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Consumer Research

Are you KIDding me: Designing a Kids Sensory Project

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Are you KIDding me: Designing a Kids Sensory Project

Last summer, one of our favorite clients commissioned us for a project where they needed reactions from both kids AND parents!

The problem we’ve found in the past is that kid’s reactions are somewhat biased by their parents (and sometimes, although not always), some parents want to influence their child’s reactions.  However, we needed to have parents’ perspective to get a holistic view.

Our goal is to design research as “efficiently” as possible so we worked side by side with our client partner to create research that would allow reactions from BOTH parents & children separately in the same group.

So we designed a process that will ensure the project will be a success: 

  • The Problem: How do you design a kid’s research where you are able to get uninfluenced responses from both the kids AND their parents? Did I forget to mention that apart from talking to kids, we also wanted to get their parents’ reactions and inputs?
  • The Solution: Create an environment where both the kids and parents would feel comfortable being separated in some parts of the research. Trust me, it’s not a logistical nightmare!
    • Set-up a movie room for kids
    • Explain logistics and timing to parents
    • Coordinate amongst ourselves when kids would be in and out of the focus group discussion

As soon as we figured out the rhythm to the process after the first group, everything was smooth sailing and we were able to implement our research design:

  • Get kids’ taste preference while parents watched in the back room.
  • Get parents’ interpretation of their kids’ food ratings.
  • Understand how both the parent and kid come to an agreement and decide what to order.
  • How to effectively get learnings/reactions/inputs with just 8 focus groups.

In the end, we were able to successfully conduct the research. And the bonus was we all had fun with the kids!

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Why Mashups are Culinary Genius

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Why Mashups are Culinary Genius

We all know (and many love) Taco Bell’s Doritos Loco Tacos. I mean, they combined the awesomeness of Doritos with the goodness of a Taco Bell taco – what’s not to love? As a marketing research firm, this is exactly the kind of new product development project we loved working on.  

Equally exciting is getting to test the newer, limited-time offer “mash up” at Burger King - Mac n’ Cheetos.

These mash ups also create conversation. Although I’m not personally a huge mac n’ cheese fan, when I heard about this product, I immediately wanted to try it just so I could tell others about it. A newly discovered “mash up” makes you want to share your experience with others. There are well over  7,000+ #macncheetos instagram posts. 

Since we worked on Doritos Locos Tacos  in 2012, it seems like everywhere we turn there are new delicious mash-ups calling my name. The Cronut, A Sushi Burrito, Pizza Hut’s Hot Dog Bites Pizza, Cinnamon Bun Oreos, Taco Bell’s Quesarito, 7-Eleven’s Slurpee Donut – the list goes on and on. So why does this trend still have so much popularity, close to 4 years later?  

I’m curious to know how long the trend of food “mash ups” will continue in the food industry. I love the way it adds a new element to a relatively familiar items. So what’s next? Burger King just announced the launch of a Whopperito. Culinary Genius.   

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A Facility’s Art of “Hosting” Marketing Research

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A Facility’s Art of “Hosting” Marketing Research

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Yikes! Me welcoming people at a place I’m visiting for the first time too? “Oh, my. Please, no.”   Those were my exact thoughts when I first learned we would not only conduct research but also “host” the groups at our clients’ test kitchen some months ago.  

Fast forward to today, five months after my first panic attack - things aren’t only more comfortable – they can also be fun. 

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One time, I had a respondent arrive 2 hours before the group and went to the bathroom at least 3 times???? Another time, a respondent literally asked me 1,000 questions about the “early bird drawing”. And the most interesting of all, I had a respondent who, after not being chosen for a group, stayed in the waiting room to catch some “ZZZzzzsss.”  I was thankful she left before the group discussion finished! Whew!!!

So many other respondent-related things can go wrong when you’re in charge of managing groups of respondents starting on time.  My pet peeves are: respondents not showing up on time and worse, not showing up at all. 

I noticed that in a 6 focus group study, you’ll have at least 1-2 groups that gives anxiety attacks because respondents aren’t picking up their phones when you try to reach them to check if they’re on their way while some just don’t show. And then you can only hope you have enough respondents who can clearly articulate their thinking in every group. 

And then, when you have to choose who will be selected and who will be paid and sent home - I always ask: “How can I turn these people away without them thinking something’s wrong with them?  I realized that being extra polite yet unruffled, and explaining each specific situation clearly helps when it’s time to send them off. 

