Intelligence Applied Autumn edition


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Intelligence Applied is the home of the latest thinking from TNS, where we discuss the issues impacting our clients, explore what makes people tick and spotlight how these insights can create opportunities for business growth.

In this edition, we share our views on the importance of taking a precise approach to identifying where true opportunity lies. We explore what the latest findings about the workings of the human brain mean for businesses and brands, and we share new thinking on how best to extract meaning from Big Data.

We’ve also got insights on some of the key emerging market opportunities for global brands – and our view on how qualitative research needs to rediscover its unique value if it is to make a meaningful contribution to business success.

We hope you enjoy reading Intelligence Applied.

Published in: Business, News & Politics

Intelligence Applied Autumn edition

  1. 1. Ideas to power business growth: ■■ ■■ Share this The precision imperative ■■ Intelligence Applied True growth and how to get it From brain power to brand power ■■ Making sense of Big Data Intelligence Applied – special edition Autumn 2013
  2. 2. Happy shoppers spend more There are three proven ways of making shoppers happy: 1. Give them the products they want 2. Make at-shelf choices easier 3. Make their trip as quick as possible Share this TNS understands shoppers better than anyone else. To talk about making more of your shoppers happy, visit Retail & Shopper
  3. 3. Welcome Intelligence Applied is the home of the latest thinking from TNS, where we discuss the issues impacting our clients, explore what makes people tick and spotlight how these insights can create opportunities for business growth. In this edition, we share our views on the importance of taking a precise approach to identifying where true opportunity lies. We explore what the latest findings about the workings of the human brain mean for businesses and brands, and we share new thinking on how best to extract meaning from Big Data. We’ve also got insights on some of the key emerging market opportunities for global brands – and our view on how qualitative research needs to rediscover its unique value if it is to make a meaningful contribution to business success. We hope you enjoy reading Intelligence Applied. You can receive regular insights from TNS by registering for our free email newsletter at intelligence-applied or join the conversation at @tns_global or Bringing business issues into focus: 4 True growth and how to get it 10 Exploring new markets: Africa 13 The precision imperative 22 Time for ‘Big Metaphor’ 30 Brands in the brain 38 Making Big Data into better data 45 Exploring new markets: Mekong Understanding decision making: 20 A man walks into a bar... 29 Priyanka’s story 37 The story of attention in three primates Facts and figures: 12 Matthew Froggatt Chief Development Officer, TNS Share this Heather Payne Chief Client Officer, TNS Did you know...? 21 Understanding the Chinese car buyer 44 Mobile is both curse and cure for retailers at risk from showroomers Intelligence Applied – special edition Autumn 2013
  4. 4. True growth and how to get it by Heather Payne Chief Client Officer, TNS “I meant no harm. I most truly did not. But I had to grow bigger. So bigger I got” From ‘The Lorax’ by Dr. Seuss Share this Growth is a business imperative – and a strategic blindspot. It is repeatedly cited as the only way to maintain position and share in highly competitive markets, the core challenge facing almost every CEO today. Failure to grow is not an option for boards faced with targets that routinely exceed what can be achieved in the normal course of business. And yet despite being the primary goal of almost all enterprises, growth remains frustratingly difficult to pin down. One of the reasons that it appears so elusive is that so few businesses have a precise idea of what growth means for them, what they should be aiming to achieve and why. As the Once-ler discovered in Dr. Seuss’s ‘The Lorax’, aimless expansion is often a formula for business disaster. Intelligence Applied – special edition Autumn 2013 4
  5. 5. True growth and how to get it Many who pursue growth or proclaim its importance struggle to define what growth looks like, and how it will translate into business success. They fail to differentiate between genuine incremental growth and an expanding product portfolio; between the size of their customer base and its value to their business; between new activity and new growth opportunities. As a result they can invest significant time and resources in efforts that grow some numbers only to erode the bottom line, or which deliver short-term sales at the expense of long-term value. When growth lacks a precise direction, it starts to resemble somebody running up a downward-moving escalator – forced to expend energy to avoid going backwards, yet going nowhere positive as a result. The growth challenge for researchers To grow successfully, any business requires a precise understanding of its competitive context that can be distilled into meaningful growth objectives and a Share this clear, actionable plan for achieving them. Providing clients with such precise and purposeful insights should be the raison d’être of research. In order to deliver them, researchers must not hold back from interrogating their client briefs intelligently, ensuring that the research process is driven by a structured understanding of what true growth can mean for each business, and where opportunities for genuine business success are likely to reside. Expanding product portfolio Size of customer base New activity Short-term sales Many who pursue growth or proclaim its importance struggle to define what growth looks like, and how it will translate into business success. Genuine incremental growth ? Customer’s value to the business New growth opportunities Long-term value Intelligence Applied – special edition Autumn 2013 5
  6. 6. True growth and how to get it TNS growth map More customers New markets New customers Today’s business New products and services Loyalty and new spend More money from each customer The four paths to growth The growth challenge appears daunting and complex, but in one respect it is very simple. There have always been two ways to grow a business: either you can persuade your existing customers to spend more money on your products, or you can find new customers to start spending with you. Looking in more detail at the ways in which increased spend and customer acquisition can actually be achieved, we still find a very manageable number of possible routes to growth – four, to be precise. A business can increase its share of its current market using its existing portfolio of products, either by attracting new customers or growing the spend of existing ones, it can launch new products and services that appeal to new and existing customers, or it can expand into wholly new territories or categories. The incremental view In assessing the potential of these different paths to growth, we must be alive to the inherent tensions that can exist between them. No growth strategy exists in a vacuum – and awareness of its implications for the other areas of the growth map is essential. By considering all of the areas by which growth can be achieved, we can ensure that our analysis of opportunities identifies genuinely incremental strategies, and that the value delivered by efforts to grow a business in one respect is not outweighed by the erosion of potential in another. An increasing number of consumer businesses, for example, depend upon new product launches to fill the ‘growth gap’ between their current performance and the targets set for them. However, launching new products and focusing resource and budget on In assessing the potential of the different paths to growth, we must be alive to the inherent tensions that can exist between them. No growth strategy exists in a vacuum – and awareness of its implications for the other areas of the growth map is essential. Share this Intelligence Applied – special edition Autumn 2013 6
  7. 7. True growth and how to get it growing sales volume for them can have profound and sometimes negative impacts on the core portfolio. New product launches that achieve high sales volumes may appear to be growing a business, but if these sales are not sufficiently incremental to the existing portfolio, then they are more likely than not to lead to actual decline. Misdirected growth efforts that expend resources on areas that deliver insufficient long-term value have serious potential to undermine a business’s competitiveness. Similarly, customer acquisition strategies must be viewed in light of their impact on existing customers, whose value for creating growth is often misunderstood. Price promotions intended to attract new customers may prove more successful at reducing the spend of existing ones and, in the worst case scenario, re-setting long-term expectations of what products are worth – and what consumers should be prepared to pay for them. Share this The choices that customers make are influenced not only by the ‘power in the mind’ that different brands achieve in the form of awareness and equity, but also by the ‘power in the market’ that those brands exert through product availability, distribution and pricing. Growth through market dynamics For reasons such as these, research cannot hope to guide growth strategies effectively if it offers only an aggregate, generalised view of opportunities. To identify the right approach to growth, we must look deeper. We must explore the inherent dynamism of markets, where customers are not simply acquired or lost, but instead shift their spend continually over a fluid range of brands and potential products. The choices that they make are influenced not only by the ‘power in the mind’ that different brands achieve in the form of awareness and equity, but also by the ‘power in the market’ that those brands exert through product availability, distribution and pricing. The key to unlocking growth in existing markets and for existing products often lies in adjusting these market levers – but researchers must be precise and clear about the effects of doing so when defining a plan. Intelligence Applied – special edition Autumn 2013 7
