December 2012 Archives

The Future of Strat Comm Research with Mobile Technology

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Juniper Research conducted some research on the lack of Near Field Communciation, (the ability to bump phones and transfer data) in the new Apple iPhone 5 to determine what effect this missing feature had on the mobile market. Apple is the dominant force in market share for mobile phone technology and the research has made such forecast predictions that other companies will not see the value of the technology, retailers are set back in offering payment services with mobile phones and the potential economic benefits that are being set back. I find this research particularly interesting. Were NFC technology to be widely adopted throughout the mobile industry, especially if Apple were to lead it, strategic communications research would be presented with an entirely new arena to begin measuring and analyzing.

Market Research: The Award Winning Series?

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How the people at Blue Research portray market research: Pressured Manager Spoof

There are exciting television portrayals for advertising, broadcasting, news reporting, and public relations. Maybe this is the time for a hit series on market research practitioners?

Also, some of her strategy seems a bit iffy to me...

Evaluating A Paddle Sports Participation Report

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I spent some time reading a survey report done on paddling participation by the Outdoor Industry Association and decided to do a light evaluation. The 41,500 interviews were carried out online from a nationwide sample from a Synovate panel holding over one million respondents maintained to be representative of the US population. The survey was conducted in January and February. I wonder how asking questions about paddling participation during the coldest months of the year compares to asking during the warmest months? Is it easy to remember how often and how long your trips were from last season? Does sentiment towards the activity change when you are not able to participate for another several months? For a sport whose participatin is 5% of the US population, the survey had a confidence interval of +/- .21% at a 95% percent confidence level. This is pretty good for a sample that requires pretty serious weighting and extrapolation.

I was scrolling through the intriguingly angled Market Research Deathwatch blog, writing about an industry where "the status quo is obsolete, and we face a choice between extinction and evolution". I came across the post, Panels have an image problem. The cry was that images on research sites of survey panel participants -unnaturally happy, unnaturally diverse - are destroying credibility of the firms. It reminded me of an idea I had to take four of my best friends and fraternity brothers, a ridiculously diverse of multicultural millenials, including one Caucasian from Minneapolis, one Hispanic from San Diego, one African American from Kansas City, one Persian born in Ecuador, and a Japanese guy. We could attempt to offer ourselves up for paid focus groups or product and event sponsorships. Pretty ridiculous, maybe unethical, ironically it would likely be unbelievable - but how cool would it be for a client to ask their request of their research firm, "We'd like as diverse a group of male multicultural millenials as we can find", and the response they receive, "We know just the guys..." Could at least make a difference in the war against kitschy survey panel photos.

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I found myself in a very interesting conversation about saving cost on animal testing research with a roommate of mine who interned with a medical device company (name must remain confidential) last year. Part of his job was to study trends, research industries, conduct audits and ultimately decide whether the company should pay to conduct certain animal testing research in its own facilities or outsource the studies to other laboratories. The world of animal testing is a lot more specific, complicated and organized than I had imagined. Currently, in the pig testing industry, a popular trend is the use of the Yucatan mini pig from breeders in Central America. Pigs, at a certain size, between 40 - 60 kg have a very high physiological resemblance to the human body and therefore are extremely useful in obtaining accurate research results. Currently, most researchers contact a breeder of research subjects who raise these animals in controlled, closely monitored and uniform environments in order to create greater control of the experiment. They request pigs and attempt to order them in the correct weight, but after the time it takes to construct the experiment, order, transport and prep the subjects for testing, they can grow out of this optimal weight and ruin the control of the experiment. In come the mini pigs. These Yucatan mini pigs grow into these prime weight interval and remain there for the remainder of their lives. The catch is that each of these pigs has a $2,000 price tag attached to them, while the local selections cost only $200. The question becomes: how valuable is near complete control for the experiments of this major medical company?

