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OPINION27 June 2013

What would Google do with market research?

Opinion

Mike Stevens of Vision Critical considers how research has to change in the Age of Google.

Six of the core principles from Jarvis’s book have profound implications for the market research business.

1. Customers are now in charge. They can be heard around the globe and have a huge impact on institutions in an instant.
People are ‘always on’; the speed of online viral diffusion is measured in hours or minutes. Great if you’re in at the start of a Harlem Shake; not great if your Twitter campaign quickly fills with ‘bashtags’ like #McDStories (“One time I walked into McDonalds and could smell Type 2 diabetes in the air”) or #WaitroseReasons (“I shop at Waitrose because I detest being surrounded by poor people”).

Market research has to get radically faster to be meaningful. Feedback in minutes or hours is essential if brands are to plan responses in time.

2. People can find each other anywhere and coalesce around you – or against you.
SoLoMo offers massive opportunities for marketers to engage consumers in new ways. But if you’re Vodafone or Starbucks, you’ll also know how quickly it enables protests on your own patch – with almost no visible planning.

If people can connect anywhere, researchers need to connect everywhere. Interactions need to be device-agnostic, but simply pushing surveys to smaller screens won’t cut it. People need to be far better engaged – or they won’t give their time.

3. The mass market is dead, replaced by the mass of niches.
We are living through a second industrial revolution: mass customisation, configure-your-own and individual customer relationships. Procter & Gamble’s vision is to “build brands through lifelong, one-to-one relationships, in real time, with every person in the world”. Amazon built its business on ‘the long tail’ – selling to large numbers of tiny segments.

Research needs to engage with these niches far more cost effectively. Representative surveys and main shopper focus groups still have a place; but the real insights are coming from far more distinct, self-defining communities of interest.

4. Markets are conversations… the key skill in any organisation today is no longer marketing but conversing.
Lady Gaga, Stephen Fry and Joey Barton drive their personal brands through social media conversations with millions. Tripadvisor, Opentable and Zagat all connect consumers in conversation with one another. Social commerce players like Reevoo even guarantee uplift in online sales conversion by enabling unbiased consumer reviews.

Research needs to escape the ‘I ask, you say’ paradigm. Real insights come from two-way, organic dialogue between people over time.

5. Enabling customers to collaborate with you is what creates a premium in today’s market.
Brands are involving customers throughout the value chain in creating product (Asda’s Chosen by You), marketing (Doritos’ Crash the Super Bowl), distributing (Jamie Oliver parties) and supporting services (GiffGaff, “the mobile network run by you”).

Market researchers need to join in. They know consumers best; they should own the co-creation and consumer collaboration agendas – or risk being marginalised in the process.

6. Owning pipelines, people, products, or even intellectual property is no longer the key to success. Openness is.
The biggest online brands (Facebook, Amazon, eBay) are open networks – facilitating connection, communication and transactions. Android – adding 1.5 million new activations each day – is an open ecosystem. TED talks are grounded in a philosophy of radical openness with every talk freely available online.

Agencies and research departments need to embrace the ecosystem philosophy: open up and collaborate with different tools, skills – even competitors – to deliver the creative insights that brands require.

