May 302014

Guest post from Peter Harris, EVP & Managing Director, Asia Pacific at Vision Critical, Australia.

Click here to see a list of the other posts in this series.

I am not sure when it started but social media has completely revolutionised how I consume information, connect with friends and family, research topics within the industry and keep on top of who is doing what. That is not new news for anyone but when I think back even 3-4 years, I see it has all changed.

I no longer carry industry magazines to and from work trying to keep up with who is doing what, I rarely talk to recruiters and use linked in to keep track of people’s movement, to advertise positions and to see what my clients and competitors are up to. I can also see which of my competitors and prospective clients are researching us!

For me, social media has not been a distraction to work but a big aid. We have used @VC_APAC and @visioncritical to help build our presence in Australia and now across the Asia Pacific region. It’s so much easier to offer thought leadership on niche subjects now via social media and also to research what’s hot and what’s not across the profession. I also think it’s easier now just to post a paragraph or two on a topic vs waiting to be asked or submitting a long article which may or may not be accepted by an editor. For me, social media really has allowed our brands voice to be heard in the marketplace and the amount of content is not limited by an editorial committee or peers.

I see people managing their social media in different ways. I personally tend to use Facebook for personal stuff and everything else for business but often the two blend in together. It probably says something interesting about me that compared to many work colleagues I am not very social media savvy but to my friends and family see me as a social media addict.

The only way social media has been a negative for me personally is that I read a lot less non-work books these days as there is always so much to read/keep updating with. By the way, I don’t blame SM for that, it’s up to me to manage my time, but it’s just so tempting, AND ALWAYS ON.

Would you like to share your take on social media via a blog post on NewMR? We are happy to review suggested posts, ideally about 300 to 600 words. Send you suggested copy to

Mar 152014

Last week I wrote about my week in Singapore, with Vision Critical and MRMW. This week I exchanged the warmth of Singapore for the distinctly more chilly streets of Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Tokyo.

Monday and Tuesday were spent in Hong Kong, with my Vision Critical colleagues and, one of our key partners in the region, ABN Impact. Monday focused on meetings with clients and prospects and on team training/briefing sessions.

On Tuesday morning ABN Impact put on a great insight community event at the JW Marriott. The speakers included Bashuli Sane from Cathay Pacific and Mike Sherman (ex-SingTel) who wowed the audience when they shared how insight communities were bringing the customer into every aspect of the decision making process – I gave an introduction to communities presention, helping fill in the broader picture of what an insight community is and how they are built, managed, and developed. The market in Hong Kong is quite developed and the Q&A session focused on practical issues, such as recruitment, language (e.g. working in English, simplified Chinese, and traditional Chinese), and incentives.

Wednesday morning saw the Vision Critical roadshow in Shanghai, the guests of the Mandarin Oriental, and in the company of three partner agencies (Added Value, WIMI, and Morpace). Communities are at a much earlier stage of development in mainland China and the Q&A focused on how best to create insight communities in such a large, dynamic, and developing market. One of the thrills of the trip was taking the Maglev train out to the airport, travelling at 300 KPH (over 180 mph).

Thursday and Friday saw a shift from China to Japan, with two days spent with Seven Seas, the partner in Tokyo for Vision Critical’s technology and services. We managed to squeeze in meetings with personal care brands, communications companies, media companies, social media providers, and automotive companies. Japan is a highly developed but slightly cautious market. A large amount of research is online, short-term MROCs are common, and it seems to me that the time is right for many companies in Japan to reap the sorts of benefits that companies in China, Singapore, New Zealand, and Australia are already experiencing.

The week finished with the 42nd meeting of JMRX, a really fun bunch of Japanese researchers who are committed to exploring new research. MR stands for market research, X for excellence, and J for Japan. This was my third appearance and my theme was a review of the key insight trends – communities, mobile, big data, text analytics, and social media. I was then followed by Noriyuki Ikeda who presented on co-creation, innovation, and social media. The amazing success of JMRX is largely down to the support, energy, and passion of my good friend Shigeru (Shiggy) Kishikawa.