We are so lucky to have long-term relationships with some of the best research facilities.  More than anything, this new experience of “hosting” respondents allowed our team to have a better appreciation for the facilities we hire!  It is definitely an “art” to recruit and host consistently great research projects, and to create a comfortable environment for our clients and respondents!

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Telling Better Stories Means Happier CEOs

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Telling Better Stories Means Happier CEOs

I recently had the opportunity to attend my first Southwest chapter MRA Educational Forum. I was lucky that the conference was held close to home - in Fort Worth, TX - and loved how they tied in the Texas theme by calling the conference “Research Roundup”.

The keynote speaker at the event was Brett Townsend, Director of Insights at Pepsico. He started his presentation with a humorous, yet scrambled and confusing story in order to provide a basis for his argument - more and more CEO’s don’t see the value that marketing and/or research provide their organizations. The main challenge he sees today is that both suppliers and clients present too many findings vs. summarizing the finding in a useful story, causing decision makers to miss true insights. Considering my role of writing reports here at April Bell Research Group, I definitely wanted to understand why this seems to be a recurring theme and how we, as a supplier, can help our clients by presenting clearer findings.

From Brett’s perspective, in order to cull through insights and report the clearest story back to our clients we need to understand: What is the goal of insights? Yes, we hope to increase sales or improve a product’s performance, but the real goal is to CHANGE BEHAVIOR. And, according to Brett, in order to change behavior, we need to do the following:

  1. Understand who and what drives demand.
  2. Tell consumers why they should be buying your product.

Understanding what and who drives demand seems simple, but even as researchers we don’t always get this right. Brett explains that consumers will do 1 of 3 things when questioned (no matter the subject): 1) they answer correctly, 2) they can’t answer correctly so they answer incorrectly, or 3) they won’t answer. So by having a clearer understanding of demand we can increase the quality of respondents and learnings we gather. An example Brett shared with the group was a Jimmy Kimmel skit. A week before the Super Bowl, Jimmy went to Hollywood Blvd and asked people what they thought about the outcome. You’ll see in the skit, even if people are unsure of their answers, they want to come across as knowledgeable and will tell you what they think you want to hear (even if that means lying about their answer).

The second step to changing behaviors involves telling consumers why they should buy the product. Brett showed us a great example of how Gatorade does this by showing the compelling story of how Gatorade improved Kevin Durant’s basketball performance.

I really enjoyed Brett’s presentation and will keep these 2 factors top of mind - 1.) understanding who and what drives demand and 2.) ensuring consumers know why they should be buying your product - the next time we present learning to our clients. By doing so, I hope to clear the clutter and provide our clients with insights that will help change behaviors (and ultimately make happy CEOs!).

 

 

 

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5 Ways to Work it Like a (Go) Pro

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5 Ways to Work it Like a (Go) Pro

We love doing in-context or ethnographic research.  It’s so fun to immerse ourselves into a respondent’s environment and learn “what’s really going on” vs. “what respondents say” in a focus group setting. And, yes, video is a great way to effectively capture the interviews – it provides authenticity but also comes with some drawbacks. Regardless of someone’s moderating skills, it’s more awkward for a respondent when you add a video camera to the mix.  For the last few years, we rarely take video during our ethnographies due to the “cumbersome nature” of the equipment.

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To solve one of these problems, we could enlist the help of our clients. However, walking them through operating a camera is technical and takes away from the ‘in the moment’ learning. 

At ABRG, we found a small and mighty answer to this multi-layer dilemma. Insert GoPro Hero 4 Silver! We chose a GoPro because its versatile capabilities allow flexibility for any ethnography or in-context research situation. 

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  1. Mounting accessories:  we love the Go Pro’s various accessories and bought the suction cup, flex clamp, and hand grip. These make it easier to walk with it or mount it wherever you need to take video – bathroom, kitchen, etc. The clamp accessory especially, is useful doing in-homes because furniture can easily become camera equipment.
  2. Size:  It’s tiny, which is another asset when recording. Because it’s not bulky, respondents don’t notice it when they are being interviewed – it fades into the background. 
  3. Great quality video at close proximity – the video quality on a GoPro is stellar, especially when it’s put on the “narrow” setting.
  4. Mark-up ability: it is easy to mark up interesting, noteworthy parts of the interview in the moment!  This makes sorting through footage later so much less painful! 
  5. Remote control via iPhone app: the GoPro contains a remote feature that allows you to control angle, start/stop, etc. from your iPhone, which is awesome.  If needed, the interviewer can both record and conduct interviews without enlisting the help of another team member or client.  