  8. 8. True growth and how to get it Often the greatest potential for growth lies amongst existing customers and the opportunities to increase their spend on products and services already in a business’s portfolio. However, the value of these opportunities is often obscured by an aggregate view of the customer base itself, which treats broad segments of customers as equal and fails to distinguish those with the greatest potential future value. The key to successful growth lies in focusing attention and resources on those customers where the effort may be rewarded, and identifying the specific measures that can increase their value through advocacy, cross-selling or up-selling. Towards game-changing innovation When a precision view of existing and potential customers is allied with a commitment to finding genuinely incremental growth ideas, it can transform a business’s approach to innovation. Disruptive new products or applications are capable of delivering long-term value far beyond the short-term sales of Share this close-in line extensions. Since any business has finite resources at their disposal, it must choose whether short or long-term growth, each of which carries its own risks, is the most relevant opportunity. The goal of research should be to guide such judgements through a precise view of likely impacts on individual consumers’ spending patterns. businesses seeking to respond to growth opportunities as they develop. However, being fast and being first can still be counter-productive if the strategies adopted are not rooted in a clear understanding of business issues. Research must keep up with fast-moving markets, but it cannot sacrifice precision in order to do so. New platforms and new markets Digital and mobile platforms are significantly increasing the scope for business innovation, creating both new categories and new dynamics within existing markets. The speed with which mobile technology in particular is advancing, increases the pressure on business to innovate, to learn by doing, to experiment. Digital platforms offer new ways to grow or lose share (through mobile showrooming, for example) and they ensure that these shifts in business fortunes can occur rapidly. Leveraging new data sources effectively and in real time is increasingly important for Intelligence Applied – special edition Autumn 2013 8
  9. 9. True growth and how to get it One of the most significant promises of digital technology is the lowering of barriers to entry for new markets. From Africa to the Mekong delta, the advance of mobile is expanding the reach of the consumer economy through innovations such as mobile banking, creating new categories of products and service, and offering brands new channels for growing awareness. Expansion into any new geography offers a business the potential for unequivocally incremental growth, and in challenging times for mature markets it is often emerging economies that hold the most promising opportunities. Yet moving beyond established territories comes with its own risks. Many are the brands that confuse gaps in the market with simple empty space, where no true growth opportunity exists, or that assume the absence of a familiar competitor means the absence of all competition. Awareness of local cultural nuances, understanding Share this of traditional trade, knowledge of the precise drivers of choice for consumers in different contexts: all are essential for identifying which markets represent the greatest potential for growth – and for developing strategies to secure that growth. The most effective growth strategies are precision growth strategies; they are guided by research that offers clear and accurate insight on which individuals behave in different ways, and what might persuade them to behave differently. Growing – or getting bigger? True growth is not achieved simply by getting bigger; it comes about through changing human behaviour in a way that can create incremental value for a business. Aggregate numbers and broad-brushed data do not provide the contrast and definition required to make such genuine opportunities visible and attainable – and growth consequently appears elusive, often more elusive than it actually is. Because of this, The most effective growth strategies are precision growth strategies; they are guided by research that offers clear and accurate insight on which individuals behave in different ways, and what might persuade them to behave differently. Such research must not be afraid to question briefs and encourage clients to confront the context of their business and what growth means for them; and it must not be afraid to discriminate between growth that offers true incremental value, and growth that does not. Intelligence Applied – special edition Autumn 2013 9
  10. 10. Exploring new markets: Africa African markets defy easy generalisation, and understanding the precise size and shape of opportunities is essential for companies weighing up the decision to pursue them. Those companies must take hard-headed decisions about which forms of growth they have the will, budget and appetite for risk to invest in – and which challenges they are prepared to overcome. However, when they do identify a genuine opportunity, the sheer scale of African markets means that the potential of that opportunity is likely to be vast. Africa’s economic emergence has been well-documented in recent years, with GDP growth expected to reach 5.7 per cent in 2013, the highest of any global region. Over a third of the population in many countries now falls within the ‘middle class’, with an income of between $2 and $8 per day and the increase in those having some access to disposable income is expanding the size of African markets. At the same time, Africa’s rapid urbanisation and expanding base of mobile phone owners invite brands to compete in those markets through increasingly familiar channels. Africa today includes 52 cities with populations of 1 million or more, and the young workers swelling the ranks of urbanites present brands with a concentrated target that can be reached efficiently through outdoor media and served products without depending on unreliable African roads. However, city life does not equate to developed market opportunities and standards of living, nor to consumers adopting the behaviour patterns and attitudes of developed market urban consumers. African cities encompass great inequality and most continue to be blighted by blackouts and energy rationing that have a huge influence on their inhabitants’ priorities. They also represent increasingly competitive environments, where western multinationals compete both with local rivals and with their equivalents from Turkey, the Middle East, India and China. Even apparent gaps in the market, where rival brands are absent, may already be filled by traditional solutions that brands must instead compete with. Autumn 2013 10
  11. 11. Exploring new markets: Africa This makes an understanding of cultural and religious traditions and established consumer habits essential for brands looking to exploit new market opportunities. South Africa’s Tiger Brands has had considerable success expanding across markets by acquiring local companies and making considered judgements about whether growth is best served by retaining local brands or leveraging the acquired companies’ infrastructures to launch brands already established in other markets. The strategy of reducing package size to promote affordability (and reflect the habits of many shoppers to make several trips to the market, buying small items on each occasion) has proven highly effective for FMCG brands in both urban and rural contexts. There are risks if brands pull back from rural communities, which often have a disproportionate influence on growth potential, in order to focus too rapidly on fast-expanding cities. Rural communities may be more challenging, but they are often where brand loyalty is first built amongst Base of Pyramid (BoP) consumers. Rural tracker surveys show that these markets exert disproportionate influence when it comes to growing beer brands for example. And mobile banking services – a great force driving inclusion and helping to grow markets across Africa – have seen their growth accelerate significantly following take-up in rural areas. Mobile banking is just one example of the way in which the mobile phone is creating opportunity across African markets. Examples of companies expanding markets through mobile channels include M-Kopa, which enables consumers to pay for solar lighting on an ‘asyou-go’ basis using SIM cards. However, brands must beware the temptation to import developed market mobile strategies to a region where the vast majority of handsets are still ‘dumb’ phones, and the most effective mobile marketing often makes innovative uses of SMS and USSD technologies and Please Call Me (PCM) messages. In mobile, as in so many other forms of marketing, the challenges and opportunities of African markets are unique – and are best met through re-engineering propositions and strategies from the ground up. TNS operates teams in 17 separate African markets. Read more about finding growth in Africa here > Autumn 2013 11
  12. 12. Did you know...? 2 There’s a reason why time is speeding up We’re all familiar with the sensation that months and years fly by faster as we get older. Knowing the reason for it isn’t all that reassuring. After around the age of 30, we encounter less and less that is genuinely new to us, and this means that our brains can navigate our experiences using habits and heuristics that don’t require much conscious thought. Another week or month goes past before we’ve had a reason to think about it. You don’t always want a captive audience Many have assumed that keeping shoppers at the shelf longer persuades them to spend more; quite the opposite turns out to be true. Shoppers who find their first item quickly will often pick up more items before they leave an aisle; on the other hand, those that struggle to find what they are looking for, depart quickly as soon as they have it in their basket. If you want consumers to spend time on your category, it has to be on their terms. You can’t always get what you want… and almost half the time, we don’t In 42 percent of purchases made worldwide, people do not buy the brand that they say is their preferred choice. It forms part of a massive disconnect between what people say they will do and what they actually do; between what we want and what we are happy, under the circumstances, to get. To predict and understand behaviour accurately, research must take account of the willing compromises we frequently make as a result of availability, affordability and the needs of others. You didn’t forget the bulb had blown When was the last time that you walked into a room, flicked on the light switch, and scolded yourself for forgetting the bulb had blown? Only, the truth of the matter is, you didn’t forget. You experienced one of the most frequent examples of the hold that habits have over us. Flicking the switch was an automatically triggered sequence of actions that is inseparable in your brain from the context of walking into that room. It’s very hard for you to think about it at all – and it would take a considerable effort for your hand not to do your brain’s bidding. Share this Intelligence Applied Intelligence Applied – special edition Autumn 2013 12 12
