The title for this post quotes one of today’s New York Times editorials. It perfectly captures something essential about our work that we need to trumpet as loudly as we evangelize the power and benefits of research. Data can’t do everything. In fact, the bigger the data, the less it can do relative to the sheer volume of data being generated.
Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category
This week we published Versta Research’s quarterly newsletter with a feature article entitled “Wisdom in an Age-Old Question.” While it might seem simple to ask a person’s age on a survey, it turns out that there are all sorts of ambiguities and documented sources of error in the various ways you might ask it. Fortunately, there are best practices based on our collective wisdom as an industry, and from important findings from academic colleagues who study and publish research about research.
For example, here are a few of the best practices to keep in mind: (more…)
Recent social psychological research on consumer decision making suggests that making choices and deciding among alternatives depletes mental energy. With each choice we make, it gets harder and harder to make the next choice, and our brains start looking for “shortcuts” to make the task easier. The research, reported this week in The New York Times Magazine, found that when our brains get fatigued from too many choices,
one shortcut is to become reckless: to act impulsively instead of expending the energy to first think through the consequences. . . . The other shortcut is the ultimate energy saver: do nothing. Instead of agonizing over decisions, avoid any choice.
But give the brain a hit of glucose (the basic fuel that runs cell functioning), and our willpower and rational decision-making are restored.
The findings are from multiple experiments over the past decade that relied on a variety of scenarios that both academic researchers and marketing people care a great deal about: selecting (and paying for) options on new car purchases, buying computers, shopping in malls or grocery stores, selecting fabrics for customized products, and making critical financial decisions that involve trade-offs between short-term rewards and long-term gains. (more…)
I’ve always been intrigued by the promises of data mining because it offers such a magical solution to much of what we do in market research. If only we had a tool or technology that would discover hidden patterns and insights in our data. We would not have to think so hard, or work so hard, or hire really smart people to help our clients design research, analyze data, and present findings to their executive teams.
The truth, however, is that while technology and tools can multiply our capabilities and help us work better and faster, they cannot discover meaningful patterns or find hidden insights. Only smart people can do that. The reason is that market research data only become meaningful within a context of questions that need to be answered, or stories that need to be told. Tools and technology cannot supply that context.
We are working with a client who has been struggling for the last five months to find a story in survey data. They commissioned the survey to generate data for a whitepaper for presentation to business level clients and prospects. They’ve been staring at tables and banner tabs, pie charts and bar charts, correlations and gap analyses. But squeeze the data as they might, the story will not emerge. (more…)
One of the most powerful pieces of advice our clients sometimes hear is to stop researching and start marketing. In fact, a client told us yesterday that our presentation of findings last year was good, useful, impressive . . . all that. But it was when we said, “Stop worrying about the next level of precision and rigor that you could get with this data if you had more money and time to invest. These data are strong. They’re based on sound methods. We have good answers to your questions. Go put it to use.” They did, and their business is blossoming.
It’s an oddly common situation we find ourselves in these days: advising our client against more research. For advocates of information and fact-based strategies (including us), the increasingly central role for market research is gratifying. But too many surveys and research-for-research’s-sake can’t sustain itself, nor should it. Market research only matters if it is acted upon and used in smart and strategic ways.
How do you know if, instead of research, you should focus on a full-force marketing effort or at least a better strategic plan before launching research? Here are three situations we typically see: (more…)
Early this month, David Blackwell, a prominent statistician and mathematician died at the age of 91. For many he is well known because he was the first African American to be elected to the National Academy of Sciences. For others, he is well known because he wrote an important and early book about Bayesian statistics, a type of statistics that is becoming central to market research.
For those of us at Versta Research, he is well known for his focus on understanding versus research:
“Basically, I’m not interested in doing research and I never have been,” he said. “I’m interested in understanding, which is quite a different thing. And often to understand something you have to work it out yourself because no one else has done it.” (From an interview cited in the New York Times) (more…)
One critical trend that is transforming the research industry is the rapid adoption of mobile technologies, especially smartphones. It transforms research in multiple ways. It means that people disconnect their landlines, so we have to adjust our methods for phone polling. But more importantly, it means people are accessible in multiple ways (text, phone, email) all the time, and wherever they are. We can ask them for feedback instantaneously in the stores where they shop, or as they are making a decision we care about. We can talk to them, send messages, ask them to respond to survey questions, ask them to take pictures or videos for us, and so on. There are amazing opportunities for rich, immediate data for research that we could only dream about a few years back. (more…)
Good research happens by design. That is one of the reasons we enjoy writing research proposals. Writing proposals is an exercise in research design, which is the place and time where you must think in strategic and smart ways about what you are going to do and how you are going to do it. You must do it, that is, if you want your research to be any good.
How do we begin the research design process to ensure incisive and smart research that really helps our clients answer their critical questions? Here are five key elements of the process for us, which we offer to you as tips for your own success when launching an internal research effort: (more…)
As an industry driven by data and information, market research and public opinion polling has seen dramatic changes in the last ten years and will no doubt change quickly and in big ways during the next ten.
Looking back, here are what we consider to be the five biggest changes that shaped current challenges faced by market research and opinion polling: (more…)
Five of Chicago’s PR leaders gathered at a PRSA forum this week to discuss current trends and the future of public relations. The discussion was striking in how fully it echoed the trends and challenges facing the polling and research industry, and what we need to do to keep our eye on the ball. Here are a few take-away ideas from that forum that apply to both PR professionals and their research partners: (more…)