Think Quarterly: Dedicated to Data

Thought you may appreciate a new online magazine launched by Google, called Think Quarterly. Designed to communicate with Google's partners and advertisers, this first issue has been, “dedicated to data – amongst a morass of information, how can you find the magic metrics that will help transform your business?”

Masculinity in American Culture

Over the past few months I've been spending quite a bit of time in the United States – both for business and pleasure. In contrast to many European and Asian countries, one aspect of American culture that always surprises me is the degree to which they embrace ‘masculinity’ in their everyday lives. 

From the way that meetings are conducted, to the car brands that people prefer, masculinity seems to play an important role in mainstream American culture.

Defining Cultural Masculinity

For almost half a century, the famous social psychologist Prof. Geert Hofstede has been conducting research based on six dimensions of culture. One of those six dimensions is masculinity, a cultural dimension in which “social gender roles are clearly distinct: Men are supposed to be assertive, tough, and focused on material success; women are supposed to be more modest, tender, and concerned with the quality of life.”

Below is a table outlining the social norms frequently found in masculine cultures:
Bigger, Faster, Harder, Stronger

According to the research, America is considered a higher masculinity country, meaning that many of the masculinity attributes listed above also reflect mainstream American culture. To wrap up this post, I thought I’d provide a few practical examples of how masculinity can influence everyday American behavior.

Muscle cars are defined by Merrium Webster as, “American-made 2-door sports coupes with powerful engines.” These powerful cars are an icon of American masculinity, with research showing that “engine power of a car is more important in masculine cultures. In feminine cultures, people may not even know their car engines power.”

Madison Avenue is arguably the home of global advertising, located in New York City, the home of American corporate culture. According to research, “masculine cultures show more confidence in the advertising industry… [it’s believed that] the skepticism of feminine cultures toward advertising is based on their markets having been relatively swamped by advertising reflecting US masculine values.”

In America, information is often presented rationally. According to research, “across cultures it appears that feminine cultures read more fiction and masculine cultures more non-fiction… Members of masculine cultures seem to be more concerned with data and facts: members of feminine cultures are more interested in the stories behind the facts.”

Three interesting things on the interweb

In this edition of interesting things on the interweb, you’ll find three different forms of thinking from one source - Strawberry Frog. For those of you who don’t keep up-to-date with the advertising industry, Strawberry Frog is an independent agency which has been described as “waging war against the dinosaurs of advertising - monolithic global networks and their holding companies.”

Interesting interweb one:

In a five minute interview conducted by Heidu Ehlers, the founder of Strawberry Frog, Scott Goodson, discusses some of the challenges and priorities involved in running a global agency. According to Goodson, “when I founded Strawberry Frog, the challenge was always about fearlessness. You know, am I fearless enough to do it, do I have what it takes. And that question is there every single day.”

Interesting interweb two:

In the Planner Survey 2010, Heather LeFevre reports on the working life of 1578 strategic planners from around the world. Covering topics such as salary, job satisfaction and digital activity, the Planner Survey 2010 delivers some great data in a visually engaging format.

Interesting interweb three:

In an insightful Adweek article titled, ‘Whither Millennial Men,’ Chip Walker shares his insights on the emerging nature of millennial men. According to Walker, “millennial men are taking matters into their own hands and inventing a new version of American male success… a new male success archetype I call the indie guy.” Walker goes on to say that, “maybe the future of marketing to these young men is about giving them hope that a new version of American male success is possible, in a world where the odds sometimes seem stacked against them.”

The NGMR Top-5-Hot vs. Top-5-Not

As part of the Next Gen Market Research group, bloggers from around the world were invited to participate in a group post on the ‘Top 5-Hot vs. Top-5-Not’ topics in market research. The following is a collection of topics and trends that I feel are important to our industry; it may not add up to ten, but that’s what happens when you ask a qualitative researcher to count.

