#TMRTE 2012: Dancing with Ourselves


When a friend suggested I create a Twitter account in 2008, I resisted.  In fact, I said, ‘Steve, I like you a lot but I don’t give a flip what you had for breakfast, so nope.’  He laughed and patiently said, ‘Open an account today and I’ll introduce you to 12 incredible people you will never meet.’  I did.  He did.  And he was right.  Until I reached 4000 followers.

This morning at The Market Research Technology Event, filmmaker Tiffany Shlain elevated the discussion regarding the digital lifestyle to declare that we’re entering a state of digital connectedness never before seen.  Her premise is that this will create a ‘DaVinci style Brain Synthesis’ that raises human existence to higher levels of thoughtfulness, inclusiveness and even quality.   Her film Connected: an autoblogography about love, death and technology provoked a question from the audience about how there would ever be another world war in this state of global connectedness.  Good question.

This brings me back around to Steve’s breakfast.  Shlain has done a masterful job of harnessing the best of the web, bringing together disparate audiences to co-create content and give us an optimistic point of view regarding the state of humanity and what the future promises.  The problem is that most of what crosses my radar in social media is Foursquare check-ins, random observations, overt hocking of products by and for brands and yes, what people had for lunch.    All of this makes me wonder if the ‘river of news’ when used for market research observations is really just a narcissist’s playground.  Maybe it’s not so much that we are connecting with each other, as it is each of us simultaneously talking about ourselves to no one.  Maybe we are all dancing with ourselves.

Lenny Murphy (Greenbook.com) disagrees with me.  He believes the social media market is self monitoring and that those who are narcissistic are ‘weeded out.’  When Lenny speaks, I listen.  And I agree with him to a point and this made me think harder.  While it’s largely true that a lack of interaction (or being a complete tool) will eject you from a group, that group still does not have the power to shut me up on Twitter or close my account on Facebook.  There’s nothing to stop the one sided conversations ‘ think about the guy walking around with the Bluetooth in the airport who looks like he’s talking to himself ‘ that’s my perception of much of the content we’re analyzing.

That said’ what’s brilliant about Shlain’s work is that while she crowdsourced the raw input but applied an expert interpretation to the massive amount of input.  It’s called film editing.  As Market Researchers we are all editors, sifting through imposing amounts of information to find insight and meaning.   So, how to find what’s useful from social media?  Market Researchers tend to look for the big implication, the most broadly appealing idea, the strongest driver, etc.  We think big.  Another way to think about editing is to think small.  Consider for a moment that 90% of what comes into view via social media is total garbage.  How do you find the 10% that inspires, provokes and informs?  How do you find the bit that doesn’t fit?

A week after I joined Twitter in 2008 I wanted to use it for research.  This was before mobile research tools were well developed and I just wanted to experiment to better experience this new toy for myself.  I partnered with C&R Research to develop a tool called Twitter Slicing.  We created a Twitter handle for me (which was really an early form of bot ‘ my first virtual me) and recruited 300 people who joined Twitter and agreed only to tweet with me for one week on their mobile device.  We sent out the same tweet ten times a day: ‘Are you chewing gum right now, if not, why not’?  (company not named but this experience is shared with client permission).  After 5 days we had 15,000 responses to one question.  Coding with both traditional methods and text analysis suggested that 90% of the responses were pure crap.  ‘I didn’t feel like it.’  ‘I didn’t have any gum.’ ‘I’m not answering this question again so shut up.’  But there were a few responses regarding reluctance to share gum with others, gum stuck to the paper, and noisy wrappers.  These were the nuggets we’d typically call insights.  But instead of huge findings, they were actually more like grains of sand.  It’s the type of stuff that makes you say, ‘huh’?  And that inspires innovation.

As Shlain suggested that editing is interpreting raw material with a point of view.  Good editors parse through piles of chaff to find a germ of truth and present it in a compelling, engaging way.   This is what truly excellent Market Researchers do.  They find the grain of sand and that make business partners say “wow.”

Today’s guest post is from Kelley Styring. Styring is principal of InsightFarm Inc. a market research and consumer strategy consulting firm. She has led insights for Procter & Gamble, Pepsico, Black & Decker and NASA prior to founding her own firm in 2003. Kelley is a published author and has been featured in USA Today, ABC News, Good Morning America, Brandweek, Fortune, Quirk’s Marketing Research and The Market Research Daily Report from RFL Online.  She will be live blogging from TMRTE in next week in Las Vegas, April 30-May 2, 2012.