  13. 13. The precision imperative by Matthew Froggatt Chief Development Officer, TNS For marketers, a broad-brush approach to the world can appear comforting and convenient. Opportunities appear greater when people are lumped together in large groups – and the assumption that consumers enjoy collective experiences and inhabit collective identities makes them seem easier and more efficient to reach. However, businesses that view opportunities in Share this such general terms are finding it increasingly difficult to take advantage of them. The changing nature of our world and its markets demands a very different approach to understanding and influencing human behaviour. It demands precision. Intelligence Applied – special edition Autumn 2013 13
  14. 14. The precision imperative The purpose of research should not simply be to describe trends or the broad market situation. The age of precision The growth opportunities that today’s businesses must seek may be found in increasingly crowded and competitive mature markets, or in emerging markets with many differences (some clear, some subtle) to those in which they are accustomed to operate. The consumers that they target express themselves in increasingly varied and complicated ways; and they consume products and media through fragmented channels and with alternative mind-sets and identities. Individuals have less time for brands that assume they are the same as other people of a similar age or income level. And when broad needs are already broadly met, identifying opportunities for growth can require a micro Share this approach, seeking out the individuals that add up to a growth opportunity wherever they may be. A fragmented, personalised world creates new opportunities for precision, but it can work against those businesses that fail to grasp them. This presents a problem for the market research industry, which has developed tools, models and ways of working around clients who were happy with an aggregate, general view of the world. Achieving true precision involves far more than simply focusing on smaller subgroups; it demands a complete overhaul of the way that questions are conceived and asked, of how consumers and markets are understood, and of how this understanding is translated into insight and action. It requires a precise understanding of markets and business issues, a precise approach to the research process itself, and an ability to translate this into precise recommendations for growth. The precision view of markets and business issues The purpose of research should not simply be to describe trends or the broad market situation; a precise view requires us to know how each individual will act, so that we can understand their reasons for acting and the factors that might influence them to act differently. It is only by pushing for a granular, micro view of all the people who constitute a market opportunity, that we can develop meaningful plans for taking advantage of that opportunity. And when we do so, we often find ourselves challenging longheld aggregate assumptions about the way that people and markets work. An individual-based approach to brand tracking, for example, tends to reveal fundamental dynamism within markets that aggregate studies smooth over, questioning many cosy assumptions about how loyal somebody really is to a particular brand or product. By being precise, we know exactly what Intelligence Applied – special edition Autumn 2013 14
  15. 15. The precision imperative bearing factors such as price, availability and the preferences of other family members have on the purchases that consumers actually make – and we can furnish clients with clear recommendations on what additional share can be achieved by adjusting different market levers. Similarly, if we are to provide a business with a truly precise understanding of its own customers, we need to move rapidly beyond the assumption that those customers are equally valuable, or even that customers who spend the same amount represent the same potential for future growth. And we need to demand more than just Net Promoter Scores when it comes to measuring the strength of customer advocacy; a precision approach understands each individual customer in terms of their various networks and the role they play within them. Share this ■■ Context rediscovered Besides being individuals, human beings are contextual creatures. And our context involves not just our environment but also our cultural situation and mind-set. No insight can be precise and complete unless it understands information in its full, relevant context. And yet the context of our actions is often excluded from the way that they are studied. If anything, traditional quantitative research appears to see the absence of context as a good thing, as if it somehow increases perceived objectivity. Taking information out of context can seem like a tempting way to simplify a complex world. But blinding ourselves to context ensures blinkered analysis and invites bad planning. When taken out of context, information streams can result in automated responses that are a lot less precise than brands and companies believe them to be. Is it really smart to assume that every phone owner passing a Starbucks is keen to be served an offer for a free coffee, or that every user Intelligence Applied – special edition Autumn 2013 15
  16. 16. The precision imperative accessing an airline site from a German ISP requires the site to be delivered in German? False insight that embeds generalisations and assumptions can cause significant damage to brand relationships in an era when consumers have come to expect relevant, meaningful and personalised experiences at all times and through all media. Tracking shows that 41 percent of mobile web users make use of wi-fi networks that are not recorded in operator figures. When viewed in this context, our slice of Big Data is suddenly far less representative than it first appears. This is not to say that the operator data is not useful, but taken out of context it could be dangerously misleading.1 ■■ Precision understanding in the Big Data era The increasing volume and velocity of data provides us with a more detailed record of what is happening – but only if we pay careful attention to what it means and can integrate it with other relevant data sources. The growing need to respond to such data in real time means we must often rely on analytical models; it is essential that these are carefully tailored to reflect our precise understanding of the ways in which different sets of data relate to one another. 1 Applying precision to the research process A precise understanding of markets and opportunities requires an exact view of the way that individuals behave in particular contexts. Unfortunately, a research industry accustomed to dealing in averages is very bad at delivering this. We have become far too comfortable with the fact that data can be roughly valid at aggregate level but wholly wrong about individual people, about who does what and why. Read more about our perspective on making Big Data valuable on page 38 In the records of mobile phone operators, for example, we appear to have a fairly exhaustive record of mobile internet consumption – or do we? Share this Intelligence Applied – special edition Autumn 2013 16
  17. 17. The precision imperative Striving for individual truth To change things, we must restructure our approach to research around the way the human brain actually works and the crucial distinction between our unconscious decision-making systems and our rational, survey-completing ones.2 This is the distinction that researchers too often ignore when asking consumers to think long and hard about why they take the decisions that they do. We are inviting well-intentioned guesswork and post rationalisation - something Kahneman tells us humans are all too comfortable doing - but guesswork is not precise. We, the researchers, must push harder for the truth. ■■ A great starting point is to ask questions that a respondent is actually capable of answering in an accurate and meaningful way. If a researcher has to prompt someone to establish their awareness of a particular brand, there is really little value in asking them how the brand resonates with them. Similarly, it becomes counter-productive to ask a consumer to Share this list up to ten brands in order of preference, since the brands outside the top two or three listed are really not preferred at all. The precise approach to brand tracking involves far shorter surveys that focus on questions that are relevant to the way an individual makes decisions; it encounters fewer inaccurate, vague answers because it doesn’t ask the questions that encourage them. And as a result it produces far more consistent, valid responses that correlate significantly with actual behaviour. 2 In ‘Brands in the brain’ on page 30, we explore what neuroscience teaches us about decisionmaking Once we are armed with more precise, respondentlevel data, we are able to integrate that data with other sources in more meaningful ways. We can link passively collected mobile data that records an individual’s actual behaviour with survey data around that particular individual’s attitudes and drivers, giving a precise picture of the true influences on consumer actions. Similarly, cookie-collected data on online behaviour is given new meaning when mapped to responses valid at the respondent level. Intelligence Applied – special edition Autumn 2013 17
