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Preview: Inside Market Research

Inside Market Research

A marketing research practitioner's examination of some of the interesting facets of the survey research business.

Updated: 2016-10-26T12:22:03.458-04:00


Two year lapse


Just a quick note to confirm that the Inside Market Research blog has gone through a two-year lapse in publication. I wonder, do subscribers even care?

 The reason for the lapse has been due to a few things:

1. Feeling overextended with various work projects.
2. Not being able to publicly disclose much of my Comcast Business research (it's proprietary).
3. The belief that Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are replacing blogs as social tools of communication and dialog.

I'd like to see if this post generates any feedback, and then make a decision about whether to revive this platform, or let it continue to act as a dusty library of content (which continues to garner about 10 or 11 page views per day). Whatever the outcome, I do sincerely appreciate those who have followed my writings here and elsewhere on the Internet.

Who's reading Inside Market Research?


Last month, we passed the sixth "candy or iron" anniversary of Inside Market Research without much fanfare. While the blog was launched in May 2005, it wasn't until April 2006 that the Google Analytics monitoring widget was installed. I'm a big fan of Google Analytics and other web traffic tools (like StatCounter). These tools allow a publisher to learn more -- often times much more -- about who is visiting the website and how they're using it.For the 5-year history of the Analytics-enabled blog, it looks like we've had over 37,600 visits, with about 1.25 pages being opened per visit. Visitors spend about 49 seconds on the site, on average. As I've always known, my article that compares churn rates is by far the most popular of my pages, accounting for almost 30% of all the page views. The next-most visited page is an article about sample sizes, garnering about 9% of page views.However, if you drill down more carefully into the data, I think you can make some other interesting discoveries. For this task, I decided to take only the most recent 24 months of traffic data, so that the findings suggest more current trends and distributions.For example, can we estimate the market share of various Internet Service Providers based on the U.S.-based traffic to my blog? The traffic statistics would suggest so:Comcast - 27%RoadRunner (Time Warner) - 15%Verizon - 10%SBC Global /BellSouth / PacBell (AT&T) - 10%Cox - 5%Charter - 4%Optimum Online (Cablevision) - 4%Comcast Business Class - 3%Qwest - 3%Verizon Wireless - 1%Cogentco - 1%XO - 1%All others & unknown - 16%That strikes me as probably fairly accurate, and it seems to line up rather closely with other independent measures. The Comcast share is likely inflated somewhat, since I publish from a local Comcast area, and I am also a Comcast employee.Using the same methodology, we might learn that in Australia, BigPond Broadband and TPG Internet are neck-and-neck for top spot in ISP market share. Or that India's leading ISP is Airtel Broadband, followed by Tata Indicom (VSNL). In the UK, it's British Telecom with about a 30% lead on Virgin Media, which itself has about a 30% lead on BE Internet.But you can get even nosier about your visitors. For instance, I looked at all of the web domains that had at least 5 unique visits to my blog over the past two years. The domain that seemed to be most interested in my content was the office of Bnei Moran Productions in Israel, spending an average of nearly 10 minutes per visit on my site. Within the United States, the honor of "most interested in my blog" goes to Health Care Service Corporation, clocking in at 7:41 per visit.Since my blog is about market research, it's interesting to note that some market research and similar consulting firms spend a bit of time reading my commentary. In order of depth of interest (as measured by time per site visit):TNS Global (India offices) - 7:01Bates White - 6:16CMI Research - 3:46Millward Brown - 2:29Morgan Keegan - 2:24I would like to thank these five companies for taking a bit more time to read my thoughts and findings on Inside Market Research![...]

Trusting results of product concept research


Any quantitative study that tests purchase interest in a new or unfamiliar product concept will produce results that are likely to be questioned or doubted by even those who designed the study. At my current employer, the Market Research team has made great strides and taken considerable effort to try to normalize the variance that occurs in estimated take-rates from product to product, study to study. We've done this by:

  • Creating standardized wordings for questions capturing interest and purchase intent;
  • Creating standardized scales for questions concerning agreement, likelihood, satisfaction, and switching; and,
  • Retaining archival data results from previous studies to make benchmark comparisons.
Despite this, the fickle nature of telephone and web-based survey audiences remains a hobgoblin of professional consumer researchers. Twenty years ago, response rates on telephone surveys would easily surpass 35% or 40%, where now they are fortunate to break 20% (not to mention that 18% or more of the population no longer has a land-line telephone). Ten years ago, response rates on web-based surveys would commonly be in the 5% to 8% range, where now it is not unusual to obtain less than a 2% response rate (not to mention concerns that many panels are stacked with "professional respondents"). Frankly, despite all of our efforts to be consistent with data and our expectations of that data to guide insights, the changing world makes it more and more difficult to obtain "reliable" measures that uniformly track the general population.

But, we learn certain compensatory tricks and caveats. For example, we know that consumers typically under-report common daily activities (e.g., time spent watching TV will often get reported around 22 to 24 hours per week, but when the actual "people meter" is switched on by Nielsen, it's typically closer to 31 or 32 hours per week). Conversely, consumers will over-report infrequent activities (e.g., we're seeing consumers over-report online long-form video viewing, but ethnographic studies that observe actual waking-to-bedtime behavior suggest that this activity is potentially over-reported by a factor of 5x to 8x).

