Archive for marketing research

Getting the 100% participation rate

Posted in Qualitative research recruitment with tags , , , on June 4, 2009 by Cristi Popa

E014841Recruitment used to be somewhat of a mystery to me. I knew that I have to make up my mind and decide what kind of respondents I need and then go to the recruitment department and ask for them. In a couple of days I would enter the moderation room and the respondents would be there. Magic! Or not entirely, as sometimes the fairy godmother failed to fulfill my requests and brought me professional respondents (i.e. chameleonic people which can assume different colors, shapes and consumption habits. Moreover they tend to have a very complex relationship with the recruitment departments, relationships which resemble those described in Gomorrah by Garrone)
But recently I started finding myself in a new situation: recruiting for myself. It is a very hard job I have to say. You need to walk the streets, the malls, shopping centers etc. The weather tends to become a very important factor of the project, as well as the shoes you are wearing and the battery levels of your mobile. So, you might wonder: why bother?

• First of all you get exactly the respondents you need. No more professional respondents or persons who passed the screeners (the income, profession, psychographics screens) but who have nothing to do with the people you are looking for. You can see how they are dressed, where they are, with whom, you can talk to them and find out much more about them than the recruitment questionnaire would ever tell you.

• Secondly, with this occasion you can take a look around and actually see where the people you are looking for hang around, what do they do, how they consume the products within your interest category etc.

• Thirdly, you have the opportunity to create a personal connection with the respondent. The recruitment process no longer takes an objective shape where some people are selected and asked to present themselves at a certain place and time for an interview/ focus group, but rather a conversation which is finalized with an invitation to talk some more.

By doing so, you will now have a conversation partner in the group and not a “subject”. The most visible, measurable benefit is the time you gain in the FG/ IDI by bypassing the warming up section. Although not so easily measurable, you will also see a more pregnant tendency to get involved, to help, both during the IDIs/ FGs and in the recruitment process. And in here lies the 100% rate.
Here are a couple of tips I find useful to get to this rate:

1. Walk the streets – recruit by yourself. I know that it is not feasible for most of you (many projects, tons of tasks etc.) to singlehandedly recruit for an entire project. But try it for a couple of hours. If you have an easy target you can try it on your way home, or when you do your shopping etc. At least you will find out how a “real” (as in “not professional”) respondent looks and talks, the places where your target can be found and the way they naturally engage in the activity you are interested in.

2. Stay in touch with the people you recruited. Give them your messenger ID, e-mail address or whatever means they can use to find you easily. Maybe they want to know a little more about the project they’re in, or they just want to be reminded the date of the IDI/ FG. Anyway, it will not take you to much time and it will give them the impression that they really matter to you.

3. Be flexible when you can. I’m talking especially about timings here. The main issues I have with my respondents are the day and hour of the IDI/ FG. Traffic jams, family quarrels, arguments with bosses and so many other things can intervene. Try to keep an open mind and not to discard the respondent on the spot. Maybe you can reschedule that IDI for later on, or maybe you can start the FG 15 minutes earlier. Or maybe you can do that IDI in a coffee shop near his/ her home and they do not really have to cross the whole town to get to your headquarters. All these details can help you in getting across the same idea of valuing them not only as info sources, but most importantly as human beings

4. Transform the whole process, from recruitment ‘till moderation, in a continuous relationship with no changes in tone. Try not to see recruitment as a different step of the research in opposition with moderation. And try to make respondents not to see it that way, also. So, do not apply a very close ended recruitment questionnaire and give them the impression they are taking an exam and… then expect them to be creative in group! Or vice versa, being very friendly and loose in recruitment and then striving to get some structure in groups. Try to really engage them, from the first second until you say thank you for your participation.

Any other suggestions on this? Sam Ladner has some interesting ones.


Letter from the Dragon Mountain

Posted in Qualitative research analysis with tags , , , , on March 30, 2009 by Cristi Popa

platypus1 In my latter post I was arguing that qualitative research should not relay on preconfigured models of analysis especially when coming to segmentations/ positioning. My plea has found a sympathetic ear in 近义词`s person and all platypuses are now declared endangered. Such despicable practices as cutting their tails off are now banned from the Dragon Mountain. Also, 近义词 announced me that in his wisdom he decided to rethink his analytical model. Although the great Dragon God didn`t allow him to share the model`s principals with us, he could provide us with a small sample of what this model can do in the context of a positioning study for one of the platypus food makers, HappyPlaty:

HappyPlaty brand is perceived as the most dominant, spontaneously creative and extrovert brand from its category. It is seen as an ambitious, courageous, strong willed, positive, independent, self-confident person.
The platypuses thought to be loyal users of this brand are seen as uncomplicated, knowing exactly what they want and using all their energies, creativeness and resolution to get it, as well as being certain that they will get whatever they are after.
Still, the brand is seen as also displaying a set of negative traits: extreme arrogance, autocratic pride, haughtiness, and excessive temper. When confronting its rivals, HappyPlaty will not hesitate to use cunning, lies and trickery to discredit them. Self-centeredness, greed for flattery, boastfulness and bombast, pomposity, snobbish superiority are also traits that were used to describe this brand.

