Quirk's Blog

Lily Allen deems MR ‘totally unhelpful’

RecordThough she may not have the late Steve Jobs’ clout, British singer Lily Allen is yet another celebrity who’s spoken out to publicly criticize the value – and validity – of marketing research.

According to an April 24th interview (warning: explicit language) with Popjustice’s Peter Robinson, Allen says that she was accidentally copied on an e-mail containing market research results for her work and that reading it was one of the most horrible moments of her life.

Allen goes on:

The thing is, people who take part in market research: Are they really representative of the marketplace? Probably not. I find it totally unhelpful. My mom’s a film producer and they do these market research screenings and more often than not, it’s just like school: People don’t have opinions but because they’re asked for them, they come up with something and then it becomes a statistic. It’s like, he didn’t actually think that, he was just trying to impress the bored-looking girl in row three and he thought this could be his in with her. I’ve yet to see an example of market research where it’s actually good.

Ouch! It’s possible that Allen simply didn’t like what the research yielded and if the results had skewed more in her favor, she’d be singing a different tune. It’s also possible, however, that she has a point. Does marketing research force opinions out of consumers who would otherwise be apathetic or oblivious? How much of consumer feedback is the result of grandstanding, posturing and trying to impress? Is this more likely to happen in certain industries, such as entertainment, where hipness very much matters, or health care, where doctors try to impress each other in focus groups? How about with different demographics? Are younger respondents more prone to this type of behavior?

Aside from Allen’s unfairly black-and-white assessment, does her argument hold?

Posted in Brand and Image Research, Consumer Research, Focus Groups, Market Research in the News, Qualitative Research | 9 Comments

What needs are driving the 55-plus car owner?

80404231The age of new-auto purchasers is rising and that will have implications on many related areas, including service, according to Foresight Research, Rochester Hills, Mich. “In the past few years we have seen a dramatic trend in the age of new auto purchasers, where adults aged 55 or older were one-quarter of that group in 2008 and now represent almost one-half,” said Nancy Walter, vice president of business development at Foresight Research, in a press statement. “This shift has a big impact on the purchase influences and processes of buying cars. But what we didn’t expect was the implications for car service expectations.”

Foresight surveys weekly in markets across the U.S. from September-April. Recently the firm included some specific questions about service and got strong responses from the 55-plus car owners. For instance, when asked where they go for routine service, over one-third of this group take their cars to their dealership and another quarter take them to an independent local repair shop, both of which are significantly higher than the total population.

“It is the ‘whys’ that are really interesting,” said Walter. “When asked why they chose the place they go for service, the 55-and-older owners value quality and convenience.” Specifically, senior adults list convenient location, quality of service and good customer service as their top three factors in going where they go for auto service. They also value skill/training/expertise of technicians, use of genuine parts, and loaner cars/shuttles at a rate of 20 percent to 50 percent more than the total population.

“Price is just lower on the list for the mature adults. It ranks fourth on why they go where they go for service, while for 18-to-34-year-olds, price is a definitive No. 1. In fact, adults 55 or older were significantly less likely than the total population to cite ‘price matching/same price as other maintenance shops’ as something that would encourage them to take their vehicle to a dealership for routine maintenance if they currently were going somewhere else,” Walter said.


Posted in Automotive Research, Customer Satisfaction, Seniors/Mature | Comments Off

Chinese luxury consumers putting a premium on craftsmanship

455659727While high-earning Chinese consumers are known for their love of luxury items and the status they can confer, new research from Mintel reveals there is a new characteristic these consumers are looking for: craftsmanship. Indeed, according to Mintel, “craftsmanship” was claimed by 64 percent of urban Chinese consumers as the word most defining luxury – ahead of “expensive” at 58 percent and “status” at 53 percent.

Furthermore, 71 percent of those with household income over RMB 25,000 per month define luxury as craftsmanship, a full 10 percent more than those with household income between RMB 20,000 and 25,000 per month (61 percent). In addition, a massive 94 percent agreed that they identify luxury brands as those providing craftsmanship in production and design.