At the end of two weeks, four cities (Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Tokyo) I am struck by three key factors:

  1. The energy in this region beats anything I have seen in Europe and North America – things are changing faster here than anywhere else.
  2. Asia is not a country! The differences between all four of the cities I have visited over the last two weeks are immense. These differences are something that researchers need to take into account when tailoring research for each country.
  3. The key to research success in Asia is service, but since different countries have different preferences, the definition of service and expectations about what is included in the basic package needs to vary from country to country – as does the selling and delivery process.

Now I am off to Auckland, Melbourne, and Sydney, which will complete this trip to the APAC region – but I have started planning my next trip, which I think will be a longer trip.


Mar 082014
Marina Bay Sands

This post is written as I reach the end of the first week of a three week Vision Critical trip to the Asia Pacific Region. For the last few years I have been spending about ten weeks a year in the APAC region, typically spread over three or four separate trips – because I am convinced that this is where much of the future (especially in terms of commerce, marketing, and insights) is being made.

Singapore Client Round Table
I arrived in Singapore Monday evening and the week got off to a flying start with breakfast with my Vision Critical colleagues from Sydney and from our newly opened Singapore office, followed by a meeting with the CEO of Indian partner, Majestic and lunch with an insight community client, Google. The afternoon was devoted to a client round-table meeting where several of Vision Critical’s clients gather to hear a keynote presentation (from me on this occasion) and then spend time sharing their learning with each other. This event was hosted by Google in their superb offices overlooking the Marina area, with key contributions from SingTel, Sony and others. Client roundtable sessions are a great way for clients to share their experiences with insight communities.

MRMW – Market Research in a Mobile World
Wednesday and Thursday was the APAC incarnation of MRMW, the leading global series of conferences on mobile market research, organised and promoted by Merlien. The keynote presentation was given by SingTel’s Melissa Gil, talking about how their three Vision Critical Insight Communities (Indonesia, Australia, and Singapore) provide them with rapid and cost-effective insight into digital consumers. One of the key points that SingTel made was that the speed and usefulness of the insights they produce mean that the SingTel insights team are involved in meetings and decisions at all levels of the business.

One of the key topics at the Conference was the evolving data protection picture in Asia and on the Tuesday Sue York from the University of Queensland (and curator of content at NewMR) moderated a panel on Data Protection, with Derek Ho (Senior Counsel from MasterCard), Dan Foreman (President of ESOMAR), Martin Tomlinson (Vice President of the Market Research Society of Singapore), and Stephen Jenke (Global Head of Data Collection at Kantar). The key points being made was that the picture on Asia was developing quickly, rules are becoming more onerous, and different countries have different rules.

Google Ray

One of the high points of the Conference was a presentation by David Zakariaie of Glassic who had brought ten sets of Google Glass with him to the event and who co-ran a session with me looking at the technology and the opportunities for market research to utilise this technology. Other key elements of the conference included: using feature phones as well as smartphones, utilising automated techniques for facial coding, video processing, and image processing (in all three cases the main theme was limited, but impressive, success), and moves towards geolocation and geofencing.

Effective Presentation Workshop
On the Friday I ran my “Secrets of Effective Presentations” workshop, which seemed to go down really well. I love workshops in multicultural situations as I am sure I learn as much as the attendees. Some of the secrets of creating and giving great presentations are global, but having a group from a wide range of countries (in this case Singapore, Cambodia, Saudi Arabia, and Australia) and with people who have a variety of first languages (and with a mixture of clients, suppliers, and academics) means that nothing can be taken for granted.

Key Singapore Takeaways
Compared with Europe and even with North America, Singapore embodies a ‘can do’ attitude, where the expectation is that tomorrow will be better than today, and that we are on a rapid path to a better, more technical, more insightful, richer society. Singapore also embodies the strength of cultural diversity. Most meetings with clients include people from a wide variety of countries. In order to get to Singapore, and in order to do well, most people have something special about them, and this tends to be blended to create something greater than the parts.


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 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.


Jan 142014
Navin Headshot Square

Posted by Navin Wlliams, CEO MobileMeasure Consultancy Ltd, Shanghai, China.

Editors note: Navin is known as a leading expert of mobile market research and has been posting his forecasts for a few years and kindly shared his 2014 forecast with us.