A recent study at hand regarding a new sports-related product/service has returned a mountain of data, based off a questionnaire that was carefully designed and vetted by both some of our company's and the vendor's best personnel.

We knew going into this research that the presentation of such a multifaceted product would likely require a video format to convey all of the features to the respondent. On the other hand, most of our new product concept testing does not enjoy the benefits of a glossy video presentation, so some of the "benchmark" data loses its comparability. People tend to more warmly embrace a concept that's been presented to them in a stimulating, engaging way (such as a video clip) than when they're presented with only words on a page.

So, when the results came back, showing a rather strong interest in the concept, it didn't take long for us to begin wondering if it was the slick presentation of the concept (compared to other, more typical presentment formats) that gave it an edge against benchmarks.

In this particular case, we had also asked some "true or false" questions to gauge whether or not the respondents truly understood what the product offered, or whether they had gotten carried away with imagined promises of delivered benefits. We concluded that at least two-thirds of the respondents really had a good grasp of the concept (getting three out of three of the true/false questions correct), and so that helped ease everyone's concerns about potentially inflated take-rates.

What do you do in your organization when you encounter research situations such as this?

The importance of competitive bidding


When businesses seek to conduct impartial research about a subject near and dear to them, I think it's an important practice of good governance to obtain competitive proposals and quotations from at least three reputable vendors.

I don't think it's good practice to allow "the new guy" to wire the contract to his former employer, then when publicly called out about it, to ignore the problem entirely. It would seem that the world's fifth-most popular website doesn't see things my way.

Congratulations, Q2 Consulting LLC. You're surely the pride of Oklahoma now.

What is Field and tab?


A wiki formatted definition, as I write it, is:

'''Field and tab''' refers to a limited set of services provided in the [[marketing research]] industry. The name refers to the task of '''''field'''ing'' a questionnaire (that is, interviewing consumers or whomever is the target market, to get their response data to an array of questions), then '''''tab'''ulating'' the resulting data into convenient two-dimensional tables (called "cross-tabulations"), based on answers to at least two of the questions included in a survey.

{| border="1"
|+ An example of a '''cross-tabulation''' (simple)
! Answer choices !! All Respondents !! Males !! Female
! Voted for Democrat
| 55% || 50% || 60%
! Voted for Republican

A field and tab research vendor will typically not be responsible for drafting a questionnaire or assisting on high-level sampling design discussions. Likewise, after the data has been collected and tabulated, the vendor will typically not interpret the resulting data nor prepare a deck of presentation slides. These responsibilities fall on the client (the research buyer) or on a [[consulting|consultant]] that the client may hire.

Field and tab is always a part of the offering of a [[full service research]] vendor. A full-service firm will sometimes offer only their field and tab component when the budget for a particular study is limited.

* Hague, Paul N., '''Market research: a guide to planning, methodology & evaluation''' (3rd edition), Kogan Page publisher, 2002.

[[Category:Research methods]]

Note: The content published above is released to the public by Gregory Kohs, under the terms of the Creative Commons, Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. All respectable attempt should be made to attribute the original content to Gregory Kohs.

Power law curve in surnames


There are purportedly six million unique surnames in the United States.

Think about that. Considering how many Smiths and Johnsons are running about, that means there are millions of surnames being clutched onto by only a handful of survivors. Indeed, the New York Times says that while 151,000 surnames were shared by a hundred or more Americans, four million were held by only one person. For some reason, I suspect that spelling typos are responsible for at least a million of those. How many census records, for example, accidentally point to the surname "Smioth" or "Wikkiams"?

A few years ago, I wanted to know how many Kohses there were in the United States. I suspected there were about 200 or so. I was able to obtain a tally sheet from the United States Census Bureau, and while they did not preserve the exact 1990 census count, I learned at least that "Kohs" was about the 56,229th most frequently occurring surname in America.

Recently, though, I went back to review that file, and it's been updated with more detailed year 2000 census data. They now tally over 150,000 surnames having more than 100 members. The "Kohs" name has dropped to (approximately, since many families share the same estimated number of members) 84,631st place. They estimate about 206 people with that last name in the United States -- very close to my personal guess of "about 200". Funny that I've already collected at least 30 of them on Facebook.

While poking through the first 1,000 surnames, though, I made a fascinating discovery. After I charted the data, it was clear that the top 1,000 American surnames follow a power law curve in terms of distribution.


Naïve as I may be, I momentarily thought I might have made an impressive discovery, but this is not the case, of course. Academic studies have already examined the power law properties of surnames in Puerto Rico, Japan, England and Wales, Korea, and doubtless many other countries, including the United States.

Who's a recognized authority?


Another debate on Wikipedia. What fun.

Wikipedia's article about "Churn rate" at this moment (though it won't last long) contains an external link to my blog post about churn rates. A couple of editors have indicated that the link is inappropriate, because I am not a "recognized expert" or "recognized authority" on churn rates. The blog post comes up as the #2 Google search result (after Wikipedia) when you search for 'churn rates', and it is this blog's most heavily visited page.

