unwashed. Unable to apologize for woeful negligence you double down your defense. And I’ll stick to the fact that focus groups are very useful for testing, for understanding if your message is getting through and for talking to large numbers of people quickly and reliably. But for inspiration and creation whether for products or positioning, nothing beats experience.

I’ve been on a global journey of sorts for a large but daring client who had an appetite for (and a budget that required) a new approach. For less money than traditional focus groups I’ve been diving headlong into the cultures and scenes of Shanghai and now Moscow. While it would have been a lot easier and less time consuming to sit people down in a Moscow focus group room to talk about nightlife, daylife and everything in between, there is nothing like bellying up to the bar, touching the stage at a live show, playing streetball with locals or conducting live interviews at a skatepark to learn about what is going on, how people feel and how to tap into those emotions.

So next time you really want to understand your audience, don’t just bring them into a room or do an in-home. Move with them and among them to understand not just where they are and what they’ve accumulated in their life, but where they are headed.

This picture was taken at around 2am in the Moscow club 16 Tons.

Penny for Your Thoughts…Actually Less

In Consumers, market research, marketing, strategy on March 11, 2008 at 3:01 pm

Confused Sign
Originally uploaded by kudaker

So, I got this email a couple of minutes ago from Synovate, a reputable firm, who is working on an online survey with Wells Fargo. I got the whole, “we are going to donate to charity on your behalf” thing. Which is sort of like the fake Christmas presents that say someone donated to X charity on your behalf, also known to recipient as “the giver doesn’t give a crap about you but wants to look good” gifts.

But why is Wells Fargo doing it? Are they simply planning to pocket the non-profit donation and write it off against their taxes? Do they have such a small budget for the project that they thought giving people $5 would look too cheap but giving it to someone else would be okay? Why the altruism? (Can’t be for altruism’s sake.)

Yes, maybe I’m a bit cynical and over-intellectualizing this, I’ll cop to that. Read it yourself and see what you think. I quothe:

Dear Wells Fargo Customer,

In an effort to improve products and services, Wells Fargo is inviting a select group of customers to participate in a survey. Synovate, an independent market research firm, is administering the survey on behalf of Wells Fargo.

In appreciation of your time, Wells Fargo will make a $5 charitable donation for each completed survey, up to a maximum of $15,000. Later in the survey, you will be asked for your choice of one of six charities where you would like your donation to be allocated. Thank you in advance for your time and feedback.

About this survey:
The survey will take about 15 minutes to complete.
blah, blah, blah

The Real Reason China Mobile Said No to the IPhone

In Brands, communications, Consumers, market research, marketing, research, strategy on January 14, 2008 at 12:27 pm

Engadet and others reported today that China Mobile backed out of negotiations to carry the iPhone.

“after saying the “iPhone model was not suitable for China” back in November, a spokesperson for China Mobile now says they’ve “terminated” discussions with Apple to bring the iPhone to China. China’s largest carrier gave no reasons for the decision though the fee sharing agreement is likely a contributing factor.”

But I would point back to the initial statement ” [the] iPhone model was not suitable for China” as the true reason the negotiations broke down.

I was in China in mid-2007 doing research on the mobile phone category and specifically looking at convergence devices. While the market there is filled with convergence devices, more respondents were carrying around multiple gadgets that they saw as best in class vs. relying on one device. Music players that were the size of a matchbox w/ readable song names (take that shuffle), Video players that were almost viewable by someone under 30 and nifty little phones.

The quote I most remember came in response to a prototype I was showing, “it’s too big to be my music player and too small to be a good video player.” I imagine that this consumer sentiment is what caused tepid negotiations between China Mobile and Apple. Except add in, it’s too big to be a phone.

In addition, consider that according to Business Week, “cell-phone replacement cycles in China that run 6 to 12 months faster than those of Europe or North America” which would presumably make long-term contracts less appealing. And, that Apple as a brand doesn’t possess nearly the cache in China that it does in the United States or even Europe. Again from Business Week, “the Mac platform only has 0.2% of total PC unit shipments, according to IDC,… Mac sales never took off there, in part due to perceptions that they’re too costly compared to Windows machine.”

At the end of the day, Apple needs China more than China Mobile needs Apple.

Fox News is Giving Focus Groups a Bad Name

In market research, Politics on January 11, 2008 at 11:58 am

Let’s be clear, Fox News is not running focus groups.  Fox News is making reality television and passing it off as focus groups.  I was watching FN during the NH primary and I was shocked at Frank Lutz, they way he conducted the bits of the group that they showed and the bias he showed in talking about it afterward.

If it was actually a focus group they would have made the group smaller in order to drill down into the issues and respondents preferences and triggers.  As it was, it looked an awful lot like a made-for-TV panel with trite, surface level questions and a large studio video camera trained to capture respondents carefully crafted answers.