2013 was a year of consolidation of the market in the mobile space. With Android settling into its leadership position and Apple’s iOS having a relatively good year too. The other operating systems have largely fallen by the wayside. With mobile finally settling the fight with online and finally being recognized as a tour de force too, it’s a good time to put on my soothsayer hat and share my vision of how 2014 is going to pan out.

OS sales shares

Source: Kantar Worldpanel ComTech, via CNET:

Winner Takes All – Android

In last year’s post I talked about Android dominating the mobile landscape and eventually by getting prices down to a sub US$100 mark make analysts relook at the Feature phone and Smartphone definition by the end of 2013. This has not really happened as we still have these definitions widely in use. However no one is obsessing over these definitions as it is well recognized that the formerly dominant Feature phones are a dying breed. From a competing set point of view the only recognized feature phone is Nokia’s S40 series which are now restricted to just the existing installed base, can only lose from here on as Nokia by adopting and then being sold to Microsoft becomes a Windows phone led platform. Other than the S-40 feature phones, the other feature phones in the market, dominated by the proprietary systems built by Chinese manufacturers disappeared overnight as they didn’t need to develop their own OS to save license costs, but could adopt an established OS in the form of the Android. So not only did Android eat into shrinking Nokia OS share, but the other feature phone OSs and the other dying OSs like Blackberry as well.

Android closed 2012 as the No. 1 player and in 2013 they helped grow the Phablet phenomena. And though in 2013 the Android Tablet share did grow, it’s their Phablets that got much more airplay. In 2014 expect to see Android phablets to dominate the landscape and in turn help them grow the share of Android Tablets as well.

Too Big to Fail Still ? – Apple & iOS

Considering the market dynamics in 2013, Apple and its iOS did admirably well. They didn’t :

  • grow their screen size significantly;
  • deliver a true low cost phone to take on the bottom half of the mobile handset pyramid;
  • come up with any serious ground breaking innovations.
Screen size: Apple has long maintained that the size of their screen was optimum and anything bigger will get too big to handle. They did however reduce the frame area and grow the screen diagonally larger. This however paled in comparison with the competing phone manufacturers churning out significantly larger screens and bringing to the fore a whole new category in “Phablets”.

Low Cost Phone: to be fair, Apple did bring out the 5C, which is US$649, which for most of the world is not exactly “C for Cheap” and still keeps it in the premium smart phone bracket. This phone though did not set the market on fire, it definitely went a long way in keep its Smartphone share up.

Innovation: Apple built its persona around product innovation, however in 2013 we haven’t seen much of it. Though wearable technology which syncs to your iphone has been talked about for a while now, the iwatch never materialized.

In 2012, Apple was a dominant force in the Smartphone market, in 2013 they fought valiantly and maintained their position in key markets but also lost share to a rampaging Android in 2013. In 2014, they will have to address all three issues of Screen size, Low Cost and Innovation or will it be the year that they lose a lot of the shine they have built around themselves. Will Apple play by the conventional rules or look to reinvent themselves and the industry as they often have in the past?

Mend and Grow year – Nokia & Windows Mobile

While 2013 was labeled as the make or break year for Nokia and Windows, 2014 is going to be mend and grow. If you take away the declining numbers of the final years of Nokia and look only at Windows as a Greenfield entry they have done admirably well in 2013. With the buying out of Nokia by Microsoft, it becomes the second non hardware technology company after Google –Motorola to enter the mobile hardware arena.

Though currently in the Smartphone market, Windows has done admirably well by being the third player often edging out Blackberry or a close forth behind Blackberry. 2014 is when we can truly evaluate its performance. In 2014 we can expect a flurry of launches of new models at multiple price points and screen sizes. Coupled with the formidable marketing arm of Microsoft and the former Nokia teams, expect them to at least double their market share across markets.

The New King – Samsung

A couple of years ago, Samsung was the challenger. Today, they are dominating the manufacturer’s sweepstakes trying to keep the other manufacturers at bay. After having introduced the Phablet with the Note phone series, they have grown the category exponentially and dominated it as well. In 2013 they showed that they are not just riding on Android and large screens to dominate the market place. They introduced the Galaxy Gear which included a watch phone with the top end Samsung Galaxy phones purchased. The much talked about iWatch in the blogsphere seems to have been missed by Apple and was picked up and dished out by Samsung instead. So Samsung is looking to take the lead in the innovation stakes to create a persona all its own. The Samsung Galaxy gear smart watch may turn out to be more of an interesting gimmick than a serious utility tool, but it’s too early to call.