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Taemin's presentation on developing the global brand identity for LG brought me back to the experience I had with Moneygram's development of an international advertising campaign. I noticed the first major difference between these strategic communication initiatives was that LG developed three ads that would not change as they were aired around the world, a global campaign, and that Moneygram placements ran into several cultural issues where the print placements were modified in several markets, an international campaign. For "The Power Is In Your Hands" campaign, the overall sentiment was that the consumer had the opportunity to rise up and take advantage of Moneygram's lower rates and better products, revolt against the market leaders, "give choice a voice". The print spots featured close ups of raised fists and reaching hands, smooth and wrinkled, delicate and worn together. In China especially the raised fists over a red background (the brand color) print ads were seen as too uncomfortable for a country having experienced violent Communist revolution. In Middle Eastern countries the left hand is reserved for bodily hygiene and is seen as unclean. No left hands were raised in any of that market's print ads. Henna tattoos were applied to feminine hands in Indian markets and wrist watches to masculine hands in American cities. I wonder what similar challenges were faced in LG's brand identity construction?

The Power of Personal Interviews

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Before heading to class this morning I went through the usual morning routine of consuming the national news headlines along with my coffee. My roommates usually join. During one of the commercial breaks a spot for Duluth Trading Company ran and my buddy matter of factly told me that he would enjoy wearing socks from this brand. I couldn't help but proceed to personally interview him. Questions included, "How expensive do you think these socks are? What would you wear them for? Do you own any other products from this brand? Would you be proud of wearing them if someone asked you where you bought those socks?" This particular roommate is a spendthrift. There are not many things in life he takes more pride in than saving money. What I discovered however that he is incredibly fond of the road trips we and our best friends would take up to various family cabins on the North Shore, the adventures we had amidst the shops and miles of wooded beaches on Park Point and the generally worry free summer weeks we would spend up there. While the socks were above his preferred price point, he would not necessarily wear them for any outdoor activities, and he does not think he would purchase any other products other than the occasional flannel shirt these socks are a purchase he would be willing to make, and after being questioned believes it is because of his attitude towards his positive experiences with the city of Duluth.

Inspiration for New Website Monetization Strategies

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Still thinking about some of what Danielson presented a few days ago. His discussion of web analytics, particularly in measuring how consumers interact with advertisements sparked a bit of brainstorm in how I could better optimize my site for commercialization. While I have these ideas before I have begun measuring audience interaction with traditional placements on the site I still feel that I am gathering insights and making decisions based on research already done within the field. Here are some strategies I am thinking of employing and consequently measuring in search of increased impressions and CTR:
- when mentioning a piece of gear in the narrative for a specific sporting venue, I link it to the most recommended and most appropriate product on a retailer site
- when posting images to the websites social media pages I can tag the brand or use tags to link retailers who provide the product in the picture
- develop wishlists of the perfect assortment of gear that new users to the site need to begin participating in a specific sport, suggest specific products, brands, and retailers and include an action that uploads our list directly to Amazon
- crowdsource our users to recommend the best products for Minnesota sporting environments
- have brands sponsor our trips to different venues and the content we produce from it

Andrew Danielson's presentation on analytics was incredibly beneficial in developing my personal projects and increasing my effectiveness with my current job. I was familiar with most of the platform specific analytics tools Danielson shared, and use them when managing social media strategies for clients. Facebook and Twitter insights, Tweetreach, Hootsuite and Quantcast are the major tools I'm equipped with. The cross property tools, Netbase and Radian 6 I am excited to experiment with. I was not incredibly surprised with Danielson's overall sentiment towards the purpose and usefulness of social media analytics: it is new, growing fast and no one can actually promise they know exactly how to measure or how to promise clients incredible ROI for their efforts. This is the zeitgeist of any professional; client, analyst, platform creator alike. I very much agree with Danielson that as clients are scrambling to have any kind of social media presence the bulk of what analysts and social media managers can provide is volume measurements, sentiment and influence insights. The most touted purpose of social media I have been hearing is consumer engagement with the brand and convincing followers to post content in the hopes of gaining new customers and repeat business. I agree this is important but I have found in working with my own clients that social media is best used as a customer service tool and as another tool of marketing promotions - events, sales, coupons.

