Feb 252014
Not for Pedestrian Use

Quite often when people talk about presentations they talk about the need to be engaging, amusing, and informative, or they talk about the need to use storytelling, visualisation, and performance skills. Whilst all of these have their place, for market researchers and insight professionals these factors only address the symptoms rather than the core need.

Market researchers and insight professionals give presentations for a reason, and in most cases the reason is to debrief a project or to pitch for a project. These presentations are not for entertainment (even though they should seek to be entertaining), these presentations are not just a ritual (although there are some elements of a presentation that should almost always be there). These presentations are there to achieve a business purpose, they need to be effective.

What is an effective presentation?
I think there are three key outcomes that define an effective presentation:

  1. They should make the audience want to hear from you again.
  2. They should communicate the key points you want to make.
  3. They should result in action.

Making the audience want to hear from you again
This is where things like engaging, timely, visual, amusing all come into play. As a presenter you want to develop your business relationship and you want future presentations to be effective. The best way of making future presentations effective is to make people want to attend your presentations. It is getting harder and harder to get senior client-side people to attend debrief meetings, if they know you are going to be engaging, informative, and timely they will be more likely to attend.

Communicate the key points
Communication is not about what messages you are sending, it is about what is received. There is a limit to how much new stuff the audience can take on board in any one meeting. You need to design the presentation so the key points are understood and remembered. Things like engagement are only useful if they help communicate the key ideas – games such as word bingo can reduce the ability of the audience to receive and internalise the key messages. An effective presentation builds in processes to check what has been received and understood, not just what has been said/shown.

Result in action
At a conference or in education the purpose of a presentation can be to inform the audience, in a theatre or after dinner the purpose of a presentation can be solely to entertain. However, in business, an effective presentation results in action. Sometimes that action might be to move forward with a project, sometimes it might be to find out further information, sometimes that action might be to cancel a project. An effective presenter ensures that the presentation can result in action and should follow-up to check what if any actions have happened. Sometimes it is necessary to give further input to ensure action happens.

Secrets of Effective Presentations
Very few presentations are effective. Very few of the engaging/entertaining presentations are actually effective. This is because they are not often designed with effectiveness as their key goal and sole reason – this is why I am talking about the secrets of effective presentations.

At the Singapore MRMW I am running a workshop on how to create and deliver effective workshops. If you are able to attend you can find out more by visiting the MRMW page, and you can get a 15% discount by using the code POSTE2014.

I will be making this material more generally available later in the year. Please let me know if you’d like to know more about effective presentations.


Feb 222014
Patrico Pagani IIeX

I’ve just spent two days at IIeX in Amsterdam, and had the pleasure of being a co-chair for the event. IIeX was a great success and I think the event has several lessons for other events (including my own NewMR events) and for the research industry; and here are my initial thoughts and observations. (BTW, the image is of Patricio Pagani form Infotools, and in the background you can see the wonderful architecture of the venue).

Fast, exhausting and big

The main event was two days long, starting at 8:30 and finishing after 6pm (just one of the North American influences on the event). I am not sure how many presenters/speakers/sessions there were, but I know that the chair’s briefing pack included notes, photos, and bios for 123 people – a testament to the hard work of the behind the scenes admin team (you would be surprised how hard it is to get photos and bios from speakers!).

A large part of both days was delivered in two streams, which means that nobody saw everything. One of the key things about this sort of event is that you need to give yourself permission not to try and see everything. It is a bit like going to an all you can eat buffet, the aim is to try the things you want to try, not to try to consume as much as you possibly can!

Most of the sessions were 20 minutes long, with 15 minutes for the presentation and 5 mins for the Q&A. The great thing about this is that even if a presentation was not great, it was only a few minutes till the next one. The panel discussions tended to be 40 minutes, but even they were quick fire because they normally included 5 people. There were also shorter sessions, such as the people pitching to win the innovation awards.

During the breaks, and when choosing not to be in the main hall, people visited the exhibition. Generally the exhibition was good, but one element was great and I will come to that in a moment. During the first evening there was The Research Club, to help keep the exhaustion levels high.