In 2014 we can expect Samsung to continue to dominate the Smartphones especially the Phablets, larger screens and with their Galaxy Gear added to their arsenal, they also have a serious differentiator. On the not so bright side, of all the manufacturers Samsung has the most to lose as they like Nokia before them play across the price and product spectrum. They should have a tough year but hold onto their leadership position.

The Dead Dead – Blackberry

The highlight of 2013 for BB was the announcement of its all new Blackberry 10 OS which was delayed constantly and when it finally got launched was a little to late and didn’t introduce anything innovative to retain anyone’s attention. So from living dead to dead dead, is where BB finds itself.

Though to be fair to them they still have a large corporate business stuck at the hip and for many of these corporates wanting to migrate their secure mobile systems moving to another system is a tough choice. Something like self-amputation vs. rebuilding the Pyramids – both tough decisions. Many have bitten the bullet and others are still building plans. So there’s still an opportunity for BB to revive itself.

Out of the Shadows – Made in China

If we saw the Chinese manufacturers coming of age in 2013, expect 2014 to be their graduation party. The biggest impact is going to be from the Chinese manufacturers with the likes of Huawei, Lenovo and ZTE all making both affordable and top end Smartphones for the global market. Taiwanese manufacturer HTC is a fallen star hoping to revive their fortunes. And there are the Indian manufacturers who until now were content with the Indian market are getting ambitious and looking for foreign shores as well.

Expect at least 2-3 of the top 5 manufacturers to be Chinese manufacturers in 2014. It would be pretty safe to assume all 5 will be “made in China”.

Market Research and Mobile Market Research

Accidents Happen: If 2012 was for probing and experimenting, 2013 saw the term accidental mobile research being coined. Accidental mobile research is research which takes place from a mobile phone but is meant to happen online. And enough of these accidents happened for online survey providers to take notice and tweak their online surveys to identify if a user was indeed trying to fill out the survey from a mobile phone and therefore should see a more mobile friendly mobile rendered survey. However this did not really help as these may have been rendered for mobile but were not designed for mobile. They were designed for online and force fed on mobile, though it was within the confines and legible on the mobile screen. This is borne out of the bench mark tests done across online survey providers showing a consistent pattern of mobile exceeding online survey completion times by 50%. So while this number makes me very unhappy, from an industry point of view maybe it’s a point to rejoice as it’s a step ahead from “mobile is too small” to acknowledging that surveys need to be rendered appropriately for the mobile phone. In 2014, expect to see surveys designs to be mobile specific. A question is asked, which is answered via a drag and drop online, while the same question is answered using taps and selections on mobile enabling the times to be close or match when done either on the mobile or online by the survey respondent.

More Than a Talking Point: I was recently at a Qualitative conference (not a Mobile Market Research Conference) in Singapore and I noticed that only 2 speakers in the entire 2 days could get through without referring to Mobile in their presentations. Many like myself, presented specific mobile cases and examples. I actually spoke on the first day and a lot of what I was presenting was mentioned or covered before I came into speak later in the day. And often on most conferences I speak at, either I am the lone speaker (or niche) on a mobile topic be it a mobile or any other Research conference. Expect more informed discussion on the same in 2014.

Norms: One of the biggest barriers to entry often for research products and services is norms. Expect this to be re-evaluated across providers, as mobile is another animal. We will get different results as the context for mobile data makes the data different. So it’s not that the consumer is lying or the world has changed so much, just that mobile can contextualize a survey and give results that also differ. For instance when we do a pantry check survey on mobile, we request they go to the pantry and upload a picture as well and then fill the survey giving added insights from the mobile picture as well. The same survey done online though it had the option to take a photo and upload, no one did it as it was too cumbersome. Most in fact didn’t even visit the pantry and reported on memory. So eventually at the broad level (key brands) we got the same results, however it was the things that got left out in the responses of the online survey were the most revealing in the study. One of the additional insights was that some product packaging (like cereal boxes) was too big for standard pantries of the target group we were seeing a lot of when conducting the research.

