the global research boutique

Clutter, clutter, clutter – let’s talk iPad Mini

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!)

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The Grand Assessment

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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?

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The big debate: researchers should be more like planners – we already are though, right?

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:-


  1. Insight awareness – this means the uncovering, contextualisation and strategic consideration of what your researched topic is telling you
  2. An ability to say what the implications are to a business – the so what and the what next
  3. 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)
  4. Project management – the ability to ensure everything runs smoothly, on time and adapts to what you find out as you go along
  5. 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)

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Insight is the most difficult word for the insight community


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, tweet @streamresearch or leave a comment here if you have your own thoughts

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It’s all about the end user benefit, not the tech specs

As Mad Men emerges onto our TV screens again in the UK after too long away I was reminded of a stand out moment from the entire series, something that really has stuck with me from the moment I saw it

It reminds me once again of something we always see in consumer research – talk about the end benefit, the emotional connection and the use case scenarios. The technology part of how it works really can wait until later



PS I hope this YouTube clip is ok to use on my blog, will happily take down if it infringes any copyright etc

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A bit of fun to end the week

Here is a really quick poll on 3 things that are swimming around the blogosphere in terms of what agencies need to offer (there are many more criteria of course but these 3 stand out at the moment).

Which one for you or is it none of these?



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Innovating within focus groups: empowering the watchers

I still believe that focus groups are one of the best ways of generating insights, testing ideas or exploring issues and, despite the fact that TV programs such as The Apprentice are doing their best to destroy the true value of ‘focus groups’ with their mind numbingly awful representation of what they are, most researchers out there still agree

But we should be going further (and on a more regular basis) now, we should really be looking to make focus groups more collaborative between client, agency and respondents wherever we can

By this I don’t mean co-creation workshops – these have a time and a place – but I do mean 3 simple steps / options that could be built into almost any project

1) Client interaction – at the end of the group instead of going in and asking the watchers ‘do you have any questions’ why not actively ask them to come into the room and let the respondents ask them questions. This often results in fantastic insight because they ask questions on subjects they don’t understand (showing communication issues), or will bring up other points that need to be addressed as part of the bigger picture

2) Watching the watchers – have part of the group, usually towards the end, where the client team comes into the group room and the respondents go behind the mirror. The watchers are suddenly watched, the points discussed in the groups with the respondents is then debated with the client team and finally everyone is brought together to come to a conclusion

3) Vox Pops – at various points in the groups have respondents leave the room and speak to one of the watchers one to one. This can be on various points of interest in the group that have emerged

Again, the innovation MR commentators out there will say there is nothing new in this post. That’s probably true but as with all research it is a call to be flexible, thoughtful and empowering (for consumers and clients alike) within the methodologies we employ

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(Re) discovering the power of ethnography


On a recent trip to New York (my first in about a year) I decided to get reacquainted with the city even though I have been there a mind boggling 56 times before (I do count). I Walked here, stopped for a coffee there and observed pretty much everywhere. It was a good couple of days.

In doing these 3 things I started to gather an important picture of how New Yorkers actually use their mobile tech devices while out and about. I could see the brands they own, what they were looking at and what they shared with others. In short I was immersing myself in their culture for a couple of days before my fieldwork started. It was 2 days very well spent.

You see what I am saying here is nothing new, revolutionary or clever but it is becoming increasingly rarely done these days – stepping back and watching the world. I’m always in such a hurry to get to the facility, do the groups and get back on the plane home (I stress this in case my wife is reading this knowing that she is looking after the baby as I ‘swan’ around New York). But you know what I shouldn’t hurry, I should take a day to be curious, I should spend a few hours outside of the facility with ‘consumers’ as it arms me with such important contextual understanding of what real consumers do in real spaces.

There is so much talk of innovation in research techniques that sometimes we forget the fundamentals; great research is about understanding how people react and behave in the real world

So I now have a renewed agenda and I pledge to do  3 things every time I have groups to do (and I did this in London this week and it works just as well in your own backyard as it does elsewhere)

  1. Arrive early to your destination – a day if an international project, a few hours if in your home city
  2. Visit the key places that are relevant to your group discussion – coffee shops are a must for almost any subject you can imagine but otherwise shops and specific parts of the city work well
  3. Record notes of what you see. Even if not directly relevant to that project it may well be relevant further on down the line. With notes collect artefacts – flyers, pictures, brochures, newspapers – all will help you put together a cultural picture of the place you are in

I am an advocate of ethnography and always have been. Since 1998 I have both trained in and trained others on how to conduct anthropological methodologies. There is nothing new in what I say here. But  I now have a renewed vigour and sense of ethnographic worth. And you know what, (re) discovering something makes you feel great!

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iPad 3 is magic

One last thing for the week…

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Co-creation in research can lead to great campaigns

Over the last 12 months here at Stream Research we have been working with Philips to create the CitiScape range of headphones

Part of the brief was to co-create the headphones for our urban target consumer. What has emerged at the end of this process are CitiScape stories that are front and centre of the go to market strategy

We think Philips have done a wonderful job taking the insights from the co-creation sessions and translating them into the following videos – this is a genuine example of what great co-creation methodology can result in

See what you think (genuine respondents telling their stories)

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