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Archive for July, 2008

Attention Researchers: Are You Ok With These Types Of Partnerships?

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008

Lots of companies have partnerships. Done right, it is a way for each company to increase their revenue and establish a win/win with the right partnerships.

Recently, Peanut Labs–which provides access to members of social networking sites–has partnered with online gaming community Acclaim Games to enable the latter’s members to take market research surveys in return for in-game items such as weapons, clothing and character boosts.

At first, I must admit I was taken aback for a second when I thought about getting weapons for surveys, even if they are just for online games.

My kids have Webkinz and get points and items such as clothes and food for their stuffed animals by playing online games. Amazing that my kids are as good and fast on the computer…but I digress and that is probably a topic for another time. After thinking about it for a few minutes I am ok with the Peanut Labs partnership with Acclaim Games. Even though I have never heard of Acclaim Games, I am assuming it is a reputable company. I believe this is a creative way for Peanut Labs to reach a very difficult but important respondent pool and good for them for finding a way to do that.

The real question is what partnerships am I ok with?

  • What if an online research panel company partnered with a real gun company?
  • What if they partnered with a company that didn’t have a great reputation or all of a sudden fell on hard times? Does that affect your perception of the company in any way?
  • What do you do when one of your vendors partners with one of your competitors?

Interesting questions for sure.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts and comments.

Some Companies Bribe Their New Employees To Quit…REALLY?…MAYBE It’s A Good Idea?

Monday, July 28th, 2008

So there I am leaving a baseball game between the Texas Rangers and the Atlanta Braves. As I was walking to the car, I noticed that my cousin had just sent me an email. He thought I would enjoy the article (thanks AL) since it was about blogs. Since I hadn’t spoken to him in a few days, I thought I would give him a buzz and follow up on the article. During our conversation he mentioned that the list of blogs had a few cool stories and one of them was a company that actually bribes their new employees to quit. The company is Zappos. Since I don’t recall ever hearing of something like that I asked him to email me the article.

Zappos is a company that is growing and has a dynamic personality, to the point where a huge number of its 1,600 employees are power users of Twitter so that their friends, colleagues, and customers know what they’re up to at any moment in time. But here’s what’s really interesting. It’s a hard job, answering phones and talking to customers for hours at a time. So when Zappos hires new employees, it provides a four-week training period that immerses them in the company’s strategy, culture, and vision.

After a week or so in the experience, though, it’s time for what Zappos calls "The Offer." The company, which works hard to recruit people to join, says to its newest employees: "If you quit today, we will pay you for the amount of time you’ve worked, plus we will offer you a $1,000 bonus." Zappos actually bribes its new employees to quit!

Why does Zappos do this? They believe if you’re willing to take the company up on the offer, you obviously don’t have the sense of commitment they are looking for. Zappos wants to learn if there’s a bad fit between what makes the organization tick and what makes individual employees tick–and it’s willing to pay to learn sooner rather than later.

My initial reaction was that this idea was a little crazy, it couldn’t work and there wasn’t a place in business for this kind of practice. But then I thought a little longer and harder about it and realized that companies offer incentive packages to staff all the time. Yes most of the time — in fact every time I have heard a story, it is about staff that have been employed for a bunch of years.

  • But why couldn’t it work after a month?
  • Maybe this strategy is a good one?

I realize it can’t work in every company and certainly you could fire staff if it doesn’t work out from the company point of view, but doesn’t this strategy give you tremendous insight on what the employee is thinking?

I really look forward to your thoughts and comments.

P.S. About ten percent of new employees take the money and run.

Here Is Today’s Challenge: Say Something Meaningful In Six Words.

Friday, July 25th, 2008

As most people do, I love to get gifts — but different types of gifts. Not mainstream stuff. So there I am one day and walk by the cube of a co-worker and lo and behold he (thanks FS) hands me a gift that he thought I would enjoy. It was a book. But not just any type of book. It was different than most of the books I have, which tend to be business, motivational, or sports books. This book was very creative and its title was Not Quite What I Was Planning, Six Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure.

The book was fascinating and got my creative juices flowing. Here are a few from the book that I thought I would share:

  • When talk matters, make it count
  • Pay attention to me go away
  • Ran east, ran west, ran late
  • Open road, no map. Great Scenery
  • Afraid of everything. Did it anyway

The book really gave me a chance to pause and think about trying to put some of my own together. Ok — let me start by saying I am not a pro at this but merely trying to make some sense of some thoughts on life stated in exactly six words. So here goes:

  • Teachers are very important, thank you.
  • Passion is so important to me
  • Sports, competition. That says it all.
  • Family, friends, work, play. All meaningful
  • Boston to Dallas. Life in session

Now your turn. Close your eyes take a minute or two and think about six word phrases that mean something to you or describe some type of experience.

I hope you have fun with this — let me share a little secret…I had a BLAST!

I look forward to hearing from you and having you share your thoughts.

