As we move towards a digitally obsessed age there is pressure for humble market researchers to go with the flow and do all things digital (by the way not all consumers live in the same world as the marketing and research professionals that represent their views and we should be cautious of that) but this is not always the answer.
Let’s take the focus group – why would you just make a focus group an online group? That is missing the point entirely. Face to face interaction works and works well – just changing this dynamic to an online forum does very little above change for change’s sake. No, let’s embrace digital in the right way, let’s supplement and enhance our repertoire of methodologies.
That’s what we have done here at Stream. We have Research-Book which seeks not to replace the focus group but to add another layer of depth to the methodologies we offer. It works as an ethnographic tool, it works as a scrapbook to help illuminate people’s worlds and it works as a means of getting fast and insightful feedback on concepts, ads and new ideas. It does allow for an online forum or bulletin board to replace a group when required (usually with geographically dispersed groups and those who live a lot of their consumer lives online) but the intention of Research-Book is to add to the insights we collect, not to re-invent the wheel.
So this is a call to everyone, let’s not replace, let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water. Let’s think how we can evolve and improve things. At the heart of research is human interaction and engagement. For me that means great projective techniques that unlocks the insights that make a difference to the brands who employ us to help them understand their consumer.
Let’s use digital and online methods but in the right way.
One of the biggest challenges young researchers face in their first few years of being a consumer researcher is how to effectively and skilfully communicate the findings they uncover.
Often there is a sense of thrill and excitement about all these great things you want to tell your client – they make absolute sense in your own mind, you map out the key headlines, you imagine how you would present this but when it comes to putting this down on paper it can become less clear, a sprawling mess of ideas that just does not cut through or communicate all the good work you have done so far.
There is one key technique that we always teach young (and old) researchers here at Stream – visualising and storyboarding findings.
The reason to storyboard is much like a Director would on a film – to visualise your path to a successful and communicative narrative.
We believe there are 3 key rules to follow when storyboarding:
1) Imagine you turned these findings into a film; what would your narrative be, what are the key images and messages be that you want to leave behind – sketch out what visual look you are going for in order to deliver the findings. Look is vital to hold an audiences attention.
2) How would you structure it in a way that provides a solid beginning (setting out the problem), middle (the story that explains the key issues at hand) and the end (which gives a message, a clear finding, a way forward). Many filmmakers start by storyboarding the end and then build up the rest to show how this ending is its logical conclusion.
3) What are the other key scenes (findings) that are interesting (but might not add to the story) but may be a welcome extra – think the appendix, think added value insights, think a Directors cut which can be looked at if more is needed
There is nothing particularly new here but we believe in the principle of visualisation in everything we do. If you visualise (project management, moderation and debriefing) then you are more prepared and ultimately clearer in delivering what the research project demands: true insight told in an impactful and memorable way.
Exciting news that we have been working on for the past 6 months or so – here’s the summary of what we are setting out to achieve
After 7 years co-ordinating research studies around the globe, Stream is proud to announce the opening of Stream Brazil, our first directly owned local agency.
This is the result of a number of factors. Firstly, the strong and continued growth of the Brazilian economy means global clients are increasingly asking us to carry out projects and fieldwork in Brazil. Secondly, Raf one of the two founding members of Stream, is now spending more and more time in Brazil rather than in Europe. And finally, we have secured the vital support of Joao Simi, a local partner of Stream since we started, who gave us the energy and encouragement to take the plunge.
Based in Rio de Janeiro, with an office in Sao Paulo, Stream Brazil will provide, just as its parent company, the same kind of streams of insights that illuminate the world of consumer for you.
Joao also has a strong quantitative background which will allow us to offer clients a qual / quant service which Stream has been providing recently across global projects.
We would be delighted to hear from you and find together solutions to your research issues in Brazil:email@example.com
With the near demise of HMV and possibility that Blockbuster will eventually fall (and countless others ready to tumble) there is a clear need for high street shops to do something. There is a need to overcome this negative spiral of cut costs, offer little and hope people will come and not do all their shopping on Amazon.
