Lead up to the IIR TDMR Interview with Dr. A.K. Pradeep of NeuroFocus

This post is co-posted with Greenbook.

Next up in our series of interviews with presenters at the Technology Driven Market Research event (May 2-3, Chicago) is the Keynote Speaker: Dr. A.K. Pradeep, CEO of NeuroFocus. I was going to sit on this one for a bit longer, but based on the huge response to my post on the ARF NeuroStandards initiative it seemed like a good idea to go ahead and post it. We touch on the topic of the ARF program during the interview and getting a direct perspective from one of the key players in the debate strikes me as useful.

Dr. A.K. Pradeep and his lovely assistant showing off the new Mynd mobile neuromonitoring headset at the ARF re:Think 2011 Convention

Since I am tying this interview into the ARF post it seems only fair to give other stakeholders a chance to be heard too. With that in mind I have reached out to Keith Winter, CEO of Emsense and to Ron Wright, CEO of Sands Research to conduct interviews with them as well. Hopefully those will be forthcoming soon and will add to the dialogue on this important topic.

Now, how do I introduce Dr. Pradeep? I met him in 2009 in Cairo when I had an opportunity to spend quite a bit of time with him and his team during a Nielsen event I was attending. My impression of him was that he was part PT Barnum, part Carl Sagan, with a dash of Bollywood flair, a bit of Steve Jobs and a whole lot of intelligence wrapping it all together. At the time I told him that he reminded me of Jeff Goldblum’s ‘Rockstar Scientist‘ character from the Jurassic Park movies and I think that is an apt comparison. He is obviously passionate about his company and their business, and is deeply knowledgeable about the topic of neuroscience and it’s applications for research. Based on the success of NeuroFocus he is also a darn savvy business professional. I think all of this shines through in the interview below; I hope you enjoy it.
This interview was conducted via email over the course of a few weeks.

LM: Biometric techniques for research have been around for awhile, but Neuromarketing has really just begun to emerge as more than a niche segment within the broader market research space. Why now? What’s changed that has fueled the explosive growth of Neuroscience in market research and for NeuroFocus as a company?

AKP: In fact, biometric techniques are not the only biologically-based methodologies that have been in use for many years. EEG-based brainwave activity measurement has been conducted for decades in medical facilities and neuroscience labs worldwide.

That said, there are three key factors that have spurred the creation and rapid adaptation of neuromarketing today. First is the well-established fact that conventional consumer research methods have inherent, structural flaws and shortcomings. That doesn’t mean that they’re not useful or that they have nothing to contribute’but the fact remains that because surveys and focus groups must by definition rely on ‘articulated responses’, they are subject to certain core shortcomings. This is common knowledge among researchers, and it has driven the desire among marketers and researchers alike for improved means of gathering accurate, reliable information.

The second key factor in neuromarketing’s development and global application has been the technological explosion over the past several decades. It was possible to gather brain-based data before the advent of extremely fast digital data collection, processing, and large-scale storage’but the ability to analyze it was very limited, compared to what we can do with today’s computer technology. So it has been the amazing advances made in processing power, both on the collection and analysis side, that have helped drive neuromarketing’s birth and growth.

The third leg of the stool is the dramatic expansion of neuroscience’s understanding of brain structures and functions. The advances made in these spheres in just the last few years represent quantum leaps forward from where the state of knowledge was even fairly recently. We have gained amazing insights into how the brain works, in many cases in very great detail and specificity. That’s not to say that we don’t have much still to learn’but what we already know now enables us to capture the brain’s activity in real time, understand key aspects of it, and distill that knowledge into accurate, reliable, and actionable market research findings.
As always, it’s ultimately the marketplace that determines if, how, and when a breakthrough technology like today’s EEG-based, full-brain measurement will be accepted and successful. Clearly, the marketplace is giving it a very enthusiastic endorsement, exemplified by how many of the world’s leading companies are rapidly integrating this research into their operations, from new product design and packaging to branding, retail marketing, advertising, and more.

