Letters: Readers respond to David Moore’s query: Who will champion research innovation?

The future is non-verbal

The future is non-verbal

Thanks to David Moore for asking the question. His observations on research remind me of the challenges laid down by Jim Stengel, global marketing officer of P&G: ‘I challenge the industry to bring the new competencies we need for this new world of marketing… forge partnerships, explore new technologies, and try doing things differently.’

Meanwhile, Rex Briggs, author of What Sticks, notes in the Journal of Advertising Research: ‘If you really want to get an accurate and powerful read on how consumers are influenced by advertising, you need to adhere to the scientific method. You need to establish exposed and control groups beforehand and carefully measure differences in consumers’ attitudes and behaviours between groups rather than rely on consumers’ memories of what they saw and how it made them feel…. There is much more research that needs to be conducted using design of experiments to establish a more robust understanding of what ads really work in the real world.’

The percentages Moore cites in terms of who is actually participating in online surveys are disturbing to say the least. Researchers will no doubt give examples of higher response rates, especially if they are given sufficient time to allow for and research non-responders. They will no doubt point out that even with lower response rates the results are pretty much the same.

Our research group has undertaken research methodologies including mall intercept interviews in the ’80s, telephone screenings in the ’90s and online surveys in the 2000s. At the same time, we have reworked our survey questionnaires from verbal to include more non-verbal/visual means. Why? After 25+ years using viewer reward measures, we know it is the feelings of consumers that really drive interest, decision making and purchase. We have experienced the power of using metaphor elicitation techniques such as photographs and colours to enable people to express their true feelings about brands.

And we generally beat the industry average, especially when our surveys are intelligent and fun (no longer than 20 minutes). We feel that more engaging research leads to more engaging ideas and insights.

Suffice it to say, there are lots of opportunities for truly understanding consumers, that include seamless quali-quant research, ethnography and non-verbal research such as facial coding and biologically based sensors. While some of these may sound farfetched now, they may become the mainstream in the near future.

According to a study we conducted last year among research professionals in China, India and Brazil, the long-term trends are more ethnography and online. The advances in ethnography speak to the fact that there can be a big difference between what people actually do and what they say they do. Online is cheaper and faster but it could be better….

Mike Gadd

Executive partner

Ideas Research Group

Toronto

Kicks all round

We researchers are accustomed to the occasional kick from those in the advertising industry – often unwarranted. So when I saw a critical piece on innovation in research written by an advertising man I braced myself and prepared to find reasons to dismiss its contents.

But David Moore’s kick was well aimed and, I have to say, justified. And I appreciate that it is not only we researchers who feel his boot. He rightly lays some blame on the inertia of those marketers and advertising professionals who pay lip service to gaining new insights but are comfortable with using current research practices to support their own opinions.

The fact is that we are overly reliant on consumer recall of things they really don’t care about. Consumers make many decisions that they quickly forget or were never even aware of. Most consumers don’t remember all the reasons they bought a particular brand and, if they can, they often can’t be bothered to fully articulate it.

Fortunately, this is actually a weakness that can increasingly be addressed by new technology. As innovation using digital technology is transforming advertising, it is also transforming research. We are looking at a future where digital technology will allow us to observe actual behaviour of large groups of consumers in terms of media consumption, advertising exposure and actual product purchase. This can potentially transform market research into something of an observational science. We may be entering an age where we gain most of our consumer insights without asking consumers a single question. I believe that this development will be the basis for the paradigm shift Mr. Moore is anticipating.

Are research agencies embracing this change and maximizing the opportunities it presents? Probably not as much as we should be. But it would be wrong to say we are not starting this process. If Mr. Moore had attended the NetGain conference organized by the Market Research and Intelligence Association in Toronto in January, he would have witnessed many research practitioners and users discussing these and many other issues related to innovation that are transforming our industry. Maybe if we researchers gave advertising professionals an occasional kick some of them might have joined us there.

Robin Brown

SVP, Canada

Synovate

Toronto