“It’s no secret that Chinese consumers are becoming more mature in their outlook toward luxury goods,” said Matthew Crabbe, director of research Asia Pacific at Mintel, in a press release. “What’s especially compelling about this research is that they show the true extent to which this attitude has penetrated the market, in addition to clarifying what a ‘mature’ attitude to luxury looks like in China. Though status is still important to the Chinese luxury consumer, the trend toward luxury consumption for one’s own enjoyment is clear.”

Conversely, 48 percent of consumers with household income over RMB 25,000 per month say status is a consideration when they purchase luxury goods. This figure rises to 53 percent at incomes between RMB 20,000 and 25,000 per month. “This research highlights that the wealthier a consumer is, the more likely he or she is to appreciate luxury goods for their innate quality and value – and the less likely he or she is to define luxury in terms of external factors such as the status or extravagance of a luxury product,” Crabbe said.

In addition, 46 percent of urban Chinese consumers with monthly household income above RMB 20,000 noted extravagance as being central to the definition of a luxury good, whereas this number rose to 51 percent of those with monthly household incomes between RMB 18,000 and 19,000, and again to 53 percent of those with monthly household incomes of between RMB 12,000 and 18,000.

In tandem with this greater appreciation of quality and more mature outlook on luxury products, Mintel’s data also shows a willingness to explore new brands, as Chinese brands begin to win over consumers in some categories. Indeed, while some categories such as watches and cosmetics are still dominated by foreign brands (79 percent of urban Chinese consumers said foreign watches are superior to Chinese brands; while 69 percent said foreign cosmetics are superior to Chinese brands), 43 percent believe Chinese and foreign luxury clothing brands provide the same quality product, and 15 percent believe Chinese brands are better. Similarly, 40 percent believe Chinese and foreign luxury shoe brands provide the same quality shoes, and 16 percent believe Chinese brands are better.

“Though the trend is still in its infancy, Chinese brands are beginning to make inroads with Chinese luxury consumers,” said Crabbe. “There is a growing consciousness that, in many cases, Chinese brands are able to offer craftsmanship and design to a level that is on par with or above foreign brands. Also, these brands are in some cases more able to tailor their offerings directly to Chinese consumer tastes, so we expect to see a growing segment of the Chinese luxury shoe and clothing markets in particular to be occupied by Chinese brands in the coming years.”

Posted in Apparel, Brand and Image Research, Chinese Consumers, International Research, Luxury/Wealthy Markets | Comments Off

Studies seek to measure impact of social media on TV viewing

91204693Nineteen percent of online Americans ages 15-to-54 say they are reached by social media at least once a day regarding prime-time TV, according to a study from the New York-based industry group Council for Research Excellence (CRE). For example, someone who saw something or posted something about a prime-time TV show on Facebook or Twitter would fall within this category.

Sixteen percent of prime-time TV viewing occasions involve some interaction with social media. During nearly half of these occasions (7.3 percent of prime-time TV viewing instances), the viewer is engaging with social media specifically about the show being viewed. These viewing occasions constitute the study’s definition of “socially-connected viewing” – occasions when people engage in social media about a TV show while watching that show.

Socially-connected TV viewing is most evident with new TV shows, which indexed at 142, and sports programming, which indexed at 129.

On 11.4 percent of prime-time TV viewing occasions, viewers are using Facebook; on 3.3 percent of viewing occasions, they’re using Twitter. On 3.8 percent of prime-time viewing occasions, viewers are using Facebook regarding the show they are watching – making them socially-connected viewers. This compares to 1.8 percent for Twitter. Therefore, Facebook’s socially-connected viewing occasions were 33 percent of its total TV viewing occasions (3.8 percent/11.4 percent) while Twitter’s were 55 percent (1.8 percent/3.3 percent).

