Upfront Analytics is continuing with its market research program director interview series. Last week, we interviewed Tim Krywulak, director of Georgian College’s post-graduate Research Analyst program.
This week we reached out to Charlotte Mason, Department Head and C. Herman and Mary Virginia Terry Chair of Business Administration. Professor Mason is the director of the Masters of Marketing Research program, and was recently named by Marketing EDGE as Outstanding Educator of the Year Award in 2014. Professor Mason serves on the advisory board for the Journal of Relationship Marketing, and on the editorial board for the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science. She has published over 15 journal articles, and wrote The Marketing Game, a book and software which allows students to simulate real world marketing.
1) What do you think is the biggest challenge facing the market research industry?
I think there are two very different types of challenges. First, in an environment of shrinking budgets, is the challenge to demonstrate the value of good market research. Second, the challenge of understanding the value to market research of ‘Big Data’, including social media and the multitude of unstructured data such as text, images, and video.
2) What direction does market research seem to be trending toward? Any particular field or method which seems to be picking up speed?
One trend is toward an increased role in the decision making process as a partner, trusted advisor and consultant. In terms of methods, there is increased use of behavioral information as well as non-conscious response such as implicit associations and biometrics (e.g. eye tracking, EEG, facial coding). Also, mobile research is picking up speed allowing for “in the moment” research.
3) What has been the biggest change in the market research industry in the past 50 years?
50 years ago it was 1965 and information was scarce, expensive to collect, and analytical methods were unsophisticated by today’s standards. Because of rapid advances in technology – including grocery scanners, computing power and software, and the internet – data is abundant and analytical methods are greatly expanded and widely accessible.
4) Are landline surveys and other traditional methods still viable in today’s tech-shaped world?
Yes if they are appropriate for the study at hand. For example, not all target audiences are available via high-tech, especially if the researcher is looking at “third world” / developing countries. And some questions are less amenable to high-tech approaches (e.g., new product testing).
Fundamentally what matters is our ability to answer questions. In today’s world of abundant data world, the analysis may generate more questions – which may be best addressed by traditional survey research. Traditional ‘small data’ methods may be increasingly used to explore and answer questions raised by big data.
5) Do you think brand managers today are utilizing the full potential of market research when it comes to concept testing and product development?
In many instances – no. In some instances brand managers are unwilling or unable to fund a well designed study and instead go with much cheaper and lower quality alternatives. Also, the perceived ‘need’ for speed may lead brand managers to rush products, especially line extensions, to market and ‘see’ what sells.
6) Professor Daniel Kahneman’s recent book Thinking Fast & Slow talked about the difference between system 1 and 2 thinking, and how it affects respondents’ answers. Do you agree with his differentiation?
Yes. Kahneman’s proposition of dual processing systems is based on research in cognitive psychology that shows that humans have available a system that is fast, intuitive, efficient, habit-based, good at managing simple tasks, and relatively nonconcious (System I). This system is responsible for the heuristics we apply that may lead to biases (systematic errors). This system can quickly generate responses to questions such “What’s 3+4?” and “Do I feel like coffee or tea?” System II, alternatively, is reflective, controlled, resources consuming, and good at complex tasks: e.g., “What’s 17 × 23?” “Should I buy umbrella insurance?”
A criticism of marketing research is that although the vast majority of consumer decisions are based on System I (habitual, nonconscious), a large bulk of market research is designed to evoke System II (“Walk me through your laundry detergent purchase decision”). People often feel the need to comply with a request/question and will provide answers, but such answers may not be indicative of actual behavior.
Because of the biases stemming from System I, survey questions can create anchors and framing effects that influence response. For example, the same question can be framed as “rate the desirability of a Yogurt that is 1% fat” versus “rate the desirability of a Yogurt that is 99% fat free”. Although the product is exactly the same, the framing of the question may lead to very different ratings. In summary, the research by Kahneman (and others) can be very valuable to market researchers.
7) What is the biggest challenge you face as director of the University of Georgia’s Masters of Marketing Research program?
The biggest challenge is finding the ‘right’ students. Most people think a graduate degree in business equals an MBA. There are not enough masters programs in Marketing Research to merit rankings or cover stories by BusinessWeek or others. As a result, there are very talented people with diverse backgrounds in psychology, statistics, anthropology, or marketing who simply don’t know that programs or careers in market research exist. These ‘potential’ market researchers are difficult to identify and reach. Many of our students find us through word-of-mouth, a few stumble upon us via internet searches – my challenge is to efficiently find those individuals who would thrive in this career.
8) How is teaching market research different than when you were a student?
Common traits of the millennial student are widely discussed and include shorter attention span, questioning why information is needed, as well as being digital natives. We are shifting away from traditional classroom approaches (exams, tests) and towards hands-on experiential learning. In terms of writing and presenting, we are shifting away from traditional homework and towards business memos and storytelling presentations.
While we continue to teach techniques, now there is more focus on the entire research process from problem formulation through reporting and providing recommendations. Finally, every year brings new techniques and approaches to cover (e.g., Bayesian approaches, text mining, facial coding, social media), but we can’t drop the old standards of questionnaire design, sampling, econometrics, etc.
9) When is the ideal time for a post-graduate degree in market research? After finishing college or after getting a few years of corporate experience?
Both can be successful, but the ideal student will have several years of corporate experience. They are better able to relate to and internalize the material after having some experience. And they can also contribute their business experiences to class discussions. Pragmatically, students with prior experience also tend to be more highly sought after by hiring firms.
10) If you could invite any one advertising/marketing/business (living, dead, real, fictitious) person to a meal, who would it be and why?
Yikes – to pick just one! I’d like a table for four – myself, David Ogilvy, Alfred Politz, and Ernest Dichter. All contributed greatly to marketing research, marketing and advertising – but came from very different perspectives, and were known to disagree with one another. Politz had a background in physics and believed in the power of experimental design, probability sampling and quantitative measurement. Dichter had a background in psychology and was a staunch proponent of qualitative research. Finally, Olgivy, hailed as the ‘father of advertising’, applied his background with Gallup and later the British Intelligence Service to understanding the consumer. Should make for lively dinner conversation!
To contact Professor Mason and/or learn more about the Masters of Marketing Research Program – please check out the university link here. And to get in touch with Upfront Analytics, call us at (917) 639-5358. Or get started immediately by filling out a sample market research report here.