Archive for August, 2011

“Research can trap you in the past”

Thursday, August 4th, 2011

Advertising pioneer and Founder of DDB, Bill Bernbach, once warned of how “research can trap you in the past.” It is a message that is particularly pertinent within the field of audience research, because many of the conventional methods of analysis automatically preclude future-focus. This is because of a number of reasons.
Firstly, traditional qualitative methods such as questionnaires and surveys often use their participants’ memories as a primary resource. Not only is the memory notoriously unreliable, but individual recollections will be inevitably skewed by particularly remarkable or valued experiences that have taken place. To ask an individual how often they use a certain device or watch a certain programme, for example, will automatically evoke those more memorable instances in which they have done so – in the past.
Secondly, to ask consumers about the future is nigh impossible, because the future is unimaginable. There are items of futuristic technology being trialled around the world right now that may well become mainstream within the next few years – but without a crystal ball, nobody can predict the varying influences that will impact the demand or likely uptake for such an item. Our frame of reference is inseparable from the present-day, which is why the task of media forecasters is so fraught with difficulty.
The methodology devised by ACB attempts to overcome these potential pitfalls by avoiding more conventional techniques. Filming our participants using their technology in their own homes prevents certain demand characteristics – but will only provide insights into current audience behaviour. However, we can confidently state that our research is future-focused because of the following two reasons:
1. The households in our study may all be classified as early-majority. This means that in the general scheme of adoption, these households would have the appetite and financial means to explore new technology before the mainstream anyway. The behaviour of the early-majority is eventually expected to be adopted by the late-majority and laggards. Our participants are selected on the basis of fulfilling this criterion.
2. The technology that we study within the participants’ homes is always ‘hot-housed’. This means that ACB’s researchers familiarise the participants with the new technology before we capture their usage. Devices that we intend to study are installed in the participating households, and the researchers dedicate some time to ensure that the participants know how to use the technology and understand the benefits of doing so. Before capture begins, the participants are asked to show the researchers how the technology works to confirm that the exercise has been effective.
By removing usability barriers and selecting early-majority homes, our results are indicative of the kind of behaviour that we can expect to see in the next three to four years – once adoption becomes more widespread and any glitches in the technology have been ironed out by developers. Our methodology is by no means perfect, but we have addressed some of the issues facing audience researchers as best we can, to provide a rich resource of knowledge that is incontestably forward-facing.

ACB delivers the whole picture when it comes to understanding customer needs

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011

It is impossible to ascertain all the factors that influence a consumer’s purchasing decision, but ACB is in a strong position to provide insights into some of the more elusive customer needs.

The world’s leading marketing expert, Philip Kotler, identified five customer needs: the Stated, the Unstated, the Real, the Delight, and the Secret. The ‘unstated’ need covers the customer’s expectations surrounding a purchase – possibly even aspects of a transaction or product that the consumer may take for granted, while the ‘real’ need describes their actual means, and the practical considerations that go into the buying process. These needs can sometimes be ascertained through surveys and questionnaires. The delight need would usually include something extra that they might be hoping for, or an additional enjoyable aspect to owning the product. Finally, the secret need of the customer covers the private reasons that someone might purchase a product – possibly to impress their friends, for example.

When predicting future behaviour in TV audiences, it is often limiting to rely purely on quant figures, or the results from surveys and questionnaires, as these methodologies often only provide insights into some of the customer needs – most often Stated.

ACB’s qualitative video-ethnography has been studying the micro-behaviour of a core group of individuals for over five years, enabling us to understand their more private needs – the Delight and Secret needs. By observing the participants in their natural context at home, we can gain an invaluable insight into the complexities of human interaction that determine viewing behaviour, and the exploration and uptake of new technology. We aim to provide the whole picture when it comes to understanding customer behaviour. The consumer’s Stated need is not always untrue – and nor is it valueless – but by understanding all of the subtle influences that may lie behind consumers’ words, product developers and strategists may come closer to knowing what their target market really wants.

There is more to audience behaviour than statistics and business models – the emotional relationships that drive Delight and Secret needs are important too, and ACB’s research ensures that these aspects are not disregarded.