Moreover, as this video shows, they didn’t do a very good job at screening the folks from central casting.

TAL’s Ira Glass on Storytelling (and Presentations)

In advertising, agency, Branding, communications, presentations on January 9, 2008 at 9:27 am

Presentations can be boring, tedious, gouge-your-eye-out-with-a-spoon, mind-numbing affairs. Sometimes it’s the result of an  inexperienced presenter, sometimes too much reliance on the PowerPoint deck, sometimes the easy mistake of the presenter visualizing himself naked instead of his audience. In my field, one of the bigger mistakes I see is a researcher relying too much on facts.

Now, before I lose Sterling Brands all of our clients, I’ll say that facts can be important. It is important to know what people believe, how they feel about their life and your brand. But that’s just it: it’s important to know how they feel. And in order to communicate clearly how someone feels you have to bring that information to life in ways that depart from the page. Do that and you create the scenarios in which a client cares about that person’s feelings.

Ira Glass takes on the point in this video on the power of storytelling and anecdotes.

Brand Strategy: Mirror Brands vs. Beacon Brands

In advertising, Brands, communications, Consumers, market research, marketing, research, strategy, trends on January 7, 2008 at 10:51 am

one tree

Originally uploaded by distillerymedia

Sometimes marketers get confused about what their brand is vs. what their audience would like it to be. While the latter philosophy is logical to the point of wanting to please customers, it can be problematic since customers rarely give two bits about the state of your marketshare, your margins, what your brand is capable of, or the general health of your business.

Thinking that brands should mirror the lives or desires of their audience, marketers often enlist the use of focus groups, IDIs, ideations, expert panels, surveys and the like to try to figure out what the market wants. The basic problem with this is that customers inevitably want brands to be “faster, stronger, more reliable, cheaper, easier to use” etc., and they’re often short-sighted on how they want your brand to serve them. And why shouldn’t they be? Do they want your brand to enter into a new category? Maybe, but not if they have a brand there that they already trust. Do they want your brand to retool? Maybe, but not if they already like it. If used as input and inspiration, this type of research can be invaluable in opening up lines of thought and creating possibilities. But if used to find actual answers, you’ll likely end up with a very bland brand with all of the edges buffed off since the majority of the audience will find this acceptable. It’s the law of averages.

The real question should be: how can you use the market and insights to achieve your business and brand objectives? How can you create a Beacon brand that represents your audience’s unspoken aspirations and drives them to you? How can you use your competitive advantage to create a marketplace advantage?

The advantage of Beacon brands is that they take a stand. They connect deeply to your audience in a way that is differentiating and unique. By comparison, as the name implies, Mirror brands simply look to mirror the audience. They can succeed, but the task is much more difficult since Mirror brands only reflect what is on the surface and not the deeper, underlying values of an audience. They can also be more easily replicated by everyone else in the market.

What’s wrong with market research, Part I

In advertising, agency, Brands, communications, Consumers, market research, marketing, strategy, UnMarketers on December 3, 2007 at 5:30 am

An old colleague of mine, Chris Perkins, now at Arnold, always liked to respond to clients who test positionings by saying, “Well, should we throw love in the mix too, just to see what people think?” And I think that this sums up much of what’s wrong with how folks seem to use qualitative research.

“If we go out and ask them (the market), they’ll tell us what to do,” seems to be the popular thinking. This, of course, discounts strategic thought or client intuition. It also assumes that the market knows what they want, can articulate it, and are comfortable telling other people the truth. I don’t know what I want for lunch today. In fact, I’m feeling kind of ambivalent about food in general. I know I like food, and I know I’m hungry, I just don’t know what I feel like eating today. I’d go through a similar decision-making process trying to decide what to eat for lunch as I would if someone asked me what type of relationship I wanted with a brand. “Well, give me some options… sure, a ham sandwich sounds good. I think I’ll get that.” The more bland the positioning/meal, the more likely I/the market will find it agreeable. Ham sandwiches sound good to people.

The rub is that there are a million and one delis that sell ham sandwiches. There are very few places that sell Jamaican Japanese fusion, and you know what? I could really get hooked on that. It’s different, it’s spicy, it’s healthy and it’s good.

Some of my recent research is playing more like Jamaican Japanese fusion. I’ve spent the last year traveling for a variety of clients to places like Twins Festivals, Burning Man and now I’m getting ready to leave on a trip to Ivory Coast. This type of research requires a bit more strategy on the backend and a healthy helping of intuition to turn findings into something usable. It can be scary, one can fail miserably. But when you do succeed, you do so by creating something amazing, interesting and differentiating. Something that comes from a deep-seated truth that is just off the cerebral radar and waiting to be brought to life.

I imagine my next trip will be something like this…