#TMRTE 2012: Game Boy Surgeons

You too can be a Game Boy Surgeon at Flashgames247.com

I have a client who manufactures surgical instruments.  They’re keeping a keen eye on the next generation of physicians ‘ those who grew up gaming.  What they’re finding is that these kids, steeped in the gaming dynamic and skilled in hand-eye coordination required to manipulate small objects on a screen will make excellent surgeons of the future.  This will be our first generation of Game Boy Surgeons.

I’m attending The Market Research Technology Event and have to admit that listening to Jane McGonigal from the Institute of the Future talk about gaming was startling.   One frightening fact she revealed is that the hours spent on Call of Duty could create 4 Wikipedias (the entire thing) each month.   That seems like productivity down the drain.   At the same time we’ve heard earlier that response rates to research are declining due to lack of engagement and that mobile research suffers from this to even a greater extent.

So, net, I’m very interested in gaming dynamics and how this can create market research of the future.  Game creators thus far have lucked into our field, creating massive amounts of information as an afterthought and then scraping value from it.  McGonigal called this ‘summoning data out of thin air.’   She also shared an example of a university project that used gaming to capture photographs that could then be arrayed into a 3D representation of a place.  Think Google Earth captured by you, me and the guy next to you and compiled.  This intentional game creation unleashed an ‘army of data collectors’ where participation becomes results.  This is in line with where I think market research needs to go.

One of the strongest emotions evoked by gaming is a sense of creativity.  Participants are absorbed into a vast, imaginary context and asked to make decisions that determine the outcomes.  The result is ‘Eustress’ or positive stress when opting into a challenge.

What if instead of asking consumers if they would buy a product, we asked them to create the next generation product?   This is actual co-creation, something we’ve kicked around for years without much success outside applications in qualitative or MROCs.   What if creativity were rewarded much like Prediction Markets?   That way instead of betting on given ideas, new items were created by the respondents.  Maybe this is a melding of prediction markets, evolutionary algorithms and gaming in a way that energizes participants.   If we achieve this maybe we won’t be talking about lack of respondent cooperation and poor engagement but how crazy it is that consumers are paying us to play our game.  In gaming, they would call this an ‘epic win.’

Today’s guest post is from Kelley Styring. Styring is principal of InsightFarm Inc. a market research and consumer strategy consulting firm. She has led insights for Procter & Gamble, Pepsico, Black & Decker and NASA prior to founding her own firm in 2003. Kelley is a published author and has been featured in USA Today, ABC News, Good Morning America, Brandweek, Fortune, Quirk’s Marketing Research and The Market Research Daily Report from RFL Online.  She will be live blogging from TMRTE in next week in Las Vegas, April 30-May 2, 2012.

#TMRTE 2012: Humans 2.0

On Twitter, I am a dog.   I bark, run, chase my tail, whatever it takes to act out the persona of @Mollythewinedog, spokedog for Styring Vineyards, my husband’s winery.

As a human and market researcher, I’m attending The Market Research Technology Event and spent today thinking deeply about virtuality and personas.   BrainJuicer demonstrated an entity (for lack of a better term) that takes the idea of personas to an entirely different level, creating human entities compiled from real world data associations.  Called Digividuals, these are more than avatars with people behind them, like my dog.  Digividuals are composites of data, scraped from the web and triggered by a minimal amount of seed information.   This is fascinating to me because it’s more credible as a life form than most personas on Twitter run by actual humans.  And, because it’s based in reality, it is more ‘grounded to the earth,’ says John Kearnon, Founder of BrainJuicer.

I like this because each Digividual represents thousands or millions of people just like them and continues to grow and evolve via associations that are dynamic.   People are constantly changing ‘ so are Digividuals.  Ultimately, if these entities are compiled from their environment, I should be able to introduce something new ‘ a new product, a new advertisement, a new retail concept to this environment, and see if this component associates with the Digividual.  How many Digividuals in the cyber space in which they live ‘adopt’ the new product?  Virtual Living potentially provides us with a new way to assess product concepts that is more behaviorally based but simulated so faster and less expensive than testing in RL (Real Life).  In fact, I’d like to unleash some Digividuals in a Virtual Store and see what happens!