All of these features are great but getting up to speed and feeling comfortable with it requires bit of “ramp up”. We believe in creating step-by-step Process Documents to keep us from reinventing the wheel so we put all our knowledge into words in the format of a laminated Process Document containing the ins-and-outs of “how to use a GoPro.” To easily access this guide when we are in the field, we made it so that it easily fits inside the GoPro’s case and color-coded it based on topic. Additionally, the GoPro, its parts and mounting accessories are labeled and correspond with the user guide as reference.   In conjunction with the process document, we also labeled all of the parts of the GoPro and the different mounting accessories. Wherever the GoPro goes, a user-friendly guide goes with it. 

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To GoPro or no?  That is the question.  So far, we’re loving it.

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Uncharted Territories for Prestigious Summer Art Exhibit

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Uncharted Territories for Prestigious Summer Art Exhibit

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Jeffrey Johns of Northstar consulting recently presented on “Using Insight Innovation to Re-Invent a 247-Year Old Institution” at the 2016 QRCA Worldwide Conference on Qualitative Research. His investigation piqued our interest and made us want to dig deeper to understand his methods and findings. The Summer Exhibition at London’s Royal Academy  is one of the most significant and unique visual experiences in the world due to the combination of works from emerging and established artists. However, since its inception in 1769, the structure of the exhibit has remained largely unchanged. But for the upcoming 250th Summer Exhibition, London’s Royal Academy intends to make changes that incorporate the needs of a new generation of visitors as well as other trends from our changing world.

Consulted for their expertise on customer-related research, Northstar was brought in to help The Royal Academy as it moves forward with its redesign. Northstar’s undertaking of this project was unique because The Royal Academy had never consulted with researchers before, thus making the collection and presentation of findings original and unfamiliar. In fact, Northstar’s insights were reflected in the 247th Summer Exhibition in 2015 and visitor volume and art sales were noticeably higher; a good indicator of the impact they will have on the 250th anniversary. The study itself was unique because of its short timeframe and methods used, unlike those commonly used in ethnographic research where experiments are long and data collection is extensive. Northstar’s goal with this immersive research was to provide consumer insights that could make the Summer Exhibition more popular and enjoyable.

Northstar conducted its research within the institution and yielded 16 hours of data and 400 photographs. Their qualitative, ethnographic approach included methods such as listening in on visitors’ conversations, observing gestures/interaction of visitors with art, and conducting ‘non-interview-like’ conversations with visitors. The research uncovered trends such as “Visitor control”, “family”, and “divergence” which rose to the top across many exhibit visitors. But how does this help the London Royal Academy? What do these trends mean? “Visitor control” meant that visitors liked that they weren’t guided through the exhibition and were free explore on their own. “Family” referred to the fact that the exhibition has become well known to families who have made visiting the exhibition a tradition. “Divergence” showed that the combination of both emerging and establishing artists is a positive for the exhibit because it reflects inclusivity. By understanding these trends, the Royal Academy will have a better understanding of what is needed for the redesign of the Summer Exhibition.

Northstar’s innovative research methods provide d actionable insights for an institution that did not formerly utilize qualitative research. Utilizing qualitative research may be something that the London Royal Academy will continue to do given its increase in art sales and visitor volume since changes reflecting the trends of control, family and divergence were made. Entering uncharted territory was a success for Northstar because this unique methodology resulted in positive outcomes for their client; indicating that innovative methods could be advantageous and should be implemented in other non-typical areas.

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Invoke Solutions

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Invoke Solutions

It’s not very often that we get to see how our qualitative research work move forward.  So much of the research we do is during the beginning stages of product development but recently, we were able to see some of the ideas we helped create move forward into further testing via an Invoke Live Session. Invoke Live is a large scale online focus group that allows researchers to interact with 30-300 participants for 45-90 minutes to gain in the moment insights. This methodology provides real-time feedback from target consumers in a hybrid qualitative/quantitative fashion.

For me, one of the highlights of this experience was that we were able to have the moderator, client and advertising agency together in one room, simultaneously viewing the online discussion. I was intrigued by the interaction of these parties and their ability to immediately extract useful insights. It was beneficial to have multiple eyes on the data because different people can pick up on different responses. I also found it interesting to see how specific questions worked or did not work; as well as the clients ability to probe and/or re-ask questions in a different way to get more impactful responses.