Wearable Tech: 2013 saw Google Glass and other wearable tech like Samsung Galaxy Gear Smart Watch make headlines and showcased across the world. In 2014 expect both these technologies and other similar ones to penetrate more and more lives of consumers. As researchers we will get a ring side seat to the numerous market research applications and how the smartest (or fools) of us dives into it to extract the insightful gems that we all seek.

Messaging Apps: SMS is in decline, that was the big story of 2013. This came as Messaging Apps like WeChat and WhatsApp thrived. Though WhatsApp was the pioneer, it has taken a back seat to the innovative copy cat being WeChat. Not only did WeChat copy WhatsApp (or can you call building another messaging app as truly copying?), either way they didn’t stop there. They made it bigger and better, growing to 700+ million globally at last count. In 2014, expect more and more market researchers to dive in enhance the power of market research via mobile messaging Apps.

And finally a word of advice …

Youth: While the benefit of grey cells is never in doubt, especially in a knowledge industry like market research. In Mobile Market Research youth is a huge scoring point, with even non technical kids wield a mobile like it were putty in their hands. In 2014, go engage and learn from the young who are using the mobile intuitively as an extension of themselves and not as a device to be used – it’s part of them.

Go forth and mobilize. Enjoy your 2014!

Navin has close to two decades of experience spread across Market Research, Technology, Media & Telecom sectors. Having worked with the top global agencies spread over 4 countries and 2 continents; he’s had the opportunity to be part of MR technological adoptions over the years in diverse developing environments. Navin has spent the better part of the last decade on new media technology and his quest to drive Mobile adoption in Market Research led him to form MOBILEMEASURE CONSULTANCY.

A pioneer in mobile enabled MR, Navin is widely regarded as a thought-leader in the evolution of digital technology in MR, he has written a number of Whitepapers and is a frequent speaker at industry conferences. Recently he was involved in the designing and writing of the curriculum for University of Georgia’s Mobile Marketing Research course and is currently working on a book on Mobile MR.

Navin is based in Shanghai, China with his wife and two Children. He can be reached at


Nov 272013

Post by Neil Gains, the founder of TapestryWorks, based in Singapore.

What is the single biggest threat to market research?


Data represents the existing business model of large multinational research companies who make money by selling as many interviews/surveys/data points as possible for as high a CPI (cost per interview) as possible.

Data also represents a huge part of the future of market research. While “big data” is an opportunity to extract value from the ever-increasing flow of data from businesses and from the multiple devices that we all use at home and as we go about the world, this is also a huge threat. It’s a threat for market research companies and businesses, most of whom do not have the skill set to manage and analyze large data sets. More importantly, it’s a threat to the talent in the industry. As the pool of data grows every year, it becomes more and more important to have the thinking skills to ask the right questions, and connect different information sources together. This is not a skill that can be automated.

And finally data represents the focus of much of market research on “measuring to manage”. By definition, most large-scale data collection exercises can only look back at the past and attempt to explain what has already happened. However, the increasing need of business is to look forward and either predict the future or create it.

So the traditional data driven model of market research is not only being broken as a business model, by the provision of cheap or (virtually) free sample, but also by the increasing importance of using business insight to drive innovation. In a world where the brand and product cycle becomes faster and faster, it is less and less important to look back and more and more important to move forward.

The opportunity for market research is clear. Whatever happens to the business of sample and data collection, there will (or should) always be a need to understand customers. The business of market research is the business of helping other businesses to change the behavior of customers.

And this is where perhaps the biggest disruptions are happening for market research. Market research innovation has focused on technology and new ‘toys’, with less emphasis on changing the fundamentals of asking questions. The debate has been about how you translate a 30-minute survey to mobile phones, rather than asking whether it makes sense to ask questions at all. And we should be asking such questions of the industry, because the evidence of the behavioral sciences on the reliability of direct question approaches is very clear. The old models don’t work.

Looking from the client perspective, businesses increasingly need to use customer understanding to drive a constant stream of ideas and innovations to keep ahead of their competitors. This need can’t wait for data to be collected, analyzed and presented, but has to be a constantly evolving interaction between businesses and their customers to co-create the future.