Speaking of RL, there was a fascinating panel discussion on Non Traditional Market Research which quickly congealed around the notion of real time data collection and targeting real time messages in the moment.  Allusions to Minority Report were made, as this is the easiest frame of reference for the concept.  And there was a call for companies to mirror Pepsico in appointing a Technology Marketing Officer to truly exploit this idea of messages in the moment.  On the one hand, this is a great idea.  We can deploy timely information when it is actually relevant, like where the nearest Pepsi machine is when the temperature reaches 94 degrees as it is right now in Vegas.  But how do brands create resonance?

This is the difference between Technology Marketing Officer and a Brand Champion or CMO.   Products are becoming less differentiated in many categories and rely on Brand resonance to urge consumers choose their product over others.  If messages are reduced to timely information, creating resonance will be a challenge.  So, for now, this is a great way to exploit the equity of a strong brand but it probably isn’t yet fertile ground for building resonance or marketing new ideas that require more than the attention span of a dog to form an enduring connection.

Today’s guest post is from Kelley Styring. Styring is principal of InsightFarm Inc. a market research and consumer strategy consulting firm. She has led insights for Procter & Gamble, Pepsico, Black & Decker and NASA prior to founding her own firm in 2003. Kelley is a published author and has been featured in USA Today, ABC News, Good Morning America, Brandweek, Fortune, Quirk’s Marketing Research and The Market Research Daily Report from RFL Online.  She will be live blogging from TMRTE in next week in Las Vegas, April 30-May 2, 2012.

#TMRTE Live: Top Tweets from Day 1!

Today was the first main day of The Market Research Technology Event 2012 at The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas! Here are a few of the top tweets and insights from the day:

Thanks for following us today on The Market Research Event Blog! We encourage you to join in on the conversation on the last day of The Market Research Technology Event at #TMRTE!

Podcast: Janet LeBlanc on Creating a Customer-Centric Culture

Janet LeBlanc, President, JANET LEBLANC + ASSOCIATES will be speaking on Creating a Customer-Centric Culture at our upcoming Total Customer Experience Leader’s Summit.

I caught up with her last week to record a quick podcast where we discussed the growing priority of creating a customer centric culture and some steps an organization can take to identify and change their culture.

 On trying to create a customer-centric culture Janet says “it’s one of the most challenging transformational change initiatives for any senior executive to undertake.” However, there are some concrete steps you can take to get there. The first being, define what culture your organization currently operates within.

For more on the process and the types of culture you may currently be operating under, listen to the podcast here. 

If you’d like to hear more from Janet LeBlanc, join us at the Total Customer Experience Leader’s Summit this June in Boston. As a reader of our blog we’d like to offer you a 15% off the standard registration rates, use code TCEL12BLOG to save. Visit the webpage to register today. 

Michelle LeBlanc is a Social Media Strategist at IIR USA with a specialization in marketing. She may be reached at mleblanc@iirusa.com.

#TMRTE 2012: Who’s Your Superman?

Not the shirt worn by Dr. Pradeep
Today, The Market Research Technology Event kicked off with a keynote from Dr. A.K. Pradeep from Neurofocus Inc..  First, let me say that he caught my eye at the coffee station before the presentation not because of his super intelligence but because of his rock ‘n roll shirt.  Seriously, this shirt could be worn by John Taylor from Duran Duran and I mean that in a good way.  It was a righteous shirt.

You take a risk when you wear a shirt like that.  You better pay it off ‘ and he did.    He engaged the audience on the topic of engagement ‘ clever man.  He shared many useful observations about engagement, social media and retail.  He also mentioned Apple and Steve Jobs at least four times.  This was interesting to me because one of his tips included associating yourself and your brand with Apple, which I would say he did very, very well.

This made me think a little harder about Apple and its impact on digital design and product design overall.  Certainly the strides Apple has made in visual intuitiveness are undeniable.  And, the contributions made to the elegance of functional products are well appreciated, even by me.  But do we all want to look like Apple?  Dr. Pradeep essentially said if you don’t have ‘candy colored buttons’ and swipe finger activation you’re out of the game.   I take issue with that.  In fact I like to call it the Tyranny of Apple and it’s the death of creativity.