These are among additional findings from the CRE’s recently completed study, Talking Social TV 2, a follow-up to the CRE’s 2012-2013 Talking Social TV study. Both can be found on the Social Media Committee page.

“A key question we sought to address is how social media usage relates to new viewing platforms and behaviors – for example tablet usage or binge-viewing,” said Beth Rockwood, senior vice president, market resources, of Discovery Communications, who chairs the CRE’s Social Media Committee. “The majority of viewing remains live and on traditional TV sets but we do see that social media use has a stronger relationship with the newer platforms and behaviors. This is evidence that social media is an important part of the new ways that people are consuming television content.”

Socially-connected viewing is led by viewing via a channel app or Web site (152 index to total) and on-demand TV (137 index).

Social media influence is closely linked to viewing on non-traditional screens. Tablets and phones index at 287 percent and 241 percent, respectively, among all screens watched by those influenced by social media.

Socially-connected viewing is closely linked to binge-viewing: Viewing multiple episodes indexed at 146, compared to 104 for current episodes.

The Super Connectors – those most engaged with social media in relation to their TV viewing – represented 22 percent of participants and are distinguished by their daily use of social media to follow TV shows, or actors and personalities, or to communicate about TV characters. A newer category, Sports Super Connectors, represented 17 percent of study participants. TV Super Connectors and Sports Super Connectors each are twice as likely to be socially connected on Facebook and on Twitter than the average.

TV Super Connectors skew 62 percent female, Sports Super Connectors skew 57 percent male, both are in their mid-30s (median age 34 for TV Super Connectors and 35 for Sports Super Connectors) and both are above-average in multicultural representation.

The study was conducted for the CRE by a team from Keller Fay Group with fieldwork conducted by Nielsen. The findings were gleaned from more than 78,000 mobile-app diary entries submitted by nearly 1,700 study participants representative of the online population ages 15-to-54, permitting case studies on some 1,600 shows. Fieldwork for the study was conducted from September 16 to October 6, 2013, dates selected to coincide with the launch of the fall TV season.

Posted in Advertising Research, Media Research, Social Media and Marketing Research, Television Research | Comments Off

Versatility makes ranch the granddaddy of today’s flavors

KranchupBack in 2002, a friend and I were having lunch at a TGI Friday’s in Wisconsin. We’d both ordered burgers and when they arrived, my friend asked the server for a side of ranch dressing. Having seen people use ranch as a dipping sauce for french fries before, I didn’t think much of it . . . until it arrived at the table and she mixed it around with her ketchup. I was equal parts repulsed and intrigued. This “kranchup,” as she called it, was a revolting shade of orangey-pink but tasted . . . not that bad. OK, fine, it was even kind of delicious.

Since the early-2000s, ranch has only grown in its popularity and its use. According to a press release from Port Washington, N.Y., research company The NPD Group, ranch holds double the share of dollars and units shipped than blue cheese dressing, which holds the No. 2 spot in the ready-to-use salad dressing category.

Ranch flavor is the Swiss Army knife of salad dressings. It dresses salads, gets kids to eat their vegetables and adds oomph as an ingredient; all reasons why it is the top ready-to-use dressing flavor shipped to food-service outlets.

“Salad dressing is a good example of how a staple item can extend beyond its traditional use. Ranch dressing has become a mainstay not just for salads but also for wings and other dishes as well,” says Annie Roberts, vice president, NPD SupplyTrack.

It’s now totally commonplace to see ranch-flavored everything: potato chips, pretzels, pork chops, etc. It seems like nearly every item on a chain restaurant’s menu comes complete with a side of ranch. I’ve also seen ranch mixed with Frank’s Red Hot as a dipping sauce at a diner and I am 99.9 percent sure that I tasted “kranchup” at the Minnesota State Fair under a different name.

Ranch will no doubt continue delighting palates for many years to come but I wonder what the next big flavor or sauce to take over will be. From the looks of things it could very well be sriracha. (Might there be a “sri-ranch­-a” in our future?) NPD recognized honey Dijon dressing, Asian peanut dressing and several vinaigrette flavors as ones that are gaining steam.