LM: Looking ahead 3-5 years, what does the market research space look like to you and where will Neuromarketing fit into the new scheme of things?

AKP: I’d use my last point as a springboard in answering this question. What we’re seeing already is a large-scale adoption of neuromarketing by many companies across dozens of categories in every region of the world. The growth rate is exciting and frankly, a little amazing even for us who have been involved in the field for the last few years.

I think it speaks to the basic need that I mentioned above: the desire for improved accuracy, reliability, and ‘actionability’ on the part of marketers everywhere. It is so expensive’and risky’to invest in new products, brand extensions, new package designs, new ad campaigns, store designs, logos’the list goes on and on. And we’ve all seen high-profile examples very recently where major marketplace failures have occurred in some of these categories.

The scientific foundations of what we at NeuroFocus do’EEG-based, full-brain measurements of brainwave activity’address that need, and offer solutions to those problems and challenges. It is possible now to know, with very high degrees of precision and confidence, how consumers respond at the subconscious level to literally anything that they can experience through any and all of their five senses. I’m often asked, why is measuring the full brain at the subconscious level so critical? The simple answer is 95%. That’s a widely-accepted scientific estimate of how much of our daily decisions are made at the subconscious, not the conscious, level of our minds.

As marketers and researchers gain understanding of that fact’and the extremely important corollary, that fundamental marketing objectives like initial product interest, purchase intent, and brand loyalty are formed at the subconscious level’they are turning to neuromarketing in fast-growing numbers. What we’re seeing is marketers and researchers responding to a clear and very significant advance in the field of consumer insights. We don’t see any impediments to that rapidly-growing acceptance’quite the opposite, in fact. As neuromarketing findings become integrated into these companies basic operations, it will be more and more an ‘organic’ process for them.

LM: With much of the focus within market research shifting towards ‘listening and observing’ rather than ‘asking’ through channels such as communities, social media analysis, mobile ethnography, etc.. where does Neuromarketing fit into the new continuum of techniques? How are your clients integrating it with other methods?

AKP: We describe what we do as ‘listening to the brain’. When you realize that the subconscious is the source for as much as 95% of our daily decisions, it becomes clear that measuring neurological responses to stimuli at the subconscious level, before they are affected by the external factors that can influence and distort ‘articulated responses’, is the most accurate, reliable, and actionable form of marketing research.

EEG-based full-brain measurements can be and are relied on exclusively, and they are also part of some companies’ overall approaches to marketing research, combined with other research means. There really is no ‘one size fits all’ that accommodates every business category, different market needs, areas of interest, corporate strategy’the ultimate point is that marketers now have a modern, neuroscience-based tool that can give them deep insights and actionable findings which are sourced at the subconscious. There are an almost infinite number of ways in which companies make use of neuromarketing, but that underlying core is the connective tissue among all of them.

LFM: There is a lot of debate in the industry regarding best practices and optimal approaches, with you and your primary competitors all laying claim to the ‘best model’ for utilizing Neuromarketing within a research context. Even the ARF has gotten involved with their initiative to standardize and codify best practices, an effort that NeuroFocus has sidestepped by releasing your own guidelines. For clients who might not have the appropriate experience or depth of knowledge to decide for themselves who really does have the ‘better mousetrap’, how can they make an informed choice with so much competing information out there?

AKP: The best answer is direct: seek out the best science. Look at the foundations of companies offering neuromarketing services’are they built upon universally-recognized and applied forms of brainwave activity measurement that the world’s leading neuroscience laboratories use? Do they measure across the full brain’which is absolutely essential for valid and meaningful neuromarketing research results? Do they have highly-acclaimed neuroscientists on staff and on Science Advisory Boards? Have those neuroscience experts published papers in their field of expertise? Is their technology, equipment, and methodology endorsed not only by the world’s largest companies, but also by major independent science-based organizations? Do they operate NeuroLabs that adhere to and are certified to strict Six Sigma standards?

