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The Reality of a Constantly Changing World: Some Research Highlights


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In the July/August issue of Vue Magazine, published by the Marketing Research and Intelligence Association (MRIA), Christian Mueller shares some insights from ESOMAR’s recent “Best of – Canada 2012” meeting, which included a presentation by our CEO Adam Froman.

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The Reality of a Constantly Changing World: Some Research Highlights

  1. 1. F EATUR EChristian Mueller, CMRPThe Reality of a ConstantlyChanging World:Some Research HighlightsQuestion: What do the following three things This meeting, the latest in a series of best-of presentationshave in common? arranged by ESOMAR and chaired by its director general1. Asian youth culture Finn Raben, featured opening and closing comments by2. the Canadian Opera Company Cam Davis, ESOMAR’s representative in Canada, as well3. games people play to make research more engaging as presentations by a trio of international and local speakers describing recent work of interest to an audience of fellowAnswer: They are all changing. researchers. While individual remarks focused upon a particularThese were also the main topics discussed over a buffet content area, each speaker addressed the need to keep upbreakfast at ESOMAR’s “Best of – Canada 2012” meeting with important changes that occur globally at an ever-in Toronto on May 9. accelerating rate. To use an oxymoronic expression, change vue July/August 2012 19
  2. 2. F E ATUREis constant. And these talks responded to the challenge of The first step in this process was to generate customerconstant change in several different ways. insights, employing online research in order to compare operagoers with Canadians in general. A key finding at thisChanges in Asian Youth Culture initial stage was that COC customers were more engagedThe first talk – given by Robin Brown, senior vice-president in specific online behaviours than the average Canadian, yet only 18 per cent of these customers transacted with theof Consumer Insights at Environics Research, and co- COC via its website ( by Joseph Chen, manager of Brand Building, Because research also found no significant behaviouralConsumer and Market Insight at Unilever Canada – took differences between those transacting via and thosea detailed look at how Asian youth are changing the world transacting elsewhere with the opera company, a digital“from Delhi to Shanghai to LA.” strategy was developed to create an interactive experience Although this investigation was global in scope, Robin’s that inspires visitors to to stay engaged withaccount of this research looked mostly at the implications opera while integrating the COC website with the operaof a growing Asian influence in North America, which company’s brand. In the long run, this strategy envisionshas seen an unprecedented influx of East Asian (Chinese, as Canada’s principal destination for opera-relatedKorean) and South Asian (Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Sri information and content.Lankan) youth to Canada and the U.S. In line with this vision, the website was overhauled to These youth movements – the largest to come out of Asia make it function more efficiently (improving site navigation,lately – are notable not only for their size but also for their expediting the subscription renewal process, facilitatingclose ties to the burgeoning markets where they originate, donations, etc.) and to optimize the visitor’s experience usingprimarily China and India. Studying such a younger the site, thereby enabling fans to share their love of operademographic offers insights into the future direction of these and empowering them to become advocates for the as well as their influence abroad. Since the website’s overhaul, bounce rates have decreased To better understand the nature of Asian youth culture in from 56 to 26 per cent and online sales have increased 30 perboth home and host countries, an online quantitative survey cent from season to season, making online the number oneof those between the ages of 15 and 29 was conducted channel for single ticket purchases as well as number one foron databases for Canada, China, India, one-time donations. These statistics appear to indicate thatand Korea. Subject matter experts were consulted to help Delvinia’s strategy and its implementation have been successfulwith the design of this survey, which was followed up in in moving the COC’s customer base in the desired direction.Canada with online qualitative research in order to examineCanadian youth more closely. Changes in the Quality of Online Research The results have a lot to say about youth marketing in In his talk about “Research Gamification in Action,” thethese countries. Regarding Asian immigrant youth, for U.K.’s Jon Puleston, vice-president of Innovation at GMI,example, a marketing strategy should be adaptable to the drew upon more than one hundred research-on-researchrelevant immigrant population (i.e., taking into account experiments conducted by GMI and Engage Research overdifferences between the home and the host country). the past five years. Immigrant youth may also represent an untapped Given that response levels obtained with traditional marketing research methods are generally in decline, theseopportunity to extend the reach of certain Asian brands experiments investigated how gameplay could be used tofrom their home country to new markets outside of Asia. produce higher-quality feedback from online questionnaires.The North American launch of Lux soap, hugely popular in Jon began his talk by noting that gamification is not aChina, exemplifies just such an opportunity. new concept. In fact, ESOMAR’s previous best-of meeting in Toronto included a presentation on the same topicChanges in Web Design for the COC (summarized in the January-February 2012 issue of Vue).In his talk, entitled “Shifting Customer Behaviour Online,” One may define a game as any mental activity done essentiallyAdam Froman, founder and CEO of Delvinia, took a case for fun or enjoyment, and gaming techniques have beenstudy approach to the subject of how the Canadian Opera successfully incorporated into a wide variety of activities inCompany’s website was recently upgraded to enhance the order to stimulate greater participation and achieve betteroperagoer’s experience visiting the site. compliance.20 vue July/August 2012