I think the useful role for Apple (if you are not Apple) is as a nemesis.  A nemesis is not an enemy but a worthy opponent who makes us all strive harder.  Think about Batman.   His nemesis is not the Joker.  It’s Superman.   Superman can fly, leap tall, run fast.  Batman must apply innovation to develop tools to keep up with Superman and often fights evil in his own way.  He doesn’t say, ‘I need to be like Superman.’  It’s not possible, really, so he creates his own path.

Dr.  Pradeep also said that ‘what they (Apple) do seeps into everything.’  That’s right and that’s a good thing.  We should be inspired by Apple and use it to set new standards for achieving intuitive survey designs.  We should not be limited by Apple and assume that there is only one way to achieve intuitiveness.   This point is not to be like Apple but to be visually intuitive in user interfaces and elegant in our product design solutions — to succeed in our own way.   Like Batman striving to surpass Superman, the more we think of Apple as a bar set high, the more our creative solutions will help our businesses thrive.

#TMRTE 2012: The Parasite Paradigm

Colony of Digital Organisms
from Michigan State University

Years ago I saw a demonstration by a professor who had developed a digital organism.  I’m not talking about those little robots you carry in your pocket and feed when they whine, but a totally digital life form.  He created a visualization of it for us but the digital life form was embedded in a hard drive so it didn’t really have a visual essence of its own.  To be ‘alive’ it conformed to the rules defining life ‘ it ate, slept, reproduced and ultimately died leaving offspring to carry on.  In fact, as the demonstration was ‘live’ we were able to see population growth in real time.

This came to mind as I watched today’s Mobile Research presentations at The Market Research Technology Event in Las Vegas.   Several presenters highlighted the fragmented nature of the mobile platform, the distracted nature of the mobile survey taker, and the general lack of engagement of people taking a survey while mobile.  I imagine myself trying to answer survey questions while walking in a crowded airport.  There is no way this would go well for me.

One speaker mentioned that a key challenge of mobile research is the number of mobile platforms and the challenge to the developers of survey tools and apps.  And he said we were waiting for it to ‘settle down.’   This was preceded by a presentation on engagement ‘ how consumers are not engaged in survey taking or most of what brands publish in social media.   In fact, it was noted that engagement levels erode over time.  For example, consumers were originally much more engaged in online surveys than they are now.  Attention spans tend to wane as familiarity with an experience wears on.

At this point my own attention span waned and I began to think about films.   It seems that we have a popular group of male actors, Ben Stiller for example, who appear in film after film.  But in each film they have a different girlfriend, a female actor we’ve never seen before.  And we never see her again in any other film.  Why is that?  Well, I’d suggest that the attention span for the female characters is short and as a film going public, we’re on to the next fresh face.

It’s the same with digital devices.  We replace them well before they wear out.  We upgrade for the next performance enhancement, screen size or cool interface.  It’s the next fresh face.  This probably explains the lack of enduring engagement in technology based research tools.  It’s cool and engaging for a while but then our interest wanes and engagement declines.  This pattern is predictable, so waiting for mobile platforms to ‘settle down’ so we can design widgets, programs or apps that will work on a finite set of devices seems unlikely to be effective.   And we must continuously raise the bar on engaging survey content as this is a moving target too.

What if we created research tools that acted more like organisms ‘ more specifically a parasites?  It would detect the type of host (digital device and consumer preferences) and adapt to attach accordingly.  It would read the individual and adapt to be the perfect interface for that person, altering visual dynamics, language, time of day approached, length of the survey, etc.    It could know how many surveys you’ve taken and what type so that it varies your content to engage.   I truly believe that adaptive design is the only way to keep up with unpredictable change.   That’s because things will never settle down, so riding with the waves of change is the only way to go.

#TMRTE Live: Top Tweets from Intensive Monday

We kicked of The Market Research Technology Event 2012 today in sunny Las Vegas, Nevada at The Cosmopolitan!  Here are a few of the top tweets of the day!

Thanks for following us today on The Market Research Event Blog! We encourage you to join in on the conversation tomorrow at #TMRTE!