While recently taking a brief from an insight manager we asked what it was that had led her to use Spectrum to carry out online and social media insight for her brand. The answer was both shocking and exhilarating. Shocking because she “no longer trusted the findings of ‘traditional’ market research”. Exhilarating because she had turned to Spectrum as an alternative.
Now let’s be clear on two very important points from the outset. The first is that we have nothing against ‘traditional’ market research, which has played and will continue to play a major role in producing brand insight. The second is the word ‘trusted’ that our client used. She was not saying she did not like the findings of market research but that she did not trust them; and while this was not the case for everything it was for a significant—and important – part of her work.
An obvious question is how she might know whether to trust the market research findings or not? The answer – yes, we did ask – was that the findings simply did not ring true with what was happening in the marketplace. Coming from an inexperienced person this might be open to question but from a highly experienced and respected insight professional it deserves serious consideration.
At around the same time this was happening we were also pitching for an important international market research project. As one of three companies we considered ourselves as a bit of a wild-card. After all, this brief was for international market research and our competitors were both market research firms. Believing passionately in what we do we knew we had a strong case but the question was whether the prospective client would agree. In fact they did and we won the business. You can see the press release announcing our appointment by Cranfield University by clicking here.
So why are insight – and brand and marketing – professionals turning to online and social media insight and evaluation as an alternative to traditional market research? Are you one of these professionals; and, if not, should you be? In order to answer this we have to consider why people are challenging the validity of traditional market research in the first place.
We believe this is partly down to an over-reliance on panels, especially in smaller markets where the same people can be paid to participate on a broad range of topics, which can lead to ‘survey fatigue’. In addition, even with panels, it can be prohibitively expensive to generate a sample size big enough to make results meaningful, especially in small markets unless researching household names. This is an area where online and social media can score heavily against traditional methods by enabling significant volumes of data across multiple markets and languages to be gathered where traditional market research sample sizes would be too small.
There are other arguments, some of which are controversial in market research circles. One is that online and social media provide data “as it is”, ie they don’t rely on people offering an opinion, which though useful does not necessarily reflect actual behaviour. We, on the other hand, can collect massive volumes of data on a time series basis, which we can correlate directly with consumer-driven outcomes ranging from web analytics and search to actual sales.
Whatever your view, there is no question that a major benefit of online and social media insight and evaluation is the cost model. At Spectrum we gather all of our own data and charge nothing for it. Yes, you read that correctly, we charge nothing for our data. Zip. Nowt. Nothing. As a result, unlike traditional market research where a great deal of time and cost is spent on gathering data, all of our time is spent on generating insight.
Welcome to the new world of online insight and evaluation!