The quantity, speed, and resultant exhaustion meant that the event tended to deliver a different experience to a more conventional event. Delegates were introduced to five ways of doing gamificaton, eight takes on mobile, seven approaches to neuroscience. This a) provides a better appreciation of the breadth of what is being offered (and a reminder that in most new areas there is little agreement and many competing claims and counter claims), and b) a taster for lots of possible providers, partners, suppliers, and the chance to make introductions and start conversations.

Not too salesy

Some of the presentations were topic or subject based and were not salesy at all, a couple of people over-stepped the virtual line and were felt to be a bit too salesy (and suffered criticisms in Twitter for it). However, most of the presenters used their 15 minutes to say something like:

  • Hi, we are X and we do Y
  • Here is a case study that shows the sorts of things we do
  • And here are the sorts of client problems that this approach can deal with.

When this is done well it is actually quite useful. As a viewer you get a feeling for what solutions exist, what sort of problems can be addressed, what sorts of clients are using these approaches, what verticals seem to be getting the best results, and whether you want to have a conversation with the organisation.

North American Lens

The event had a very North American feel, many of the presenters were from North America, many of the exhibitors were from North America, and the core team (Lenny, Greg, Lauren, Guadalupe, Lukas) are all based in North America – with Kristof De Wulf and myself drafted in as local co-chairs.

My feeling is that this substantial North American element was one of the event’s key ingredients of success. 37% of global market research happens in North America (35% of global market research by spend happens within the USA). North America is a very large market with lots of exciting start-ups. We, in Europe, are keen to see what is happening there, partly to see what is new and partly to benchmark what is happening in Europe against it.

However, there was plenty of European content too, which gives local companies a chance to compare themselves against a North American benchmark.

Glass half full is probably an understatement

One key difference between IIeX and most events was the degree of optimism. A traditional market research conference has a balance of people extolling the new and people urging caution, demanding validation and side-by-side trials. At IIeX the mid-point was definitely somewhere where the mindset was:

  • The old stuff is not really delivering to today’s needs
  • Neuro/mobile/social/emotional/automated/graphical/faster/shorter is better, almost by definition
  • And, “we are doing it”, “our clients are doing it”, “you’d be wise to get on board now”
But, strangely enough, I found this bias in favour of the new to be refreshing and less dangerous than I might have expected. At a conventional market research event there might be one paper on, say, neuroscience or gamificaton. The presenter makes their case persuasively and other than the occasional hard question in the Q&A, they get a fairly easy ride and manage put down a stake in terms of their approach to the category.

However, at IIeX, you might see six different approaches, each saying they have the best/true/optimal/or only solution. This might pique your interest in the area, but it will also show you real proof that this is not a mature or agreed field, and show you that very plausible people, quoting great academic sources, are suggesting very different methods, approaches, or options.

The best thing in the exhibition!

For a long time I have been worried about sponsors and exhibitors. I am not sure that they often get good value for money, and since the current format of events depends on sponsors and exhibitors to make it financially viable, this is worrying.

However, LBR, Lieberman Research Worldwide, set a new high for the exhibition with the use of a virtual reality exercise. LBR linked it to their presentation, talking about the way we see things impacts the way we perceive them. The virtual experience (which they also used at the US IIeX) consisted of standing on a platform, which rises into the air and which challenges the wearer to walk along a virtual plank, and eventually to step into the void. A few people could not do it at all, an even those who managed the task without a pause walked in an odd way.

Why was this a good idea?

  1. It was something that most people had never done before.
  2. It linked to the point LBR were making
  3. It was so impressive that people kept talking about it and sending other people to try it.

The only thing I would suggest to LBR in the future is that they should consider branding the virtual experience. The room that people stand in, and perhaps even the plank, could have a branded message on them.

Not a replacement event

I don’t see IIeX as a replacement for the classic market research events such as ESOMAR Congress, or the MRS or AMSRS annual conference. The event is not (in its current form) going to supply papers that are going to be industry references, nor new thinking (it does supply new doing and new ideas), nor a the sort of neutral review that buyers and investors need.