Insights from Social Media Analytics Seminar

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I participated in viewing the social media analytics seminar that was recommended. This arrived at a very coincidental moment. A good friend of mine and I are paid to manage social media strategies and have decided to merge our accounts, develop a brand for our own social media marketing agency (Mountain Jay Marketing) and use our combined force to attract another couple clients. Currently I manage two restaurants in Chicago - Rivers and Rittergut Wine Bar - and he manages the official and affiliated pages for Copper Mountain Ski Resort in Colorado. Ironically the only client we have in our own state is our fraternity's social media property, which is some of our favorite work but we do it for free. This is an interesting testament to the changing work environment of social media: there are no geographic boundaries. The entire web connected world has become a qualified sales prospect. The three major uses of social media according to the presenter were communication & collaboration, consumer engagement and analytics. The first two, for my partner and for our clients are generally the only thing we pay attention to. You would think our clients would ask about analytics more but even they are generally only concerned with volume of likes, interactions, followers and hoping it translates into more dinners sold and lift tickets scanned. The presenter continued by saying that there are still no definite key performance indicators for measuring consumer sentiment towards a brand. Based on minor experience, I agreed. What became really exciting was his discussion of research showing that online sentiments & financial performance of brands and products. He went on the describe sentiment polarity as measured by units called sents, and how it still complex to analyze this on social media, this specific indicator is of ever growing importance in increasing the ROI on social media strategies.

A partner and I have been developing a web project for the last year and came to the point where some consumer research was needed to conduct an audience analysis to determine how we should design the site, what voice we wanted to use when writing to them, what sort of content they would find most intriguing, what kind of money they have to spend on ads placed on the site, and other insights. Our project is an online adventure sports directory, our audience, we knew at least, were participants of skiing & snowboarding, paddling, rock climbing, backpacking, mountain biking, sky diving, scuba diving, and caving in venues within the state of Minnesota. The major limitations of two college students conducting research: money and time. We decided to conduct an analysis of all available secondary research sources - Outdoor Foundation participation reports, adventure tourism market reports, membership statistics in interest organizations, readership and circulation statistics from relevant magazine publications - and were able to confidently describe our audience. The catch, was that our analysis was accurate and generalizable to a national audience and not so much our primary audience, Minnesotans.
If, in the near future, we find ourselves not quite as constrained by time and cost, I think helpful research strategies would include surveys administered online to the members of organizations that advocate for these sports. The population of these combined organizations is known and published, therefore our sample will accurately reflect how generalizable it is to our known population: the most involved participants of these sports in the state of Minnesota. Personal interviews provide an opportunity to present the mystery questions that may help us determine why our audience feels so driven to participate in these sports, when and why are they motivated to search for information related to their activity, where they go for information and how much of what we are presenting to them do they actually know? Are we helpful? Are we needed? As we continue to develop and then launch the site we have another opportunity to conduct experimental research and test different layouts and navigation structures to find which is most pleasing to our audience. Research will play another role in analyzing the traffic that visits the site. As we measure the activity on the site we will maneuver content, ad placements and page links to increase the time users spend on the site and increase the chance they select a link sending them to advertisers.

iPoll & Incentivizing Respondents

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After a student group presentation introduced us to the mobile survey app iPoll I immediately gave it a try. For signing up I received $5 and after I completed enough surveys to reach $10 I am allowed to request the payment. Most surveys pay ten cents but I can do them while I wait in line at the store, ride the bus or wait for class to start. After a month I'm only one dollar, or ten surveys away from claiming a little check. Payment strategies to incentivize respondents is surely effective. Combining that with a more productive use of generally wasted time is a killer combination.