We have one party (me) wishing to help expand Wikipedia's usefulness by including one external link to a sourced, academically-cited blog post. The author's credentials include career work in the area of churn rate research, currently for a Fortune 100 firm where churn is an essential matter.

We have another party saying it is not sourced (even though it is), that the scholarly reference to it is merely a ".edu web page" (even though it is a published subscription journal with ISSN: 1527-6619), and that the author is not a recognized expert.

I've pointed out that Wikipedia has thousands of similar external links to commercial sites with far less expertise and scholarly credibility than my own. Who do you think has the more solid footing in this debate?

I hope that any uninvolved Wikipedia editors in good standing might help weigh in on this debate. Should the link stay, or go?

Restaurants on the Web - Part 2 of 3


Hamburger Hank's is a clean, presumably friendly burger joint found in Fountain Valley, California. If you search Google for the words "Hamburger Hank's" (in quotation marks), you get only 14 pages returned. So, this is clearly no Wendy's or Burger King mega-chain.A page from is the first result, and nobody on that site has bothered to review the restaurant. Just a bit lower in the results, we see our very own blog, thanks to our most recent post mentioning that we'd be talking soon about Hamburger Hank's.There's another link not far down that mentions Hamburger Hank's merely because it's an establishment where you can pick up a copy of the Huntington Beach Wave weekly newspaper.Clearly, this hamburger emporium has made little effort to establish a "brand identity" for itself on the Internet.Suppose someone wanted to at least see if anyone had ever taken a picture of the hamburgers (or the front door, or the cashiers, or the parking lot) at Hamburger Hank's. You know, just to get a better "feel" for the place. Then they might look up "Hamburger Hank's" with the Google Images search.I'm not sure the ownership of Hamburger Hank's would be pleased with how their restaurant is being presented in visual form online. The array of four photos that come back does not particularly evoke an establishment where I'll enjoy a delicious hamburger.Nor do these images inspire me to place Hamburger Hank's toward the top of my gastronomical "to do" list. She doesn't look like a particularly cheerful cheeseburger chomper, does she? Companies sometimes spend 10% of their revenues on advertising and marketing, so that a consistently positive image of the corporate entity is firmly imprinted in the target market's mind. It doesn't look like Hamburger Hank's is spending one-tenth of 1% of their revenues on advertising and marketing. At least not on the Internet.I'd be interested in hearing comments from restaurant owners here. Would you be satisfied with the web presence of Hamburger Hank's, if it were your own establishment?This has been Part 2 of a 3-part series:Part 1 – Restaurants on the webPart 3 – Can a wiki directory change the web landscape for an unpublicized restaurant? (Still haven't completed this part, but the attempt to build data was made here.)[...]

Restaurants on the Web – Part 1 of 3


I love good food. Bestowed with a metabolism that allows me to eat until full, three meals a day without blimping out, I consider it a true blessing.So, with that in mind, I tend to hold in high value the restaurant industry, though I wouldn’t know the first thing about managing a restaurant. I probably know a bit more about Internet marketing, though; and that's going to be the topic of discussion in this post. Specifically, why do some restaurants fail to market themselves on the Internet?CASE STUDY: The Georgia House RestaurantMy in-laws live in Lower Delaware. This affords me the opportunity to visit Sussex County every 4 or 5 weekends, and that thrills me because I never miss the chance to have a dinner at The Georgia House in Millsboro, DE. It's my favorite restaurant in Delaware. There isn’t a fancy thing in the dining room or the kitchen -- it is simply unadulterated Southern-style and Chesapeake regional "family food". You can sample a catfish po'boy sandwich, Memphis BBQ ribs, Miss Vicky's meatloaf, prime rib (try the Cajun-spiced version!), or my trusted go-to dish, the buttermilk fried chicken. Chicken is the area's primary agronomic business, so of course Georgia House has to know how to prepare it well. Whatever you do, don't miss the "soup that made them famous", a cream of crab concoction that you'll regret having ordered only a cup. Upgrade one of your two side dishes to the classic green salad, and you've got your fiber for the night. Finish off with another salad, the Eastern Shore picnic favorite Jell-o pretzel salad.Sounds like a perfect restaurant, huh? But it has no website. Why, then, doesn't co-owner Sean Hall publish a website about his Millsboro restaurant and its several satellite locations in Selbyville, Milford, Laurel, and Georgetown (take-out counter only)? I can't figure that out, and Sean was unavailable for my call. Just a couple of years ago, people would pack the place and wait 45 minutes for the next available table, but now business has dropped off to a relatively slower "at capacity" pace. I have to imagine there are tourists traveling to the area who have never heard of the Georgia House, or may have been referred to it only by name but would like to see the menu before trying. Most of the clientele is over the age of 50, so maybe Sean doesn't think this market avails itself of the Internet. Think again, though -- seniors constitute the fastest-growing Internet demographic. According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, those age 50 and over experienced a 26% growth rate in home broadband adoption from 2007 to 2008, with half of Americans between the ages of 50 and 64 having broadband now. Some 19% of those 65 and older had home broadband access as of April 2008.Consider the following possible web searches a hungry diner might conduct. For the tourist who has never heard of Georgia House, but happens to be rambling through Millsboro and has a craving for the regional favorite soup, they might go to Yahoo! on their mobile web browser and type 'millsboro delaware crab soup'. Here's their search result:In the top 9 results, there's not one hit for the Georgia House, despite it being founded in Millsboro and famous for its cream of crab soup. Is it just me? Wouldn't that be maddening if you were the owner of this restaurant?On the other hand, consider the diner who may have had a local resident advise them, "You should go to the Georgia House in Millsboro," but they’d like to see the menu, evaluate prices, get directions, and perhaps confirm whether the establishment accepts Discover card. Their Google search might be constructed as '"Georgia House" Delaware menu map'.In the top 9 results, four of the links do contain info about the Georgia House restaurant, but these specific links are not particularly helpful or flattering to the [...]