However, it could (if it keeps growing) be a replacement event for some of the trade shows (for example the Insight Show and Research and Results) and some of the more tired third-party conferences which seem stuck in the 1990s.

I think the future is probably a mixture of:

  • Classic conferences, with written papers, new thinking, and rigorous reviews.
  • Specialist conferences, like MRMW, Sawtooth, BRC retail, and the QRCA events.
  • Energy and idea events (like IIeX)
  • And learning events, like the ESOMAR Academy the training/workshop programmes offered by a number of bodies, such as MRS.

This is going to get a lot bigger

The Amsterdam event had about 400 attendees and over 120 speakers. The next event is in Atlanta in June (see http://www.iiex-na.org/) and I think it is going to be much bigger than last year’s IIeX and much bigger than the Europe event. For anybody with a new message, who needs to be heard, and who wants to benchmark what they have against the best of the rest, this will be the place to be.

For anybody who wants to know what is new, who wants to meet the exciting new kids on the block, who wants to look outside traditional MR, this will be the place to go. I plan to be there and at the IIeX in APAC, later in the year.

Correction! The next IIeX is the LatAm event, 8-9 April, click here to find out more.

The call for speakers for IIeX North America is open until February 26

If you want to speak at IIeX you need to move quickly, the call is open for a few more days.

Feb 152014

As part of writing our new book on Mobile Market Research (which should be available in September) I have been reading a lot of research-on-research (RoR) related to mobile studies.

RoR can provide insights into whether a research technique works or not, or the extent to which it works, or how it works. However, RoR is often over-interpreted. Running a single test does not ‘prove’ a technique works, nor does it very often prove a technique is without merit.

The following observations should be kept in mind when reading the results of RoR. For the purpose of this illustration, consider the possible outcomes of on an experiment with two cells. Each cell examines the same phenomenon (e.g. survey questions) via two methods (e.g. online versus mobile) – calling the methods A and B.

  1. A and B produce results that are statistically significantly different. This does not mean that A and B will always produce different results. The difference in the results could be the result of chance, or there could have been a flaw in the test. But, even if the test was fair and well-constructed, the difference only indicates that the methods A and B will sometimes produce different results; it does not say they will always produce different results. If the tests are repeated, for different products, with different surveys, and with different sorts of customers, and if the differences between A and B keep appearing – then researchers will start to assume that there probably is a general difference between A and B.
  2. A and B produce results where the differences are not big enough to be statistically significant. This type of result is often misinterpreted, leading to a false conclusion that the cells are the same. A test that fails to prove that A and B are different does not mean that A and B are the same, or even similar. If a test shows that the probability that A and B are different is 89%, convention dictates that the difference is not big enough for the researcher to be 95% confident there is a difference – so the cells are dismissed as not being different. But it does not mean A and B are the same, indeed in this example the researcher is 89% sure they are different. When a difference is not statistically significantly different, it often means that the sample size was not large enough to confirm the difference as being significant. With a large enough sample size, almost any difference is significant, with a small enough sample size, many important differences will be judged not to be significant.
  3. A and B produce results that show the difference between A and B is small. Instead of testing for differences, researchers can test whether a difference is smaller than specific value, which in practice means testing whether two cells are the same. Consider a case where a test has been conducted and the results show that A and B produce the same result, within a specified boundary of what is meant by ‘the same’. This test would not have shown that A and B will always produce the same result as each other, but simply that they can sometimes produce the same result. If several tests are run, in different contexts, and A and B keep producing similar results, then researchers will start to form a view that A and B will generally produce similar results.


BRC Customer Insight Conference – London

 Posted by on February 13, 2014  Business, Market Research, Marketing  Comments Off
Feb 132014
BRC Customer Insight

Today I attended the BRC Consumer Insight Conference in London as was very pleasantly surprised by the quality of the event and the speakers. Here are a few notes I jotted down during the day.

Peter Williams, former CEO of Selfridges and board member of ASOS.COM – highlighted some of the fundamental changes in retail, including a long-term move to a smaller retail footprint with lots of consequences for malls, high streets, and especially secondary locations.