I have long been a fan of raising pets of the galliforme variety: ducks, geese, pheasants and as of three months ago, a pair of chickens. I would likely have waited until the summer to purchase these chickens but my girlfriend became very active in selecting a breeder, researching the birds and presenting fact after convincing fact on why we should not wait. Among the interesting facts she posited day after day, one piqued my curiosity. She told me it has been proven with experimental studies that spending at least one hour with chickens every day makes you a happier person. I appreciated that and we bought the chickens the next weekend for $3 a piece. After a month with our birds, much of it spent sweeping up their poop, I wanted to find hard copies of these studies proving I should be a happier person spending an hour a day sweeping poop. Not surprisingly I could find absolutely no research online to support my girlfriends claim. Still, I really wished the fact were true. And I wanted to do away with this cognitive dissonance I was experiencing with my purchase. So I told myself the research just wasn't available. It made me wonder: If there is a message presented to a consumer that is so perfectly crafted and so well presented by the right influencer, does it need to be true? From an ethics standpoint, of course! And if the consumer knows it's not true but would rather turn the other cheek? I think people often would rather ignore the truth. In this experience research is vital to craft the perfect message and delivery, but the research by the consumer to prove the claim couldn't matter less. I did however find an article proving that consuming the 100mg of selenium present in a cooked chicken does make the diner a happier person...

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NSAC Nissan Campaign: Reflecting on Survey Strategy

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Last year was my second year conducting research for National Student Advertising Competition campaigns. I joined the survey team for primary research phase. Our client was Nissan and our target was multicultural millenials. Having read the chapter on conducting surveys in the assigned reading I drew some similarities and noticed some mistakes we made. The first mistake was that we conducted a cross-sectional survey, gathering insights on one time, slice of life sample when our major goal of the campaign was to increase awareness and encourage future purchase of Nissan models. A most ideal survey type would have been a panel study to track the same millenials over time to see how their attitudes change towards purchasing a car to determine whether or not spending the money on convincing millenials they like Nissan will even remain as they age and their interests change. Although the project only lasted one year we would not have been able to conduct a panel survey but the recommendation to the client may have been awarded. We did quite well in writing the survey, mixing open ended qualitative questions with dichotomous, easily coded questions. We used word association questions, multiple choice with other fill in the blank options, and Likert scales with "how likely" and "strongly agree" statements. As there were students in the survey team who had taken this research course we meticulously searched for wording problems, and cut two leading questions which caused us to rewrite certain sections. We assumed people were driving cars. We were correct in placing demographic information questions at the end of the survey. While administering the survey in the field we did well at locating participants within our target in a popular Hispanic neighborhood along Lake Street and asking for responses from people leaving stores for their cars in the parking lot or patrons and employees of car repair and automotive part retailers. I believe being a college student conducting research for school was an important factor in increasing response rate. Part of our team made the mistake of administering one third of our surveys to people waiting at the bus stop, thinking they had time to be willing to participate. They did but they also yielded no helpful insights as they had no car and were not likely to purchase a car anytime soon. Well, we learned.

Survey Results

Consumers: The Power Is In Your Hands

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I was around 12 years old, perched on a stool, picking my favorite bites out of a tray of fruit and peering through a one-way mirror at a small group of people discussing a subject of great interest to the other adults sitting on my side of the mirror. I didn't know at the time, but this was to be my first real experience with professional strategic communication research. I would also learn that the fruit tray was not for me but for the respondents I was watching. My mother was a marketing executive for Moneygram International overseeing the development of an international advertising campaign, "The Power Is In Your Hands". She had with her in this round of focus groups in New York City several members of her marketing team, creative from an agency hired onto the account and myself. I had no value to the campaign. Perhaps these strat comm people knew they were turning the mind of another youth to join their ranks in years to come. Reflecting on the experience in light of learned material this course I make a few insights. The team was pre-testing print placements as well as the storyboard for a commercial. The participants seemed 45-55, a multi cultural mix and I would assume were pre-screened to include those that utilize wire transfer services. I can remember there being enough respondents unhappy with a certain slogan that one of the ad creative, scribbling in his notebook with furrowed brow, was reacting and developing the campaign instantly. There is a great opportunity for creative to be involved with the research, even when outside research teams are hired, rather than stay in the agency and wait for results. It was pretty wild to see the instant reaction to consumer sentiment. I wonder how much would have been changed if that creative had not been there to experience it? If he had only received the recommendation as a bullet point on paper?

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