Sep 112013

By common consent, research communities seem to have been the fastest growing new research approach over the last few years (a view that was supported by the latest GRIT report). Indeed, in some sectors, such as media, brands are beginning to worry about being the last to adopt the idea of having meaningful and on-going conversations with their customers.

However, given the speed that the area is moving, there are a variety of definitions and concepts being used. For example, one hears talk of MROCs, consumer consulting boards, and community panels, to name just three. My preferred term is insight community, and that is the title I have used in my latest book “Insight Communities – Leveraging the Power of the Customer” [a PDF version of the book can be downloaded from here]. The book has been produced by Vision Critical University and I’d like to record my thanks to them and all of those who have helped review material and helped source the many case studies used in the book.

The book is a short read, but covers key elements such as: short-term versus long-term, large versus small, and branded versus blind. The book is packed full of examples and case studies from organisations such as NASCAR, Discover Communications, CBS Outdoor, Diageo, Banana Republic, Avianca, and Cathay Pacific – covering Asia, North America, Latin America, Europe, and Australia.

As well as being an online book, professionally produced bound copies are available from Vision Critical’s London and Sydney offices.

Given the topic of communities is such a dynamic field, I’d love to hear your thoughts, suggestions, and ideas about research communities, where they are going next, and the ideas expressed in the book.

Dec 112012

One of the questions I get asked quite often is whether or not research communities, such as MROCs and Community Panels, are possible inside the rules of market research? The answer is caveated, it depends on which community and which country’s research rules. In the post below I will set out my layman’s (i.e. it could be wrong) view of where communities sit in terms of the rules.

Why communities might NOT be market research?
There are three main areas of concern:
  1. Many communities use client based incentives, e.g. shop vouchers, air miles, telephone minutes etc. This tends to be against societies’ guidelines as they (and some legislators) feel that this is either distorting the market or a form of sales promotion. Brands are keen to use these sorts of incentives because community members tend to prefer them and they increase the bonding of the community members and the community.
  2. If the community is intensive, for example a long term, qualitative/ideation community, the community members tend to become advocates for the brand. The view of societies’ tends to be that this is market distorting and can be seen as a form of marketing. Brands are keen on this element of communities because it helps develop the brands word of mouth.
  3. If community members use their own names, or their own photos, their anonymity can be compromised. The anonymity is further compromised if the brand is involved in running the community themselves.
The choices for agencies
In essence, and under most societies’ guidelines, research agencies have two choices.
  1. Try to fit communities into the existing framework. For example, don’t use client products or services for incentives, use larger communities and panel management to minimise the impact on the respondents (for example using a community panel rather than an MROC), and insist that members do not use their real names and images. This option is easier in a market where other agencies choose the same option.
  2. Don’t call communities market research. Most societies’ allow market research companies to do things that are not market research, provided they do not describe them as market research. They often talk about using market research methods for non-research purposes. In Europe this is a common route, particularly in the UK. Within this framework, researchers are still bound to act honourably, e.g. respecting respondents, using appropriate techniques, etc – but avoiding saying things like ‘research conducted under the ESOMAR rules’.

There is of course a third option, one that is actually quite common. Many agencies seem to operate their communities utilising all three of the problem areas, but still describe it as market research, still flaunt their abidance with societies’ rules, in blissful ignorance of what the rules are.

One other question that comes up fairly often is ‘who owns the ideas generated by the community?’ The answer, if you have written your terms and conditions sensibly, is the brand. Not the members

Nov 292012
Click here to read in Japanese – 日本語 Picture of Hong Kong

Most market researchers are familiar with the Rogers Adoption Curve, which divides the adoption of a successful new technology in to Innovators, Early Adopters, Early Majority, Late Majority, and Laggards.

In a typical version of the curve, the proportions tend to be:

  • Innovators 2.5%
  • Early Adopters 13.5%
  • Early majority 34%
  • And the slower two categories make up 50%.

However, in Japan, in market research and perhaps beyond, I think the proportions in the Rogers Adoption Curve need re-visiting. Data presented by Mr Hagihara (author of ‘Next Generation Market Research’) at a meeting of JMRX in Tokyo this week, showing the adoption of CATI in the 80s and 90s, suggests that Japan was slow to innovate in market research. More recently the data presented by Mr Hagihara show that Japan was very slow to start to adopt online surveys. However, by 2011 Japan had the highest percentage of online research in the World. In Japan 40% of research in 2011, by value, was conducted online, according to JMRA and ESOMAR.

Talking with leading opinion formers in Tokyo this week, I formed the opinion that the Adoption Curve has a different shape in Japan. The Innovators are quite rare everywhere and this is particularly true in Japan. A key difference appears to be that there are fewer Early Adopters in Japan, much less than the 13.5% in the classic curve.

However, and in contrast, Japan seems to have more people in the Early Majority. The picture appears to be that initially Japanese market research suppliers and buyers are more conservative than their counterparts in USA and Europe. But, once a technique reaches a tipping point, Japanese companies seem to move faster enabling them to catch-up and over-take more traditional countries, as they have done with online surveys. For me the interesting question will be whether the same picture is true of research communities. These have been slower to take off in Japan, but there are signs that a tipping point is being reached, which might partly explain why almost 300 people turned up at three events in Tokyo this week to hear me speak about the future of research and role of communities.

