Recent news and Research Tidbits from Bureau West:
September 10th, 2013 by Jay Zaltzman in Research Tidbits
One of the most common uses of market research is to test advertising. Companies want to create the most effective advertising possible; their target customers should be able to tell them how to create ads that will get them to make a purchase.
At least that’s the theory. Of course, the reality is a bit more complicated than that. Market research can be used in different ways at different stages in the process of developing ads.
I think one of the most powerful uses of market research is to conduct research before the advertising is developed. That is, talk to potential customers in order to uncover the hot-button issues – the types of things they want to know in order to make the purchase decision. We would use focus groups in this situation, and utilize a variety of indirect questioning techniques to go beyond the rational answers and get at the things that really matter to people. This gives the ad agency’s creative staff the raw material they need to create great, impactful advertising.
But what happens after the ad agency develops a number of potential ad concepts, and they want to choose the one that will be most effective? This is where things get tricky. Typically, the ad agency will have storyboards for the different concepts – sketches or temporary visuals of key concepts, along with draft text for the ads. The problem is, it’s difficult for customers to make the jump in their minds and imagine the storyboards as finished ads. Here are some tips we use when conducting this kind of research:
- Make sure participants understand what the ad will look like when it’s finished. When possible, we like to show an example of a rough ad followed by the finished version (from advertising for a different category). That helps research participants make the jump in their mind.
- Level the playing field. Make sure you’re using similar stimuli for the different concepts. Don’t use beautiful photography for one of your concepts and rough sketches for another. If you don’t have beautiful photographs for all the concepts being tested, then it’s better to remove them and just use the sketches.
- Don’t go halfway. In many cases, I recommend against showing research participants half-finished ads. If we can’t show something close to a final ad, we might be better off just getting reactions to a brief description of the advertising idea. That way, we make sure we’re not getting reactions to text or visuals that might not be in the final ad anyway.
In some cases, once the ads are completed, advertisers want to conduct focus groups “just as a disaster check,” to make sure there are no “red flags” or misunderstandings. This is the type of research ad agencies hate, since they’re afraid research participants will pick their advertising apart with comments such as “I don’t like red” or “the mom in that commercial is too thin.” There’s some validity to those fears: when utilized incorrectly, this kind of research can lead to advertising that doesn’t offend anyone but is also completely forgettable. In many cases, I recommend quantitative research for completed ads. However, focus groups can work as long as we make sure they’re really being used as a disaster check. So if most participants don’t understand the offer or don’t get a joke that’s being made in the ad, it may be worth tweaking. But remember, they’re consumers, not art directors!
To learn how customers react to your advertising, give us a call at (818) 752-7210.
June 20th, 2013 by Jay Zaltzman in Research Tidbits
Clients frequently come to us when they’re trying to find opportunities to innovate. As people’s lifestyles change, companies want to know what new products they can offer or what new twists can be created to give them a competitive advantage.
The problem is, it’s hard to ask people about things they don’t know they need. Here are some techniques we use to elicit valuable ideas from participants:
We provide a pile of images cut out from magazines and ask participants to choose several images that represent the ideal version of the product or service being discussed. Using images (rather than just talking about the topic) enables participants to go beyond rational thinking and tap into feelings. We then have them explain why they chose each picture and then we ask what they could add to the picture to make it even better. When we’re in a focus group situation, after going around the room with this exercise, we then ask the group to build the ideal version together. This enables participants to pool their creativity and build on each other’s ideas.
The above technique is helpful when we want to improve an existing offering. But what about when we’re looking for completely new ideas? One way to do this can be to look at how behaviors in a certain category are changing. We might have participants use a mobile app to describe the relevant behavior as it happens (either by text message or even by calling in and leaving voicemail messages). Then, we might have them participate in a group discussion where they discuss the behaviors recorded and compare them to how things were done a few years ago, in order to uncover new needs. From there, we might use a brainstorming exercise to think of ideas to address those needs.
In order to find answers to research questions, we often find it’s important to go beyond simply asking direct questions. The above are just two of many different techniques we consider when designing research. If you have a research question, talk to us about the best ways to find the answer! Give us a call at (818) 752-7210.
April 20th, 2013 by Jay Zaltzman in Research Tidbits
I was recently fortunate enough to attend a fascinating presentation by Piyul Mukherjee and Pia Mollback-Verbic from Quipper Research in India. They presented a convincing argument about why we should not always attempt to replicate research designed in the US when we need to conduct that research in countries that are not Western in their culture – countries such as India or China.
I’ll go into detail below, but first, on a related note, I’m proud to announce that I have become part of Think Global Qualitative, an alliance of researchers around the world. Members of Think Global Qualitative are smart researchers (if I do say so myself!) and have collaborated with each other in the past. Our alliance makes it even easier for us to offer our clients international research projects and to share our expertise with each other. Read more at http://thinkglobalqualitative.com/.
But back to the presentation: Piyul and Pia discussed the differences between Eastern and Western cultures. While Western cultures tend to be egalitarian, individualistic and strive to avoid uncertainty, Eastern cultures tend to be hierarchical, collective and accept uncertainty. While these differences are not surprising, they have profound implications for conducting international research.