Internet users per household


I'm looking for data that would help estimate the number of Internet users per household (or, rather, "per Internet-connected household") in the United States.

If you perform a web search for "Internet users per household", you get a bunch of sites -- all of which are addressing this question in a country other than the United States.

Isn't this the sort of information our government should track in some way? There's a bill that wants to mandate a study of applying net neutrality regulations to high-speed Internet access services, but we don't know how to count Internet users per household.

Somebody help me!

Bradley Joseph atop Wikipedia


The featured, front-page article on Wikipedia today is about musician Bradley Joseph.

His musical talents include "hired by Yanni", "lead keyboardist for Sheena Easton", and "included in multiple various-artist compilation albums, most recently the 2008 release of The Weather Channel Presents: Smooth Jazz II".

I can't imagine how many iterations of smooth jazz from the Weather Channel will ultimately be necessary to exhaust the genre, but apparently we're already up to Volume II.(image)

There is some debate on the Wikipedia talk page about whether this article is truly encyclopedic, as it seems awfully self-promotional, and it lacks even one mote of negative criticism.
"Taking a look at the references it appears Joseph doesn't seem to register outside of the musical circles in which he is appreciated, a very unique situation which causes the article bias."

I do have to wonder how it is possible an article of this length and detail did not involve a financially-interested party at some point.

We all know that Wikipedia can be, in many cases, a marketing dynamo for the subjects portrayed within. Prior to today, Bradley Joseph's article was getting approximately 70 views a day. Now that it's on the Main Page, it will be opened today by between 30,000 and 100,000 people, and the intro blurb on the Main Page itself will capture the passing attention of at least 10 to 15 million additional people.

Joseph's music is backed by 15 talented musicians, some playing three or more different instruments, that make up a symphony of sounds ranging from quietly pensive mood music to a rich orchestration of classical depth and breadth. "
—Ken Moore, Naples Daily News

Loyal Wikipedians will tell you that they have a strict policy against exploiting Wikipedia for marketing or self-promotion purposes. Uh huh.

That's all I have for today, other than to mention that FCC chairman Kevin Martin was recently outvoted 4-1 by his fellow commissioners. Boo hoo.

Multi-level marketing research


One of my favorite marketing research vendors is a San Diego firm that specializes in Internet panel surveys. The panel is, managed by Luth Research. What makes SurveySavvy different from most other online panels is that they pay a small amount of cash to every survey respondent, instead of entering them all into a sweepstakes drawing that leaves 99.5% of the respondents unrewarded. This has the effect of boosting SurveySavvy response rates to an amazing 25%-30%, rather than the 1%-2% other panels might achieve.

There's one other cool thing about SurveySavvy's panel rewards. Panelists who invite other people to join the panel also receive a cash incentive ($1) when those referrals complete surveys! What a fantastic way to build a panel with the "snowball" method.

When I was employed by ICR, I never promoted the SurveySavvy panel here. While we partnered frequently with Luth Research, they were still our competition in some ways.

However, now that I'm no longer on the vendor side of research, I have no hesitation to invite my readers to take advantage and sign up for Luth Research's SurveySavvy panel and start getting paid regularly for EVERY survey you complete with them. If you click this link, you may register for SurveySavvy as my referral, so I'll also earn a dollar when you complete a survey!

If you like the experience SurveySavvy offers, you can then start to build your own pyramid of referrals, so that you too will earn money even when you're not personally completing research surveys.

(Disclaimer: I have already earned a few hundred dollars over the years with this program, and Luth Research has not asked me personally for this endorsement. It is my personal recommendation.)

How not to sell market research


I couldn't believe this one when I saw it. My superior at Comcast is responsible for millions of dollars of market research budget allocation. He's someone I've known and respected in business for about 15 years now.

Recently, a marketing research vendor with whom we're not currently working got about 10 minutes of our time on the telephone. My boss informed them that any business that seeks to win a new spot on our Approved Vendors list had to complete a request for information, after which they may be invited to sign a non-disclosure agreement and a general services contract. Apparently that was too much to ask for this particular researcher, who replied by e-mail with:

Thanks for the time, but truthfully, you're not interested and you'll be a waste of my time. I'm sure Comcast will continue to be successful simply based on the cable component. It won't be based on your consumer research and product offerings that you'll bring to the table.