More and more, businesses need to synthesize data across multiple sources, use customer understanding to drive change and remain agile enough to respond to a rapidly changing marketplace.

The future of market research is not in data. Or insights. The opportunity is to understand behavior and use that understanding to help clients create their future.

Click here to read other posts in this series.

Nov 242013
Somra Logonasir_photo

Post by Dr Nasir Khan, known on Twitter as @Banglaman, founder of Somra-MBL, Bangladesh.

Buzz abounds on the MR industry’s future! Is it facing just threats, or fast becoming a ‘goner’? Interesting…An industry that has been doing SWOT analyses for commercial as well as social ventures, is doing its own SWOT now. The right thing to do!

Many researchers think that the global MR industry has gone ‘berserk’, heading towards demise, while others feel it’s doing just fine, provided we think and see the big picture (big data included, pun intended), and accept change.

As I write this blog, I am aware that, being a researcher in an emerging market, I ought to think and express my thoughts on MR SWOT from this market’s perspective. However, the more I think along this line and compare with what leading researchers from developed nations say on different platforms (ESOMAR events, NewMR webinars and podcasts, the GreenBook Blog, etc.), the more I am convinced that, due mainly to globalization, there’s hardly any difference between the state of affairs in the developed and developing world.

True, more than ever before, MR is facing threats from within and without, but we need to think positive! To begin with, GMR 2013 (ESOMAR) shows an industry turnover (global) of almost USD 40 billion, inclusive of a USD 5 billion contribution of “Advisory Services” (welcome to our space!). Further in the report, we can see ups and downs, like Europe taking a dip, or Asia-Pacific relinquishing “fastest growth” title to Latin America, Japan booming again, emerging markets doing fairly well, especially in Africa…All seems fine in the global context. So, what’s the big fuss about threats?

Unfortunately, it isn’t just a fuss after all! Weaknesses and threats are for real within and without the global MR space – threats galore, but due to content size constraints, I will discuss just a few.

In my humble opinion, our greatest weakness is misunderstanding of our own business. Both providers and users of research talk of ‘insights’, but do we really know what that means? We are actually into the business of understanding fellow human beings (as consumers or as members of the society). It’s about understanding one of the most complex biological phenomena. So, our work if limited to questioning and listening, number crunching and finding patterns in texts, can’t provide what research users really need. It’s about understanding…better understanding, which means we just can’t do it the traditional way any longer, nor can we leave our job solely to technology (it helps a lot, but doesn’t have the advantage of human intelligence). Human intervention is and shall be required to understand humans. That’s why we hear from industry thought leaders like Leonard Murphy, Ray Poynter and a very few others that the industry has turned…”The role of research will be so broad that it will require a multi-function team to carry it off” (Murphy). Indeed! Furthermore, we talk of creativity, but what does that mean? The Insights Innovation Competition, “imagined and organized” by GreenBook says it all – “Have an idea that helps brands better understand consumers?…”

An important threat is ‘Quick and cheap’. MR has become a line-production affair. ‘Dough in, cookies out’. Unfortunately, ‘quick and cheap’ ends up being quick and dirty, leading not only to questioning the quality and ethics of MR, but also to opening doors for ‘attack’ from outside our space – from individuals and groups without proper knowledge of what research really is. Everybody is at it from developers of apps to data service providers to direct marketers…!

Another weakness that is threatening the industry is the dearth of interest in MR amongst Gen Y. The future of MR is at stake, because we have failed to correctly promote this exciting profession. True, ESOMAR, NewMR and few other fora are doing their bit, but that’s not enough. Promoting MR as a multi-function profession, where the younger generation has a variety of choice to opt in…Be that as a statistician, or psychologist, behavioral economist, gamer, neurologist, gadget geek, developer, programmer…the list goes on! Interest, creativity and curiosity are the key requirements. In short, we have to revise the ‘curriculum’ for MR learning and sharing.

Strength? MR is a great profession – Period? No!

