Thursday, 3 March 2011

MTV brand identity: pushing it to the next level

End of February 2011, MTV US launched the US remake of a UK TV series “Skins”. The network began the first 10-episode season on the wings of heavy TV promotion, resulting in high anticipation by its young target audience.

Before launching the first episode in the US end of January 2011, MTV described Skins as “… a wild ride through the lives of a group of high school friends stumbling through the mine field of adolescence…”.
In the past couple of weeks, the show triggered quite some buzz.
Fortunately MTV is no stranger to controversy or provocative series and the buzz around them. TV watchdog group declared that the series may well be the most dangerous television show for children ever seen.

According to a recent article in the New York Times certain MTV producers who remain unnamed claim that ”in recent days” they have become concerned that some scenes “may violate federal child pornography statutes” resulting in even more Buzz. The conversations around the series are quickly becoming an online spectacle: the buzz around the series could not have been better if MTV had indeed planned the media attention for their new show like this.

(Watching the mashed up trailer of the UK and US versions of the show, it’s impossible not to notice how the mobile phone is always near and even if you don’t particularly like the show, it at least provides an interesting view on Generation Y and their perspective on life. Characters talk over one another and crowd the camera, an effective, though subtle, metaphor for today’s digital reality of generation Y.)
Now what does all this mean for the MTV brand?

Using the controversy around the show, MTV adds another level to the company’s brand story while staying true to their core image. Ever since the 1980s the MTV brand shifted away from music clips into more long-form programming in order to capture their audience for longer periods of time. This shifted their brand to become more about the culture surrounding the music. With the introduction of one of the world’s first reality shows “The Real World” set the new standard for a whole wave of reality shows around the globe.

The next level has to be the introduction of talent shows like America’s Best Dance Crew.

With Skins it seems that MTV is moving into more “scripted” shows and less reality TV. With all of the buzz around this show and about where television should “draw the line” the network enables conversations amongst lovers and haters. MTV managed to yet again set a new standard of television while maintaining a close ear to their core target group and staying loyal to their brand identity.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Can I help you? On Twitter, the answer is no.

Whether you want to start mass protests or you would like to manage a brand crisis, Twitter may help you as a platform.

From event activation to issue advocacy, from product promotions to crisis management, the microblogging platform allows businesses many modes of customer communication that can be tailored to match their customers’ preferences.

Today I tried to get my mailing address changed at my drinking water utility company. Without a chance! Both their telephone helpdesk and the internet was not working ! While I spoke with a customer service officer on the phone he could not take note of my question. So I reached out to their Twitter account, only to find out that they use that account for promoting their corporate sustainability initiatives.

Truth is: not all companies who could be interacting on social media for customer experience do so yet. Amazon for example won’t use them to respond to customer queries. Our research showed that 11% of companies never reply to consumer service questions on Twitter. Fortune took 8 companies to the test and compared their customer service efforts via Twitter, on the phone and via internet. Hyatt hotels, Dell, Bank of America and Microsoft are amongst the tested companies.

It’s no secret that we at InSites Consulting are huge fans of Zappos, but in this Fortune test their customer support via @Zappos_Service was somewhat disappointing. The tweeted question was about changing a shipping address on a recently placed order. In a cheerful reply the question was “answered” by forwarding the number to Zappos’ customer service telephone line, asking that official customer service questions be directed through more traditional channels. The other examples also show that in most cases the old-fashioned, often infuriating, customer service hotline was actually the fastest and most thorough means of solving a problem. The reality is that only the simplest questions can be answered in 140-character messages. And even then, you’re not guaranteed to get a response.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

State of the Union vs State of Conversations

Around a year ago, February 1st 2010, President Barack Obama met with Youtube’s News and Political Director, Steve Groves, to answer a number of user submitted questions on the State of the Union. In only a couple of days, over 11,000 questions were submitted to the YouTube channel by users via comment or video, and over 640,000votes poured in to determine which questions would be asked of the President.