What’s your prediction? Can ranch further improve its position? Can other flavors and dressings? Are flavor-makers paying attention to what consumers are doing to make their products even more exciting?

Posted in Consumer Research, Food/Sensory Research | Comments Off

Kroger’s QueVision fuses data points to shorten checkout lines

As reported by RetailWire’s Bernice Hurst, the top retail innovation in InformationWeek’s Elite 100 recently went to Kroger Co.’s QueVision system, which is designed to ensure that customers never have more than one person in line ahead of them.

Now in more than 2,400 stores, QueVision has reduced checkout times on average from four minutes to less than 30 seconds. (The technology was first tested in Toledo-area Kroger stores in 2009.) “Every day, we are returning precious minutes to our time-strapped customers by shortening the time they wait to check out,” said Marnette Perry, Kroger’s SVP of strategic initiatives and operations, in a statement.

According to a profile in InformationWeek, QueVision uses infrared sensors to count customers entering the store and at checkout lanes. Combining those counts with factors such as store layout, staffing levels for cashiers and baggers, and historical transaction logs, store managers use a simulator to access the number of registers that need to be open in real time. Estimates are also made on how many should be open in 15 and 30 minutes.

A large part of the system’s success is being attributed to a suggestion by a store manager to put wait-time data on screens for both employees and customers to see. The information was initially intended to only be seen by employees and managers via handhelds. (Read an overview of the process here.)

Customer satisfaction has improved with shorter lines and Kroger’s companywide cashier-friendliness metric, measured in customer surveys, has improved 24 percent since 2011, according to InformationWeek, though a quick scan of Kroger employee forums – do a Google search for “Kroger QueVision” – shows that not all employees are on-board with the technology.

Posted in Customer Satisfaction, Employee Studies, Predictive Analytics, Shopper Insights | Comments Off

Software execs like social media but rely on face-to-face for marketing

151604896The use of social media in corporate marketing remains high and mobile marketing is gaining significant ground, according to an annual survey of marketing executives released by the Software and Information Industry Association (SIIA), a trade association for the software and digital content industries. At the same time, marketing executives appear to have a stronger grasp on the ROI of their overall marketing efforts, allowing them to direct resources more efficiently.

SIIA’s annual Marketing Industry Report surveys marketing executives on their companies’ use of social media, e-mail, mobile, Web and traditional marketing tactics. The findings of the third annual survey show that 92 percent of marketing executives are using social media to promote their companies and while that result represents a slight decline compared to last year’s survey, in which 98 percent reported using social media, it is an increase from 89 percent in 2012.

The survey also finds that mobile marketing took a significant step forward in the last year. Thirty-seven percent of respondents say they use mobile in their marketing efforts – up from 25 percent in last year’s survey. In addition, a quarter of respondents report that mobile has increased product usage for their companies. When asked how mobile has changed their relationship with customers, 30 percent say it has expanded the range of customer segments and the same number say it has led to more one-to-one contact.

Another key finding is that more executives (64 percent) now feel they can effectively measure the ROI from their online marketing efforts, compared to 55 percent in last year’s survey. With greater confidence in the return they’re getting, marketers can more efficiently dedicate resources to both traditional and online efforts. As part of this, marketing executives appear to have identified the best use for social media as a marketing platform – an overwhelming majority (78 percent) say social media is somewhat, very or highly effective in raising brand awareness.

Further evidence that marketers are becoming more efficient is that only 22 percent of respondents say social media increased their overall annual marketing costs – a significant drop from 2012, in which 30 percent said it increased their costs. In fact, just 38 percent of respondents plan to allocate more money to their social media budgets during 2014. While use of social media marketing remains extremely high, this figure – which has steadily declined from 58 percent in 2013 and 65 percent in 2012 – likely indicates that marketers are becoming more efficient in their implementation of social media marketing.

