tainted

I’m seeing it happen more and more.

As the cashier hands me a receipt, she draws a circle on it and says, “Please visit this link and take the online survey about your experience. Please make sure to give me all 5s.”

I was staying in a hotel in Cincinnati the other night (in the “quiet zone”). On the desk in the room, there was a high quality printed piece that had instructions on how to complete the e-mail survey I would receive from the corporate parent of the hotel. The manager had written on these instructions to “give the hotel all 10s or your response won’t count”.

And I could go on with real-life examples as I’m sure you could as well.

This is either dumb or crooked or both.

Why even conduct the customer response if you or your employees are tainting the results? Customer surveys are shaky enough without meddling interference.

If you’re doing it to avoid hearing bad feedback, then grow a thicker skin before you run yourself out of business.

If your employees are scared of how you treat them because of surveys, try having them improve actual customer service instead of numbers on a spreadsheet.

By the way, these attempts to influence the election could backfire.

does not rhyme with orange

tropicana new and old packaging
Back in with the old and out with the new for Tropicana?

The whole Tropicana fiasco fascinates me. While the new image looks very modern (and generic), it turns out people don’t want trendy OJ packaging. They want to be able to quickly pick up their favorite orange juice at the grocery.

My big question is: what was broken about the “straw in the orange” look that needed fixing anyway? The straw/orange is a nearly perfect metaphor for OJ.

It never ceases to amaze me how companies trash years of brand equity and customer familiarity just because they’re tired of the way the living room furniture looks and want to remodel.

Maybe it’s because Pepsi (who owns Tropicana) got seduced by the siren song of creatives who are more concerned with image than reality. Just a few weeks ago Arnell Group CEO Peter Arnell was singing his own praises about “the work” that is now being scrapped. Of course, these are the same people who basically just did a redux of the Obama logo and then sold it to Pepsi packaged with this garbage.

Most everybody is laying the flop at the feet of the brand team. But let’s not foget the other glaring failure of this Tropicana incident: the research. This move was run by the focus groups and had extensive market research. But then again, so was New Coke.

buzzwords don’t work

A recent survey from Anderson Analytics has some interesting thoughts from senior marketing execs.

Apparently, concepts like segmentation, brand loyalty and competitive intelligence are “hot”.

Concepts such as the Long Tail and Six Sigma are on the way out.

You know what’s really out?

Building your entire marketing plan on buzzwords that will be passe in a few months.

Buzzwords don’t build business success. A strong comittment to the brand and your customers do.

i’m an evil person

When the woman at the register handed me the receipt and explained to me like I was mentally challenged how I should log onto the Internets and take the customer satisfaction survey, I just was mildly annoyed.

It was when I walked away and she shouted after me “Make sure you give me good marks!!!” that I decided to log on and tell corporate that I was “extremely dissatisfied”.

Engaged Media

Today, I had the chance to be at a meeting where a representative of Simmons Market Research Bureau gave a sneak peek of the methodology and findings of their new Multi-Media Engagement Study. Right now, it’s only being done with internet, magazines, and TV, but hopefully it will expand into other media in the future.

Simmons is trying to rate media properties along several metrics that they’ve defined such as inspiration, sociability, life-enrichment, advertising receptiveness, and others. In short, they’re trying to figure out not only if you’re consuming media, but how involved you are in it. Do you just have something on or are you actively watching?

For example: There’s a difference between the way people watch, talk about, and create a lifestyle around the show LOST than in the way they watch Judge Judy. While one is daytime filler, the other has the potential for social interaction (water cooler talk), and a much deeper engagement.

Some of the web examples make sense as well. There’s a much deeper attachment and lifestyle involvement in sites such as espn.com and oprah.com than sites like yellowpages.com and other information based sites.

And while examples like these just make common sense, this research attaches real data to each media property to rank and compare rather than just doing a gut check.

This engagement factor has been decreed in the Web2.0 era for a while now. We know that getting people involved in the content and creating an emotional attachment with the brand will yield great rewards. It helps to concentrate marketing efforts on those consumers who are more likely to be aligned with your company. Simmons is working with the figure is that (1) engaged viewer is worth (8) regular viewers.

It’s not just the number of eyeballs that see something, it’s how much those eyeballs care about the show, website, or magazine. This carries over heavily into the ads they are delivered as a part of that media.

The more information to make a media buy with, the better. By cross-referencing information like this with quantitative numbers like ratings and demos, you’re much more likely to have a successful campaign.

While I welcome info like this, the research skeptic in me raises several concerns even from a well respected and reputable company such as Simmons that knows what they’re doing…
1) These numbers are based on people’s own responses to how they feel and do with these media rather than an independent observation of behavior.

2) Do people really know how to respond to a question like: “Do you feel inspired by [insert media]?” It makes me think back to this.

3) And while there’s a good sized sample (over 30,000), are the numbers a good representation? I wonder this a lot about surveys. There’s a certain type of person who can spend 25 minutes of their life on the phone to tell you about their media habits. But I want to know more about the person who hurriedly answers the phone and tells me they don’t have time to take my survey. How do I reach them in a hectic and hurried market?

A couple of problems, but certainly a step in the right direction to separate effective ad vehicles from the laggards.

They’re doing what?

I was talking to someone today at a media property about an organization that I used to be involved with.