Wow. Thanks for your pro bono analysis of our company's market position, delivered with such grace and politeness. Glad we won't be working together! I'm going to spare from public identification this individual and his firm. If you're dying to know who it was, you can contact me privately by e-mail.

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Job change


Just a quick post today to let my readers know that I've left my previous employer (ICR / International Communications Research) to take a position with Comcast Corporation, as the Senior Research Advisor. I'll be working on video, high-speed Internet, and digital voice product categories.

Through my observation of 15 years in marketing research, I've found that the most versatile professionals have both vendor and client-side research experience. Heretofore, I had no client-side experience, so turning down an offer from a Fortune 100 company would have been awfully difficult to do. I'm still getting settled in on the 17th floor of 1500 Market (West Tower), waiting for a dedicated phone line and voicemail, etc. But, already, I'm heading up some pretty important research initiatives.

And, don't worry dear readers, I'll share those insights that I can, which aren't proprietary.

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Prevalence of geography in SEO & SEM


I witnessed a discussion on a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Marketing (SEM) message board that just didn't sit right with me. The self-appointed SEO and SEM experts were holding sway, that important business-related search terms are almost exclusively searched without appending a geographic qualifier. That is, far more people will search for "barber shop" than "barber shop cincinnati".Well, of course this is true, as a specific example. However, by so dismissing geographic qualifiers, the "experts" are missing a couple of really key points.(1) I would contend that at least half of the people who type in "barber shop" and hit "Search" will almost immediately see the millions of results returned, slap their forehead, then re-enter a modified search, such as "barber shop in Beverly Hills" or "barber shop 90210" or even "barber shop on wilshire boulevard".(2) If you're a barber on Wilshire Boulevard in the 90210 zip code, you may be resigned to have your web page come up 478th in a Google search for "barber shop", but you damn well better not be satisfied if your website comes up 478th if the search is for "barber shop in Beverly Hills".I say to ignore the impact of geographic specificity in search engine strategy is to ignore your best prospects.Take a look at this spreadsheet I created, examining the most frequent searches related to "plumber", "real estate agent", and "landscaper", according to the Yahoo! Overture keyword selector tool. This data tracks how many Yahoo! searches (in February 2007) were conducted with these words as part of any search phrase. The results are ranked by frequency.The data shows that, admittedly, the majority of searches for these terms are just for the term alone. However, remember my point (1) above -- many of these searches were likely modified in the next couple of seconds to include more descriptive objectives, such as geographic reference points.The evidence is equally clear that locational modifiers play a very big part of business-related searches in this manner:27% of searches with the word plumber included geographic qualifiers17% of searches for real estate agent were narrowed by locationA whopping 44% of landscaper searches specified a locale (most of them in California)How does the business manager (or owner) responsible for search engine optimization address this matter? Well, for starters, make sure that your website contains textual references that relate your enterprise to all the possible ways your location might be defined. Depending on a graphic image or a Flash animation to display your address may look cool, but it would be folly as far as the Google spider bots are concerned. To go back to our Beverly Hills barber once again, his website should be decked out with text references not only to Beverly Hills, but to "90210" (the zip code), "Los Angeles County", "West Hollywood", "Wilshire Boulevard", "Wilshire Blvd", and "Southern California"!Furthermore, there's one more secret to optimizing search results for businesses -- especially those that service a finite geography. It's called "semantic tagging". Semantic Web is eventually going to be the golden egg, as far as search engine algorithms are concerned. While incorporating semantic tagging into an existing, non-semantic website is quite a challenge, there's an easy shortcut to getting your company semantically tagged for amazing search engine results. List your company on the business directory that I am developing, called MyWikiBiz. If you don't believe MyWikiBiz can help your business with search engine performance, just read this for a bit of proof.I'll see you soon on MyWikiBiz!Tags: MyWikiBiz, SEM, SEO, Search Engine M[...]

Trending the news with Trendio


Web 2.0 sites that users enjoy for entertainment can sometimes be useful tools for the savvy business person, too. One example that comes to mind is, a site that claims to be the first current events stock exchange. It is an online "play money" stock exchange where words from the news are the equities. The values of the words are calculated according to their presence in thousands of media sources, from newspapers to blogs.One way that Trendio could be used by marketing and public relations professionals would be to counsel senior management -- in a quantitative way -- about how quickly certain "crisis moments" are fading from the public sphere. Take for example the following three corporate case studies:Remember when Hewlett-Packard was involved in various hearings regarding the "Board spying" accusations? These seem to have peaked back in mid-November, if you believe the Trendio chart. This might be a case where a PR or communications manager at H-P would be, at least for the time being, relieved that H-P's exposure was on the decline. The following chart is interesting in that Wal-Mart seems to have had a big climb in news mentions between November 23rd and December 2nd. What transpired during that time? Nothing but the launch of the "official" Christmas shopping season, complete with a sober warning from the retail giant, predicting its December same-store sales gain would be no better than 1 percent.As a final example, do you recall when Merck won a significantly important case regarding Vioxx? With this chart, do I even need to tell you that the jury put in its decision on November 15th? It seems the lesson in today's media world is that bad news (or the possibility of bad news) is what drives impressions.Even if you don't end up using Trendio for business reasons, it's still pretty fun to play. I know I'm holding some really attractive, ground-floor shares in "Christmas", "Boxing Day", and "New Year's Day". Get 'em while they're still cheap!Tags: Hewlett-Packard, Merck, Trendio, Wal-Mart[...]