The survey also indicates that mobile will likely continue to lag behind other forms of marketing in the year ahead. Just 16 percent of respondents said they will increase their mobile marketing budget in the next year.

“While usage may vary somewhat from year-to-year, social media marketing appears to be close to its peak with near-universal use among the marketing executives we surveyed,” said Rhianna Collier, vice president of SIIA’s software division, in a press statement. “It also appears that as marketers continue to assess how to best use social media, they are increasingly focusing on implementing it as a brand-awareness tool. This focus on efficiency is something we’re clearly seeing from marketing executives. They tell us that they are better able to determine ROI and that’s allowing them to more efficiently and cost-effectively implement both traditional and digital marketing efforts.”

“Another interesting finding is the significant increase in mobile marketing usage,” Collier said. “In addition to the big jump, mobile also appears to be changing the relationship between companies and customers. It’s expanding the customer base and actually facilitating greater one-on-one contact. Even still, marketers appear somewhat skeptical, as mobile ranks well behind all other marketing initiatives when it comes to corporate budgets for the year ahead.”

In other study findings:

Conferences and trade shows are key priorities: 43 percent of respondents said they plan to increase spending on conferences and trade shows. By comparison, 40 percent said they plan to increase spending on paid search, while 39 percent plan to spend more on search engine optimization and 38 percent plan to spend more on social media.

Traditional marketing tools are still the most valuable: 35 percent of respondents identified events, trade shows and Webinars as their top lead generators. The next-highest lead generator was Web search (18 percent). The highest concentration of respondents – about 42 percent – also said events, trade shows and Webinars deliver the highest-quality leads.

Marketing executives feel stretched: Respondents said their biggest challenges are lack of resources and personnel (37 percent) and lack of budget (34 percent).

“Despite the overwhelming use of social media and digital marketing tools, our survey demonstrates that there is still no replacement for face-to-face contact,” said Collier. “Conferences and events still yield the most return for the marketing executives we surveyed and that’s where they will be putting most of their money in 2014.”

The 2014 survey, which was conducted between October and December 2013, asked questions of more than 100 marketing executives who work for companies ranging in size, including those employing one to 99 people (60 percent), those employing between 100 and 999 (33 percent) and those employing more than 1,000 people (7 percent).

Posted in Business-To-Business Research, Marketing Best Practices, Social Media and Marketing Research | Comments Off

Poor response rates perturb party-throwing parents

Sorry to bombard all of my faithful readers with so many parenting-related blogs but that just so happens to be what’s on my mind these days. (Would you rather I get back to talking about TV and shopping? Let me know in the comments!)

As I mentioned in my last post, my son’s first birthday is coming up in less than a month! In somewhat perfect timing, the May issue of Parents has a focus on birthday parties. Our little guy tends to get a tad overwhelmed in big crowds so we’re keeping it quite small – just grandparents and aunts and uncles. Still, I thumbed through the section on how to throw the “Best. Birthday. Ever.”

InvitationIn particular, Jancee Dunn’s article, “How to make them RSVP: Clever ways to get a freaking answer,” caught my eye. Having planned a wedding and thrown a few bridal and baby showers for friends, I am no stranger to the frustrations of no-reply guests. A Parents poll found that 82 percent of parents did not hear back from all their guests and, according to feedback gathered from Parents’ Facebook page to the question “What’s the hardest thing about planning a birthday party?”, RSVPs are the most niggling.

“A very vocal majority said RSVPs. To be sure, it creates anxiety for the host, both social (What if no one attends?) and financial (What if I shell out for 10 and 20 show up? Or shell out for 20 and 10 show up?).”

The article goes on to offer a few tips for improving response rates.

  • Include something like a balloon or sticker with the invitation.
  • Personalize each invitation with a note to the invitee.
  • If sending an e-vite, follow up with a reminder e-mail to RSVP.
  • Give plenty of notice.
  • Hand-deliver invitations.
  • Have a B list ready in case of copious declines.


