Are respondents people too?

Few days ago I came across a post: Respondents are people too by Rosie Greening (at SSI) and I strongly advice to read it.

A worryingly huge number of researcher (with complicity of a same number of research buyers) write questionnaire following 3 criteria:

  1.     Using words the research buyer prefer
  2.     Using concepts the research buyer prefer
  3.     Piling each research buyer’s doubt in questions

Recently I read some questionnaire that made me howl.

Case 1 – Some times ago, someone asked me to word a question “How do you rate the chiostrina“. In Italian, chiostrina is a small (about few square metres) courtyard in some buildings (example, hotels) to bring air and light to rooms that haven’t windows on the frontage. It is a technical term, probably used by architects. No average respondent knows the term.
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Marx’s Worker’s Inquiry

One of the most beautiful gadgets I found last years is a synoptical scheme by ESOMAR about “MR history”… where, for example, I could discover that multivariate analysis is 40 years old… exactly than me!

So I like to dig to find examples of our “fathers”. And a place of honor is for Marx’s Worker’s Inquiry, a questionnaire which today we could define built with  “open and closed questions”.Marx wrote it for the French Worker Party in 1880 (two years before dying) and it was published on Benoît Malon’s Revue socialiste [#4, april 20th 1880].

How would you modify or upgrade it?

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A laudable initiative: Foundation for Transparency in Offshoring

Offshoring is a matter in MR industry. But debate is hushed up. Few researcher publicly speak of aptitude to realize fieldwork abroad in countries where costs are considerably lower.  In my country most fashionable country for fieldwork seems to be Romania. A typical italian aptitude: foreigners are good when they stay at their home, where they let themselves to be exploited (possibly silently) far from indiscreet glance.

I know some Romanian interviewers… they often speak italian better than a lot of Italians. I don’t agree with someones who say “It is only a problem of quality of data”. Well… it is a problem of quality of data, too. Working conditions are another part of the trouble. And fieldwork control is the third facet.

So I’m proud to share a laudable initiative: Foundation for Transparency in Offshoring. I let them to tell:

Market Research is a relationship business, and trust is the cornerstone of any relationship. While industry associations offer various quality standards and codes of ethics to cover corporate behavior and practices, one important and growing trend — the offshoring of data collection and analytics — has not been adequately addressed by either governments or industry trade associations.

Clients are concerned about their loss of control over the market research process, specifically the difficulty in obtaining accurate and honest information. These concerns are directly related to the information needed by buyers to make informed decisions and trade offs between cost and quality as well as the protection of intellectual property and data security.

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Tecniques: it’s not a matter of “which”…

Sometimes I meet research customers (or prospect customers) who ask me: “Which kind of techniques do you employ at your institute?“. Usually I answer  “Just a bit of everyone “. I understand the meaning of the question: MR is a whole made by empirical experience, so if you “use, know,employ” certain techniques, you are supposed to be “skilled enough“.

But I prefer to talk about another matter: which kind of techniques would fit with your purpose. Let’s take an example: new concept or new products. They deal with the notorious newcomer’s dilemma: if you propose a new sentence (concept, thesis, product, …), mainstream could not to listen to you;  if you propose a mere variation of a known sentence (concept, thesis, product, …), you wouldn’t be new and probably outsmart by your competitors who have a more well-established position.

Choose the right research mix is surely the right option. In the past years unwarranted researches drove to several dramatic flop (do you remember when gurus told us that no one would have chosen a mobile phone to take a photo and that the “real business” was in “multimedia content streamed by phone services”?).

Follow the video and laugh with me…

A bright new product… ancient times focus group

How research provides its own ROI – Discussing the change-over

globeI can’t hide I have a fondness for ESOMAR. Its mandate is quite well-summarized by the claim “Enabling better research into markets, consumers and societies”. So, promoting the industry does not involve to show its credits and knock its rough edges off. Promoting the industry means to improve it. I don’t want to discuss if it does happen or not… but, in times where paperboys way appears the only way to communicate, giving itself such a “plan” is a good starting point. Or not?