  3. 3. F EATUR E These techniques appear to have enormous potential to should be played. In this case, the number of artists that wereengage respondents, simply because many surveys today can, evaluated almost Jon’s words, “already be seen as games, just boring, badly The potential benefits of gamification are sometimesdesigned ones.” shown by remarkably simple changes in question wording. In order to start making survey questions more game-like, For example, in one study, simply adding the words “can youone might note the example of Tom Sawyer, who got other guess” extended the time that respondents spent considering aboys to whitewash his aunt’s fence by convincing them it would question from ten seconds to two minutes. In another study,be fun. This classic tale illustrates that there is no fundamental a two-minute time limit (versus no time limit) resulted in tendistinction between playing a game and doing real work. times as much feedback. In a third study, the expression “weRather, the essential element distinguishing a game from real challenge you” added to an advertising recall test prompted awork is a positive attitude – enthusiasm versus boredom. threefold gain in the number of ads recalled. Gameplay mechanics can be thought of as “enthusiasm Besides rewording the question to seem more like a game, the other route to gamification is to have respondents answerenzymes” that make ordinary tasks extraordinary and more questions in a more playful manner. In large part, this processenjoyable to do. One way to incorporate this thinking into a of making answers more game-like is strictly an exercise insurvey is to create a scenario in which respondents are asked to the ergonomics of online questionnaire design (e.g., visualuse their imagination in order to answer questions. appeal). On the other hand, this process might entail the For example, “Describe your favourite meal” may become awarding of points or similar rewards, such as animation or“Imagine you are on death row and have to choose your last sound effects, based upon a player’s performance, whethermeal.” In an experiment comparing these two conditions, the alone or in competition with other players.request to use one’s imagination reportedly quadrupled theaverage word count. In Closing Another way to transform a survey into something Qualitative researchers might well be expected to recognizemore pleasurable is to apply rules to the task. However the value of gaming techniques, as they have been applyingcounterintuitive this may seem to some people – basically these methods to their research for years.because rules set limits restricting one’s freedom – the The fact that quantitative researchers are finally coming to theapplication of rules to the answering of a question has been realization that gameplay may also have advantages for them leadsshown to be more productive in some cases. me to speculate whether or not the two types of research are poised Following the example of Twitter, which has effectively to converge in the very near future. Such convergence would marktransformed text messaging into a game by limiting the a radical change in the development of research methods.number of characters to 140 per message, an experiment For the moment at least, qualitative and quantitativecompared responses to “How would you describe yourself?” research can certainly be viewed from this perspective aswith those to “In exactly seven words, how would your more complementary than ever. Indeed, it may be mutuallyfriends describe you?” Albeit confounded by asking how beneficial for the two types of researchers to collaborate morefriends (rather than you yourself) would describe you, this completely than they have in the past, whenever a piece ofexperimental comparison showed that the restrictive question research is being designed.produced nearly twice as many descriptors as the non- Given this reasoning, I wonder if there might not haverestrictive question. been an opportunity to probe even more deeply into the Clearly, various techniques may be combined when psyche of Asian youth and their diaspora, had the qualitativetransforming surveys into games so that people might and quantitative components of that study been fullyactually want to play them. One hoped-for goal of such integrated into a single survey instrument. While I wouldtransformations is to engage respondents in lengthy survey expect youth in general to be quite receptive to full-ontasks for a longer period of time, thus maintaining a high level gamified research, how might the results of such an enrichedof data quality throughout. survey differ from the results obtained? Take a repetitive task like evaluating a long list of musicalartists. In a traditional survey, respondents would probably be Christian Mueller, PhD, CMRP has made a career of marketing ,asked to rate how much they liked each one. In what may be research since 1984, most recently as chief methodologist at Freshtermed “quest mode,” however, respondents could be asked to Intelligence Research Corp. Currently independent,imagine that they are building a playlist for their own private he may be reached at orradio station and that they must decide how much each artist (647) 855-5088. vue July/August 2012 21