For example, let’s say we’re conducting research about how moms utilize laundry detergent in the home. In the U.S., the researcher would likely come to the home of the research participant, ask her to demonstrate how she normally does laundry and ask for her opinions about various laundry products. Even though we know the researcher might have some impact on the respondent’s behavior, we’d expect the demonstration to be fairly similar to her behavior in everyday life. We’d also expect to speak mainly to our respondent, even if her husband or children might be at home.
If we tried to conduct the same research in India, we’d be in for some surprises! In India, it isn’t possible for the researcher to be “a fly on the wall;” rather, they would be treated as an honored guest, so respondent behavior would be far from typical. And expect the whole family to join in. If a videographer and clients come along, even the neighbors would likely want to participate! And in many cases, the male head of household would feel he needs to give his opinion first, even when discussing a topic such as doing laundry, about which he would have no knowledge.
Instead of trying to replicate the U.S. research exactly, Piyul and Pia recommend tweaking the methodology to account for those cultural differences. For example, providing cell phones or video cameras to respondents before the interview. We might have the husband or children interview the respondents on camera and then review and discuss the footage with the family during the actual interview. This provides a much more authentic view of the behavior and allows the respondent to express her opinions more freely. In this example, even though the methodology would not be identical in the U.S. and in India, we would be far more likely to obtain accurate answers to the client’s research questions.
Do you need to conduct research in multiple countries? Give us a call! We’ll utilize all our resources – including Think Global Qualitative – to come up with the most effective methodology for the countries involved. Call us at: (818) 588-6050.
Sources: Quipper Research Pvt Ltd; Think Global Qualitative; Bureau West research
December 31st, 2012 by Jay Zaltzman in Research Tidbits
Research participants have been telling us for a while that they prefer online ads they can skip. That is, when they view video ads that run before their desired content, they much prefer those that give them an option to click to jump directly to the content rather than forcing them to watch the whole ad. That’s no surprise. The question has been whether offering skippable ads also makes business sense. Recent research reported in the Journal of Advertising Research says it does.
Google conducted research that analyzed data from thousands of YouTube users: half viewed traditional video ads (the kind that force the viewer to watch in order to get to their desired content), while the other half viewed the same ads in skippable format. They then analyzed the likelihood of viewers to subsequently search for terms related to the advertising content.
They found the skippable ads to be equally as effective as traditional ads, while reducing the negative impact of the ads (viewers of traditional ads tend to spend less time on the website than viewers of skippable ads).
The authors conclude:
“Online video advertising often is presented as a zero-sum game in which the interests of advertisers and users are inherently at odds. In the current study, the measurements of search activity before and after video advertisements on YouTube suggest that this need not be the case.
In fact, YouTube’s TrueView in-stream video advertisements appear to have succeeded in substantially reducing the negative user impacts of online advertising without sacrificing the value of such advertisements to advertisers. This is a substantial accomplishment.
Furthermore, these data imply that online video advertising really does work: viewing such advertisements affects later user behavior and causes users to pursue relevant search queries in the future.
Finally, giving users the choice to view (or not view) may actually increase this advertising effectiveness by engaging users in the advertising process. In this way, empowering users to choose the advertisements they watch online need not come at the cost of advertiser value but actually appears to serve the interests of advertisers and content owners and users.”
How can you create ads that appeal to your prospects and customers? Ask them! Call us to discuss conducting research with your target market – tel: (818) 752-7210.
Sources: “Empowering Online Advertisements by Empowering Viewers with the Right to Choose: The Relative Effectiveness of Skippable Video Advertisements on YouTube,” Journal of Advertising Research, Vol. 52, No. 4, 2012; Bureau West research
August 26th, 2012 by Jay Zaltzman in Research Tidbits
We see it in focus groups all the time: customers want to personify companies. They want to believe that a company is like a person, with motivations and desires (which can be positive or negative), instead of a faceless collection of employees trying not to lose their jobs!
In a great article on marketingprofs.com, Emily Eldridge makes the point that people are willing to pay more for products from companies that have humanized their brands.
“For example, Apple stores don’t have rows of cashiers. Instead, they have easily identifiable employees throughout the store with mobile cashier platforms ready to interact. They will explain the benefits of each product, help you deal with issues, and share their passion for the products.
People are attracted to Apple because of its sleek products, but sticker shock could be an issue. Cheaper, equally (or more) powerful products are on the market. Yet Apple continues to increase its market share. The reason is that Apple has used Steve Jobs, Tim Cook, and its army of highly passionate employees around the world to humanize its brand. And consumers worldwide have responded.
Another example is Zappos.com, which places on its product pages videos of a Zappos employee talking about why he or she likes that product. It’s important to note that the videos are not about the product specs. They are personal stories told by someone who genuinely likes a particular product. When Zappos launched those videos in 2009, its conversion rate reportedly increased from 6% to 30%.”
How can you humanize your brand? Consider having marketing communications come from a specific person. Or giving your company’s communications some personality (for example, Virgin Atlantic’s “Go jet-setter, go!” or Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer). Perhaps the best place to start the process is to figure out how your customers currently perceive the brand by hiring us to conduct some qualitative research! Give us a call – no, wait: give me a call at (818) 752-7210.
Sources: “Why Being Human Matters in Marketing,” MarketingProfs, August 20, 2012; Bureau West research