  18. 18. The precision imperative Equipping qualitative research to explore context Qualitative research has a vital role to play in understanding the context for individual behaviour – but only qualitative research rooted in interpretative expertise is able to do this. Quotes, soundbites, video diaries and focus group reports do not provide context in themselves; it requires a skilled, expert approach that understands the many different sides of themselves that people show to the world in different situations (the public versus the private, the workplace versus the social space, the online versus the offline) and can design interviews and settings around these.3 It can be tempting for researchers to range broadly in search of answers, but filling surveys with irrelevant or invalid questions tends to obscure real meaning. Similarly, when developing growth ideas, many feel the need to ‘think outside the box’ putting forward a broad range of innovative suggestions. A precise approach, in contrast, first identifies the areas where real opportunity resides for a business, and then interrogates these areas with focus, to identify the most effective strategies. Delivering precise recommendations for growth Precision is not just a prerequisite for gathering information but a challenge for how research agencies and their clients act upon it. Businesses that demand precision need researchers that are bold in identifying the intelligence that matters, and applying that intelligence to develop clear and inspiring plans for growth. 3 Precision leads naturally to action, equipping businesses with specific and realistic routes to growth. It provides researchers with the potential to make a far more meaningful contribution to the success of our clients. However, we will only realise this potential if we have the vision to reassess what research is for, the courage to confront its many historical weaknesses, and the precision to engineer a better approach for the future. ■■ Share this We discuss the importance of context in ‘Time for Big Metaphor’ on page 22 Clear, precise and focused recommendations have the ability to inspire people and organisations in a way that a mass of alternatives never can. Intelligence Applied – special edition Autumn 2013 18
  19. 19. Is research killing your best new product ideas? TNS research shows that you could be investing in the wrong innovations 40% of the time. We can help you improve your success rates by identifying the ideas that represent genuine new growth opportunities. Isn’t it time to learn more? Contact or visit to find out more. Innovation & Product Development
  20. 20. A man walks into a bar... It’s a fashionable downtown bar in Manhattan, and he is an ambitious merchant banker out for a drink after work. As he scans the spirits behind the bartender, he is surprised to see a bottle of his favourite scotch whisky, the product of an independent distillery in Islay that he once visited. He has quickly come to consider its unique taste part of his identity as a discerning man of the world, especially when he sips glasses of the stuff in the evening at his Tribeca loft. When the bartender asks the banker what he would like to order, he pauses for a moment then orders a bottle of Johnnie Walker Black Label. He also asks for four glasses. How do we explain this apparently fundamental contradiction between attitude and behaviour? Why, when our whisky drinker exhibits such strong affinity with a particular brand, did he order something so different? The fact that strong, personal brand preferences do not always translate into brand choices is something with which market researchers frequently grapple; the challenge is that consumers’ own explanations (such as “that brand is best suited to drinking at home”) often don’t tell the whole story. Decisions like this one are often driven by heuristics: rules of thumb that we follow in given contexts to avoid the need for in-depth thought and angst. The clue to the all-important context for our whisky drinker lies in the four glasses. He is drinking with colleagues, including his boss. The rule of thumb he is following is to buy the bottle that he can be confident everyone will approve of. It’s a heuristic that many people follow in group-buying situations. He buys a safe, familiar brand with the right profile. TNS frequently uncovers such contextual drivers at the core of many apparently contradictory purchase decisions, using techniques such as cognitive interviewing to reveal why strong personal convictions are set to one side in particular situations. Often, as in this case, the key to expanding market share lies less in a brand’s positioning than in its general profile, distribution and accessibility. The insights that we generate can be very different as a result. Read more on cognitive Intelligence interviewing here > Applied – special edition Autumn 2013 20
  21. 21. Understanding the Chinese car buyer 460 different car models compete for customers in China, with an additional 155 expected to arrive in the next 5 years. 8.18m new cars were sold in China in the first six months of 2013. (Source: China Passenger Car Association, June 2013) Share this 14% 90% of Chinese car buyers change their minds about the brand they set out to buy, once they get serious about making a purchase. 80% of Chinese who bought a car within the last two months did so because of a special deal or promotion, up from 43% in 2012. 51% Over half of Chinese car buyers decided against a brand after reading negative comments on social media sites. 26% of Chinese car buyers say car dealers are their most trusted source of information. of Chinese firsttime car buyers say that the opinion of family and friends is their most important influence. In TAPPS (The Automotive Path to Purchase Study), we talked to 1,000 people in China as they made a decision about which car to buy. We gathered the information in real-time to understand how people make decisions and what really is influential at each stage of the purchase journey. The full findings from TAPPS 2013 are available from October. To find out more please contact enquiries@ Intelligence Applied – special edition Autumn 2013 21
  22. 22. Time for ‘Big Metaphor’ by William Landell Mills Global Director, TNS Qualitative In the era of Big Data, qualitative research (qual) is free to focus on a form of understanding that it is uniquely qualified to provide. Researchers have become accustomed to existential questions in recent times. It has become the conventional viewpoint that Big Data will make much traditional research obsolete. Quantitative study has become data curation, with researchers in the role of observational data scientists, harvesting Share this information from vast data fields. But what does Big Data mean for qual? The answer should be that it frees qual to focus on what observational data alone cannot reveal: the metaphorical thought structures that demonstrate the true meaning we attach to things. Intelligence Applied – special edition Autumn 2013 22
  23. 23. Time for ‘Big Metaphor’ There’s a whole industry developing on the basis of providing answers, not knowing what the questions are. The increasing abundance of data generated from every moment of our lives has eliminated two once important reasons for using qual. The good news is that both of these reasons were worth eliminating. They represented damaging uses of qual that led to serious misconceptions about its value. One of these was that qual is cheap. In the days when surveys were expensive, qual was chosen as a low-cost alternative. Share this This did a lot of harm by framing qual as trivial research A key contribution of qual will be in helping to define the most meaningful questions, which our with tiny sample sizes. newly abundant data can then be directed towards answering. Qual can do this because it is uniquely Another reason was that qual was a great way to suited to the psychological interpretation of context. ‘hear the voice of the consumer’. Nowadays with Let’s take as an example the question, “what is social listening and interactive panels, qual is by breakfast for?” which is unanswerable through no means the most efficient way of exposing a statistics alone. By looking at the way breakfast is business and its employees to real people. This is also welcome, as qual should never have been about prepared, presented, consumed and talked about, communicating the voice of the customer in a literal, qual can identify the cultural and emotional forces that shape and surround it. The needs around unmediated way. breakfast can then be measured and concepts In this sense, the Big Data era has helped to clarify developed to deliver against them. what qual isn’t, but it also signposts what it can be. Once we accept that qual is all about the Qual originally evolved as a response to the rigidity understanding derived from an appreciation of quantitative research. Now a new tension is emerging – and a new contribution for qual to make. of context (and we at TNS think this should be uncontroversial) we arrive at another question: what Information is omnipresent, constantly generated, cheap and abundant, but how does one know what is qual’s unique value when it comes to interpreting matters? Franck Sarrazit, a singularly acute colleague context? Or to put it another way, “what defines of mine observed recently: “there’s a whole industry qual information, as opposed to information that can be gleaned from other sources?” developing on the basis of providing answers, not knowing what the questions are”. Intelligence Applied – special edition Autumn 2013 23