Although I wasn’t blown away I have to admit that it made me curious. What model was he using? What were the dimensions on which the model was based? How many clear positions did it have?
I couldn’t sleep for three nights. I totally forgot about my family and friends. I was obsessed with this. The more scrolls I read, the more colleagues I asked, the more complicated and obscure the problem appeared to me. Until this morning, when finally I had a breakthrough.

At first I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was so obvious, so simple…it was a stroke of genius. My friend 近义词 is using one major polarity – positive/masculine (extrovert) and negative/feminine (introvert). So he has two big spheres onto which he further applies four principles he calls fire, water, earth and air. In this manner he obtains 12 quadrants/ territories in which he distributes the brands.

I came across this when reading my horoscope here.

“The Leo type is the most dominant, spontaneously creative and extrovert of all the zodiacal characters. In grandeur of manner, splendor of bearing and magnanimity of personality, they are the monarch’s among humans as the lion is king of beasts. They are ambitious, courageous, dominant, strong willed, positive, independent, self-confident there is no such a word as doubt in their vocabularies, and they are self-controlled. Born leaders, either in support of, or in revolt against, the status quo. They are at their most effective when in a position of command, their personal magnetism and innate courtesy of mind bringing out the best of loyalty from subordinates. They are uncomplicated, knowing exactly what they want and using all their energies, creativeness and resolution to get it, as well as being certain that they will get whatever they are after.”

How many brands out there are running their strategies based on zodiacs even if they are called differently?

Qualitative research has to save the platypuses!

Posted in Qualitative research analysis with tags , , , on March 23, 2009 by Cristi Popa

platypusLong time ago in the second reign of the Chinese Emperor Chung Ling there was a qualitative researcher – 近义词 – who had to do a study on pet food. The pet food shop was owned by the king itself so there was no room for screwing-up.

近义词 was a master in the art of doing a special type of qualitative research – the Dragon research. Only few people in the kingdom knew it, as this art was taught only by the monks in the remote and dangerous caves on the Dragon Mountain.

The secret teaching of this art, the one guiding principle that could make anything clear for the Dragon qualitative researchers was that all animals could be included in one of the following categories: (a) those that belong to the emperor; (b) embalmed ones; (c) those that are trained; (d) suckling pigs; (e) mermaids; (f) fabulous ones; (g) stray dogs; (h) those that are included in this classification; (i) those that tremble as if they were mad; (j) innumerable ones; (k) those drawn with a very fine camel’s-hair brush; (l) etcetera; (m) those that have just broken the flower vase; (n) those that at a distance resemble flies.

In accordance with those categories the animals will eat a certain type of food at certain times.

One day, 近义词’s people accidentally recruited a platypus (for South Park fans, the manbearpig would do). They’ve never seen something like it. He looked at it, analyzed it, but something was not quite right. With all his experience and training he could not put this animal in any category with an easy heart. Sure it was not a suckling pig or a mermaid but it just broke a vase moments ago, could be that it belonged to the emperor and with that tail it could look like a fly in the distance.

After many, many days 近义词 had no clear answer and the emperor was getting tired of waiting.
In the end 近义词 decided to put the platypus in the category of animals that belong to the king. After all everything belonged to the king. So he should be safe. The next morning he would show his finding to the king and everything was going to be all right. Still that night he could not sleep. He felt as something was not right. That thing really looked like a fly in the distance. And the king surely is going to notice. There was only one thing to do: cut the platypus’ tail. This way it would look more like a bee in the distance. But there was still the vase problem. The broken vase. But maybe he could replace it with another one. Of course he could. He had an identical one. So the problem was gone.

This is the main drawback when using predefined models in analyzing research data. Most often the researcher will not even have the sleepless nights 近义词 had. He/ she will probably unconsciously disregard the data that conflicts with the model from the very beginning. If she/ he will suspect at some later point that the data just does not want to be put in the prepared boxes then the data will be modeled to fit. And even if the researcher is fully aware that he/ she is bending the data and finds it wrong, in all probability she/ he will not be able to step outside the predefined model as his/ hers only training was that of choosing which piece of data goes in what box.

Of course that there is no such thing as theory free research. All of us have their assumptions, our ways of making sense of the data, which always are impregnated with diverse theoretical elements.
And of course that any model is essentially different from reality in its simplicity (the whole map and territory thing). But none of those reasons gives us a license to think so narrow minded and to cut the platypuses tails.