Invoke has been used in the following ways:

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  1. Communications Testing
  2. Package Testing
  3. Name Testing
  4. New Product Development
  5. Website Usability
  6. Shopper Insights
  7. Employee Sentiment Program

This was an exciting experience for our team and we hope to use this platform in the future. The ability to gain such a large amount of qualitative and quantitative research through this portal would be highly beneficial for clients trying to reach many consumers at once. We look forward to seeing how the results of the session play out in our client’s media campaign.

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Making the Connection

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Making the Connection

As my economics professor likes to say, “economics is the study of making good choices.” While most people consider economics to be relevant only in financial markets, in reality, economics impacts everything around us. Economics explains why we choose to go to work each morning rather than stay home and lounge all day: in theory, we have more to gain by what we can accomplish at work than what we can accomplish at home, be it financial, social, psychological, or personal gains. Economics explains why we eat just one (or maybe two) pieces of cake instead of consuming the whole thing: because the pleasure received from each additional piece of cake decreases as more and more is consumed. Economics also explains why we choose to buy one product over another: if we are behaving rationally, the product we choose to buy will bring us a higher level of utility per dollar spent than the product we do not purchase.

Being a student of economics, I am a rational and logical thinker (or at least try to be). I enjoy trying to understand why consumers make the decisions they make. But for me, there has always been a disconnect. I have always understood that there are factors which change the consumer demand for a product (income, changes in consumer preferences, or changes in the price of related goods). I also understand that competitive markets will respond to this demand. Firms will increase production of the good as demand increases and decrease production of the good as demand decreases. But how do companies predict these changes before they happen? How do companies respond to changes in the market demand before they find themselves out of business?

This is where marketing research comes in—it connects consumer’s wants and needs directly to the company’s business strategy and operations. It provides a means for companies to continue to grow, develop, and stay ahead of the competition. Marketing research is the link that has been missing from my understanding of the consumer-producer relationship. This internship at April Bell Research Group has allowed me to explore the relationship between uncovering consumer wants and the business strategies companies employ in response. I definitely have a lot to learn!

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Millennials vs. Generation Edge

Millennials vs. Generation Edge

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I came across some interesting research from The Sound over the weekend – the differences between Millennials and Generation Edge and how to market to them. First, let me define. Millennials are described as those born between 1981 and 1996 who grew up during the dotcom boom and the global warming crisis. Generation Edge is the group born between 1995 and the present, who have only known a world on the edge of collapse (economic, political, environmental and social). The research describes how vastly different these two generations are, and I found it very interesting. Unlike Millennials, Generation Edge is being forced to grow up quicker than their predecessors and they know that nothing in life is guaranteed. The last quote of the deck was especially interesting from a marketing standpoint - "Marketing to Millenials resulted in an endless quest for brand authenticity. Generation Edge will be engaged by another 'A' word. The alternative."

The generation after Millennials are NOT like Millennials: We call them Generation Edge

from The Sound.

Live from #TMRE13 Keynote: The Pragmatic Brain

Live from #TMRE13 Keynote: The Pragmatic Brain

Stereotyping is a natural human tendency. Brands are stereotypes. When you think of Disney, what comes to mind? Nike? BMW?

Brand stereotypes create reality. For example, Coors - cold activated cans, Rocky Mountains in the background, frosted bottles. You've seen all the commercials. They create the idea in your mind that Coors' beer is actually colder and more refreshing than other brands. They are tapping into your unconscious and making you believe it.

Stereotypes resist change, but CAN change. In research studies, most people won't change their minds, even after contact itself. Those ideas are so deeply embedded in their minds, that actual proof which negates it, doesn't affect them. However, a few of those who came in contact, actually did change. In order to change your brand's stereotype, you must first make small, significant changes to tap into your consumer's unconscious.

The interactions must feel cooperative. If consumers feel you have the same ideals/goals they do, you will see positive change. For example - Guiness. Not a beer you normally associate with sports. If you saw a commercial of a bunch of guys sitting around watching sports, eating chips and drinking Guiness, nobody would believe it. In this commercial, they associate themselves with loyalty, friendship and having the same values you do, which sets the context for their desired change.

You must drive change with the right type of contact - it must feel authentic. Stereotypes are part of who we are. Find out how people see themselves and how they see your brand. You will then be able to align the two and position your brand the way YOU want people to see it.

Bottom line for market research professionals. Think of your brand as a stereotype and strive to understand the full stereotype. Then you will be able to affect change.