Nobody pays me to write any of the copy on my blog, and should I ever have the good fortune that they do, I will declare it. My main employment is as the owner and principal of The Future Place consultancy. The Future Place provides two key services 1) training and services to industry and academic bodies and 2) consultancy services to companies. The details of the companies I work with are a private matter, but if I blog about any company who has paid The Future Place more than expenses recently (approx. two years) I will mention that they are a client. I hold equity in Virtual Surveys and provide consulting services to them from time to time.
I am paid to run courses for a number of trade bodies and over the last few years clients have included ESOMAR, AMSRS, MRS, and MRIA.
With all the fuss about health reform, and discussion about whose health system is the best, I had a look at the CIA World Fact Book for some comparative data.
For Brits the bad news is that we are ranked 36th, well behind our neighbour France which was ranked 9th, and behind English speaking Austalia(7th) and Canada (8th), the US came in somewhat behind at 50.
The top five were: Macau, Andorra, Japan, Singapore, and San Marino. Three in Asia, two in Europe, it looks more like the way people live rather than ethnicity.
On Thursday I will be flying off to Australia for what will
be the start of an exciting month of meetings and conferences. For two weeks I
will be in Australia, during which time I will be running three presentation
workshops, one new media workshop, and about ten presentations to corporations
on the benefits of using new media as part of their research programmes. My
last event in Australia will be as keynote speaker to the Australian Marketing
Institute’s Government Marketing Conference in Melbourne.
After the AMI conference I will rush back to the UK to help
organise our first rugby match of the season, but I probably won’t play as I
am running the Robin Hood Half Marathon the day after. After the run I am off
to Montreux in Switzerland for the ESOMAR Congress where I will be running a
Master Class in the use of communities for market research, and I am really
looking forward to seeing old friends and making new ones.
In the weeks after Congress I already have a number of
client meetings set up and I will be producing two webinars with Virtual
I will try to Tweet my way through this month, and will
hopefully learn at least as much as I share.
Although the schedule above looks fun, I do need to finish 2 papers, 5 presentations, and a magazine article (for Research World) before next Monday, as well as a stack of marketing science projects that need dealing with over the next three days.
At the moment the airwaves are full of comment and
recrimination about the Scottish Government’s decision to allow the Libyan terrorist
Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi, who was convicted of being responsible for the
bombing of Pan Am flight 103, which blew up over the Scottish town of Lockerbie,
killing 270 people, the majority of whom were US citizens.
The thrust of the Scottish Justice Minister’s cases is:
1.Megrahi is guilty of a terrible crime, and has
shown no remorse.
2.Megrahi has been judged to be dying of prostrate
cancer, and it is officially assumed that he has a few weeks left to live.
3.Megrahi showed no compassion for all the people he
killed, nor for their families.
4.However, the Scottish system is that the
standard of compassion they judge themselves by is a higher standard than that
of a terrorist.
Some people do not believe that Megrahi is guilty, but the
Justice Minister is not allowed to believe that, because he is the Government’s
Minister. Some people believe Megrahi is not as ill as the doctors say he is,
but again the Justice Minister can’t over-rule the doctors on a medical
The arguments against Megrahi’s release appear to fall into
a)UK politicians, from other parties, who appear
to see a political advantage in attacking the Justice Minister (who is a member
of the Scottish National Party).
b)People and politicians from other countries and cultures,
where the concept of compassion in determining the implementation of courts’
decisions is not part of their system. In particular, the US system appears to
be much more ‘Old Testament’, and is simply different to the Scottish system.
c)People who think that we should not show
compassion to somebody who has not shown compassion to his victims.
The first position is, IMHO, morally bankrupt, but all too
common. The second position is completely understandable, group A does not like
group B’s system.
However the third position strikes me as a logical nonsense.
If we only show compassion to people who ‘deserve’ it, we will never actually
show compassion. Not only that, if we set as our standard, as the same as that
of the terrorist, we are just engaging in a race for the bottom.
I do not have enough information to know whether Megrahi is
guilty, nor do I know he will die within a few weeks. But if we assume that
both of these are true, I think that releasing him as a sick and infirm man to
die at home with his family (and remember his family have done nothing wrong)
makes our society a better place, and if we had insisted he had died in a cell,
or in a hospital ward with a prison officer at the foot of the bed, we would
have been a lesser society.
I am sure that if a friend or relative of mine had died in
the bombing, I would feel different. But that is why, in a civilised society,
we have people who are not personally involved to determine individual cases.
As part of my preparation for my presentations to the AMI
and ESOMAR conferences in September, I have been pulling my thoughts together
about what I think will happen in the near future, and as part of that I have
been talking to young people about what they are doing and seeing?
I suspect that at the moment we are in a period of relative consolidation,
rather than fragmentation.