Hot topic 1: Research re-integration
At one time, the market research industry was unified with the marketing world. The purpose of market research, and the insights it garnered, was to inform the development of useful ideas (like the work of Ernest Dichter on Madison Avenue). However, over time, the market research industry separated from the marketing mainland and came to operate as an island.
Recently, I heard an MRIA colleague state that “the definition of useless research is research that isn’t used; and a lot of our research isn’t used.” Isolated on our industry island, a great deal of market research has become boring, habitual, resistant to change and disconnected from the needs of the marketing mainland.

Hence my first hot trend for 2011 is the re-integration of research into the marketing industry, and the re-connection of research and creativity. In order for our insights to be useful, we need to work more closely with those who actually use them.

Hot topic 2: Neuroscience
One of the highest profile research techniques of late has been neuroscience (shout out to my friend and former colleague Dr. Shane Moon, whose company is helping to pioneer this approach in Australasia). While neuroscience has attracted no shortage of public attention, it still faces some significant challenges including high start-up costs, a lack of qualified principals, risk adverse clients, and ambiguity surrounding the insights it provides.

Assuming it can sort out the business model, my second hot trend for 2011 is Neuroscience.

Hot topic 3: Metric Messaging
Back in 1964, Marshall McLuhan coined the phrase, ‘the medium is the message.’ Today, with the advent of social media, it may be worth considering if ‘the metrics are the message.’ In the same way that marketers use research to understand customers, customers use research to understand themselves. As a result, statistics and studies are some of the most viral content available to social media marketers.
Expanding our industry offering, my third hot trend for 2011 is metric messaging, or research companies using findings to stimulate brand conversations in social media.

Hot topic 4: Qualitative with Qualia
The broad definition for the term qualia is ‘the study of feelings and qualities of mental states.’ In today’s highly competitive, increasingly commoditized markets, there has never been more need to properly understand and harness customer’s mental states.

According to Prof. Gerald Zaltman, “95% of thinking happens in our unconscious. Therefore, unearthing your customers’ desires requires you to understand the mind of the market.” This is very much the objective behind the use of deeper qualitative methodologies, like those employed by companies including Olson Zaltman Associates, Censydiam, Psyma, Sinus Institute and Intensions Consulting.

Moving beyond the focus group, my fourth hot trend for 2011 is qualitative with qualia, or the use of qualitative methodologies that are designed to understand and explore the feelings and qualities of mental states.

Hot topic 5: Social Media
To be honest, no blog post on hot topics would be complete without a reference to social media - and the market research industry is no exception.

From a measurement perspective, social media may offer our industry an unparalleled opportunity to understand and explore human behavior. While most research practitioners appear to be behind the eight-ball in terms of social media expertise, clients still have high demand for tools and techniques that can understand human motivations in this medium.

From a management perspective, social media may also end up challenging many of the revenue and business models in our industry. Social media sites make most of their money from marketing - not market research. For them, market research, both sample and analysis, could be given away for free if it leads to more marketing revenue.

Irrespective of whether it ends up becoming a gift or a grenade, my fifth hot trend for 2011 is social media, and the impact it will have on the research industry.
Not topic 1: Online Panels
For the past few years, the reliability and validity of online panels has been one of the most over-exposed topics in market research. Every industry conference and publication seems to perpetuate this ongoing exercise in naval-gazing.
Whilst critiquing the effectiveness of online panels is important, the problem with our continuing focus on this topic is that it distracts us from far greater industry challenges - like how to retain custodianship of customer insights in the future. To quote from a recent blog post:

“The debate over data collection methods (i.e. telephone vs. online) is at the end of the day an old one, to be argued by academics. It is, at best, a sidebar to the greater issue facing the market research industry today: that of relevance and innovation... So much of market research today is merely a dump of data, with no meaning behind the numbers: templated reporting of tables and charts. Data collection, however, is a commodity and market researchers who continue to provide commodity services run the risk of becoming extinct.”