Below is a translation of this article into Japanese by Mr. Ryota Sano, Chief Executive Officer, TALKEYE INC, ESOMAR Representative for JAPAN


マーケットリサーチャーの皆さんはロジャースの普及カーブ(Rogers Adoption Curve)、成功する新しい技術の普及の段階を「イノベーター」、「アーリーアドプター」、「アーリーマジョリティ」、「レイトマジョリティ」および「ラガード」に分類したもの、をよくご存じだと思う。一般的なカーブでは、それらの割合はそれぞれ、

  • イノベーター 2.5%
  • アーリーアドプター 13.5%
  • アーリーマジョリティ 34%
  • 普及の遅い二つのカテゴリ(レイトマジョリティおよびラガード ) 50%

しかしながら日本では、マーケットリサーチ、そしておそらくそれ以外の分野においても、ロジャースの普及カーブの割合について検討し直さなければならないと考えている。今週東京で開催されたJMRXのミーティングで、萩原氏(「次世代マーケティングリサーチ」の著者)が提示したデータによると、1980,90年代におけるCATI(Computer Assisted Telephone Interview)の普及度は、日本のマーケットリサーチ産業がイノベーションを受け入れるスピードが遅かったという傾向を示唆している。さらに、萩原氏提供のより最近のデータは日本のオンラインサーベイ普及の立ち上がりが非常に遅かったという事実を示している。しかし、2011年までに、日本は世界の中でもっともオンライン調査の比率が高い国になった。JMRAおよびESOMARによると、2011年における日本の調査売上高の40%はオンライン調査によるものである。



Nov 272012
Click here to read in Japanese – 日本語

Yesterday in Tokyo I attended two events (one run by the JMA and one by JMRX – sponsored by GMO Research) and a client meeting, and one specific question arose at all three. The background to the question lies in Japan’s experience with MROCs (in particularly short-term, qualitative research communities). Although some companies have been very successful, several others have not, and some clients are beginning to be worried about MROCs.

So, the question I was asked three times was “How do you create a good MROC in Japan?” By the time I had spoken to three audiences I had refined my answer down to three clear points:

  1. Good recruitment. A short-term, qualitative MROC (e.g. one month, 60 people) needs to be based on the right people. These people need to be informed about what they will be expected to do, they need to understand how to access the MROC, they need to be engaged with the topic (they might love the topic, hate the topic, be curious about the topic, have recently started using it, or perhaps have given it as a gift – but they need to be engaged).
  2. Good moderation is essential. Conversations do not just happen, they are the result of good introductions, good questions, good probing, and interesting tasks. Too many clients want to get onto the serious questions too quickly. But, just like in a focus group, trust and understanding has to be built first. The moderator should agree with the client a clear community plan, showing how the research needs will be met during the project.
  3. Good analysis. Some research agencies simply tell the client what the people in the MROC said – this is not helpful, the client can read that themselves. Listing out and counting what was said in an MROC is not analysis. Analysis looks at a) what did respondents mean, and b) what should the client do.

I was very pleased to see at the meetings copies of my book (The Handbook of Online and Social Media Research) in Japanese (translated by GMO Research). Hopefully, the meetings we are having here and the book will help make all of the Japanese MROCs as good as the best ones.

It was very helpful to be accompanied to all of my meetings by Shigeru Kishikawa, the head of the newly opened Vision Critical Japan office and a great expert in MROCs in Japan.

Of course, the answer to the question how to run a good MROC in Japan, is also true in London, New York, Singapore, Helsinki, and everywhere else.

For more information on new research techniques, people can also check out the online conference happening next week, The Festival of NewMR.

Below is a translation of this article into Japanese by Mr. Ryota Sano, Chief Executive Officer, TALKEYE INC, ESOMAR Representative for JAPAN


1.リクルートが大事 短期間かつ定性的MROC(例えば、1ヶ月、60人規模)は「正しい」対象者から構成されている必要がある。対象者は「彼、彼女らが何をすることを期待されているか」をよく聞かされている必要があり、MROCへのアクセス方法を理解している必要があり、テーマに関与している(engaged)必要がある(彼・彼女らはその話題が好きかもしれないし、嫌いかもしれないし、興味を持っているかもしれないし、その商品・サービスを最近使い始めたかもしれないし、プレゼントとして送ったかもしれないが、いずれにしても彼・彼女らはテーマと結びついていなければならない)。
2.うまいモデレーションが必須 会話は自然には始まらない。会話はよい導入、よい質問、よいプロ−ビング、面白い課題の産物である。多くのクライアントは小難しい質問に始めから入りたがるが、グループインタビューと同様に、まずお互いの信頼関係と理解を得ることから始めなければならない。モデレータは、リサーチプロジェクトにおいてなにが知りたいのかを確認しながら、明確なコミュニティ運営プランについて事前にクライアントと同意しておくべきである。
3.価値ある分析 リサーチ会社の中には、単純にMROCで対象者が何を発言したか、だけを報告する会社もあるようだ。しかしこれではクライアントの助けにはならない。なぜなら単なる発言録ならクライアントも読めるからである。MROCでの発言された単語をリスト化して、それを数えるのは分析とは言えない。分析とは、イ)対象者の発言が意味するところを捉え、ロ)クライアントがどうすべきなのかを考察することである。
イベントで私の本(The Handbook of Online and Social Media Research)の日本語版(GMO社翻訳)を見ることができたのはたいへんうれしいことであった。東京でのミーティングおよび私の本が、日本のすべてのMROCが世界の最高水準に近づく手助けになることを願ってやまない。
新規開設されたVision Critical東京オフィス代表であり、日本のMROCのエキスパートである岸川茂氏にすべてのミーティングに同行いただいたことはたいへん心強かった。
もちろん、日本でよいMROCを運営する心得は、ロンドンでも、ニューヨークでも、シンガポールでも、ヘルシンキその他世界のどこでも通用するものである。 新しいリサーチ手法に関する情報がもっと欲しい方は、来週開かれるオンライン会議The Festival of NewMRもチェックしてみて欲しい。