Over the new year I read the perfect book for the start of the new year. In Superforecasting, Philip Tetlock and Dan Gardner provide a roadmap for becoming a better forecaster, with small and progressive steps to improving any prediction you make on almost any topic. This is not just book for political pundits and economists, but is recommended to anyone in marketing sciences, including researchers, who make a living from interpreting and synthesising information to make inferences about business decision-making.
The Signal and the Noise deals with the challenges of making predictions and is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand both the potential and limitations of big data. The author, Nate Silver, famously beat all the professional pollsters in making predictions about the last two US presidential elections and has written extensively on the limitations of models and experts in accurately forecasting the future. Read more »
Reading Research Live’s interview with Steve Phillips (see here) prompted me to think again about the future of market research, and more specifically about customised quantitative research which is the backbone of the majority of global research agencies. Along with two other website’s Zappistore might hold the key to part of the future of market research. Read more »
Curiosity has it’s own reasons (Einstein)
The lifeblood of market research is curiosity and curiosity is a great thing in all aspects of life (as Einstein said so eloquently on several occasions). Market researchers are very adept (and trained) to ask lots of questions, but I think we ask far too many and should ask far fewer and be smarter in the way we design research in order to do that. Let me be clear from the start. Asking questions in market research is very often at best a waste of time, and at worst positively misleading. Read more »
The future of questions
Everyone likes to make predictions as one year closes and another begins with fresh hopes, although fewer go back to check what they said previously (with some notable exceptions). Rather than make predictions, most of which are guaranteed not to happen, I would like to share a hope for how market research can reinvent itself for the future. In sharing my hope I can also share some of the changes that I believe will happen at some time in the near future (I would never be confident enough to say that it will be in 2012).
My big wish is that market research can start to get beyond its obsession with questions. Read more »
Market research and product testing
The history of product testing is long and can trace its path back to many diverse fields along a similar timespan to that of market research (back to the 1920s when the science was first introduced to manage product quality). Sensory science developed at a fast rate in the 1950s and 1960s, when different techniques for the ‘descriptive analysis’ of products were developed, starting with the flavor profile method, in the fast developments of the consumer goods industries which followed the end of the second world war. The science was boosted by the publication of Stevens’ landmark textbook on psychophysics in the mid-1970s and has come a long way in the last 50 years.
“Though experience be our only guide in reasoning concerning matters of fact; it must be acknowledged, that this guide is not altogether infallible, but in some cases is apt to lead us into errors.” - David Hume
“The invalid assumption that correlation implies cause is probably among the two or three most serious and common errors of human reasoning.” - Stephen Jay Gould Read more »
CNBC have an interesting slide show (click here) and article on Growing Trends for Chinese Consumers and it’s worth sharing them even though some are well known (some are more surprising). The trends are macro-economic, and provide insights into the changing Chinese marketplace and consumer. Read more »
“All models are wrong, some models are useful.” - George Box
The flaw of averages
Market research reports are generally packed full of average scores and comparisons of means, and not often enough with distributions and extremes. In the real (business) world this is a mistake as, in the words of Sam Savage’s (f)law of averages, ‘plans based on average assumptions are wrong on average’. To put this another way, errors occur in the real world when we replace uncertain numbers by single (or simple) averages. Read more »
Apple must have been relieved to have Steve Jobs back (if briefly) for their latest new product introduction (iPad 2). Although he looked a little frail, he still commanded the stage, using presentation skills that all researchers can also use, including many tricks from Hollywood. In The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs, Carmine Gallo summarises these skills in three acts (like all the best plays and presentations). Read more »