  24. 24. Time for ‘Big Metaphor’ Daniel Kahneman makes the point that there are three types of information that can be extracted from what people say: Rationalisation, Association and Metaphor. Approaching qual from this perspective helps to pinpoint the distinct forms of information that we elicit and the need to handle them in different ways. And it can also help to distinguish what it is about qual that is truly unique within the research field. When people are tricked into thinking they have chosen something when they really didn’t, they will almost always provide a coherent rationalisation for why they chose it. This is despite the fact that, in reality, they didn’t choose it at all. Share this Rationalisation is the type of information that consumers deliver in response to an implicit or explicit question, for example: “I bought the car because it had a big boot and great fuel efficiency”. Rationalisation is what most people would recognise as a conventional answer. It is essential to communication (imagine reading an instruction book that had no rationalisation in it), but it has acquired something of a bad name where research is concerned. However convincing and convinced consumers may be, they are not reliable witnesses to their own motivations or behaviour. Lars Hall and Petter Johansson have done fabulous work on ‘Choice Blindness’, showing how, when people are tricked into thinking they have chosen something when they really didn’t, they will almost always provide a coherent rationalisation for why they chose it. This is despite the fact that, in reality, they didn’t choose it at all. Experienced qual practitioners are able to identify self-serving answers through reference to wider context. But this is not a capability wholly unique to qual research. While quant is less well placed to make these kinds of judgment, it has come a long way from a blind acceptance that consumers’ mention of “class-leading boot space” reveals the actual motive for buying their car. Rationalisation is a data source that both qual and quant need to learn to use without naivety. It is a form of contextspecific linguistic behaviour, a clue but not the literal truth. Qual is better placed than quant to interpret rationalisations, but this is not the form of information that defines qual’s unique contribution to research. Association is another form of information that is easy for qual to access and is in many ways more valuable than consumer rationalisation. When we understand people’s associations, we understand the context that a product or brand is set within, and where it sits in the synaptic networks that our minds use to store and structure reality. “What goes through your head when you think of Ford?” Intelligence Applied – special edition Autumn 2013 24
  25. 25. Time for ‘Big Metaphor’ we might ask. “Sales reps, blue oval, plasticky interior, Cortina boys...”. Thoughtful and detailed analysis of such a stream of consciousness can be extremely powerful. In a sense, the sum total of these associations in the mind of the population is the brand equity. Observing patterns of associations can provide strong evidence of the assumptions that underlie a topic and how it is framed. And this enables qual to make a significant contribution through association-focused techniques. Increasingly though, this is not a unique capability. Quantitative research is becoming adept at presenting this kind of data and identifying significant patterns of response. Indeed, this is now one of the primary outputs of social listening programmes. In the future, qual practitioners will continue to derive great value from stream of consciousness data because such data is free of consumer rationalisations, and it provides us with insightful maps of the mind. Once again though, it is not a form of information over which qual has a unique claim. Share this This takes us to Metaphor. Here we are not just talking about metaphor as poetic flourish. What we are talking about is metaphor as the thought structure that is essential to cognition and the communication of meaning. Let’s call it ‘Big Metaphor’ to help underline this distinction. Big Metaphor is an observation about how the mind identifies meaning by observing a parallel between one thing and another. “What is breakfast for?” is not a question we can answer with statistics alone. By looking at the way breakfast is prepared, presented, consumed and talked about, qual can identify the cultural and emotional forces that shape and surround it. The needs around breakfast can then be measured and concepts developed to deliver against them. In a fundamental sense our minds are pattern recognition engines, which enable us to make sense of the stimuli around us by identifying patterns (those polished planks as a desk, that green thing as a tree). Our speech and cognition are impregnated with this kind of invisible metaphor, in fact we use a metaphor every four sentences on average, and often without realising it. The opening sentence of this section is in fact a metaphor. We have not actually been transported to a place called Metaphor, Intelligence Applied – special edition Autumn 2013 25
  26. 26. Time for ‘Big Metaphor’ but the intention is to create a sense of the argument Metaphor provides a way of using what you do moving along with seamless logic! There! I have know to understand what you don’t. Through the given myself away with my own metaphor. iron horse metaphor, we get a glimpse into the mind of a 19th-century Native American. Metaphors are profound because they are essential to the communication of meaning. If someone doesn’t know what something is then it has to be explained by a metaphor (“it’s like X that you already know...”). Metaphors reveal the way that our minds frame the world around us. When Native Americans first saw steam engines they spoke of them as ‘iron horses’, a metaphor to help them understand and communicate an awesome and alien technology. Share this Metaphors do not just reflect thought, they also structure our perception. In ‘Metaphors we live by’, Lakoff and Johnson use the example of how metaphors reveal that the true meaning of ‘argument’ is ‘war’. Arguments are ’won’ and ‘lost’, ‘positions’ are ‘defended’ and their ‘weak points’ ‘attacked’. They go on to say that ‘argument’ would be a very different thing if the underlying metaphor were, say ‘dance’ with its collaborative and expressive emphasis. framed in terms of old things. Metaphors serve as a mechanism for cultural continuity and coherence, absorbing new ideas by explaining them within existing references. Hence trains having ‘carriages’. Hence the ‘phone’ in iPhone. We are unknowing captives of our cultural metaphors. Shifting from words to actions, it is clear that metaphoric meanings are as evident in behaviour as in language. Think of the difference between French and British lunch. British eating habits reveal an underlying assumption that food, for all its delights, is essentially a means to an end: enjoyable, possibly high-status fuel, but fuel nonetheless. Hence the pragmatism of the sandwich. In France, in contrast, Metaphors are profound because they are essential to it’s fair to say that lunch is far more meaningful. To the communication of meaning. If someone doesn’t the British it can seem that in France “life stops for know what something is then it has to be explained lunch”, but to the French, that is to miss the point, by a metaphor (“it’s like X that you already know....”). since to them “life is lunch”, and a tuna mayonnaise This means that new things are explained and sandwich represents a life scarcely worth living. Intelligence Applied – special edition Autumn 2013 26
  27. 27. Time for ‘Big Metaphor’ These kinds of deep metaphorical constructs are evident in all we do, from the way we clean the bathroom to the way we travel to work. The job of observation in research is essentially to identify these implicit metaphors, because they explain why people do things in the way that they do. Analysis of metaphors allows us to unwrap psychological mechanics and align products, ads and brands with these invisible rules. In talking about ‘metaphor’ what we are really talking about is psychological meaning. Looked at this way, it becomes obvious that products are full of metaphorical meaning: milk is love, Coke is happiness, lipstick is hope and tea is reflection. At the more granular level, every ad has a story, which will be archetypal at one level and will therefore be a bearer of metaphorical meaning. The way that ads pile metaphors on each other creates the texture that makes them interesting. Share this If we understand metaphor in this broad sense, as Big Metaphor, we can see that it encompasses all that is most valuable in qualitative practice: from personification, to collage, to storytelling. They are all ways of generating the consumer meanings that we already know are core to inspiring and insightful qual. Machines cannot recognise metaphor, since they work by calculation rather than by analogy. This is a major gap given the central importance of metaphor in human cognition. New data sets and algorithms will yield ever broader, more immediate and more powerful information, but its psychological significance will remain elusive unless we leverage the most effective research tool that we have for unlocking metaphorical meaning. As Big Data increasingly defines the future of quant research, so Big Metaphor will increasingly define the role of qual. Machines cannot recognise metaphor, since they work by calculation rather than by analogy. This is a major gap given the central importance of metaphor in human cognition. See how we approach qualitative research to inspire growth. Intelligence Applied – special edition Autumn 2013 27
  28. 28. Inspiring growth through qualitative insights At TNS, we believe that inspiring qualitative research can be central to unlocking growth. Drawing on the best traditions of qualitative and progressive thinking, we help you understand people and brands in their real-world contexts to deliver actionable business strategies. To find out more, contact or visit
  29. 29. Priyanka’s story Unlike the more affluent students at the college, Priyanka does not have pocket money – but her parents give her small amounts for transportation and food. For the last month, though, she has gone hungry most days. Hidden in her college bag, a secret from her parents, is the reason: a small tube of Neutrogena moisturiser. Priyanka is 19 years old. She lives in a small village near Lucknow in India, part of a family of six that survives on an annual income of $4,000. Every day Priyanka travels for over two hours to attend college in the city. And her parents have carefully set aside what money they can to send Priyanka to college, hoping she will land a well-paid job. Neutrogena is expensive – but Priyanka loves the way that the cream feels on her face – and she is certain that the soft look it gives her skin helps her to fit in amongst wealthier students. Neutrogena prevents her skin feeling dry and spotty as a result of the long hair that her parents won’t allow her to cut. They fear it will damage the prospect of a good marriage for their daughter. Although the moisturiser is the only beauty product that Priyanka buys, it is not the only product that she uses. One of her friends has also been saving her lunch money – in order to buy a Pond’s face wash. By sharing the two products, the girls are able to use a full skincare regime. Her parents cannot know about the Neutrogena. Keeping them happy is very important to Priyanka – but fitting in at college matters a great deal too. Neutrogena helps her to balance these two competing influences on her life that often seem to pull her in opposite directions. And that’s why it’s worth skipping lunch for. Where brand loyalty means more Priyanka’s story is a fictionalised reality, compiled by TNS researchers from many different interviews conducted with Base of the Pyramid consumers and used to bring the issues that these people face to life. These consumers demonstrate a strong and surprising preference to buy a brand over a commodity, provided the brand proposition is relevant, accessible and affordable. Read more about Priyanka’s story, and brand building at the Base of the Intelligence Pyramid here > Applied – special edition Autumn 2013 29
