January 12, 2007
- by Robert E. Stevens, GENESIS II (The Second Beginning) E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
In my Views of 10/13/06 titled "It's Just My Opinion", I suggested the potential of conducting and managing some of your consumer and market research in-house using a Central Location Multiple Visit Multiple Task Format. This suggestion stimulated some serious discussions pertaining to participant bias as a result of the awareness of the company conducting the research. I agree, it can and it does introduce an element of bias.
When challenged, I asked my correspondents, "What are the two most important sources of brand improvement data?" Most of the researchers I have talked with about this topic agree that 800 Line calls and Complaint Letters are primary sources of brand improvement data. Would you ignore this data because those offering the suggestions are aware of the manufacturer? I doubt it. So there are times and places where this source of bias takes a back seat to the information being shared. However, I would not attempt Evaluative Research using this method, but I would definitely ignore the bias potential in Exploratory Research.
It has been my experience that most, if not all, Marketers and Market Researchers have been trained in Evaluative Research. A few have been trained in Experimental Research. As a rule, it is the Engineers that are trained in Experimental Research, while few Marketers or Marketing Researchers are privileged to receive this training. Unfortunately, there does not seem to be formal training available for those who wish to indulge the area of Exploratory Research. It is not easy for one person to adapt to the rules and guidlines of all three forms of research. One of the primary difficulties is that in the Evaluative Research Format everything is tightly controlled whereas in the Exploratory Format little is controlled.
It is the freedom to play, experiment, and let your mind wander that makes Exploratory Research effective. You are encouraged to "Walk around the mountain" and look at the task/problem from all the different angles. Play the "What if" game. If you accept the concept of awareness bias, consider the advantages of speed and costs. Keep in mind, I am recommending accepting this bias for Exploratory Research and NOT Evaluative Research. Findings in the Exploratory area will later be confirmed, re-confirmed and finally confirmed again before major capital expenditures are made.
In-house operations can be set up to handle National or Regional Sample representations for CLT panels, focus groups, mail panels, one-on-one panels, and in-home methods such as group discussion or observation. The R&D/HPT organization at P&G was set up to handle all of the above methods on a National Sample level, resulting in a substantial research saving (see my Views of 10/13/06) along with a time savings. Imagine placing a use test in the field one week after the request is made or in-home group discussion or focus group within four days of the request. It is possible. It has been done for years.