Those and other basic questions are ones that companies considering using neuromarketing should ask, because they are directly indicative of the quality of the underlying science. Without the best science, it follows that the research findings will not be the best in terms of accuracy, reliability, and actionability.

In fact, I’ll take a giant step back and recommend one even more fundamental question for potential clients to pose: do they measure the brain itself, and not biometrics exclusively?

LFM: You might recall that when we met in Cairo in 2009 at the Nielsen ‘Next Big Thing’ event I told you that you reminded me of the ‘Rockstar Scientist’ character Jeff Goldblum played in Jurassic Park and you took it as a compliment (which I meant it as!). That persona and dynamism has seemed to work very well for you and the company, even earning you a place on his team during President Obama’s ‘bridge building’ trip to India last year. It has also earned you some criticism from folks who claim your very accomplished showmanship overshadows the substance of what NeuroFocus offers. How would you respond to those critics?

AKP: NeuroFocus was founded on one bedrock principle: the highest neuroscience standards. It stands to reason that without that at our core, we would not have attracted the caliber of neuroscientists that we have, for both our own staff and our Advisory Board. Without those world-class experts, and our market-proven technology and methodologies, we would not have attracted the caliber of clients that we have’who demand the highest standards, and who in several cases have conducted very stringent due diligence before selecting NeuroFocus as their neuromarketing research partner.

Nothing overshadows that fact. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but we have a policy to stick to the science, stick to the facts. Being the leader always means you’ll come under criticism from some corners. We don’t let that interfere with our focus on what matters most to our clients, which is harnessing neuroscience to help improve their brands, products, packaging, retail marketing, and advertising.

Web Seminar: Silencing the Voice of the Customer (VOC): Focus on the “job-to-be-done” and create breakthrough products and services

Date: Wednesday, April 20th, 2011
Time: 1:00 – 2:00 PM EDT

Reserve your Webinar seat here.

About the webinar:
Over the past 30 years, innovation experts have led companies to believe that it is impossible to know all their customers’ needs. They content that customers can’t articulate their needs, and that customers have latent needs – or needs they don’t know they have. What if it turns out that this thinking is wrong?

There is a new way of approaching your customer needs but it’s not with the Voice of the Customer. Over the past 20 years Strategyn has created and refined an innovation process called Outcome-Driven Innovation?? (ODI) that invalidates this old thinking. In addition, a ten-year track record study reveals that when the world’s most respected companies silence the voice of the customer and gather the right inputs for the innovation process, the experience an 86 percent success rate. This is a complete turn-around in the innovation industry.

In this webinar, Strategyn founder and CEO, Tony Ulwick will demonstrate how thinking about innovation and customer needs from a “jobs-to-be-done” perspective enables companies to create winning growth strategies and breakthrough products and services.

What you will learn:
* The shortcomings of listening to the “voice-of-the-customer”
* How to define a market from the customer’s perspective
* How to create a growth strategy using the right customer inputs
* How to organize the innovation process around the right customer insights

Why measurement, analytics and optimized resource allocation are driving market strategy?

Many companies have yet to make the link between increased spend on data and analytics and the delivery of increased revenue and profit through the resulting improved strategy and tactics. They would all like to make the link without spending any money, but those of us that work in this field everyday, realize that will never happen. It takes time, money and management commitment to be able to factually connect marketing investments to increased revenue. My experience, based on the thousands of marketers that I’ve trained around the world, is that still about 50% of all companies (both big and small brands, both B2B and Consumer marketers) still spend significantly less than 1% of their marketing budget on marketing data and analytics. – Which really means they aren’t spending anything. No wonder they’re like ships lost at sea with a broken mast.

With the increasing competitive pressures they all face, marketers around the world are learning that marketing analytics can be a strategic weapon. They’re finding that a key component of success in analytics and then the derivative success in marketing requires that little four letter word, ‘data’. With the right data and analytics in place marketers can be more confident in the success of their tactics and can begin to make bolder and bolder moves to stay ahead of the competition and improve their marketing strategies.