Mike Stevens is UK managing director for Vision Critical

2 Comments

6 years ago

I could not let this one pass. Could all you social media pundits just put on a marketing hat for a moment and look at things from a user perspective instead of a source or technology perspective. Here is my two penny's worth: 1. Customers are now in charge. They can be heard around the globe and have a huge impact on institutions in an instant. Customers may always be on, but no marketer is going to be overly distracted by a set of data that offers such gratuitous clearly negative discourse (or positive!). Have good marketers ever given serious credibility or confidence to data from customer service departments for example? The marketing view is that those who complain will any way. Experience has taught marketers that much of the negative sentiment is coming from either the lunatic customer fringe or some group situated far along the long tail on customer dissatisfaction. The day that marketers start seriously and immediately reacting to this data will be a rarity. Marketers need strong, consistent patterns from reliable sources before they react. Now the good news is that it is highly likely that some down-the-line corporate department will almost certainly be collecting (using freely available software) and analyzing this data, hopefully at very low cost but certainly not using the company's external market research budgets 2. People can find each other anywhere and coalesce around you – or against you. This may be true, but this has always been the domain of marketing - dealing with bad news. PR companies have thrived on this for years. Does anyone really think a savvy marketer with good communication suppliers could not deal with these issues in a morning meeting and with a bit of delegation. The problem with social media pundits is they think it is all so hard and super technical requiring some special skills. Puhhlease its just another set of communications channels. The reason why everyone thinks marketing is falling behind in the social media environment is because current usage seems so limited at present. The real truth is many marketers are not that concerned about sentiment data and give building social media connections rather low priority in the media expenditure hierarchy. The truth is most major brands will rarely experience some major anti-brand coalescence that cannot be dealt with quickly and easily. 3. The mass market is dead, replaced by the mass of niches. The issue here for Marketing Directors is simple. How do we reach these niches of one? Is there any social media vehicle that can deliver on that promise? P&G are conning the media if they think they will ever have one-to-one relationships with their customer base. How do they even know who they are, or even if they have massive data bases, how do we know that they are not the biased end-tail of the real customer curve? The answer is no one knows. So how targeted is social media really? The answer is it ain't. It is a still using techniques that are like mass media. Just because you think you have a couple of hundred thousand forum participants, no marketer will treat that as the real customer base. What about the "silent majority" who have no desire to fall in love with a brand, do not need some special relationship, who think corporations are irrelevant, want no special relationship with P&G and frankly don't really care two hoots about what toothpaste they use or what Lady Gaga is using, other than probably buying what they bought last time. Brands are simply not that important in people's lives. Why do brand owners think people are spending every waking moment thinking about Pampers or Mars Bars? Does anyone think social media is really going to profoundly influence these people? 4. Markets are conversations… the key skill in any organisation today is no longer marketing but conversing. Imagine a Marketing Director getting a weekly report on the conversation from Twitter feed, Facebook, forums and bloggers. Hand on heart how much credibility do you think they will give to this random discourse? Negative feedback will of course be directed to customer service departments who will feed the findings to product development. The information will work its way into a few nuggets of brand direction that might, just might have some strategic value. Brand strategy is very demanding on quality of information, reliability and validity. The current reality is social media derived negative or positive sentiments lack those confidence markers. Again interesting but not critical information. 5. Enabling customers to collaborate with you is what creates a premium in today’s market. Again taking a Marketing Directors perspective, social media offers no real surprises as a communications channel, the problem is it just seems so disparate and flaky relative to the hard and real numbers from GRP's of mainstream media. Good marketing people see social as just another media choice with no great brainwork required to use it as a media vehicle. The problem is cost-value and poor and unreliable data on reach and frequency. It is easy to quote a few glitzy examples, but currently social media feedback seems to appeal to customer service departments more than internal brand marketing strategist because frankly that co-creation idea is not something major brands see as a credible tool. They will use it as a loyalty communications builder rather than a sincere opportunity for brand strategy development. Even heavy social media consumers in a large scale survey recently indicate they place far less trust on social media than boring old TV, print and radio. Why? Even they know its open to bias and manipulation. 6. Owning pipelines, people, products, or even intellectual property is no longer the key to success. Openness is. There would not be a marketer anywhere worth his salt who would even remotely begin to compare the critically important value of good physical distribution and logistics support with the supposed value of social media channels. Buzz is interesting but as Coke has noted does nothing for existing brands. We should ask ourselves how Marketing Directors will respond to all this "openness"? In my view most of the feedback falls into the interesting but not critical category. How many gems or insights are really going to move marketing budgets away from current strategy, even if brands made such commitments to social media openness? Not many I would guess! Oh and BTW Facebook is losing about 1.5 million users and growing in the US. No growth in the UK. Watch this space as they say. Those who think the end consumer will deliver creative insights must be living in another dimension. Anyone who has run qualitative will know consumers, without any stimulus, have as much brand insight as a an amoeba. Why do you think we have creative departments in ad and design agencies. Precisely because the expectations from the customer are always set at known very low levels. Expecting social media users, with all the attached age, gender, inexperience biases, to provide serious brand strategy directions is risable. They could design new skateboards though!

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6 years ago

Hmmm .... isn't it obvious what we would do with market research? We're doing it!

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