Surname distribution in the United States


I came across a delightful mapping tool on the web today. It is a simple mash-up of surname data from the Census Bureau and white pages telephone directories on the one hand, and a map of the 50 states on the other. It's a lot of fun and rather informative to look at how certain last names have "traveled through time" across the United States.

Here are a few of my favorite examples:

A common Amish (Pennsylvania Dutch) name, like Yoder:
src= width=420 height=400 frameborder=0>

A surname with strong ties to the Mormon faith, such as Larsen:
src= width=420 height=400 frameborder=0>

The predominantly Hispanic surnames of Gomez:
src= width=420 height=400 frameborder=0>

...and of Sanchez:
src= width=420 height=400 frameborder=0>

Or, there is Olson, a common Scandinavian surname popularly found in the northern plains:
src= width=420 height=400 frameborder=0>

It's interesting to note the wide distribution of the Vietnamese name Nguyen, but the only significant record begins in 1990:
src= width=420 height=400 frameborder=0>

Many thanks to the Hamrick Software company for devising this useful tool. (Hamrick's primary product is photo scanning software, so if you're in the market for that, check them out.)

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Maps on your web page


When I was a kid, I wanted to be a cartographer.

So, it's not surprising that one of my favorite things to come out of the "Web 2.0" evolution (I refuse to call it a "revolution") are the various mash-ups between Google Maps or Yahoo! Maps and user-provided content. Let the masses geocode, and watch the magic begin.

Two of my favorite such sites are Placeopedia and Wikimapia. Unfortunately, Placeopedia doesn't seem to have active customer support any more, and they don't do a good job of updating their "auto-fill" registry with the most recent entries from Wikipedia. But, Wikimapia seems to be going strong, and users are making hay, filling in interesting spots all over the globe.

You can even use Wikimapia to create a map that you can plug into your own web page!

This is an example:

src= width=385 height=209 frameborder=0>

Note that the orbiting satellite took a picture of ICR when we still didn't have grass growing around the building -- meaning the photo is at least 4 years old.

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You know your friend, "Cheese"?


One of the best television ads I've ever witnessed ran in January 2005. Yeah, I'm only writing about it now, because in all my searching of the Internet recently, I have not been able to find reference to this particular commercial.

I know it was produced by Wieden + Kennedy of New York, and I believe the creative directors were Todd Waterbury and Kevin Proudfoot. The ad featured two of those "singing fish plaques" that were all the rage about six years ago. They were promoting the angling programming on ESPN Outdoors.

The ad went like this:

LEFT FISH: You know your friend, "Cheese"?


LEFT FISH: That's a nickname, right?


LEFT FISH: Does he smell, or somethin'?

RIGHT: Nope.

LEFT FISH: Does he eat a lot of cheese?

RIGHT: No. In fact, he's lactose intolerant.

LEFT FISH: Well, what's his first name?

RIGHT: "Mike".

LEFT FISH: What his last name?

RIGHT: "Jankowskowicz".

LEFT FISH: {Deadpan turn to the camera, pausing for comedic effect}
That just doesn't make any sense!

RIGHT: All right... One time we were out on the boat, and Mike pulled out a big ol' hunk of Limburger. Put it on a hook. Apparently, catfish like stinky cheese.

LEFT FISH: {After a pause}
Catfish are so dumb.