  30. 30. Brands in the brain This article was developed by TNS Brand & Communication community. It is often said that brands are owned by consumers, but more specifically they belong to our brains. Brands reside in the networks of neurons that house our memories of them, and their fortunes are shaped by the highly efficient and often unconscious systems that our brains have evolved for making decisions and navigating the world. Share this As our understanding of neuroscience rapidly expands, we now know more than ever about how people remember, relate and respond to brands. And this understanding needs to have fundamental implications for the way we develop communication strategies and evaluate their effectiveness. Intelligence Applied – special edition Autumn 2013 30
  31. 31. Brands in the brain How we make decisions The task of running our day-to-day lives is mostly delegated to our intuitive, unconscious self. We make decisions as efficiently and rapidly as possible using fast and frugal heuristics. Heuristics are the brain’s shortcuts, the simple rules of thumb that we use every day to approximate the best course of action and avoid considering options in any more detail than is necessary. This highly efficient, autopilot-driven way of navigating life has been popularised in the work of the psychologist and behavioural economist, Daniel Kahneman as our ‘System 1’ brain. Only when we encounter a new situation that doesn’t fit with our pre-determined approaches to solving problems and getting what we want does our slow-moving, energy-intensive, deeply rational ‘System 2’ brain get involved. This is not to say that our rational, deep-thinking mental resources have nothing to do with the way Share this we respond to brands and make decisions. Many of the heuristics that we follow have been formed consciously, at some point in our past, and they often reflect our deep-rooted attitudes and the way they see the world. However, once System 1 is armed with these rapidly applicable rules of thumb, it doesn’t have to get System 2 involved in its dayto-day decisions. And this means that most of the decisions we make about brands are made using the instinctive approach of System 1. People will often purchase the same brand again and again or will buy within an established repertoire. As long as those choices continue to yield the same (essentially satisfactory) results, there is no need for System 2 to intervene and start considering other options. A heuristic is a rule of thumb. They are often applied in problem solving to limit the amount of detailed reasoning required by making decisions based on a limited set of criteria (or heuristics). Heuristics can be useful for rapidly approximating what the best course of action is likely to be in a specific scenario. When we repeatedly follow the same course of action in the same circumstances and get the same beneficial result, our behaviour has the potential to become fully automatic. When habits concerning Intelligence Applied – special edition Autumn 2013 31
  32. 32. Brands in the brain brands become hard-wired into our brains they remove the need for decision-making completely; we behave in a particular way and it requires a considerable conscious effort to override the habit and behave any differently. Understanding where habits exist, and how to create or circumvent them, can be vitally important when helping brands to grow or protect their market share. Creating and reinforcing brand memories The heuristics that we use to make decisions are shaped and reinforced by memories, which take the form of networks of neurons within our brain that ‘fire’ together to recall experiences and bring associations to mind. The stronger these neural connections are, the more rapidly and repeatedly they fire up when we encounter a relevant trigger. Share this The strongest memory structures within the brain are ‘affective memories’, which are aligned with deep personal feelings and motivations. When brands are able to form and consolidate such memories, they become powerful influences on our behaviour, springing rapidly and readily to mind, reminding us of positive experiences and associations and biasing our choices in the direction of the brand in question. The heuristics that we use to make decisions are shaped and reinforced by memories, which take the form of networks of neurons within our brain that ‘fire’ together to recall experiences and bring associations to mind. Creating potent brand memories is therefore key to success. In fact, studies show that these memories are powerful enough to influence our actual experience of brands, not just our attitudes towards them. The presence of a powerfully affective brand memory doesn’t just promise enjoyment, it can cause us to experience that enjoyment as well. Intelligence Applied – special edition Autumn 2013 32
  33. 33. Brands in the brain All forms of brand exposure have the potential to create and reinforce brand memories. In addition to paid activity (own-brand and competitive messaging), the experiences of others help to form stronger affective patterns, attaching considerable value to word-of-mouth and endorsement. But the most powerful force for creating neural connections is personal experience. The impact of strongly positive personal experience is highly likely to bias consumers towards choosing the same brand again. Updating the brand narrative When our memories are contradicted by present experience, our brains may respond by updating or reshaping them. When the unexpected experience is negative or contradictory to the brand narrative, this represents a potential threat. However, marketers can also use the updating process to freshen, strengthen and evolve their brand memories. Balancing novelty and consistency in brand messaging is the most effective means of staying Share this in control of the brand narrative in this way. Novelty alerts our brain to the possibility of connecting up our memories differently; aligning with our existing affective memory structures through consistency helps to convince the brain that this particular brand memory is important enough to invest in updating. And in today’s complex media environment, where cutting through the clutter and getting noticed is in itself a challenge, the balance of novelty and consistency is also one of the most effective strategies for capturing and holding attention. The brain is constantly and swiftly selecting the things that we will pay closer attention to at the expense of others. Capturing and holding attention Attention exists because the brain needs a means of focusing its finite resources and ensuring that we capture, process and encode the information that is most important to our survival and success. The brain is constantly and swiftly selecting the things that we will pay closer attention to at the expense of others. In general, these things have a greater likelihood of Intelligence Applied – special edition Autumn 2013 33
  34. 34. Brands in the brain engaging our attention if they surprise us, if they generate an emotional reaction, or if they align with our existing motivations, priorities and sense of self. Our awareness mechanism reacts very quickly to movement, the appearance of something new or to objects that contrast with their surroundings, but it also jumps quickly into gear when confronted by something novel that contradicts our expectations. If something stands out from the way that we expect the world around us to be, then our brain makes sure we know about it. Ads such as Cadbury’s famous ‘Gorilla’ have made highly effective use of the unexpected or initially bewildering to ensure an audience’s attention.1 A stimulus that triggers an immediate emotional response is another effective tactic for capturing attention. Emotion, brought about by the release of specific chemical signals within the brain, Share this signals to our brain that something requires urgent attention – and so stimuli that are associated with powerful emotions such as fear, loss or the promise of reward, are swiftly promoted up the queue for being consciously noticed. Well aware of the value of emotion in ensuring attention, many brands create campaigns around events such as Christmas, Ramadan or Chinese New Year, and train consumers to anticipate the rich emotional hit that these deliver. The third characteristic by which a stimulus increases its chances of being noticed, is alignment with our existing motivations, priorities and sense of self, or with existing memory structures. In these situations, the stimulus is working with our world view rather than seeking to interrupt it, and this can be particularly important when we are seeking to capture attention in environments where the target audience is likely to be consciously focused on a specific task. 1 For the neuroscientific explanation of this ad’s effectiveness, see ‘The story of attention in three primates’ on page 37. Intelligence Applied – special edition Autumn 2013 34