This year, the White House added a couple of new features to this year’s State of the Union: the speech was broadcast live on a new White House app for the iPhone as and on the YouTube's CitizenTube channel. Afterward, people could again submit questions via CitizenTube and vote on others. Online some tag clouds of yesterday’s speech can be found. I made one myself, but more interestingly, I made another one of the most popular questions. Compare the two below (and click here the see a zoom of these graphs).
Obama will answer the top-voted questions next week in an interview broadcast on the channel, looking at the graphs above, we’re now able to predict what those questions will be about.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Linking diary research to location based networks

What most intrigue me about the future of market research is the mobile revolution and all the new opportunities this creates. Mobile technology can give us access to people when we traditionally wouldn’t have access, and maybe just as important, gives people access to us when they normally couldn’t!

Give mobile research a minute of your thought and several possible uses easily come to mind:

  • Sending pictures and movies via phones (what’s in your fridge today?)
  • Filling the gaps in the day: asking people to take short surveys while they’re waiting for the train, the general practitioner, the cash register, during breaks, etc.
  • But my favourite of all is location based research (having people respond to a text while they are still at a location or event instead of asking them later through another survey form).

The location based social network Foursquare has published an infographic representing the total number check-ins: 381,576,305. These have come from almost every country in the world (the only exception is North Korea). What strikes me about the graph is the part where they show the check-ins by category throughout the day.

This brings me to a following thought: think about the potential for “mobile diary” usage of mobile devices combined with location based social networks. Among other things, this could be a great way to collect travel patterns information, where people can enter brief updates as they move around throughout the day. It can also be used to track (potential) media exposures (did a person pass by a billboard or not), progress on purchasing decisions or any other behavioural issue without asking!

I think another powerful use may come in the future as more and more phones can identify where you are (as opposed to having to identify your location by a text).

For those in Belgium or around: the Belgian Association for Quantitative & Qualitative Marketing Research (BAQMaR) organises seminar on Mobile Marketing and Research next February 17 (14h-18h) in Antwerp. More information here.

Foursquare’s full infographic can be found here.

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Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Activation by combining Facebook’s who and Twitter’s what at Foursquare

While Facebook is all about what’s on people’s minds and Twitter updates tell us what’s happening , for almost 2 years now, Foursquare combines the two telling us who is where and what is happening over there.

Using apps like Foursquare now makes that a mobile phone rapidly becomes the new loyalty card: companies like Pepsico en Heineken are using the location-based social networking site to

PepsiCo are teaming up with Foursquare to reinvent the way grocery store shoppers think about location-based rewards and checkins. As part of the deal, Safeway has integrated Foursquare into its VonsClub loyalty program for a three-month pilot program that kicks off today.

End of last year, Pepsico in the US teamed up with Foursquare in an attempt to reinvent grocery store loyalty programmes. The crux of Pepsico’s Foursquare program is that consumers can link their Foursquare accounts to unlock PepsiCo rewards every time they shop. Shoppers who link their accounts will earn instant Foursquare rewards on PepsiCo products — in the form of coupons printed at the register — at the time of sale. Rewards are also personalized to the user and tied to the types of badges a Foursquare user has already unlocked.
Since last week, Dutch consumers can now earn points for discounts in Heineken’s Dutch e-shop. Foursquare users can link their account to their profile in order to earn 10 points with each check in at a participating bar, cafe or club that sells Heineken.

The points can be redeemed for things like merchandise, tickets to sold-out concerts and VIP tickets to parties.

So if in today’s reality brand relationships are being built by providing meaningful branded experiences, these two examples are here to stay.

Using the location based service; Heineken’s initiative even takes customer experiences to the next level in this initiative by encouraging conversations between friends: those Foursquare users who encourage five of their friends to sign up as well on get a 50 point bonus and those with a Heineken e-card receive double points. And this matters: positive recommendations generate referral value and new users of the loyalty programme as a result.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Short change of focus... taking a break

Dear reader,
You may have noticed how I've not been posting a lot lately. Due to a temporary change of focus here at my job, I'll be taking a break and won't be posting a lot.
Nevertheless, I'll sure keep on reading what's out there in the MR cyber-space!
Send me a message if you want to be in contact.
See you soon!