Rory Sutherland and John Kearon presented overlapping presentations that highlighted the shift in marketing away from the rational to the emotional. At one level this was refreshing, with its emphasis on behavioural economics and psychology, on the other hand it flies in the face of the trend towards the metrics of clicks, likes, and shares. Rory and John also had a few unkind words for economics and market research – a topic I will come back to in another post.

Ruth Spencer from Boots, Mike Coshott from B&Q, Caroline Pollard from Debenhams, Alex Chruszcz from ASDA, and Robin Phillips from Waitrose all spoke to different elements of using technology and systems to understand the customer. At the heart of the conversation was a core tension between:

  1. Wanting to build a single view of the customer, for example tying different data streams together.
  2. That each shopper is not a single homogeneous, person, the shopper when they are looking to buy a pair of tights in Boots after laddering theirs is different from a shopper spending time to explore new cosmetics options.

One theme that emerged from the day was that power is shifting from retailers to shoppers, with mobile, shopping apps, compare sites all assisting that change.

One interesting part of the day was hearing about some of the mobile campaigns and activities delivered via WEVE. WEVE is jointly owned by EE, Orange, and Vodafone and therefore has unparalleled access to UK mobile phone owners. David Sear, for example, talked about a WEVE campaign for Heineken which triggered a marketing message at 27C, which happened one morning at 9:45am due to the weather – it is all a learning process. Another target group for WEVE were for people who were at Heathrow at one moment in time and in Scotland about an hour later.

Rueben Arnold of Virgin Atlantic and Paul de Last from John Lewis finished the day with cases studies looking at how they were using insight to drive customer experience.

This was billed as the first annual BRC customer insight conference, which I thought sounded a little twee. But actually, this was one of the better events I have attended over the last 12 months. It brought together a good selection of client-side people talking about what they were doing, what had worked, and bit about what had not worked. The invited outsiders did a good job of creating a broader canvass. So, I certainly hope there will be another event next year.

Key points made during the day included:

  • Don’t pick a technology because it is interesting, pick it if it answers an identifiable and worthwhile business need.
  • New suppliers need to establish proof of concept.
  • Organisations that want to use a single view of the customer have to get rid of silos, and merge online with offline.
  • The mobile revolution has only just started, it is going to shape loyalty, tracking, offers, marketing, and shopping – and iBeacon looks like an interesting part of that picture.
  • Insight is when you hear what the customer says and use that as a clue to what the customer wants, insight is not simply reporting what the customer says.


Feb 072014
Ask Measure Learn

I’ve just finished reading this book and I would strongly recommend it to anybody seeking to understand the methods and challenges of measuring phenomena in social media. The book is probably stronger on talking about things that don’t work, as opposed to things that do work, but in this time of hype that is probably no bad thing. For example, the book shows why the ROI of many types of activities can’t be measured without making some large assumptions about how things work, and point out that in many cases it is the ‘R’ in ROI that is the problem.

Key themes addressed by the book include metrics for different sorts of social media activities, the problems of assessing causality, the tension between influencer models and homophily, and the difference between reach and intent. The book provides an excellent list of links to further sources (especially if reading the ebook), and provides a great overview of measurement in areas such as social media marketing, CRM, sales, and PR.

This is the best primer on the subject I have read so far and it is, at the moment, sparklingly up to date.

The print copy of the book is not currently available in the UK (and probably lots of other places too as it was only published in the US in January 2014) but it is available on Kindle, and if you buy it directly from O’Reilly Media there is some sort of update/extension deal available.


Feb 072014

One of the growth areas over the last few years has been in the interest in influence marketing, with books such as “The Influentials: One American in Ten Tells the Other Nine How to Vote, Where to Eat, and What to Buy”, metrics such as Klout and Kred, and marketing services such as Klout’s Perks.

The appeal of the influencer model is mostly common sense and has been popularised by writers such as Malcolm Gladwell in his book Tipping Point. New ideas are picked up by key people, people with extensive networks and who tend to be trend leaders, they adopt something and influence the people around them. Looking at social data it is easy to find, for any given trend, people who were in at the start and how the trend flows into the rest of the network. The concept of influence dates back to Paul Lazarsfeld in the 1940s, who suggested that the media were intermediated by influencers.