  35. 35. Brands in the brain The brain in context Being noticed is an essential starting point for any brand communication, but it is only a starting point. Our expanding understanding of the human brain makes it increasingly clear that marketers must seek to do more with human attention once they have captured it. They must seek to build strong brand memories and effective brand narratives that can exert a dependable influence over consumer choices. And they must invest in understanding how those memories will interact with our brain’s heuristics and habits when it comes to day-to-day decisions. Creative and media strategies that can capture prolonged attention put us in control of the way a brand is represented within the brain of the consumer. However an equally important conclusion of the latest neuroscience is that it is not only the structures within our brains that determine our actions, but the way these systems, memories and heuristics interact with the contexts we encounter. A complete marketing strategy takes account of these contexts as well. Share this As one of the world’s best-established and most recognisable brands, Coca-Cola has created many of marketing’s most powerful affective memories. Here are two powerful examples of those memories in action. The ‘Hilltop’ ad featuring the lyric ‘I’d like to buy the world a Coke’ aligned powerfully with the yearnings of many Americans during the divisive Vietnam era. In an age before social media, many called radio stations asking them to play the commercial and called TV stations to find out when the ad was scheduled to air. The affective memories created by the ad mean it is still one of the most recognisable commercials of all time, and has asserted powerful influence over Coke’s subsequent appeal. Well aware of the value of emotion in ensuring attention, many brands create campaigns around events such as Christmas, Ramadan or Chinese New Year. You can find more of our thinking on the real drivers of human behaviour and how brands can learn from this work to develop strategies that build business in ‘The brain game’ > The power of such memories was demonstrated in a famous taste-off orchestrated by the neuroscientist Samuel McClure in 2004, tasters were first asked to sample Coke and Pepsi in a blind test. When they did so, preference was split roughly equally between the rival colas. However, when they were then served the drinks from branded containers, Coke became the favourite. Interestingly, fMRI scans of the tasters’ brains showed significantly different brain activity when knowingly drinking Coca-Cola than when consuming it blind. Knowing the brand triggered affective memories, which changed the actual experience of the product. Intelligence Applied – special edition Autumn 2013 35
  36. 36. Three minutes is all you need… …to get an in-depth understanding of your brand. TNS tracking studies ask only the most accurate, predictive and relevant questions. We know which questions relate to actual behaviour and ask only the questions that are relevant to each individual to provide precise, growth-directed insights. Contact or visit to find out more. Brand & Communication
  37. 37. The story of attention in three primates When it comes to ‘experiments’ that expand our understanding of human attention, a great ape of one type or another seems to be an essential part of the team. Here’s a quick summary of primates’ greatest contributions to neuroscience – and the implications of their involvement for communications. Ape 3: Is being novel enough? Ape 2: Showing the value of novelty Ape 1: Simons and Chabri’s Invisible gorilla In 1999, the researchers Simons and Chabri asked a gorilla (actually a volunteer in a suit) to walk through a circle of people passing a ball between them, and beat its chest (who said neuroscience was no fun?). When others were asked to watch a film of these goings-on and count how many times the people in the circle passed the ball between them, most didn’t notice the gorilla at all. The ‘inattentive blindness’ this experiment demonstrates reminds us that exposure is no guarantee of attention, especially when people are focused on something else. Real apes took centre-stage in a 2002 experiment demonstrating the power of novelty in diverting human attention. These apes were given food under different circumstances: when they didn’t expect it and when they did. Their levels of dopamine (a ‘chemical currency’ used by the brain to register surprise) spiked not just when the unexpected food arrived – but also when the apes expected it to arrive again. Dopamine re-tunes our temporal and spatial attention through anticipation. Once we capture attention through novelty, it is easier to capture it again in the Intelligence future. The 2007 Cadbury ad ‘Gorilla’ owed much of its initial fame to the way human attention works. It stood out through novelty and contrast (different to any ad that had appeared before), it evoked emotion through the Phil Collins track ‘In the Air Tonight’ – and its peculiar, unexplained nature triggered prolonged attention through the Zeigarnik effect, whereby our brains pay prolonged attention to complex things that are not easily resolved. In the years since though, some analysts have argued that despite being novel, ‘Gorilla’ lacked the consistent brand elements to deliver long-term benefits to Cadbury. This challenge of balancing freshness and consistency lies at the heart of effective, attention-grabbing communications. Read more about how attention actually Applied – special edition works > Autumn 2013 37
  38. 38. Making Big Data into better data by Mark Kingsbury Global Head of Marketing Science, TNS and Bob Burgoyne Development Director, Marketing Science, TNS It may be immense, fast and mind-bendingly varied. But to make the most of Big Data we must remember that it cannot speak for itself. Share this Intelligence Applied – special edition Autumn 2013 38
  39. 39. Making Big Data into better data Mind and the machine Big things can be intimidating. Marketers and researchers cannot allow Big Data to be one of them. It’s true that the numbers involved are staggering: 90 percent of the data that has ever existed was created in the last two years and ‘data taps’ such as mobile, social and POS will continue to pour out raw information for researchers to work with at an ever faster rate. It may be tempting to conclude that human intuition must surely give way to computers and algorithms when it comes to keeping up. But if our response to this wave of data is to retreat behind number-crunching technologies then we will have missed a huge opportunity. New data sources have the potential to transform the role of research and expand our understanding of human behaviour. However, they can only do so if we continue to apply the immense, unique power of our own minds. Share this So what do we mean by ‘Big’ exactly? Big Data would feel a lot more manageable if it were just a question of having more numbers to deal with. But Big Data is bigger than that. It represents the coming together of several different themes, each of which would be fairly paradigmshifting in its own right. First of course, is the sheer scale of the data now being produced and stored. Walmart currently handles more than 1 million customer transactions every hour, in databases estimated to contain more than 2.5 petabytes. Such an organisation may soon have created more data than research surveys have ever delivered. Data’s velocity, the speed at which huge volumes of it can be generated, is every bit as breathtaking as its sheer size. Data now generates itself; it is created and stored simply by virtue of things happening. And as a result there are no limits to how big it can get and how fast it comes at us. Yet perhaps the most challenging shift of all is that this size and speed is combined with an explosion in the variety of data forms. Big Data comes in all shapes and sizes. Researchers are leaping on new sources of data – and new sources of data are leaping on us: from mobile activity to Twitter feeds, geo-location information, facial expression capture and much more. We are quickly moving from dealing in numerical scores to dealing in shapes, movement patterns, expressions – and human language. And such data does not come readily packaged for analysis; using it must involve translating it as well. Intelligence Applied – special edition Autumn 2013 39
  40. 40. Making Big Data into better data You created it: you deal with it Faced with such challenges, it’s tempting to believe that computational power, which has taken the lead in creating this new world of information, must also take the lead in defining how we deal with it. In this view of the world, the researcher starts to look less like a person, more like supercomputer in a bunker: one where we simply have to feed in the right question or combination of questions, plug it into the river of Big Data – and wait for the answer to pop out. But there are significant dangers to this approach. If Big Data ends up becoming processed and commoditised data, then we are all in trouble. Digesting really raw data It’s a mistake to believe that data can ever speak for itself. Data always speaks with a human voice; it can’t say anything otherwise. Every statistic that we deal with is the result of subjective judgement about the problems that we should try to solve, what we think the answers should look like, and what data forms we Share this can enlist to help provide those answers. And these judgements are human ones. Big Data would feel a lot more manageable if it were just a question of having more numbers to deal with. But Big Data is bigger than that. In the Big Data era, the human imagination continues to play an essential role in envisaging what our many different data sources can be made to do, and in aggregating, translating and coding them to enable them to do it. To take a very simple example, Google can predict a flu epidemic by spotting spikes in searches on cold and flu remedies. This is a tremendously cool thing, but it only works because somebody realised that this pattern is significant – and that it correlates to something meaningful and useful. Similarly, micro-location data gives TNS a powerful new tool for mapping movement around stores – but it is only powerful because we have established an understanding of what these movements mean. In his book The Signal and The Noise, US election poll guru Nate Silver points out that data does not arrive in ready-made, readable patterns. We must come to it armed with models and ideas based on our existing insights and understanding. Silver devotes a chapter to global warming and the fact that it would be impossible to find any evidence of this in the notoriously unstable climate record, where annual temperatures fluctuate hugely, were scientists not armed with a theory telling them exactly what to look for – and which data to prioritise. It’s an important reminder that the bigger data is, the more it needs help to become articulate. Intelligence Applied – special edition Autumn 2013 40