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Comparison of churn rates


One of the most closely guarded secrets in business seems to be the churn rate. This is the rate of attrition, over a period of time, that subscriber-based customers "churn out" (unsubscribe) of the customer base. Churn rates are often measured in monthly terms, especially in the cable and satellite television and the wireless telephone industries. Business analysts will often look at the churn rate on a quarterly basis. Likewise, an annual rate of churn is a commonly used measure.Recently, I got to searching the Internet for a comprehensive list of churn rates, if such a thing existed. A churn rate table, across industries. But alas, nobody seems to have compiled a database measuring the percent of customers who churn out of various companies, across sectors. So, I had no choice but to create such a table.If you try to discover reported churn rates, the first thing you'll notice is that companies will use various time periods as the basis. Monthly, quarterly, annually. I even found one study of lawyer retention rates that spanned a four-year period. So, to try to make this an apples to apples comparison, I converted all of the churn rates I found to "per year" terms. Note, however, if a company reported a 2% monthly churn rate, I did not say that equates to a 24% annual rate (2% times twelve months). Rather, I calculated a sliding count, such that in the first month, 100 customers would dwindle to 98. But in the second month, the 98 customers would decrease to only 96.04 customers (98 minus 2% of 98).The table below expresses 67 different churn rates at different companies in different industries at different times. As I discover more churn rates in my travels, I will update my spreadsheet and occasionally edit this chart. I'm quite certain that I will get feedback in the Comments section, pointing out the perceived errors in my table, or suggesting new data points worthy of adding. I look forward to that! For verification, I have placed a link at the bottom of the table, showing the source material for this table. It would be fantastic if this post became the Internet's number-one repository of publicly available churn rates.Since I've put in some backbreaking coding work creating this table, I would at least appreciate that if you use it and get value out of it, please return a favor by subscribing to my blog via FeedBlitz. Just type your e-mail address into that form over there, on the right. That way, you'll be updated when I have something new to report.And now, without further ado, Inside Market Research presents the...BIG LIST OF CHURN RATESAnnual ChurnCompanyIndustryData YearCountry1.0%Cox (triple-play customers)Cable TV2002US 4.0%C I HostWeb Hosting2003US 4.0%EarthlinkInternet Service1999US 4.5%Greenberg Traurig (lawyers)Legal2003US 4.6%Reed Smith (lawyers)Legal2003US 4.6%Sonnenschein (lawyers)Legal2003US 4.9%Local Telecom2000US 5.0%Piper Rudnick (lawyers)Legal2006US 5.3%Baker & McKenzie (lawyers)Legal2005US 5.7%Local Telecom2002US 6.0%SiriusSatellite Radio2005US 6.0%Wireless2002US 6.1%Local Telecom2001US 6.3%Holland & Knight (lawyers)Legal2004US 6.4%White & Case (lawyers)Legal2003US 6.5%McGuire Woods (lawyers)Legal2003US 6.6%SiriusSatellite Radio2004US 7.0%Morgan, Lewis (lawyers)Legal2003US 7.2%SiriusSatellite Radio2006US 7.5%NextelWireless2001US 7.9%Howrey (lawyers)Legal2003US 8.0%Triton PCSWireless2001US 8.0%U.S. CellularWireless2001US 9.0%Wireless2001US 9.6%Duane Morris (lawyers)Legal2003US 9.6%Wireless2000US 10.0%Web Hosting2003US 10.0%Western WirelessWireless2001US 10.3%Akin G[...]

Top Ten sources


How are you doing, blogosphere? The weather for the past two days has been impeccable here in southeastern Pennsylvania, and it looks like it will continue for a couple of days more. Simply perfect late Spring weather.

(image) As if that weren't enough to lift my spirits, my blog received the very flattering distinction of being recognized as a "Top 10" marketing research blog by the editors at "Top Ten Sources". You can check it out yourself, or just look in my righthand sidebar for the list.

Exxon challenge


For the past few months, the news media has been tearing up ExxonMobil, at first for the enormous profits the company has been reaping of late. Then, the crowning touch came with the news story that showed Exxon's retiring CEO Lee R. Raymond as having been compensated to the tune of $144,573 for every DAY that he led the company (from 1993 through 2005). Even more scandalous was the fact that in 2005 alone, because of a lump-sum pension handout and rising stock price, the amount was much more -- over $1.1 million PER DAY.During a period when every oil company is making money hand over fist, does any one individual really deserve to be compensated over a million dollars a day? Do we think that Exxon would have gone bankrupt these past few years, were it not for the management expertise of Mr. Raymond? To me, I'm not sure anyone really needs more than $25,000 a day to live a decent life as a corporate CEO operating a company that essentially extracts liquid from the ground, refines it, and sells it on the commodity and retail markets. Go ahead, brand me a Communist, or worse, a Liberal. That got me to thinking. If Exxon's CEO could have scraped by on $25,000 a day, that would have freed up nearly $120,000 a day for the company. They could have run one hell of a consumer promotion with that budget. They could have called it the "Exxon Challenge". Here's how it might have worked:First, Exxon would conduct an internal database query of their ExxonMobil SpeedPass Card holders. To minimize anomalies of small samples, they would filter out any ZIP codes with fewer than 5,000 total households (according to the U.S. Census). Exxon would then calculate the current market penetration (household incidence) of their SpeedPass product, within every major ZIP code. Then the "Exxon Challenge" would begin. For the first 3 months of the year, the company would promote a "membership drive", encouraging households in the largest ZIP codes to apply for and obtain an ExxonMobil SpeedPass Card. At the end of 3 months, the ten ZIP codes that most substantially increased their market share of Cards would be named "Finalist" ZIP codes. (The Fox Broadcasting Company or the Game Show Network could get involved at this point, with a "reality" series.) For the next 6 months, those ten ZIP codes' SpeedPass Card holders would be encouraged to buy gasoline exclusively at Exxon and Mobil stations, using their new Cards. They would be encouraged to buy, buy, buy! Use as much gas as possible!Then, Exxon would analyze the customer traffic volume across the ten Finalist ZIP codes to determine the one winning ZIP code that bought the most gas during the 6-month buying frenzy. The grand prize? Every SpeedPass Card holder residing in that winning ZIP code would get $5,000 deposited into their SpeedPass account! All paid for by Mr. Raymond's pay cut.This promotion would elevate to a new plateau all of the things we Americans love about oil and gas companies -- greed, excessive depletion of limited resources, consumer debt, pollution, and (potentially) fraud. What's not to like about the "Exxon Challenge"?Tags: CEO, compensation, Exxon, ExxonMobil, Exxon Challenge, Lee Raymond, promotion, SpeedPass[...]