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Meet-the-Minister: a Dutch Tweetup

Here in the Netherlands, almost everyone who's aware of Twitter knows that our Minister of Foreign Affairs - Maxime Verhagen - is a big fan of the micro-blogging service. With 17,000 followers he's one of the more famous Dutchmen on Twitter. In fact, our foreign minister was the first Dutch politician to start twittering, and in all fairness, he did so well ahead of the recent European elections. Nowadays, no self-respecting politician can afford not to twitter. One political party here went to the trouble of summarising its entire political programme in ten tweets!
Back to Maxime Verhagen: he's a frequent user of Twitter and everyone who follows him can read his Dutch tweets on what he's doing, and every now and than see what he is up to - he sometimes uploads pictures.
Foreign minister Maxime Verhagen, a famous twitterer, also shares pictures on twitpic, like this one from South Korea. Photo Maxime Verhagen / Twitter
Verhagen kind of got into trouble with our Prime Minister once for posting a picture taken during an ministerial meeting on Twitpic.
In the meantime, Twitter is fast becoming the main communication tool on the internet according to a recent article on the Washington Post and our Minister of Foreign Affairs continues to happily tweet...
Earlier this year, the minister organized a first Tweetup to meet for a relative small number of his followers and he now decided to organize another get-together at his ministry. To make a long story short: in a tweet he announced this new tweetup. More than 400 followers applied and out of those 100 were chosen (or randomly drawn?).
And I am one of the lucky ones!
So follow me on Twitter and watch out for the "#bz" tags. Most of those tweets will be in Dutch, but I will suggest another tag for English tweets about the event: #bz_en

Thursday, 25 June 2009

ARF: Industry is not served with several research quality standards

Already in September 2006 - almost 3 years ago - the Dutch NOPVO initiative was born; an industry-wide study to investigate panel effects across all Dutch online Panels.
Early June, the ARF's Online Research Quality Council presented detailed findings from a similar US based research-on-research project regarding online data quality, called “Foundations of Quality” (FoQ). The ARF FoQ study has results compiled across 17 online panel providers, it represents around 75% of the online panel sample available in the United States.
The Background
Increasingly, buyers of market research ask the question about panel effects. To what extend have the different panel strategies an effect on the data that is collected and who are the respondents that participate in such panels? There are a number of similar and comparable findings in both studies, topics include:
  • Effects of multi-panel membership on survey results;
  • Effects of respondent motivations and engagement on survey results; and,
  • Connections between proposed or commonly used metrics and data quality.

Let’s take a look on how do these findings cast out on some strongly held believes on panels particularly regarding professional respondents:

Professional Respondents

The idea behind the concept of professional respondents originates from the assumption that online research really is coming from a very small number of people who respond to online surveys for the money, the points, the rewards; they figured out how to game the system. The ARF results show that this is not at all the case.

The picture that emerged from the findings wasn’t what many researchers would have expected: not only wore most respondents not members of more than one panel, but the so called professionals – the ones who are doing most of the surveys - were actually the ones giving the most thoughtful and reliable answers. This conclusion from the ARF confirms what was found in the Dutch NOPVO study over two years ago.

But for the ARF, duplication and professional respondents is not the biggest issue here, the ARF findings highlight the fact that researchers should pay attention to other questions too.

Sample Source

The number one thing that buyers and suppliers should be talking about right now is that panels are not interchangeable. According to the ARF, buyers need to start having conversations with suppliers about the sample sources that they use, which is not a conversation they’re having today.

In a recent Research podcast, ARF’s Joel Rubinson explained how

“…operations people within the sample suppliers need to start monitoring and managing how they source sample for a given study. Not just based on sample availability and productivity, but also based on data consistency..."
This – according to Joel Rubinson – should be the number one area that needs to be attended to, to be able to establish comparability across studies.