Apparently, the organization has taken an informal poll among their 70 or so employees about favorite radio stations, newspapers, TV, etc. And that’s what they’re using to decide where to spend advertising dollars.

Let me say it again just in case you lack the ability to scan backward to previous sentences.

They are basing their entire media buy on the musical tastes of 70 people who are not representative of their customer base.

And while that’s just wrong on so many levels that I don’t want to get carpal tunnel by listing them all, it happens all the time with businesses of every size.

It amazes me as I write and speak about the “new ways” to market that some businesses are not just stuck in the “old ways”, but doing the old ways wrong.

You know some of this

Vizu Research in conjunction with Ad Age has done a blog readership study. Some interesting numbers, a few things you already knew, and some surprises:

–How many and how often do people read blogs?
-30.8% of blog readers read more than three blogs regularly
–and of the blogs they read most often, 68.3% of respondents said they read them daily.

–Community is a primary driver of readership within the blogosphere
-When asked how they find the blogs they read, 67.3% follow links from other blogs.
-Recommendations on blogs (22.9%) is ranked higher than finding links on search engines (19.6%) when selecting which blogs to read.

–What makes a good blog?
-43.9% of respondents said the quality of writing determines which blogs they will read regularly, and 43.6% said that topical focus is a key determinant of regular readership.
-51.5% said quality of writing helps them assess which blogs are credible and high-quality, and 38% said it was the author’s reputation that drives perceived credibility.
-Post frequency and site design are also drivers of perceived blog quality.

–What makes a blog a blog?
– 38.4% replied that expressing personal opinions is the key element in separating blogs from other online media.
-Other factors include: writing style (28.2%), editorial freedom (26.3%) and layout (25.8%).

–Why people read blogs…
-65.7% read for entertainment, and 42.5% read about Personal Interests/Hobbies.
-32.5% read for education and information.
-1 in 8 (12.3%) reported reading blogs for work or business.

–Why blogs are read for work?
-The majority of those who read blogs for work use them as a tracking tool as opposed to a research tool.
-27.3% use blogs to track specific trends or issues, while 49% of respondents said they don’t read blogs for work or business.

Find more about this study in 3/5 issue of Ad Age or read the PDF of the entire report here. Thanks to Ryan for the heads up on the report.

Real Numbers

As I said in this post and followed up with this post…when you do a survey and then publish the numbers, the numbers become real. When people are shown statistics, very few people will question the methodology that was used to get the numbers.

The survey/poll/etc says “X”…..so “X” must be true.

The power of published numbers is so strong that sometimes people don’t accept the real results. There’s a losing candidate in Florida who is considering a legal challenge to the election results because in his words….

“In this election, the results did not match the…pre-election poll, our internal polling, or our exit polling.”

The results didn’t match your surveys? So…the real numbers are wrong?

Of course, this is politics and there are other factors….but lots of businesses fall into this trap as well.

Surveys and research are good for getting a feel of the market. They’re good for testing the waters. They are not hard facts. Don’t get caught in the trap of thinking your research is the truth. You may be surprised.

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Blogs as a Marketing Research Tool

Alex asks the following question in the comments of my recent marketing research post….

“I know it’s not hugely scientific, but I’m sure with a little imagination a decent blog could provide businesses with very useful focus group style feedback.Comments from existing customers, passing traffic, a few people you direct to the site could all prove to be valuable.Is this plausible or is online research always a little dubious?”

I think it’s important to note the distinction between feedback and research. Feedback is fabulous. Businesses can gain a lot by just listening to customers. (But, you wonder why so many don’t.) I think feedback can come from anyone and everyone including your acquaintances, customers, and even your blog readers. Research, on the other hand, should be done with blind, random samples that take out most, if not all, of the factors that could taint the results – the essential feature in providing the custom assignment help. Feedback is something you can say and carry around in your head. Research is hard numbers on paper that you can use to prove points and make decisions.

Using online methods to do marketing research has a few problems….

1) You automatically have limited your sample to customers who not only have computer access, but are also computer literate/savvy enough to take part. If you’re reading this blog, you’re probably pretty savvy, but when I speak to groups, I still have to explain to intelligent successful businesspeople what a blog is. I have a friend who calls me all the time to explain to her how to insert a column in MS Excel. In many ways, we’re still on the left side of the adoption curve.

2) The audience you’re gathering feedback from is an important factor. For example. a software company developing a new program is likely to prompt more blog feedback than an auto manufacturer developing a new line of pickup trucks.

3) One of the problems with feedback from blogs is that a vocal minority could override the opinions of the majority. There are great masses of people scanning blogs everyday, but how many comments/trackbacks are there? Even the A-listers don’t have very many comments/trackbacks as a percentage of the actual traffic. When you rely on blog feedback, you’ve silenced a large majority of your readers.

In addition, the “blog as a focus group” model breaks some of the basic rules of focus groups. It’s not random…the participants are self-selecting themselves and already have a positive bias to you. And technically, you’re moderating the group by posting topics and leading them. It would be like the manager of a Pizza Hut grabbing customers as they walked in the restaurant to do a focus group about why people like pizza.

Is all online marketing research dubious? It depends. It depends both on the audience you’re trying to reach and what you’re trying to find out. If both those things fit into an online model, I think you’re fine. But the largest factor in any marketing research project, online or real world, is the methodology. Research HAS to be designed well with qualified random samples.

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