ESOMAR draws up its Global Market Research Industry Report, yearly. Data are a healthy outlook beyond national borders. Some of such data deserve a comment.
First of all, the industry shows first serious creaking; that’s so after a period when great research corporation seemed to be guarded against continual coming and going which are the daily condition for little agencies.  Absolute MR industry growth was 4.5% in 2008. If I was a journalist I could stick to such a fact which marks a growth, while global GDP did fluctuate around zero in any world area or stopped at 2% globally (ref. World Bank).

Other pieces of information are less encouraging. Inflation adjusted datum decreases at a cheerless +0.9%, with some notable regional differences (see below fig. 1): North America registers a curt -2.1% (adjusted), Europe lines up the average, while Latin America grows significantly (+13.4% absolute value, +5.6% adjusted; Latin America GDP grew 4% in  2008).

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Trafficker’s rude furore (1896) – by Edmondo De Amicis


Edmondo De Amicis - Italian writer

Yes…. I’m quite lazy in this period… So I’m plundering that mine of wisdom of Giancarlo Livraghi’s site where I found this piece by Edmondo De Amicis… De Amicis is well known in Italy as author of (horrible) Cuore, where he painted a sweetened world where “goods” are polite, patriotic and honest and “bad” are cowards…

You can find the original version (in an antiquated italian from XIX century) at Giancarlo Livraghi’s page – here I tried a translation… I’m afraid you’ll lose the ancient aura of the languge… but I think you’ll find it interesting… And it confirms my opinion that “everything had been written yet“.

Well, De Amicis was a snob – if this word means anything – but it’s interesting to underline how he describes the process moving from an initial annoyance due to intrusiveness of advertising techniques, passing from a kin d of acceptance (Growing insolence, as often, minimized the disagreeable perception which had been produced by the first discreet appearance) to ends accepting the epiphenomenon of a society:

oppressed by the matters, crowd by whims, longing for clamour, hungry for pleasures, tormented by impatience, swept away by the fury to devour time and gulp down life

It was in that lapse, when my joyful studies were disturbed by  a vexation, brief but a strong one. In those times the custom of external advertisements aboard the bandwagons (tram – T’s N) was beginning and widening quickly. Those bandwagons had been overrun inside for a while: inscriptions and pictures painted on the windows, announcements of any form and color sticked on the ceiling and on the walls. They affected you like a peeving discordant buzz, as they demanded to crowd you with offers and invites to dress and to wear you, to lather up and perfume you, to make you change your house, to make you subscribe to a newspaper and undergo to a hydrotherapy… whatever the cost.

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Advertising (1759) – by Samuel Johnson

samueljohnson[This is probably the oldest article ever written about advertising as we know it today. It has been quoted often, but rarely read as a whole. Samuel Johnson published it in issue 40 of his magazine The Idler, on January 20, 1759. I find the first footstep of it in I think was necessary to be read today…]

Advertisements are now so numerous…

The practice of appending to the narratives of public transactions, more minute and domestic intelligence, and filling the News-papers with advertisements, has grown up by slow degrees to its present state.

Genius is shewn only by Invention. The man who first took advantage of the general curiosity that was excited by a siege or battle, to betray the Readers of News into the knowledge of the shop where the best Puffs and Powder were to be sold, was undoubtedly a man of great sagacity, and profound skill in the nature of Man. But when he had once shewn the way, it was easy to follow him; and every man now knows a ready method of informing the Publick of all that he desires to buy or sell, whether his wares be material or intellectual; whether he makes Cloaths, or teaches the Mathematics; whether he be a Tutor that wants a Pupil, or a Pupil that wants a Tutor.

Whatever is common is despised. Advertisements are now so numerous that they are very negligently perused, and it is therefore become necessary to gain attention by magnificence of promises, and by eloquence sometimes sublime and sometimes pathetic. Continue reading