So if you are very fond of Maslow, Freud, Jung, Dichter, Berne, Heylen, Adler or any other founding fathers of different models, if you think that:
• some brands are embodying the Leader archetype
• or are being used to resolve a tension between the society and self
• or that your brand resembles Grumpy while the competition brand looks like Sneezy
• that your brand is Hera while another reacts like Hephaestus
• that one brand is Kyle and another Cartman
try to look in your closets and number the tails you have in there only for the sake of some models.

Please save the platypuses.

If you had a chance would you have tested the Obama idea in a focus group?

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on January 27, 2009 by Cristi Popa

While we all hold our breath until someone will tell us why on earth qualitative research still exists, let’s take a look at some really funny clips about qualitative research (focus groups actually) and idea testing (may it be communication or product). The first is a parody of a prehistorically focus group on a “new idea”: fire. You must know it.

The second one is something I accidently came across here. The context is this: in 1984 Apple releases this spot:

It becomes iconic shortly after. 23 years later some clever advertiser does this clip in order to promote some advertising industry event. He makes storyboards with VO after the Apple ad and tests it in a focus group. The results are disastrous as you can see bellow.

Let’s set aside the fact that he was testing the ad with consumers from another generation so there was no chance to decode the ad as someone 25 years ago would do or for that matter let’s also ignore the fact that focus groups were not around 10 thousand years ago. Basically, both of them are saying the same thing: focus groups are not the indicated tools for testing innovative ideas or products. This idea is widely spread especially in advertising agencies. And I totally agree with it. You cannot test in a focus group too innovative stuff. It is only human for respondents to reject novelty because they get scared. Remember Galileo Galilei and the way that focus group ended. Still, how many of the commercials, products and ideas out there are that innovative? Not too many. And here’s a thought: was the Obama idea tested in groups? If so, with what results?

Quit bitching and moaning over qualitative research

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on January 26, 2009 by Cristi Popa

It became almost fashionable to criticize qualitative market research. The charges are various and range from the old count of lacking mathematical proof to the newer, hip ones – not thinking out of the box, not keeping up with the real world’s developments, generally not being cool and interesting enough. All these and much more are real to some extent. Still, it is a multibillion business each year, so one would think that there should be something good about qualitative research. But what are those things? So, the question is: why do you still buy it, read it, use it?

Using Twitter in qualitative research

Posted in Qualitative research web 2.0 with tags , , , , , on January 14, 2009 by Cristi Popa


One of the main points made when crucifying the focus group as a qualitative research tool is its artificiality, its way of abducting the consumer from its natural context and putting him in a moderation room. As a reaction to this shortcoming marketers resort from time to time to more ethnographical approaches, like IHV’s, AST’s etc. The idea is to get the researcher integrated in the natural context. If for focus groups the ideal is going as deep as possible, for the IHV’s is ear dropping.


In this context comes Web 2.0 with all its networking and socializing potential and short after, the idea of using it as a research tool. Add this to the marketing guru frenzy when everybody is desperate to buy a ticket to some bold, bare foot marketing gods that say the same fundamental stuff but with different wrappings, all of them announcing web 2.0 as the second coming. And so, you get a wave of enthusiasm towards research on YouTube. Twitter, blogs, Face book, Yahoo Messenger, forums, online communities etc. Now everybody can eardrop on everybody. And at this point something very interesting happens: people start thinking that this is a great tool researchers can use to tap consumers’ real feelings, wording etc. As a result, a long list of arguments in favour of stalking online communities raging from low costs to the raw, uncorrupted character of the data emerges.


What almost everybody seems to forget is exactly the background. Yes people are not inhibited by a moderator, and mirror, and camera but they are inhibited by themselves, their peers, the medium and many others. Take Twitter for example. In there you choose your crowd. Friends, people that seem to share common interests or common friends are the usual choices. On top of that, come opinion leaders, the cool people of the day and somewhat more official sources – companies. And all these birdies tweet. But they tweet with a reason – they want to be perceived in some manner (a little sparrow wants to be seen as a hawk), or they want to belong to a certain crowd (the duck trying to stay with the swans), they want to have access to the cool links etc. And all these reasons alter what they’re tweeting about, how they do it, when and with whom. And here comes the clever fox thinking that all that it has to do is to listen in on the tweets and find out where the birdies keep their eggs. So it goes to and puts in “eggs”. And it sees the sparrow bragging about her big nest in the mountains, the duck saying it has no time to lay eggs as it’s occupied with facial treatments and thinks “jack pot”. But in fact it does not have a clue.


Coming back to the real world, we have to understand that all these web 2.0 developments offer us new ways of conducting research but do not simplify it to the extent of a Google search. It just provides us with more info sources which we still have to interpret against the context. So, do not think that the further away from the moderation room, the more real it is.