June 12th, 2013

Sort of, dunno, nothin

By: Margie Lane, Research Director

Don’t you love the one word answers you get from teenagers when you ask them how their day at school was today.  I’ve learned with my daughter that it’s far more productive to wait until we have our quiet times together cooking, knitting, walking the dog, and let her raise issues that she wants to talk about.

It struck me moderating a group discussion recently that it’s exactly the same with participants.  Sure they may have more to say when I ask them a direct question than the average teen, but the real gems come when they are given the space and time to raise issues they have on their minds.

By spending time establishing rapport, giving participants the confidence to speak about issues that are top of mind and allowing the conversation to flow rather than moving on to the next scheduled task on the discussion guide, it is possible to uncover a whole host of issues that would have been buried by asking a rational question like ‘what’s important to you’.

And it’s the same in our online communities, we learn most about consumers real behaviour when we set the scene for open, free flowing conversations and can then more accurately project their future behaviour.

Take a look at this light-hearted take on the typical teenager and while you do, think about how much goes on in the life of a teenager beyond their monosyllabic replies and how we, as researchers, can access their reality.


February 7th, 2013

New Years Resolutions for 2013

By: Margie Lane, Research Director

The end of the year came & went, a reminder of how much time flies. So I’m making the time now to reflect on what we’ve achieved and the direction we need to take next year with our online communities.

1. There is always room for more scope to explore market gaps and opportunities rather than simply answering burning questions or sense checking ideas just before they go to market.  We need to help our clients to use our communities much earlier in the product development process when ideas are first on the drawing board.

2. Research shows, and our members tell us, that they’re happy to tell us about their lives and be involved in the cocreation process as long as we tell them how the information is being used.  We need to help our clients provide our communities with feedback so they receive the recognition and feedback they need and deserve.

3. As we continue to develop our mobile platforms we will be including more mobile tasks and challenges for consumers to capture insitu experiences that help identify actual behaviour and can be used to bring the consumer to life in the boardroom.

4. Internal stakeholders benefit much more when they are fully engaged with our communities.  We need to invest more time upfront when our communities are being established to inform and excite stakeholders and provide ongoing dialogue, not just written reports.  Debriefs will be more brainstorming sessions than formal debriefs.

5. Focus more on engagement than be concerned about size.  We know engagement is the key to delving beyond predictable, rational responses and our focus needs to be on continually challenging, inspiring and relating to our members to reveal their true behaviour and attitudes.

6. Ideally we want more time for spontaneous discussions and exploration of issues and ideas as they emerge.  The accessibility of online communities makes it too easy to use them to seek an answer to a question, but answers to direct questions do not always provide an accurate reflection of what the consumer will do.  Far better we learn from consumers’ conversations of how they go about using products and services and making their decisions to guide decision-making.

How do you plan to use your online communities in 2013?

January 7th, 2013

When the people type…

By Victoria Parr, Managing Director, Latitude Insights Sydney office 

At the last AMSRS conference I presented a paper on the research to develop the design of plain packaging for tobacco products (yes, that colour…… Pantone 448C). During the questions that followed, an audience member highlighted that even though the emphasis of the conference had been on new methodologies and digital data collection, most of the papers dealing with significant social or community impact had used very traditional methods, including mine.  He was questioning the tension between the ‘new’ methodologies and the need for delivery of robust and evidence based research that is required for government research.

This is an issue that I believe many in the audience of that last conference were grappling with, especially those of us that work within the social and government sphere. Our government clients are similar to commercial clients in that they too need to do everything cheaper and faster. They are also aware of that ‘new fangled’ thing called the internet, and they know that  people now have 100′s of friends and followers whose profile pictures they see on a daily basis, and who they converse with in 140 characters or less.

How our government clients differ is that the research they do is funded by all Australian taxpayers, so all of us in the community who are relevant to the problem need to be represented in the research. It is a critical part of the democratic model of government that all have chance to express their views and opinions on matters that affect them,  and that means the research we do must be representative of the population in question.

And here lies the crux of the issue.

As I said at the conference, government needs to be accountable and need to  ensure reliability of rigorous and robust research methods to achieve this. But at the same time, the world is changing and we all know that the way people are communicating is now different. We type to communicate almost as much, if not more, than we verbalise our thoughts. As AMSRS committee member Victoria Gamble gamely said when called out to take the roving microphone at the conference ‘I don’t like to speak in front of so many people, that’s why I use twitter’.

So my question is, if we don’t start to talk to people using the same way they communicate with each other, are we in fact losing some of the rigour of the research? Not only do we miss representation of the people who will not elect to do face-to-face qual, are we also not missing a vital part of capturing their views and opinions by not communicating with them in the way they are accustomed to?

Fishkin[1] wrote about deliberative democracy and public consultation under the title ‘When the People Speak’. My question is about recognizing that how people are speaking is now, in fact, different and we in the social and government side of research need to explore this issue more, both clients and suppliers alike. All methodologies, both the tried and tested and the ‘new’ have their faults. What we really need to consider as we look at each new project or problem is what method is going to really give a voice to those whose views and opinions we are trying to represent?


[1] James S Fishkin, Center for Deliberative Democracy, Stanford University

June 28th, 2012

Show me the money! …or not


Having recently joined Latitude Insights and the market research industry as a whole, I was quite interested to hear about something called an “online community”.   I had never learned about “online communities” at uni (certainly not in enough depth for me to remember learning about them anyway!).