This is not only true of traditional media but is also now becoming true of social media. With the overwhelming success of Facebook, marketers are now looking to determine the success of their exploding Facebook investments and our analytic results show that these have been very beneficial to the bottom line. With the right data and analytics in place – across the entire marketing mix – marketers are able to improve their allocations and with social media in the mix can start to shift investment out of other non-performing traditional media into these hot new social media channels (check out our new website at www.ROIofSocialMedia.com).

With the right understanding of the drivers of success marketers can build better strategies and execute better tactics to stay ahead of the competition. As a consultant in this area, we’ve seen increases in revenue due to analytics of up to 10%, increases in profit of up to 25% and increases in share of 2 to 4 percent. I would love to hear about your experiences in this area. Just let me know what you have also been able to achieve.

Guy Powell is the author of “Return on Marketing Investment” and founder of DemandROMI, a Marketing ROI consulting firm. Hear more from Guy at this year’s Measure Up event, June 6-8, 2011 in Boston, MA

Lead Up To The IIR TDMR: Interview With Warren Sukernek of Alterian

Warren Sukernek

With a month to go until until the Technology Driven Market Research event in Chicago, I’ll be posting a lot more of the interviews I have been conducting with various presenters at the conference. I have 6 wrapped up already, and hope to finish a couple more prior to the event. To start off this next wave of posts, we have an interview with Warren Sukernek, Senior Director of Social Media Services at Alterian.

With a month to go until the Technology Driven Market Research event in Chicago, I’ll be posting a lot more of the interviews I have been conducting with various presenters at the conference. I have 6 wrapped up already, and hope to finish a couple more prior to the event. To start off this next wave of posts, we have an interview with Warren Sukernek, Senior Director of Social Media Services at Alterian.

This interview was conducted as a series of email exchanges over the course of a few weeks; so it is a complete and accurate record of all exchanges.

I was introduced to Alterian in 2009 and have followed them closely ever since. I’ve written about them several times here on the blog as an example of the ‘new competition’ for traditional market research, and so far they remain one of the best examples of a technology driven company from outside of the MR space that is making an awful lot of smart decisions in crafting a highly competitive offering in our industry. I continue to be impressed by the exceptional quality of their team, the vision of their senior leadership, and their continual focus on innovation. They are aggressively positioning themselves to be a major player in the future market research ecosystem, and frankly I think many firms will have a hard time winning against them; their value proposition is simply far more in alignment with what clients are asking for from us.

I have never met Warren, but I am looking forward to sitting down with him at the TDMR and changing that. I certainly enjoyed our interview, and I think you will as well. I also think after reading this you’ll agree with me on the point that Alterian is a company that really does change the game in market research; hopefully this will help inspire more firms to adapt to the new rules!

LM: Alterian seems to be making a big splash with your rollout of new products and is generating a lot of interest within the market research space. Why do you think that is? 

WK: The research industry somehow knows social is a critical source, but hasn’t worked out how to sustainably integrate it into what they do, how they think and what they deliver; ironically, researchers are happiest when they have one data set, but often struggle when they have two e.g. groups and a quant survey. Our response has been to set up a business that is organized around all the datasets wherever they come from and use them as needed to generate the right insights. Tools like web journey and SM2, and particularly Alterian Alchemy  give clients access to real time data about their customers and the ability to slice and dice the data into actionable segments.  Thus they can then embed insight practices into both tactical and strategic initiatives using technology.

LM: What do you think are the major drivers of change in the market research space right now and how is Alterian planning to take advantage of those trends? 