That's one messed-up scale


Ahem. Getting back to marketing research, now.I received an e-mail at work last week, inviting me to participate in the "Research Industry Trends 2006" survey. It was being sponsored in part by the NY-AMA (American Marketing Association), publishers of the GreenBook Marketing Research Directory, with which obviously I am familiar. Addtional sponsors were DialTek (vaguely familiar), Pioneer Marketing Research (not familiar), and the mysteriously named Rockhopper Research.I almost always participate in surveys directed at our own research industry. I like to voice my opinions (obviously), and I'm always hopeful that a top-line summary of the research might be made available to me as "compensation". I think our marketing research industry could use some more objective research about what makes the most successful companies hum. What are clients looking for? Is the industry truly polarizing to the extremes of crude data collection (order takers) offset by consultative strategic partners, leaving those in the middle on tenuous ground?But then I get a survey like this, and I'm just disappointed. Take a look at the following graphic (click it to open in a larger view), a screen-shot of one question in the study that made me shake my head:What was bothersome about this question? Let me count the ways!First, the respondent is supposed to have a strong enough idea about the growth potential in each of ten different global regions to be able to form an opinion about each. You're not allowed to "Don't Know", because that's just not an option.Second, what if I anticipate that there will be a decline in one of the areas? Again, that's just not an option. I guess the survey authors felt that there couldn't possibly be a retrenchment in research anywhere in the world, even the Middle East. I'm sure they'll just be pouring out the marketing research studies over in Baghdad throughout 2006.Third, look at the five-point scale. At the top end, a "5" reports "Very High Growth" (nevermind that we seem to be forgetting about "potential" any more). At the bottom end, there is "1" anticipating "Little to No Growth". So, what would you expect in the middle, at point "3"? The survey says "No Change". WHAT?! If you're going to have "No Change" in the middle of the scale, then 4 and 5 should be positive change, but 2 and 1 need to be negative change. They're not! It's all growth, growth, growth.Fourth, I have to marvel that, when a question is this patently awful in design and execution, how did it POSSIBLY pass through the quality checking process of (presumably) all FOUR sponsoring research entities? Were they all asleep at the wheel, or was this the disasterous result of a project by committee, where this rating scale was the queer result of some kind of compromise among disagreeing sponsors?It just looks bad for them, either way.That's my criticism. How about making it constructive? What should they do now? In my opinion, the study should be pulled from the web and sent through a more thorough review process. Additional completes then can be solicited on a second, better version. Heck, with the right mea culpa, those who already completed the survey could be invited to take another crack at it.I would always rather have 50 completed interviews on a well-designed question than 150 completed interviews on one that is seriously flawed. I guess I'll notify GreenBook, DialTek, Pioneer, and Rockhopper about this now.Tags: AMA, DialTek[...]

Strumpette's decline


Ever since the "Strumpette" got off the ground, blog readers far and wide have discovered that "she" is probably a "he", and that the site is less of a "naked journal" of the PR industry and more of a low-brow attack on Edelman Public Relations. I think intelligent readers want objective commentary from real-life people who aren't hiding behind a fake persona.

Me, I learned not to wrestle a pig. You both end up dirty, but the pig enjoys it.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so this will be my parting shot:

Goodbye, Strumpette.

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Garfield's too big


I recently came across an amazing list. While this might not have much to do with marketing research, it does underscore how incredible the power of "the masses" can be -- often trumping the power of the intellectual elite.

The list was generated by the Online Computer Library Center. (image) They're the folks who, along with their member libraries, cooperatively produce and maintain WorldCat -— an electronic catalog of books and periodicals (not to mention a few stone tablets and MP3s). If you've ever spent time searching for library books online, chances are you were using a WorldCat database.

Anyway, about the list... It's the 2005 edition of the Top 1000 works that are owned by 53,000 libraries in 96 countries. They started with nearly 495,000 WorldCat items, then counted how many libraries had how many copies of each item. The top five listings shouldn't be a surprise to anyone:

1. The Bible
2. U.S. Census
3. Mother Goose
4. Divine Comedy
5. The Odyssey

The next five should present no surprise, either: The Iliad, Huck Finn, Lord of the Rings, Hamlet, and Alice in Wonderland.

Furthermore, I have no beef with numbers 11 through 14 -- Don Quixote, Beowulf, The Koran, and The Night Before Christmas.

Number Fifteen, however, I had issues with. Garfield.

That's right. Garfield. The orange cat.

In terms of library dollars allocated to assure the institution had a copy available, Garfield beat out Tom Sawyer, Romeo & Juliet, Treasure Island, The Scarlet Letter, and Last of the Mohicans. In fact, there are over two times more copies of Garfield books in the OCLC libraries than Last of the Mohicans!

If you love books, or if you love lists, you'll probably enjoy browsing the complete list.

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