The feedback that I am getting is that the core features
being used by the ‘young’ set are:
Twitter (a phenomenon spreading from old people to younger
people, how weird is that)
Facebook (with MySpace and Bebo losing ground heavily) –
MSN and Facebook messaging, with other messaging systems
losing ground, again not what anybody would call new
In terms of devices, the key thing seems to be the shift
away from music players towards using the phone (and even more movies on phones), growth in the use of netbooks, and for those who
drive an almost total dependence on Sat Navs.
'Play on demand' seems pretty big, but for many of them in the
UK this means putting something like ‘Mock the Week’ on iPlayer, which again is
hardly something ‘new’.
In terms of transactions, the big players seem to be getting
even more established, from Amazon to ticketmaster.
What are your observations?
What do you think the ‘next thing’ will be?
Do you think the 'next thing' will come from the youth, in the way social
networks did, or from older users in the way iPlayer and Twitter did?
The title of my session is ‘A Decade of Change. No, not the
last one, the next one!’, which sets out my vision of the accelerating change
for the next decade, which I think will dwarf the amazing changes we have seen
over the last ten years.
In order to help convey the way the world is changing, I am
producing a simple handout that looks at the last ten years, from 1999, to
highlight just how quickly the world is changing. My current, rough draft, list
of key events and dates is set out below, and I would love to hear your
thoughts and suggestions. Note, the list has a slight Western and Australian
bias, but should otherwise be representative.
·Population reaches 6 billion
·Macau is transferred back to China
·Boris Yeltsin resigns, Putin takes over
·Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic join NATO,
just ten years after the collapse of the Berlin Wall
·Apple releases the fist iBook
·MSN Messenger released
·Google opens first offices in California
·Internet advertising breaks $2billion barrier
·India reaches 1 Billion population
·Summer Olympics, Sydney Australia
·G W Bush elected president, replacing Bill Clinton
·Y2K did not bring computers to a standstill
·ISS (International Space Satellite)
·AOL buys Time Warner
·405 the Movie, first movies distributed via
·65% of people in Finland have a mobile phone
·Google Ad Words launched
·Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell published
·9/11 Twin Towers
·Afghanistan War begins
·USA Patriot Act passed – step change in
anti-terror laws and surveillance
·China joins WTO (World Trade Organisation)
·Enron files for bankruptcy
·Netherlands first country to recognise same
·P&G launch Tremor Panel
·Japan launches first 3G mobile phone system
·The Euro currency issued
·National Front (far right) Le Pen beats the
socialist to take second place in the run off election, won by Jacques Chirac
·Al Jazeera launches its English language news
·Warren Buffett donates over US$30 billion to
the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
·Avian flu scare
·Sydney has warmest day on record, 45⁰C
·The Chinese River Dolphin or Baiji becomes
·Pluto downgraded, no longer a planet, popular
protests at ‘technocrats’
·Blue-ray disc format released
·Play Station 3 released
·The Wii released
·Time magazine’s person of the year is “You”
·P&G CEO AG Lafley calls on brand to 'cede control' to customers
·First market research agency in Second Life
·The Long Tail, Chris Anderson, published
·Wikinomics, Don Tapscott & Anthony
·The file Inconvenient Truth highlights climate
change, winning an Oscar in 2007
·Bulgaria and Romania join EU
·Angola joins OPEC
·Russia cuts oil supplies to Poland, German,
and Ukraine in dispute with Belarus
·Russia is once again recognized as a
full-fledged superpower by the United States
·Russia withdraws from the Treaty on
Conventional Armed Forces in Europe
·Russian Orthodox Church Abroad and the Moscow
Patriarchate re-unite after 80 years of schism
·Vietnam joins the WTO
·Benazir Bhutto assassinated in Pakistan
·H5N1 bird flu found in UK
·Sydney turns off the lights for an hour to
highlight climate change
·A Polish immigrant to Canada, dies after being
tasered five times by the Vancouver RCMP, prompting nation-wide controversy
on use of the weapon.
·Estonia becomes first country to hold general
·Finland switches off all of its analogue
terrestrial television signals as part of the digital switchover
·60% of homes in Finland are mobile only, i.e.