What Happened To Starbucks? You Tell Me!

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008

When you travel around, you see them all over the place. They are on every street corner, in lots of hotels and even in airports.

They were growing fast. Real fast. Maybe some would say it was at light speed. Recently Starbucks announced they were closing over 600 stores and their growth over the next few years will be slowing down considerably.

For those of you who don’t know, I don’t drink coffee. I will have an occasional cappuccino after a nice meal but I am not a regular coffee drinker. I do go to Starbucks, but mostly as a meeting spot or for a marshmallow Rice Krispie treat. Ok I have a sweettooth and love them. Each and every time I went to Starbucks there was a line–usually a big line and it never mattered what time it was. I for one was very surprised that Starbucks decided to close over 600 stores.

The question is what happened to Starbucks?

  • Did they grow too fast?
  • Are their prices too high?
  • Is the economy hurting their business?
  • Do people all of sudden not like Starbucks?
  • Is their marketing missing the boat?
  • Is their competition making all the right moves?

What do you think?

I really look forward to having your share your comments!

Attention Researchers: Let’s Make Research Fun — By Guest Writer Peter Van Brunt

Monday, July 21st, 2008

[Note: While this article focuses primarily on quantitative research, the basic points also apply to qualitative research]

Whenever anyone talks to me about Respondent Cooperation, I invariably tell them that we should place more emphasis on Respondent Satisfaction. I say this because I believe that if we continue to focus on the former and ignore the latter, we risk losing our audience (our respondents).

Let’s face it: completing the average survey is about as exciting as filling out a loan application. Most surveys are visually unappealing and unexciting.

Respondent Cooperation rates have dropped for a number of reasons, but a major one is that completing a survey is too much like taking a test… not an experience most enjoy. Sure, there are other factors affecting Respondent Cooperation, but we tend to ignore that participating in most surveys is just not much fun.

This is primarily the result of a lack of imagination and creativity.

The lack of imagination and creativity in the research process is the result of numerous factors. I will pinpoint a few:

  1. Most researchers are nerds. After all, who but a nerd enjoys studying human opinions and behavior? The clinical approach we take in our work may get us the answers we are looking for, but uses a process and techniques that simply aren’t very entertaining.
  2. We write/ask questions in an unbiased manner which will get the answers required, not in ways which will amuse or engage the respondents.
  3. We tend to hire only researchers–not creative people–to assist us.
  4. We are too often restricted by budgets and timelines which prevent us from doing something “different.”
  5. We are creatures of habit. Most research companies have a style, and have developed a catalog of standard questions. It is very easy to throw together a survey from an inventory of questions which aren’t very interesting.

Let’s look at some methodologies.

Phone. Telephone research is effectively on its deathbed. Participating in a survey over the phone is as exciting as listening to a talk radio show in a language you don’t understand. Interviewers ask questions in an unbiased manner and don’t emphasize words or use intonation which will bias a response. Phone surveys are thus not very engaging, which in turn contributes to low cooperation rates.

Phone surveys are also frequently way too long. We live in the age of sound bites and text messaging (limited to 160 characters), not in an age of 20-30 minute questionnaires. As a result, phone research is dying , and will probably never work again as a great method for research.

Paper. Paper surveys all too often are really like a test with all the baggage and negative feeling attached. Paper surveys are, for the most part, badly designed, poorly laid out, and are usually printed in black ink on white paper. Talk about DULL! What’s the problem with using color or incorporating graphics? We should at least attempt to engage people.

Online. This is the medium with the most potential to engage respondents. Unfortunately most online surveys are too much like paper. They simply are not very engaging. This is because the tools used to program the surveys were developed to meet the needs of the researchers not amuse the respondents. What we have to keep in mind is that while we don’t currently have tools that let us design entertaining and fun surveys, these features certainly can be incorporated into existing software. All we have to do is ask for it. Any technique that you see being used on a Web page or an online advertisement could be incorporated into a Web survey. We need to make better use of movement, sound and color. It is time to start thinking of an online survey more like a good Powerpoint presentation.

The Bottom Line.

Researchers need to hire some/more creative people to assist them, and we need to start to make surveys more fun. Otherwise, we stand the risk of having no participants.

Those are a few of my thoughts.

  • Do you agree with me?
  • What are your thoughts?

I look forward to hearing from you!


Peter Van Brunt, PRC

Mr. Van Brunt has been involved with doing quantitative marketing research since 1974. In 1982 he started his own research company, ReData, Inc. Over the years, Mr. Van Brunt has been an active volunteer in the Marketing Research Association. He was one of the founding members of the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the MRA, served as the second Chapter President, and remained active on the Chapter Board for a number of years. At the National level, he has served on numerous Councils, Committees, and Task Forces. He served on the National Board of Directors as a Director at Large, and was elected national President of the Marketing Research Association for the year 2002-2003. He was instrumental in MRA starting Professional Research Certification, and he currently chairs the Review Committee for Researcher Certification. He is PRC certified at the Expert Level. In 2006 he was presented with MRA’s Honorary Lifetime Membership Award.