WK: Most of the industry doesn’t understand social yet, so they tend to define it and access it through what is easy to see and analyze e.g. Twitter. Our view is that to understand online culture you have to acknowledge its complexity and look to understand what people are saying/ doing/ thinking whatever the platform or source. That’s why we invest in human based investigation and analysis rather than just counting what’s easy to count. We’re therefore guided by the knowledge that people live lives online and in the physical world and that to truly address a client’s needs we have to understand both of these realities to create a complete view of markets to drive the right behaviors and perceptions/ support innovation etc. As one of the first social media platforms to acquire insight skills within its portfolio, Alterian is leading the way in building insight thinking and traditional research metrics into our tools.  We are providing a reporting and insight service that not only looks at public data (social media), but also integrates it with internal and custom data.

LM: I love the model of data synthesis and delivery via online tools that Alterian has embraced although, as you said, it’s a fairly radical concept for the market research community to embrace. How have you overcome resistance to this idea within MR organizations, or have you sidestepped it by focusing on the CMO or Brand Management organizations? 

WK: As you know, Alterian has had many long term relationships with big brands and partners.  Thus, our primary focus has been discussion of our solutions with our core constituencies, marketing organizations.  However, there have been several forward thinking MR organizations that gotten very excited about our offerings.

LM: You’re referring to your acquisition of Intrepid when you discuss having those internal insight skills, correct? I thought that was a bold (and smart) move by your company and as a result I often use Alterian as an example of the type of firm that traditional MR suppliers should model themselves after or risk being replaced by. I think we’re seeing a similar trend playing-out with the recent spate of M&A activity of Marketing/PR Agencies absorbing MR-based firms and/or building out more insight-driven offerings. Thinking of your own evolution and in light of similar developments in related sectors, what do you think the market research space will look like in the next 5 years or so? 

WK: Thank you very much.  As you probably know, I joined Alterian as part of the acquisition, although my focus was on social media rather than market research.  However, given the proliferation of data that currently exists due to social media, there is a significant demand for actionable insights and the ability to analyze this dataset, particularly in the context of integrating with other data.  We have seen that social media can be very disruptive, not just to brands, but to the agencies that support those brands. Therefore, I think that the successful MR firms will embrace social media as part of their expertise and insight-driven offerings.  The agencies that apply strong insights to all datasets, regardless of origin will be the ones that thrive, in my opinion.

LM: Are you seeing more traditional MR companies just licensing the SM2 platform, or are more going for the broader Alchemy package? Also, for those that don’t know, can you outline the various products and services that Alterian offers? 

WK: I think that a lot of MR companies are dipping their toes into the water and trying to get a better understanding of social media monitoring and its fit with their traditional solutions.  Thus, we are seeing more interest in licensing the SM2 platform.  As agencies migrate from crawl to run, I am sure that we will see many focus on the broader Alterian Alchemy framework so that they can integrate multiple data sets into their analysis seamlessly.

LM: OK, last question: it seems that more and more we’re seeing clients leveraging social media to both create deeper relationships with consumers while also gaining strategic insights, an approach that has traditionally been anathema to market researchers.  What are your thoughts on the ‘blurring of the lines’ between marketing engagement and market research that social media has helped create? How are clients using Alterian’s offerings in that respect? 

WK: I’m kind of a purist in this area.  I feel that engagement should best be left to the client as they know their product and customers best.  Thus, by responding directly to customers, they can develop those deep bonds with their target audience.  Correspondingly the strategy and insight agencies have the expertise to do the heavy lifting and make sense out of the unstructured data in a cogent, strategic manner.

This blog is co-posted with The Green Book.

Flashback Friday: How Open Do I Need to Be REALLY? Charlene Li Responds

Social Media and Community 2.0 Strategies is taking place April 4-6, 2011, in Boston, Massachusetts. Fridays leading up to the event, we’ll be recapping one of the sessions from the 2010 Social Media & Community 2.0 Strategies Event. For more information on this year’s event, download the brochure.

Flashback Friday: How Open Do I Need to Be REALLY? Charlene Li Responds

I’ve never heard Groundswell author and Altimeter Group founder Charlene Li speak before, and I’m glad I had the chance today. She makes “social” seem less scary; audience members that didn’t speak up before are comfortable asking her the questions that most bother them.