·Number of fixed lines per 100 global citizens
·The UK's HM Revenue and Customs admits that it
has misplaced 2 computer discs which contained the records of child benefit
claimants data, including bank details and National Insurance numbers, in the
United Kingdom, leaving up to 7.25 million households susceptible to identity
·Microsoft Vista launched
·Halo 3 released
·Blackberry has 8 million subscribers
·Asus Eee PC launches the netbook format
·Google Street View launched
·Herd, Mark Earls, published
·The Black Swan, Nassim Taleb, published
·Dmitry Medvedev takes office as President of
Russia, Vladimir Putin become Prime Minister
·Ireland votes to reject the Treaty of Lisbon,
in the only referendum to be held by a European Union member state on the
·Russia invade Georgia
·Barack Obama elected US President
·Petroleum hits USD$100 for the first time
·Rising food and fuel prices cause riots in
·First run on UK bank since 1866, Northern Rock
taken in Government ownership
·Lehman Brothers go bust
·Global financial crisis starts
·Russia loans Iceland 4 billion Euros
·Australian PM Kevin Rudd says sorry to stolen
·Riots and repression in Tibet – China escapes
sanctions or meaningful criticism
·Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper
apologizes to Canada's First Nations for the Canadian residential school
·Bill Gates steps down from running Microsoft
·Large Hadron Collider starts in CERN, and
·Claudia Castillo of Spain becomes the first
person to have a successful trachea transplant using a tissue-engineered
·About one-quarter of the globe now using the
·4.1 billion mobile phones in use (global
population = 6.7 billion)
·28% of Africans have a mobile phone
·Buyology, Martin Lindstrom, published
·Here Comes Everybody, Clay Shirky, published
·We-Think, Charles Leadbeater, published
·Predictably Irrational, Dan Ariely, published
·Russia shuts off all gas supplies to Europe
through Ukraine. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin publicly endorses the move and
urges greater international involvement in the energy dispute.
·Albania and Croatia join the North Atlantic
Treaty Organization (NATO)
·U.S. President Barack Obama signs an order to
close within a year the Guantánamo Bay detention camp in Cuba, but is
struggling to deliver on his promise
·Sri Lankan civil war ends (?)
·Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
announces that Iran has launched its own satellite, "Omid", into
orbit on an Iranian-built rocket
·Gunmen attack a bus carrying Sri Lankan
cricketers in Lahore, Pakistan, killing eight people and injuring several
·Deadliest bushfires in Australian history
·Swine flu erupts, first outbreak to be called
a pandemic since 1967/8
The UK's MRS has announced that one of the key elements of their new code of conduct is a strengthened interpretation banning the use of clients' products as incentives.
The historical reason for this rule is that a client incentive can be seen as distorting the market. For example, if everybody who takes part in a hall test is given a chocolate bar as an incentive, that might reduce the market opportunity for other brands to the tune of one market bar. Similarly, a game console research that offers a prize draw to win one of ten games consoles, means that ten of the respondents end up with the client's products, do not buy the competitor products, and will probably go on to buy branded games.
More recently the MRS have been making the point that the Information Commissioner's Office has been saying that giving client incentives could count as direct marketing. The importance of this guidance is that at the moment, in the UK, market research enjoys some exemptions from the Data Protection Act, which makes our life a tad easier, and market research could lose these exemptions if we annoy the Commissioner.
However, researchers have already started to highlight concerns about this new, stronger, interpretation.
One area researchers have highlighted is customer satisfaction, where client related incentives reduce the cost of research and appear to be more 'natural' to respondents than 'independent' incentives. Indeed, some researchers worry that the new interpretation will make many studies more expensive, at a time when buyers and providers of research are struggling with falling budgets.
I worry that this rule/interpretation ignores the wishes of some respondents, falling back into the mindset that we (the researchers) make the rules, and respondents should do as they are told.
As well as some customer satisfaction research, I think this rule will drive more online research communities out of the Market Research domain. Some researchers have found that when people sign up to an ongoing branded community, for example drinkers of a specific coffee brand, what they expect as their compensation is brand related, such as visits to the factory, news about product launches and changes, a chance to try new products, and yes product related incentives. People join a branded community because they want to improve that brand, they want to be hear, they want to be respected, and they often want to be more associated with the brand. A neutral incentive, such as cash or Amazon vouchers, changes the mindset of the community members, away from collaboration to being 'paid'.
I think might experience a significant schism in the research industry in the next few years, and I think the two sides of the argument are likely to be:
Technocracy: People who believe that research is, and/or could be, based on scientific principles of sampling theory, of analysis, of ‘house of quality’ procedures, of being independent of the client and the respondent, and of being the unobserved, passive observer. For these people, research is something we do to people.
Democracy: People who believe that what happens to respondents’ data should be determined by respondents, people who believe that customers and participants should have a major (possibly the primary role) in establishing the rules about what researchers can and can’t do. For these people, research is something we do with people.
I have chosen the term schism to highlight the potential for researchers to fall out in the way that religions have in the past. I fear that people will start hurling comments such as ‘heretic’ and anti-science.
Over the last couple of years I have been honoured to accept invitations to speak at a number of events around the globe and to run workshops in a wonderful range of places including Europe, US, China, Russia, Singapore and Australia, and I am looking forward to being in North Africa later this year. However, I also had several invitations that I was not able to fit into my schedule because they came too late.
Like most of the people on the market research workshop/speaking circuit my diary for 2010 is already filling up quite fast. If you would like to think about me (or anybody for that matter) as an invited speaker or workshop leader, it would be good to make contact over the next month or so, even for events in the second half of 2010.