He holds a BS in Mathematics from Bucknell University.

Bad News–Do You Want To Know?

Friday, July 18th, 2008

A few weeks ago I was reading the Sunday Dallas Morning News Parade section and they had a very interesting question. The article was about a new DNA test that can tell if you carry the genetic risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. When the results come back you can’t do MUCH about it at all. There is NO treatment that currently exists to prevent or delay progression of the disease.

The question that I want to ask each of you is would you take the Alzheimer’s Test?

For me — I would and here are some of the reasons why.

  1. I feel like information is like gold–the more you have the better off you are. What this really means to me is if I know I had some type of disease I could make sure I have things in a little better order for the future
  2. If I knew it would give me an opportunity to spend time with the people that really matter
  3. If I knew, it would give me a better opportunity to try and see places I always wanted to visit or do things I always wanted to do–like a bucket list!
  4. I would want to know because I believe in the medical profession and just because they don’t have a cure now doesn’t mean they won’t have one in a few months.

For me I think you owe it to yourself, family and friends to always know what is going on health-wise so yes, I would take the test.

  • What about you?
  • If you say yes what are your reasons?
  • If you say no what are you reasons?

I look forward to reading your comments.

I Am Tired Of…

Wednesday, July 16th, 2008

I am tired of:

  • The airlines changing their fee structure every week
  • NBA players arguing every call
  • Hearing about GREAT companies having layoffs
  • Gas prices going up
  • Athletes wanting to renegotiate their contracts
  • Pain, suffering and illness, especially when it strikes family or friends.

~~~ Your turn. ~~~

What are you tired of?

I look forward hearing your thoughts.

This Service Is Free Now, But For How Long?

Monday, July 14th, 2008

So there I am at O’Hare Airport in Chicago–one of the busiest airports in the world. I had about thirty minutes before I was going to board so I decided to sit down for a little bit to rest my tired body. The seat I happened to get was right next to where the flights board. As I am waiting there, I notice the plane I am about to board is exiting and all the passengers start to come off. I see a few people exit and then a short delay and few people get off who are now in wheelchairs. A few more people get off and then again a few more people are deboarding in wheelchairs. This same process continues for a few more minutes before I hear one of the agents say to another we are short 4 wheelchairs since we had 18 people on the flight who needed extra assistance.

I thought wow…yes, that’s a lot of people but also that’s a lot of manpower and extra cost to American Airlines for needing to handle the situation. Since I never have needed a wheelchair for myself or anyone else, I was curious if it is free. After speaking with an agent at the airport and confirming this on the phone earlier today with American Airlines, it is FREE.

But for how long?

Clearly there is a cost to the airline for this service based on extra staff that they may need or extra wheelchairs that they need to purchase not to mention the space to store the wheelchairs.

With airlines dealing with rising fuel costs and trying to make a profit, will this service always be free? Airlines now are charging for food, window seats, and earphones, so why wouldn’t they eventually charge for wheelchairs?

  • What do you think?
  • Are there any other services that companies provide for free now that you think they might charge for down the road?

I look forward to your comments

P.S. I don’t believe airlines will charge for this service…or at least I hope they don’t, since I am getting older and will need one in a few years!

I Hope You Enjoy A Friday Chuckle. Which One Is Your Favorite……?

Friday, July 11th, 2008

I have been getting a tremendous amount of emails with ideas and thoughts for blog topics. This idea actually came from an email with a number of funny comics (thanks SY). Let me qualify what I just said. I think they are funny and hope you do as well. Everyone loves to laugh and have a quick chuckle.

I think they are all funny and very clever. My two favorites are the stray bar and the men at work sign. If you could see my face I am still smiling. My favorite comic is the "men at work" sign. I have seen that sign hundreds of times and never thought about it saying people at work or team at work…so the caption under it WOMEN WORK ALL THE TIME–MEN HAVE TO PUT UP SIGNS WHEN THEY WORK is very funny!

  • Which one is your favorite?

I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Is It Art? A Table? A Chair?……YES!

Wednesday, July 9th, 2008

As you know, I like creativity. In fact, I love people that:

  • Are very creative.
  • Look at things a little different.
  • Can make something out of nothing.
  • Can see things that others can’t.

Recently this was sent to me and every time I look at it I am blown away! I don’t have much information other than I know it was made in Japan.

With space a premium in Japan, I assume an artist came up with a dual function for art and furniture. To me this is so amazing and one of the most creative things I have ever seen.

  • What do you think?
  • Have you seen this before?
  • Would you buy it?

I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Hmmm. What is it?

Look. The nose cone comes off!

Hmmm. Chairs now! The plot thickens!

...and an occasional table...

...do you come here often?

On display

...in this corner...