Friday, February 12, 2010

How can 1.3 Billion Chinese People be wrong?

I am “spot-on” with my New Year’s Resolutions this year. How you doin’? It’s not what you think. The only reason I am on track is that I don’t make any resolutions for the New Year. If you make them on the very first day of the year, your probability of success is pretty low and many people abandon the calling a couple weeks into the New Year. How do I know this? It’s empirical. It’s observational research. How many of you have done this or know people that 2-3 weeks into the year are saying, “well there is always next year”?

How about you break from your norm and try something different? If you want to make a change you have to change something. The date is a variable (see lots of research terms). You can change one variable and see if you have a different outcome.

Marketing Research, which is the process of getting the information that you need, dictates that you measure results in a quantifiable manner. If you change multiple variables it is often difficult to measure the results. For example, we conduct a lot of advertising copy testing at Mindspot. If we test a TV commercial with customers age 18-24 and test a different TV commercial with customers age 25-34 it is possible that we could obtain different results for the overall appeal of the ad because we have changed 2 variables.

We would not know if the difference was due to the age group or the different commercials. If we show both age groups the same ad then we can measure the overall appeal of each ad. Or if we show the same ad to both age groups we can tell if there is a difference in perception between the age groups on overall appeal for that ad. Of course, we can design one test to accommodate both variables. But, I’m not going to do that in the blog today because I am really talking about just changing one variable which is the day that you celebrate the New Year (and who doesn’t need a “mulligan”)!

The date of the Chinese New Year changes every year. We are nearing the end of The Year of the Ox and entering The Year of the Tiger on February 14. Oddly, it falls this year on Valentine’s Day. No disrespect to St. V but I am going to celebrate the coming of the New Year instead. How can 1.3 billion Chinese people be wrong?

At least in the US there does not seem to be a lot of societal or peer pressure to adopt making a list of resolutions for the Chinese New Year. So, change one variable (when you make your resolution) and see if it has any impact on your success. Here’s to the Year of the Tiger – bring it on!

The author of the Mindless Babble Blog is the President of Mindspot Research and Business Solutions.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

London Bridges Falling Down

I just returned from London and it seems like when I travel or do something that gets me out of my normal routine I get inspired. And, we all need a little inspiration. London is inspiring to me on a grand scale. In my mind it is most like an older wiser more polite version of New York. It’s not like “Jack the Ripper” is still running through the streets but it seems like there is history around every corner…or at least a pub.

It is striking that you can be very anonymous in both New York and London. Big cities are that way. The difference is in culture….eventually some out-spoken New Yorkers will yell at you or talk to you for no reason. In London that has not happened – at least not yet. One time I fell in the middle of the street in London. Not one of my prouder moments. It was a few years ago and it was combination of very high heels, a cell phone, pouring rain, and a less than visible pothole. I truly expected someone to immediately come to my aid and at least help me get up and collect my belongings. That did not happen. As a matter of fact, my perceived polite Londoners started honking and yelling for me to get out of the road. It was alarming.

My point is that it is better to dismiss your preconceptions because you don’t often really know the outcome. Ya, maybe in New York there would have been a better chance of someone offering aid...maybe not. Is that good enough for you? I get asked a lot of questions about research and my blog goal this year is to focus more on that core competency. And, today’s blog is about research (really!) and how leaving your ideas, preconceived notions, and social bias at the door will serve you well. Start with a blank page and let your customers fill in the blanks. Sure it is OK to have a hypothesis but it better not get in the way of finding the truth.

Research quite simply is finding information that you need to know, that you don’t have yet. And, why add your two cents – it doesn’t matter and it may cloud your vision and cause you to make a critical mistake.

Getting back to the story, fortunately, once the initial shock that Londoners were actually yelling at me wore off, I was able to get up and yell “alright already” at the honking taxis “as if” Miss Montana was a native New Yorker.

People’s reactions, even your own reactions to various situations, questions, and events can surprise us all. Cheers~