I did 100% of my Xmas Shopping on Amazon (well a little bit on Etsy and Notonthehighstreet) in 2012. It was something I was kind of proud of in a macho type of way (real Men don’t like shopping, or so we are told) but the more I reflect on this fact the more saddened I feel. You see why don’t I go into shops? Price, yes but to be honest if I can just get the right thing then I’m not that price sensitive. It is down to one thing – experience. The experience in so many high street stores and shops is just terrible.
Let’s take HMV. This has been reduced to browsing through thousands of titles to buy 5 Blurays for £30 or 25 CDs for a pound or some equally silly deal. Or on the other end of the spectrum a copy of Borgen on DVD for about £2,000 (it’s good but not that good). I exaggerate but what is missing is any sense of, well, sense. Moreover where has the experience gone? Pile them high, huddle punters around endless aisles and hope you sell stuff at a loss. There are no experts to talk to, no corners to experience the product you want to buy, no sense of theatre in the shop at all.
For British retail to compete with Amazon and the online world there is a need to make the experience in shop a genuine experience, to create a sense of theatre and personalisation, to go beyond deals and towards memorable spaces. But they don’t do this. Retailers continue along the path to oblivion, doing the same old things with the same results.
This is where Kobayashi Maru comes in. For all you Star Trek fans you will already get this reference but for others (possibly with more of a life) let me explain. At Starfleet academy all the cadets have to take the Kobayashi Maru test before graduating. It is basically a no win situation, where if rules and protocols are always followed the test inevitably descends into disaster. That is until James T Kirk decides enough is enough – he literally changes the rules of the test in order to win. He thinks beyond protocol, he turns a no way situation into one he has control over. Technically he cheats to do this but so what! He passes.
Retail is there now. Cheat (copy a retail space that does it well), change the rules, disrupt the perception and engage with people (no pun intended). Kobayashi Maru.
I haven’t blogged for a while – business has been, well, busy and with a new baby due in a little over 4 weeks things have been a little crazy.
But I paused today and realised next week, 17th January, is Stream’s 7th anniversary. How did that happen? 7 years ago I left Synovate (which doesn’t even exist now) to ‘give it a go’. I was fed up with the constant meetings about budgets and targets and just wanted to continue travelling, doing exciting projects and above all moderating.
Now, 2013 and Stream has done over 300 projects – three to four a month – and we have completed these projects in 25 countries and counting. Last year I was personally in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Beijing, New York (several times), Shanghai (perhaps too many times), Lyon, Paris amongst others – what a privilege it is to travel the world and see so much.
I have to admit to being quite proud about this. Stream is just Raf and myself with occasional help from others. Our company size means we can really focus on projects (no budget meetings) and aside from all the sales guff I could quote this means we have been happier doing the projects and this means a lot. Being happy and loving what you do are essential to your overall life balance. At least I think so.
We now move forward with a plan to continue to do what we do well, with a little of the new mrx in the mix as well (I am staunchly pro traditional methods but I do see innovation both within and outside these methods as crucial). But, most importantly, we hope to enjoy the coming years as much as the previous 7.
Thank you to all our clients, partner agencies, friends and of course our families (my Wife has to put up with me travelling a lot) – we could not have done it without you.
I love Apple but I’m getting bored of all the commentary and analysis around it all:
Why do we need an iPad Mini (we don’t need an iPad but we have two in our house)? Is the pricing correct (yes for the record)? Why doesn’t it have a retina screen (it will look like one on a screen that small)?
Everyone take 5 and have a laugh at this instead (I thought the ad was inspired when I first saw it but this is even better!)
I’m sure most of you will now know that Unilever have announced their intention to assess their qualitative suppliers before they let them loose on one of their projects. I’ve been thinking about this and have gone through 3 distinct phases of consideration and conclusion.