RSVP-ing seems like such a simple thing to do in the digital age (Isn’t it so much easier to say no over e-mail than over the phone?) yet nearly everyone has experienced this frustration. It makes you wonder if it’s the same 18 percent of people who fail to respond to every event or if, perhaps, some of those who are bothered by nonresponses are guilty of them as well!

I’m ashamed to admit I fall into the latter category. There are times when responding to an invitation simply slips my mind but there are other times when I feel so bad about not attending (I hate saying no, even over e-mail!) that I just don’t do it. Oops.

Are you a good RSVP-er? If not, why not? Does the RSVP process bother you as much as it does the Parents survey respondents? Do you see these habits when sending out survey invitations? Certainly researchers have also found that incentivizing respondents is a way to increase engagement, although I’d suggest offering something a bit more practical than balloons and stickers. Could researchers benefit from the above tips to improve response rates or are they already common industry practices?

Posted in Consumer Research, Market Research in the News, Mothers | Comments Off

A frequent customer is not always a loyal one

93553667Frequency doesn’t equal loyalty in the retail realm. That’s one conclusion from a new study from Cardlytics based on a “whole-wallet” analysis of transaction records held by banks for nearly 70 percent of U.S. households. The research, as reported by MarketingCharts via retailwire.com, indicates that customers who frequently visit specific retailers tend to be heavy “category spenders,” meaning that they also frequently visit other retailers in the same channel. Instead, true loyalty is often the domain of “light customers” who make fewer trips to stores but typically shop at the same ones.

The analysis looked at five retailer channels: restaurants; apparel; gas and convenience; grocery; and general retail. Rather than simply analyze how often customers of these channels visit specific stores (which might be how the stores themselves determine loyalty), the whole-wallet approach based on transaction records looks at how often customers visit stores as a percentage of their total channel visits.

Looking at how customer loyalty differs among restaurants, apparel and grocery:

  • For restaurants, 44 percent of customers dine at the same one for more than half of their dining trips out.
  • For apparel, 53 percent shop at the same store the majority of the time.
  • For grocery, 81 percent visit the same store most of the time.

On the surface, that shows a significant degree of loyalty to favorite stores.

But a deeper analysis indicates that loyalty (defined here as at least 50 percent of category trips made to the same store) is much more prevalent among infrequent than frequent customers of each channel.

In each case, light customers (fewer than 52 trips a year) were more loyal than heavy customers (130 or more trips). Here’s how those comparisons broke out at the extremes by channel:

  • The gap was more severe in apparel, where just 15 percent of heavy customers made more than half of their trips to their favorite store, compared to 75 percent of light customers.
  • The gap was much narrower in grocery, where 86 percent of light customers visited their favorite store at least half of the time versus 72 percent of heavy customers.
  • A similar pattern was apparent for general retail, where 89 percent of light customers visited the same store the majority of the time versus 65 percent of heavy customers.


Obviously, heavy visitors to a channel are going to account for more dollar sales than light visitors — even to particular stores. And in general, the top 20 percent of customers accounted for a greater share of spending in each category (63-69 percent) than share of trips (56-60 percent).

Posted in Consumer Psychology, Customer Satisfaction, Retailing, Shopper Insights | Comments Off

Infographic: 5 MR methodologies and how to use them

When it comes to selecting the right methodology for a project, the options are seemingly limitless but there isn’t one cure-all for every marketing problem. In most cases, a mix of several techniques will take you the closest to the answers you need to make wise business decisions. It’s simply a matter of knowing who should be using what – and when, why and how. Simple, right?

Using the coffee industry as an example, an infographic from from London research company Euromonitor International demonstrates how strategic market research, business consulting, focus groups, consumer surveys and scan data can be used in concert to create a clear – and informed – path to future success.

Euromonitor infographic

Posted in Consumer Research, Data Processing, Focus Groups, Market Research Best Practices, Market Research Techniques, Online Surveys and Research, Qualitative Research, Quantitative Research, The Business of Research | Comments Off