The points she made in sum:

- Focus on relationships. This is about having a relationships strategy, not a social media strategy.
- Align social strategy with strategic goals.
- Support your open leaders.
- Plan for failure – there will be many.

Relationships and planning in advance for failure are two themes that keep popping up this week, so it merits taking special note of those.

Here’s what Li discussed in more detail.

A recurring question she gets from companies: “How open do I need to be?” The answer: Have confidence and humility to relinquish the need for control, while inspiring commitment from people to accomplish goals. That’s how you stay in command without whipping out the iron fist.

A good rule of thumb if you still feel murky about this “being open” thing: Don’t just look at where people are being social; examine to what degree they are being open to one another.

This isn’t about complete balls-out openness; this is about cultivating the openness that is appropriate for your strategy. An example she gives is that she walked into a room full of people and bared her soul, it would probably make everyone uncomfortable, and she’d feel weird about it too. But if she’s walking into a roomful of her closest friends, it would be okay to do that, and people would get it.

Another nice example is considering Apple: people feel it’s incredibly closed, and in a lot of ways it is, but the fact is it would probably hurt more than help if they were more open. When will Apple need to be more open? When it stops designing exceptional products, Li says.

Seven guidelines for moving forward in your relationship strategy:

1. Align openness with strategic goals, say, for 2011. Pick one where “open” and “social” can have impact. Make sure the strategy aligns with one of the five-odd things your CEO truly cares about; if it doesn’t, you’re toast.

2. Understand value. “We tend to overvalue the things we can measure, and undervalue the things we cannot.” – John Hayes, CMO American Express. What’s the value of Coca-Cola’s five million fans, versus people that are exposed to a Coke ad?

3. Understand how open you need to be.

4. Find and develop open leaders inside your company. You may see four types: worried pessimists, transparent evangelists, cautious testers, realist optimists. Treat and use them accordingly. The higher up the organization you go, the more “worried skeptics” you find. By far, the most effective archetype is the “realist optimist” – they see the problems the company has, but understand the end point and have an idea how to get there.

Cultivate a culture of sharing inside your company, because it’s a safe place. If people can’t share inside, they won’t do it outside. “Mindsets only change if skills and behavior change,” says Li.

5. Prepare your organisation. What areas do your frontline people need to be ready for?

6. Organise to meet your goals. Try the social media triage:

7. Embrace failure. Wal-Mart underwent at least three major social media failures before it came up with the Check-Out Blog, which hit the right note: saving people money, no longer fabricating user conversation.

Four goals define your strategy:

Understand that the dialog is important, and you can’t get to the “support” and “innovate” parts of that graph without it. Learning to create a dialog teaches you what you need to do to support users; with that, over time, you can innovate.

Finally, manage risk with Sandbox Covenants: define the limits of your company’s “comfort” sandbox, so it’s clear to all participants. As your relationship strengthens with users, the sandbox will expand organically – yielding not just more openness and comfort with different technologies, but innovations, too.

Don’t forget users have sandboxes too; consider them. What do they expect from you? Create mitigation/contingency strategies for what happens when a line is crossed.

Li wrapped with a pretty idea: In the future, social networks will be like air. It’ll seem quaint that we had to go to a space like Twitter/Facebook in order to feel connected.

Photo via Logic + Emotion, who in turn found it on Waiting for Dorothy.

Looking back at the past year, has your company embraced openness as part of your social media strategy? What sorts of dialogs have you engaged in?

Complimentary Webinar: Silencing the Voice of the Customer (VOC): New research methods to create breakthrough products and services

In association with Strategyn, The Institute for International Research invites you to join us for a one hour complimentary Web Seminar.

Silencing the Voice of the Customer (VOC): Focus on the “job-to-be-done” and create breakthrough products and services
Tony Ulwick, Founder & CEO, Strategyn
Wednesday, April 20th, 2011 1:00 – 2:00 PM EDT

Reserve your Webinar seat now here.