90 Day Deadline

The ARF has several more sets of results from this study to release in the coming weeks and has given itself 90 days to come up with recommendations on metrics, business practices, definitions and training. The ARF seems to be taking this self-imposed 90-day deadline seriously.

People are out of patience and out of time and the ARF believes it should come up with solutions or chaos may occure when people find their own proprietary solutions. This is such an interraletd ecosystem, having individual solutions where one buyer has an own approach and another one found another solution will simply no serve the research industry.

Friday, 19 June 2009

The "third way" of research: Bigger, Better, Cheaper and Faster!

Two recent blog posts inspired me a lot. The first one: Ray Poynter's post on "the New MR" and how community research is taking quantitative budgets to deliver qualitative benefits. He writes:

"Head of Synovate, Adrian Chedore, has described communities as the fastest growing aspect of market research, and the reason for his deal with Vision Critical. However, unlike online data collection, online communities are a true category destroyer. Communities compete for quantitative research budgets, but deliver qualitative research benefits."

I am not convinced communities will prove to be a category destroyer, on the contrary: it may be a whole new category in it's own right. Here's the thing, different research community solution providers position their community solution differently; KL Communications and CommuniSpace are at one side of the "size" equation, advocating smaller research communities. They should be much more productive and insights will be much more "qualitatively focussed".
In traditional research companies, it will be the qualitative department taking care of the community; there will be many qualitative insights that need interpretation. Indeed, such a smaller sized research community requires above-average moderators and the application of specialist techniques.
At the other end of the 'size' equation we find providers like Jive and Lithium, allowing for several thousands of members per community, clearly skewed towards more quantitative research results. Having hundreds of members, communities allow for coverage across multiple target segments and have a huge potential for quantitative feedback. Why shouldn't we take advantage of the opportunity to contact much larger samples than was possible in the past to provide more reliable and comprehensive data?
So what will it be? Are research communities the domain of qualitative or quantitative researchers?
I think you'll agree: non of the two and both of them! Right, I almost forgot the "in between" solutions: those providers promoting mid-sized communities like Passenger, Vovici and of course Angus Reid's Vision Critical.
I am most confident with this positioning: in the middle. It's a bit like Bill Clinton's centrism (a.k.a. the "third way") advocating a mix of some left-wing and right-wing policies. This third method of market research may help us overcome the fears of the more traditional orientated researchers - both the qual and quant teams who are afraid it may cannibalise their research. It will be another method of market research, leveraging the strengths of both methods combined with the benefits of the available technology.

It may be bigger, faster, and cheaper. And this brings me to the second post that inspired me Tom Ewing's post on the same topic. In this post he also writes the following:
"The cry in online research for the last five years or so has been “simpler! quicker! easier!”. Most online communities are none of these."

I'd argue the right research community should deliver faster, more flexible, cheaper and better research insights:
The clients I've been presenting our community solution to love it just because it's all of the above:

  • Fast and Flexible: Collect insights quickly, a community is "always on" and directly accessible.
  • Better: Given the longitudinal nature of research communities, it is possible to go much deeper on a given topic than in an ad-hoc research project. Respondent will be much more engaged and should therefore result better quality of data, more reliable if you will: less straight lining, more thoughtful answers, higher response rates (we see an average of just under 50%)
  • More for Less: Supplemental research becomes available at little extra cost. Research communities are fundamentally changing the cost structure of research from a variable-cost, per-project basis to a fixed-cost “all you can eat” basis.

But it is true: with communities comes the need for reducing our dependence on evaluative research data and learn to trust listening to these new sources of consumer insights. I believe that anything our clients do to get more in touch with consumers is a positive.

Or as per Adrian Chedore:

“We don’t see how the connection through social media as any more “risky” than relying on traditional qualitative research approaches. Social media are a great way to gauge consumer reactions to trends and often provide a fast return on research investment. It is the joint task of researcher and client to come up with solutions, not that of the respondent.”