Neal and Toplansky: Thought Leaders Debate #MRA_AC #MRX


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Session summary of the Marketing Research Association 2011 annual conference. These are my interpretations of the session. They were written during the session and posted immediately afterward. Any inaccuracies and silliness are my own.


Keynote: Thought Leaders Debate
William Neal, SDR Consulting
Marshall Toplansky, WiseWindow

Marshall

  • How far removed are we from people who fund the research? Probably 2 people. They have started putting their internal costs online. Started real-time assessment of competitive market, lead time generation, closure as with Comscore. Have not looked at consumer sentiment data until now. People are now focused on short-term measures, this promotion yesterday, competitor today. Money is coming out of MR because MR is too slow. We like to provide insights but they have no value, no currency beyond marketing ghetto, the people who are playing around with messaging, colors, those people are being more marginalized.

Bill

  • Technology has had an impact and it has reallocated funds. We need to remember what differentiates us. Gobs of data is not the solution. We base our work on science, essential, necessary. Survey method, of course has flaws, criticized for corporate execution. WHAT is going on, WHY is that happening? New technology does not address this. 20 million respondents may say one thing but you must ask is that representative of your target market? Millions of hits are not likely to be highly representative. Large groups of people are not and may never be in social media. (What, and everyone answers survey?) Our role is to be voice of arbitrator in C-Suite. Money comes from CMO and we work for the marketing folks. CMO doesn’t have permanent seat in C-suite. SMR may mislead us and consequences will be significant. What are our roots? Be voice of customer. Work for financial folks, not marketing folks. Sales function vs marketing function, push vs pull. Sales is short term, marketing is long term. SMR is not key, it is one part of it. (Phew, i was starting to get upset!)

Marshall

  • This is not quant vs SMR. It’s about empirically read mass observation, correlate sales numbers, real-time data. We are not in C-suite because we don’t even talk that language. We can’t translate consumer preference into a continuous flow of data. SMR is one technique, not only technique. If we ignore SMR, we’re going back to the middle ages of quill pens.

William

  • What should we measure for corporate well-being and growth? Must pay attention to brand equity. Must manage at C-suite level. False indicators may be sentiment. He has not seen any quant SMR data (HELLO! I’M RIGHT HERE!!!) It must be valid, reliable, and sufficient to bet on to do things differently. (I had to get up and ask a question here – 600 million people are on facebook, 3% of the world answer surveys. What does rep mean to you?)

Marshall

  • People are working on the social media research method right now. All methods get worked on and improved by having the smartest scientists working on it. He mentions more people are tweeting than will read the Alert article. (Dang right! Plus this blog and anyone else who will blog the session.) This is how people express themselves. You’re a stick in the mud if you don’t jump on it.

William

  • He is a strong advocate of mixed mode methods. (He should have come to my session yesterday where I showed how to use SMR, Surveys, and Cell together.) He wants rep samples. (NONE of market research is really rep samples.) We don’t capture all kinds of people, older, lower income, laggards, there are lots of these techno-phobes. We shouldn’t walk away from the technology. (Agreed. Since when did surveys capture all people? I don’t answer my home phone so how is your “rep” RDD?)

Marshall

  • Social media interaction for a small business is great, bulletin board style. Lots of richness. Must use best practices of research methods, do not bias, don’t lead the witness, pull a good sample. (Damn right) Methodology can be completely different.

William

  • Worry about perception that SMR is quantitative. (Ouch! Seriously, come see what we do William! 100% quants, scales, norms, sampling, weighting.)

Marshall

  • Representativeness is crap. This comes out of old media industry. Which demographic segment should I target, we allege we require. It reflects what we can buy in media. Marketers want to go to social segments, not demographic segments. They just want to find them behaviorally. Do we care if segment is 12.3% vs 9.7% of population? No. Let’s go after similarly looking people. People talking about my product is representativeness, not demo rep.

William

  • Brand hand raising is representative, he agrees. Demos as basis for representativeness should have died a long time ago. We don’t lack tools to look at data and model from it. People aren’t aware of these tools. Corporate research depts don’t know tools well enough to know to use them. We have a knowledge problem, not just a money problem. (I agree we have a knowledge problem.)

Marshall

  • Huge believer in multi-mode methods. Traditional methods can never be replaced. We need better ways of gathering data quickly, immediately. MR is just too slow and too expensive.

William

  • Can’t be too dependent on  high levels of qual data. Not sure if it will give us the right decision. Doesn’t believe any data is better than no data. Any data may be wrong. It’s high risk. We need risk reduction which comes from multiple sources.

Marshall

  • People don’t necessarily lie in their profiles but they just don’t tell you. People don’t put correct age in Facebook. (I don’t. I’m usually born in 1930 when I sign up for things online.) Maybe 10% of people give you geography. We need to solve this problem. Will facebook make money by selling profiles with proper privacy? Yes.

William

  • It’s not that people lie, they are just not being candid. Yes, people lie on surveys but that is not bigger problem. Candidness is. We need to do a lot more investigation. Don’t see if SMR will ever have sufficient validity and reliability to be predictive. (Dude, read the literature. People are already proving this.)

Marshall

  • 120 million facebook comments per month – this is the law of large numbers. Strong correlations between what they say and what they actually do in terms of sales is. Outliers are bled out in the volume of data. There are thousands of mommy blogs, people talking about underage children who aren’t allowed to go online. Children are represented online. We don’t need specific lines/channels of people.
  • William – Cascade effect of social media may or may not reflect reality. Facebook is “going with the herd.”
  • Neal – This is how people influence others.
  • William – Cascade changes reality of the percent. 35% becomes 65% because of influences and cascade. It’s not reality.
  • Neal – There are strong correlations between market share of opinion and market share of real world.
  • William – I need the last word. Watch out for herd effects. SMR is just another tool. Don’t overuse it.
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