Over the past 30 years, innovation experts have led companies to believe that it is impossible to know all their customers’ needs. They contend that customers can’t articulate their needs, and that customers have latent needs – or needs they don’t know they have. What if it turns out that this thinking is wrong?

There is a new way of approaching your customer needs but it’s not with the Voice of the Customer. Over the past 20 years Strategyn has created and refined an innovation process called Outcome-Driven Innovation?? (ODI) that invalidates this old thinking. In addition, a ten-year track record study reveals that when the world’s most respected companies silence the voice of the customer and gather the right inputs for the innovation process, they experience an 86 percent success rate. This is a complete turn-around in the innovation industry.

In this webinar, Strategyn founder and CEO, Tony Ulwick will demonstrate how thinking about innovation and customer needs from a “jobs-to-be-done” perspective enables companies to create winning growth strategies and breakthrough products and services.

What you will learn:

* The shortcomings of listening to the “voice-of-the-customer”
* How to define a market from the customer’s perspective
* How to create a growth strategy using the right customer inputs
* How to organize the innovation process around the right customer insights

System Requirements
PC-based attendees
Required: Windows?? 7, Vista, XP or 2003 Server

Macintosh??-based attendees
Required: Mac OS?? X 10.4.11 (Tiger??) or newer

About The Institute for International Research:
The Institute for International Research (IIR) is the world’s largest conference company and has been the leader in the provision of business information for over 25 years. IIR produces over 5,000 events annually through its network of offices in over 35 countries.

Who is already signed up for Technology Driven Market Research?

Why do you need to attend Technology Driven Market Research taking place this May 2-3, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois?

You can:

  • -Hear presentations focusing on the groundbreaking tools and technologies being used NOW and on the horizon, covering neuromarketing, virtual shopper behavior, social analytics, mobile research and more.
  • -Gain the insights and knowledge from industry leaders who’ve already seen success implementing these technologies, including: General Motors, Nestle, Procter & Gamble and more. 
  • -Network with these companies already registered to attend:
20 20 Technology * Advanis Incorporated * Alterian * American Honda Motor * Amway Corporation * Anderson Analytics LLC * Bain & Co. * Bovitz Research Group * Brand360 * CareerBuilder * Civic Science Inc. * Crimson Hexagon * CT Marketing Research * Cutting Edge Research * DavidDalka.com * Delmonte * DemandROMI * Disney Destinations * Dole Fresh Vegetables * ESPN Inc. * Flamingo Research * General Motors * Gongos Research * iCharts * Illume * Infosurv * Intel Corporation * Interviewing Services of America * Intuit * JD Power & Associates * John Deere * Kao Brands * KL Communications * Knowledge Networks * Kraft Foods * Land O Lakes * Leo Burnett * Luth Research * MARC Research * Market Strategies International * MarketVision Research * MedPanel * Millward Brown * Morpace * MSW Research * Nestle USA * NetBase Solutions * NeuroFocus * Newell Rubbermaid * Next Stage Evolution * NORC at the University of Chicago * One Point Mobile Surveys * Procter & Gamble * Pureprofile * Qualcomm * Qualvu * RSG Inc. * Sam’s Club * Samsung Electronics * Schlesinger Associates * SJR Group * Smith-Dahmer Associates * Socractic * Southwest Airlines * Sterling Rice Group * StrategyOne * Survey Analytics * Symphonetic Insight * Symrise Inc. * Takeda Pharmaceuticals America * Techneos Systems * The American Institute of Architecture * The Cleveland Clinic * The NPD Group * ThinkVine * TNS Infratest  Forschung GmbH * TXTEAGLE * Vision Critical * Vistaprint * Wells Dairy * WL Gore & Associates * Wm Wrigley Jr Company * Zynga

As a reader of The Market Research Event blog, we’re offering you an exclusive discount of 20% off the standard rate when you (or a colleague) register for TMRE & Technology Driven Market Research! Mention code TMDRBLOGRegister here.