  41. 41. Making Big Data into better data In the Big Data era, we are data curators, working with information that has been generated independently. From data creators to data curators In the Big Data era, we are no longer data creators, designing the structure of information from the outset, through the crafting of questionnaires; instead we are data curators, working with information that has been generated independently. As such, we will face many new challenges and require many new skillsets. However, as we evolve the role of research, the skills that once went into structuring surveys will remain crucially important in aggregating and selecting data sources, and deciding exactly how they relate to one another. For now, this might involve incremental Share this improvements such as linking spend and retention data to customer experience surveys, as we already do at TNS, or using listening apps on mobile phones to record actual exposure to TV ads rather than relying on recognition metrics. In the future, we will find more and more scenarios where the data we aggregate does not include traditional surveys at all. When we start to plug observational data directly into look-alike models, for example, we start to change the role of research, making it a key element within media planning and buying. But in all of these contexts, it’s not just a question of being excited about what data can do. It’s equally important sometimes to step back, look at how complete and representative a given set of data is, and ask ourselves rigorous questions about what questions it is best qualified to answer. The continuing evolution of analytics At TNS, we’ve already evolved from the era of adhoc analysis, when researchers collected data with little reference to how it would eventually be used (and then looked through it in the hope it would reveal something useful). Today the design of the Intelligence Applied – special edition Autumn 2013 41
  42. 42. Making Big Data into better data instruments for a particular piece of research is informed from the start by the challenge of how best to answer business questions. The conceptual framework that we use for any type of analysis reflects how the human brain naturally makes sense of information. This framework consists of four different ways of looking at any set of data. ‘Dimensions’ and ‘landscape’ address the structure of information; the first seeking out common themes across a data set (the key themes defining a product category, for example), the second looking more closely at competitive relationships, owned and disputed territory and areas of opportunity. We then build on this structural understanding with more action-oriented means of addressing the data: ‘groupings’ to segment the subject matter and ‘drivers’ to reveal the variables that influence relevant results, including causal connections that can be far from immediately apparent. Share this This approach provides a checklist for where and how to look for patterns and themes. In the Big Data era, we will learn to look for different types of patterns in vastly diverse forms of data, but human reason remains the key driving force in identifying them and drawing purposeful connections between them. Computational muscle can give research the scale and speed that we will increasingly require in the Big Data era, but it is important to distinguish between automating processes and expecting machines to design them in the first place. We must not fool ourselves that Artificial Intelligence (AI) is ready to take on the task of formulating questions and crafting the algorithms to answer them. After all, even those that welcome the concept of a technological singularity in which human-designed AI surpasses that of humans themselves, don’t envisage it happening until at least 2045. That’s a long time to wait to take real advantage of Big Data. We must not fool ourselves that Artificial Intelligence (AI) is ready to take on the task of formulating questions and crafting the algorithms to answer them. Even those that welcome the concept of a technological singularity in which human-designed AI surpasses that of humans themselves, don’t envisage it happening until at least 2045. Intelligence Applied – special edition Autumn 2013 42
  43. 43. Making Big Data into better data Data and the human imagination Imposing structure on Big Data will throw up some intriguing challenges – and these challenges will involve logical leaps and lateral thinking for which the human brain remains our best available tool. What is a meaningful way of scoring a positive tweet or Facebook rant? What aspect of somebody’s location is actually relevant to the client brief – and what other sources of information can be integrated or overlaid to give context to this information? The location of a car by itself is meaningless. If it’s a car unable to fit into the WalMart parking lot on Black Friday, it becomes a whole lot more interesting. When we talk about deploying computational power in the Big Data era, we must therefore be pretty clear about what we are asking computers to do. Depending too much on non-human processing power risks confusing correlation with causation and failing to distinguish between relationships that are meaningful and those that are not, and it risks setting narrow parameters for our thinking that we forget to look beyond. Share this We must continue to exercise our judgement as to which information is valid and valuable, and how its many varied forms can be coded in meaningful ways. As data curators, that’s our job. But by unleashing the power of today’s machines we can dramatically increase the scope of data that we can use, the range of questions that we can ask, and the speed with which we can answer them. When Big Data is aligned properly with human insight and human reason, it can unleash their potential in ways never envisaged before. Read more about our perspective on Big Data here > Intelligence Applied – special edition Autumn 2013 43
  44. 44. Mobile is both curse and cure for retailers at risk from showroomers Who’s showrooming? Global 33% of people globally showroom 21% of them use their phone while doing so 71 60 33% 54 36 29 21% 10 44 33 30 28 19 10 9 5 7 8 6 4 North Emerging SSA China America Asia Developed Europe MENA Latin America Asia India How are they using their phones? 43% of showroomers use their phones to read reviews while in store 14% use their phones to check availability at another store 31% use their phones to compare prices 14% use their phones to check if it’s easier to order oline Mobile Life is an annual study from TNS that draws on the behaviours, motivations and attitudes of 38,000 people in 43 countries, to develop recommendations on activating a business and marketing strategy via mobile. People who showroom Showroomers who use their mobile How can retailers get involved? 38% of people are interested in redeeming mobile coupons 31% would like a mobile app to help navigate the store 36% would like to scan a barcode for more information 30% are interested in completing the purchase on their phone F or more information visit Mobile Life 44
  45. 45. Exploring new markets: Mekong The most effective strategies The opportunity Share this The lower basin of the Mekong river represents one of the world’s great emerging market opportunities, from already-emerged Vietnam with its GDP of $123 billion to Cambodia with the fast-increasing disposable income of its urban population, Laos with its close connections to the developed market of Thailand, and Myanmar which, newly emerged from international isolation and with investment expected to catapult to $20 billion, is quite possibly the most exciting opportunity of all. The challenges Each market comes with its own precise challenges that result from different stages of development and different phases of the brand cycle. Brands in Myanmar are hampered by a fundamental lack of infrastructure that extends for now to mobile, an industry deliberately disrupted by the government in recent years. In Cambodia, urbanites enjoy increasing disposable income but rural populations still dominate the economy, 45 and express strong preferences for buying local brands. This may be due to significant language barriers that exist as a result of the devastation of the education system under Pol Pot. Vietnamese similarly express a preference for products from their own country, although they happily set this aside when it comes to Honda motorcycles, Dell laptops, Samsung TVs and Panasonic air conditioners. Education is the need and aspiration that looms largest in the minds of consumers across the region – and strategies offering educational support or increased powers of concentration (for example, through energy drinks) have proven consistently successful. Marketers must pay close attention to local cultural nuances when positioning their products (the individualism and self-expression of Cambodian and Laos stands in marked contrast to the traditional Buddhism of Myanmar, which views the idea of expressing status through brand choice with suspicion). In addition to identifying decisionmakers, marketers must also be precise about how to communicate with them – and which channels to reach them through. Women control domestic budgets in each country, but enjoy significantly higher status (and are more likely to be welleducated) in Myanmar and Vietnam. And no matter what their income level, they are likely to do much of their shopping in traditional markets, which still dominate the consumer economy across the region. Understanding their behaviours and motivations is a key starting point to defining a plan for growth in the region. TNS has teams on the ground in Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam. Read more about the opportunity in the Mekong here Autumn 2013 45
  46. 46. What do your customers really want? Strategic customer understanding and real-time feedback drive efficient, profitable customer relationships. At TNS we help our clients define and deliver the optimal customer experience, in the areas that matter most, to drive growth. Contact or visit to find out more. Customer Experience
  47. 47. Precision Growth TNS is a global consumer insights business, translating unique understanding of individual consumer behaviour into precise plans for business growth. With a presence in over 80 countries, we have more conversations with the world’s consumers than anyone else, and we understand precisely the conscious and unconscious factors shaping attitude and choice in every cultural, economic and political region of the world. We offer expert analysis of business issues and a unique product offering designed to pinpoint opportunities and deliver precise action plans. Our specialist expertise includes Innovation Product Development, Brand Communication, Retail Shopper, Customer Experience, Employee Engagement, Qualitative, Automotive, and Political Social. TNS is part of Kantar, the data investment management division of WPP and one of the world’s largest insight, information and consultancy groups. Please visit for more information. Or follow us on