  • We must understand what we are doing and what we should really be doing.
  • We need to involve all stakeholders, including the most important group, namely, the research participants in the process of co-creation (ways to engage them are a work in progress now – from ‘Research Through Gaming’ to consumer consulting boards to various other creative methods and tools).
  • Let’s be bold and put research first, business second. We don’t have to act as an Angry_MR_Client in order to express our weaknesses. We need to be Angry_MR_Providers and speak out. Research can’t be cheap and quick, because it turns dirty, worthless.
  • We need to provide value for money by practically establishing MR’s business/social value…Storytelling is not making a boring point interesting. It’s about better understanding and passing that on to clients clearly, simply boldly! We must tell the user of research what to do and what not to (penny saved is penny earned) in order to gain, instead of ‘beautifully’ confirming their ‘gut feelings’. If they gain, our industry gains, if they lose, well, no amount of *.ppts, software, apps, dashboards, will help.

It’s high time we turn our weaknesses into strengths. Otherwise, we will certainly become a case of going, going, gone! Instead of growing, growing, going north!

Click here to read other posts in this series.

Nov 242013

To help celebrate the Festival of NewMR we are posting a series of blogs from market research thinkers and leaders from around the globe. These posts will be from some of the most senior figures in the industry to some of the newest entrants into the research world.

A number of people have already agreed to post their thoughts, and the first will be posted later today. But, if you would like to share your thoughts, please feel free to submit a post. To submit a post, email a picture, bio, and 300 – 600 words on the theme of “Opportunities and Threats faced by Market Research” to

Posts in this series
The following posts have been received and posted:

Research communities in APAC?

 Posted by on February 7, 2013  Asia, Community Panels, MROC, NewMR  Comments Off
Feb 072013

Randomised ListI am just about to submit my paper to ESOMAR on research communities in Asia Pacific, and I would love to bounce my key points off the NewMR crowd.

Globally it looks as though about 50% of researchers interested in New market research are in an organisation which is either buying or selling research communities (e.g. MROCs, Community Panels etc). And this figure is the same in APAC as in Europe and North America?

Globally about 6% market research agencies are offering research communities, and this is similar in APAC?

In APAC, excluding Japan, Australia, New Zealand, communities have developed more slowly than in Europe and North America?

In APAC, excluding Australia and New Zealand, the majority of community projects have been MROCs (i.e. qual and relatively small) rather than Community Panels (larger, quant + qual)?

In APAC, excluding Australia and New Zealand, the majority of community projects have been short-term (weeks rather than years)?

One of the key factors that limits large scale community projects in APAC is the absolute size of the research market (often $100million or less per year)?

The relatively small size of research markets in much of Asia often requires projects to be multi-country, multi-ethnic, multi-language from the start?

I would love to hear support or opposition, and I am looking for a few key quotes to include in the paper and the presentation.

This part of the post has been updated to reflect the tremendous amount of help and suggestions I have received. What is clear is that there are a wide variety of approaches, and the picture is an evolving one with new partners and offices opening on a regular basis.

Western community specialists with offices in APAC include:

  • Vision Critical (Japan, Hong Kong, Australia)
  • Face (Singapore and Hong Kong)
  • BrainJuicer (China and India)
  • Communispace (China)

International, general or field-focused, companies offering communities in APAC include:

  • Ipsos
  • ToLuna
  • Lightspeed/TNS
  • Pulse

Many Western companies are offering research communities in APAC from their Western locations, some with local partners, some with local moderators.

APAC based companies offering communities include*:

  • ABN Impact (Thailand and Hong Kong)
  • Cimigo (China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Macau, Singapore, Vietnam)
  • Colmar Brunton (Australia)
  • Lucid360 (China)
  • Buzz Channel (New Zealand)
  • Camorra Research (New Zealand)
  • Index-I (Japan)
  • Latitude (Australia)
  • Control A (Japan)
  • Mitsubishi Research Institute (Japan)
  • Direction First (Australia)

* All lists tend to be partial. However, the list of APAC based companies is likely to have missed most APAC based agencies who are not actively engaged with English-speaking social media or English-focused organisations such as ESOMAR – and some that are. If you feel you have been missed, please contact us as we will add you to the list.

If you know of others, please add them via a comment or email me, and we will update this page. On another occasion we will look at platforms and software solutions.