Nonetheless, as I learnt more about them, one of the things that stood out to me was this concept that “engagement” and other intrinsic rewards can be much more valuable to members than monetary rewards.

I’ll admit that I was a little sceptical at first to think that people could truly appreciate intrinsic rewards, especially in an increasingly price-conscious world… that was, until I actually experienced an online community for myself!  As I began to invite individuals to various communities, I expected every second person to ask me, “sooo….what are the ‘rewards’ for this research?” (A polite way of saying “show me the money PA-LEASE!!”).   Whilst this is an essential question for some, overall, this question is rarely asked. It is more common to get comments such as, “I’m really looking forward to this discussion, I think it will be very interesting!”

Read the rest of this entry »

September 19th, 2011

Kids say the funniest things…..


Half way through a traditional face to face qualitative project with mums and kids, and it’s got me thinking about kids and their role in market research.

As we move forward to new technologies and channels for accessing adults are we going to be missing out on insights from kids, and what does this mean for our clients and their products?

At the moment we can conduct direct research with kids with their parents consent, be it in focus groups, accompanied shops, in home sessions etc. But contacting kids online and through mobile devices is a bit more of a grey area.

Does this mean more heavy reliance on mum for an interpretation of her kid’s thoughts, desires and relationships with brands and products?
Kids researchers know the value of hearing it ‘from the horse’s mouth’ so to speak, and clients certainly respond well to watching and listening to kids, who are often instrumental in driving mums purchase behaviour. Many a time we have seen kids in the next room choosing a totally different ‘favourite idea’ to the one their mums are picking for them across the hallway.

Sitting down to talk about a particular brand and what it means to kids can unearth insights far more powerful than we may first think. Kids are so used to being asked for the ‘right’ answers in school. But given the chance to explore their inner thoughts and feelings through drawings, projective techniques and other mechanisms, can be empowering for them. They enjoy harnessing their imagination and creativity, which can lead to fabulous food for thought for brand managers, advertising creative and design teams.

Often mums tell us they buy stuff for kids ‘because they want it’ – but how often do they know why?

I for one am interested to ‘watch this space’ and see how we connect with kids as ethical debates, technology and research evolve. After all, kids are often the most switched on when in it comes to new technology. In a recent focus group, the first question from the 9 year olds boys was “woah is that an ipad 4?”. I have to admit I didn’t know the answer……

July 11th, 2011

Get real!

get real
When I first started working with online communities I used to agonise over what I was going to talk to my members about to keep them engaged and interested. Trying to keep abreast of current events, latching on to anything interesting that might have happened out in the ‘big wide world’ to chat about.

But what I soon discovered (quite quickly, thankfully!) was that it was the more everyday musings and mundane snippets of my life that elicited the most response. The more I was just ‘me’ and shared my (sometimes very random) streams of consciousness the more community members responded. Blogs about peanut butter toast, accidentally coming to work with a stain on my shirt, feeling overwhelmed by laundry and the like had members laughing, commiserating and sharing similar stories both with me and each other. It’s the little things we all have in common that connect us more than we realise.

Not only has this made my job far easier, but highlights one of the main motivations for members participating in communities. And why we call them communities in the first place. We are social creatures, naturally interested in other people’s lives. Being a real person made me as much a member of the community as the ‘respondents’ I was ‘moderating’.

I let them into my life and get to see into their lives in return.

This is one of the key strengths of online communities in research. Members get comfortable, get real, and reveal truths about themselves. A genuine bond and sense of belonging develops. Something that I have never achieved in years of moderating focus groups.

As we are seeking to reveal deep consumer insights, that has to be a good thing!

July 4th, 2011

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, no it’s supermedia!

Screen shot 2011-07-04 at 5.01.47 PM

It’s incredible to think so much has changed over the past three years. As Charleni Li points out in her recent blog Groundswell Paperback: A Look Back Three Years Later, it was only back in May 2008 that Facebook and Twitter were still emerging trends. Even more incredible, the iPhone had no apps! Can any of us now imagine a world without our iPhone, without Facebook or without Twitter? I know I can’t!

And marketers and researchers alike are embracing these technologies to reach their different audiences.

This then led to me on to a bit of a tangent, wondering whether MROCs (market research online communities) or insight communities have yet fully ‘emerged’. It seems the world of marketing research may be lagging a little?  There are still many who are wedded to the idea of focus groups sufficing for all qualitative research.  Which continues to amaze me, because once the richness, depth of information and honesty online research community members reveal, there’s really no going back.

May 12th, 2011

Why can’t Google go social?


When it comes to social networking, Google hasn’t had a very good run. Google Wave no longer exists, while Google Buzz got off on the wrong foot (with privacy invasion) when it first rolled out. In the next few weeks Google will launch its +1 button – which functions the same as Facebook’s ‘Like’ button. Given its track record, will Google ever be able to go social? If a company such as Google can’t build a successful online community, what hope is there for us market researchers?

Google obviously has the technological savvy to create these types of social networking platforms, but its core offer isn’t about being social, it’s about being useful. Google Search, Maps, News, Scholar. It’s about getting the user on and off a page as quickly as possible, with the information needed. Social media offers fun, entertainment and interaction – keeping the user on the platform for as long as possible.

Building an online community takes more than just providing a platform. Ignoring ‘the social’ impacts considerably on how your community grows – if it does at all. When establishing an insights community, keep in mind the lessons of Google. It’s just as much about interaction as it is information.