“Virtual Goods” By Brett Orlanski, Vice President, Business Development, Virtual Greats

Not a day passes without some news about the fantastic growth in the virtual goods business. To the uninitiated, buying a digital nothing for real money seems beyond absurd. News of Zynga’s over the top billion dollar valuation, all based on their mastery of virtual goods sales or China’s Tencent, the largest global seller of virtual goods doing billions a quarter in sales seems mind boggling. But once you understand the who, what, and why of this industry, the mystery fades and a real business model is revealed.

In an attempt to justify this, much is made to show that many “traditional” digital consumables are virtual goods: movies, downloadable music, even digital news subscriptions. But all these examples fail to understand what we really mean by talking of virtual goods in a gaming sense, and why anyone would buy them. Being above a certain age does not help in seeing the value and purpose, but for arguments sake pretend that you are either a teenage boy whose nexus of entertainment revolves around the immersive games you play, OR you are a 30 something stay at home mom with a little extra time on your hands. In both cases you play games, albeit for different reasons and in different ways, but the games you play are built around a core game mechanic that challenges you to “level up” and enables you to do so faster by buying virtual goods. So fundamental to the game play are these virtual goods, and so cheap, that you dismiss the notion that it’s money for nothing and instead open your wallet. The real game mechanics and sales drivers employed are sophisticated psychological levers that reward you for buying the items and incentivize you to spread the word, through viral channels, to share the ‘news’ of your purchase.

To the buyers of these items, it’s not money for nothing. Rather these items are the small price you pay to play the game and advance in the ranks. What’s the alternative- look at ads? That’s for dummies. There is a solid, legitimate, and fast growing business in virtual goods. The salivate inducing margins aside, the business of virtual goods has enabled small developers to turn big profits. I predict (along with almost every other analyst) amazing growth over the next 3-5 years and this is just the start.

Let’s get together April 4 to discuss this in greater depth, understand the subset of virtual goods: branded virtual goods, and learn about the underlying business of this new industry.
- Brett Orlanski, Vice President, Business Development, Virtual Greats

Hear more from Brett Orlanski and Virtual Greats at “Branded Virtual Goods: Unlocking Value and Making Real Money from Your IP in a Fast Growing Social Media Marketplace,” part of the SOCIAL GAMING track at the Social Media & Communities 2.0 conference on April 4th, 2011. Register now.

SocialC20 Sitdown Sweeps

Attending the Social Media and Communities 2.0 conference in April? Don’t miss your chance to win a SocialC20 Sit-Down!

We’re giving away a 30-minute social media strategy intensive sit-down at the event with an exclusive panel of experts from Comblu plus others!

The SocialC20 Sit-Down winner will receive immediate feedback on current social media strategy and take-away suggestions for the future. Winner will be chosen from a random drawing on the evening of April 4th, 2011. Sit down will occur during the lunch break at the Social Media and Communities 2.0 conference on April 5th. Tweet @community20 between now and April 4th to enter!

Not registered yet? There’s still time. Register here today.

Looking for the most up-to-date details? Make sure you’re a part of our crowdvine community.

The Private Brand Movement: Call for Presenters Extended!


Building Brands at Retail. Insights. Strategy. Design. In-Store

September 19-21, 2010 ‘ Wyndham Hotel ‘ Chicago, IL


Submission Deadline: Tuesday, March 15, 2011 Friday, April 1, 20011

About the Event

From the producers of FUSE & Shopper Insights in Action, we present the 2nd annual Private Brand Movement, the first and only event to focus on the strategy of store brand design and development. New for 2011, we’re expanding the content to deliver the most comprehensive agenda on branding at retail covering everything you need from insight to creation to selling in-store.

With an unprecedented collection of client-side practitioner perspectives than any other event of its kind, it quickly became an industry choice, where retailers attend to focus on building branded portfolios that really connect with their distinct customer needs and brands attend to think differently about their retail partners and to seek new ways to collaborate in a more holistic business sense.

Full details here.