- I was a little taken aback: it can easily be read as saying ‘we don’t believe in your credentials despite your experience’. Just taking myself as a case in point, 15 years moderating, 3 different agencies, dozens of different clients and I’ve conducted qualitative research in 25 countries why do I now need to be assessed? Surely they can take in my credentials and go with the proposal if they like the approach or reject me for a better proposal with more impressive credentials? And if you don’t live up to what you do then you will not be invited back to bid for more work.
- I then thought they had a very valid point: there are so many bad moderators out there and sometimes moderation style is a matter of taste and yes, they are totally correct when they say a quallie often just reports back without consideration of the context or the bigger business issues for the company. So OK, I can see why this is a good idea.
- What are their credentials to be assessors? I have to be careful here (as I don’t want to have a Don Draper tobacco moment) but I would like this to be a two-way assessment. If clients get to say how good agencies are at their job then surely agencies need to be confident in them as assessors? Confident that they are assessing from a position of expertise and understanding.
Now, actually I do get the philosophy behind all of this – there is a lot of hit and miss going on out there with agencies. As big agencies become bigger and fragmentation occurs when parts of their business then set up shop for themselves it will inevitably lead to more choice and not everyone is going to be right for a particular client. Also, I genuinely believe there are a lot of people who are not cut out to be good moderators, problem solvers, strategic thinkers and excellent presenters all in one package. So this does have some foundation of good thinking behind it.
So, how am I feeling about this now? I’m not sure actually. But I do know that we research agencies have to work really hard now to win business with a variety of proof points like proposals, pitches and just generally proving ourselves (and increasingly cutting margins) so is this a step too far?
One of the popular calls to action for the research industry at the moment (apart from the tedious and constant talk of gamification) is that as researchers we should be more like ad planners
Ad planners, the argument would have us believe, offer greater value by seeing the overall strategic picture while researchers just come along report back some findings and off they go without much awareness of the bigger picture or the implications this may bring
I have thought about this long and hard and I would simply answer this by saying I think a good researcher does all a planner does and in many cases much more, it’s just we don’t even acknowledge this or get others to value our role
I think a good market researchers skill set should include:-
- Insight awareness – this means the uncovering, contextualisation and strategic consideration of what your researched topic is telling you
- An ability to say what the implications are to a business – the so what and the what next
- Skilled at writing concepts, ad scripts and insight stories – in order that you can help shape, craft and define the real consumer need in a well thought out and actionable way (we are the gatekeepers to ‘real’ consumers and we should empower companies to speak in consumer language in the stories they form)
- Project management – the ability to ensure everything runs smoothly, on time and adapts to what you find out as you go along
- Engagement with the project even after the debrief – be on hand to give an opinion, express feelings and also help develop creative pieces after the results are handed out
I’m not saying all researchers always engage in these 5 key practices above but they very well should (indeed there are quite a few other skill areas in addition to these as well)
But I think that as ‘guardians of insight’ the MR world is extraordinarily bad at promoting self and self-worth and having the confidence to demonstrate we can do all of the above
So my call to action is let’s go and show the doubters that we can be as effective as a planner (and dare I say it, even better)
I’m fairly surprised that, as an industry, MR cannot seem to agree on the definition of what a true insight is
Mat Shore has posted a challenge to the LinkedIn community to define what an insight is and there are literally hundreds of posts, all slightly varying from one another about what an insight is
For an industry that (should in any case) stresses clarity of communication, a single voice of the consumer in propositions and distinct positioning to our clients we are incredibly bad at defining what an insight is and this can often mean not delivering defined, useful and inspiring insights of our own
So this blog post really is challenging everyone out there to share what they think is the definition of an insight – what makes something more than an observation or reportage of fact?
For what it is worth I think Mat Shore provides a good starter for 10 on this…he defines an insight as
‘a revelation about what our target customer does and why they do it. This allows us to talk to them in a more convincing and emotional way about why we can best meet their needs’
I believe that emotional element to be critical (which will not surprise any of you who read this blog)
So please email me firstname.lastname@example.org, tweet @streamresearch or leave a comment here if you have your own thoughts