However, there are alternatives to the influencer model, and the key one you are going to be hearing about more and more is homophily. Homophily is the tendency of people with similar tastes and preferences to form networks, the phrase “birds of a feather flock together” describes the concept. Until recently only a few people, for example Mark Earls, have been mentioning homophily, but a new book from Lutz Finger and Soumitra Dutta, “Ask, Measure, Learn”, puts the concept of homophily front and centre. Finger and Dutta cast major doubt on the influencer model, and therefore many of the metrics and marketing methods based on ‘influencers’.

The key finding of Finger and Dutta, and others before them such as Duncan Watts (see “Is the Tipping Point Toast?”) is that the data about how trends, tastes, and activities spread can be explained without resorting to an influence model. The suggestion is that when we look at data we see patterns, but they are the result of chance and networks, not influence.

Does the difference matter?
Yes, consider two cases:

  1. Market diffusion for Acme is led by influencers.
  2. Market diffusion for Acme is led by homophily.
In market 1 the best way to market would be to identify influencers and market to them. In market 2 the best way to market is to target people connected to people who have already bought the product.

So, how will the discussion in 2014 between the adherents of influence and homophily develop? The influence fans tend to appeal to ‘common sense’ and show output examples. The homophily fans tend to appeal to comprehensive data analysis and computer simulations. So, it is likely to be common sense and anecdotes versus facts and models – it would be nice to think science will win, but I have my doubts.


Feb 042014
Esomar book booth2

A new edition ESOMAR’s Answers to Contemporary Questions book is being produced, with three new chapters, International, Mobile, and Opinion Polling. This post is a shout out to crowd source the key questions for Opinion Polling.

What do you think about?

  1. What do market researchers mean by an Opinion Poll?
  2. Who uses Opinion Polls?
  3. What other types of polls are there?
  4. What are the key requirements of an Opinion Poll?
  5. Why might two Opinion Polls sometimes give different results?
  6. Why do Opinion Polls sometimes cause public outcries?
  7. What information needs to be published with Opinion Poll results?
  8. Must all Opinion Polls be published?
  9. My client wishes to publish a statement which is not supported by the findings of the Opinion Poll, what do I do?
  10. How can I find out more about Opinion Polls?

One of the things the chapter needs to do is to draw a distinction between something conducted according to the guidelines of the key associations, and the ‘voodoo polls’ that are popular on websites in the media.


Feb 012014

Neil Gains has been kind enough to send me a copy of his new book, Brand esSense and I wanted to share my thoughts about this useful book.

In the title to my post I say it is two books in one. The first three-quarters of the book do a great job of taking the reader through a well annotated and easy to read overview of the role of senses in marketing and market research and the way these link to the way people make sense of the world around them. This sense making focuses especially on symbols, signs, storytelling, and archetypes.

Most market researchers and marketers have an incomplete understanding of the senses, somebody might be quite good on taste, but less familiar with the body of learning about touch, or familiar with symbols and semiotics, but less familiar with the use of brand archetypes. Neil’s book facilitates a levelling up of one’s learning, highlighting to the reader areas where their knowledge might be weaker, giving them an initial grounding and signposting options for further reading.

The final quarter of the book shows how Neil has developed methods of utilising the approaches described in the earlier part of the book – which he terms the esSense of the brand. Neil illustrates how to find the esSense of a brand and how to apply his esSense framework.

The book is an easy read for anybody broadly familiar with brands, the senses, and qualitative research. Even for people deeply steeped in the area, there are nuggets in there that they will find illuminating or useful. So, I would warmly recommend it.

As I flick back through my annotated copy (I have become an inveterate scribbler in text books – ones I own), I can see plenty of things I highlighted for review, and only one or two where I put an exclamation mark (my sign for disagreement). My only double-exclamation mark was the reference to Mehrabian and the extent to which language contributes to presentations – when you read the book see if you agree with my concern, and if you do you might enjoy this short presentation from Russ Wilson.

The book is published by Kogan Page and is available from all good online bookstores. From the Kogan Page website you can download a sample chapter.