A Research Christmas Carol: Chapter Two

The second part of our special Christmas tale – check out Part One here. Data-obsessed insight manager Ebenezer Brand has been visited by the ghost of his former boss, who warns him to change his ways and expect three more ghostly visitations…

It will not astonish you to learn that Ebenezer Brand took some time to go to sleep that night. His rational analysis of the situation was unconvincing even to himself – it seemed all too likely that Jacob Crosstabs had been a genuine visitation from beyond, and that there were more to come.

So while he did drift off to sleep, he was not surprised to soon be woken by a voice calling for his attention. “Excuse me – excuse me!”

spooky clipboard

Brand shook himself awake. At the foot of his bed stood a woman wearing flat shoes and a sensible coat, clipboard in hand. She gave a businesslike smile as she caught Brand’s eye and held it firmly.

“Good evening – I wonder if you could just answer a few questions. It’ll take about 10 minutes.”

“Well, I suppose – but – “ Brand sounded suddenly concerned, “I am not sure I’ll be able to answer. I’ll probably be screened out. You see, I work in the research industry –“

“Oh, I do know”, said the woman warmly. “I’m the Ghost of Research Past.”Brand was suddenly aware that he couldn’t exactly tell how old the woman was, or even get a clear impression of the style of her coat – 1970s, 1950s, even earlier? Only that businesslike smile and firm gaze seemed constant and solid, and the biro that dangled on a raffia string from her clipboard.

“I’m so glad you’d like to participate,” the Ghost was saying, “And it seems you do fit our quotas, so if you’d like to just walk this way, I can start by showing you the stimulus.” Continue reading

A Research Christmas Carol: Chapter One

It’s a BrainJuicer tradition to present something a little different at Christmas time. Here, with apologies to Charles Dickens, is part 1 of a 4-part insights fable for Christmastime. Check back for part two on Wednesday….


It was a snowy December night, and Ebenezer Brand, Head of Insights at a festive confectionery firm, was walking home. He passed pubs heaving with merriment, old friends greeting each other in surprise, shoppers trudging along with heavy bags, lone travellers poking crossly at their phones as they passed. Brand observed none of it: his head was full of data.

As he picked a coffee for the walk home, a sudden thought struck him. He pulled out his own phone and called Bob Crunchit, his Chief Analyst. He frowned as Crunchit answered: in the background Ebenezer could hear children’s voices.

“Yes Mr Brand?” Crunchit said nervously.

“Have you… gone home, Crunchit?”

“Yes – it was the kids’ carol service and.. well…”

“Crunchit!” snapped Brand furiously, “It’s only 7! That pre-test data won’t analyse itself, you know! And we have several more modules to add to the Easter Eggs U&A – and where are our internal satisfaction survey results for the Insights Team?”

“But Mr Brand… only you and I work in the Insights Team – I didn’t see that a survey was needed…you could always have had a chat…”

Ebenezer Brand went an unpleasant shade of puce.

“A chat?” he spluttered, “And how, precisely, do you measure a chat against our norms database? Remember our team mission statement, Bob! You do remember, don’t you?”

“We make chocolate….” Crunchit began miserably.

“…but we eat data!” Ebenezer Brand finished triumphantly. “Words to live by! See that you do.” He pushed the phone back into his pocket in satisfaction, and found that he was almost at his front door. Continue reading

Off The Menu

At the ESOMAR conference a couple of weeks ago I saw a really great case study about buying food. It wasn’t by us – but it was interesting because it shows how behavioural ideas are right at the heart of research, even if it’s not framed that way.

The brand in question makes sauces, stock, spice mixes, rubs and so on. A lot of these aren’t the kind of items you stock up on – you might get them as part of your menu planning. So menu planning becomes a very important thing for the brand to understand.

I won’t summarise the details of the research – it was excellent and robust, but the methodology doesn’t matter as much as the outcome. What they found out is that a large number of people don’t plan their meals until they’re actually buying fresh produce – meat or vegetables. They don’t make a plan then go looking to fulfil it. They make an on the spot decision on a main ingredient then buy other things around that.

Once you say that, it sounds obvious. So what did the brand do about it? They moved their products next to the meat and produce aisles. Sales boomed. Continue reading

Star Wars

For researchers, how to present the information you collect and analyse is a big question.

We believe that information should be presented as clearly and simply as possible. System 1 plays as large a role in processing research information as it does dealing with any other kind, so making findings easy and intuitive to grasp is a big part of making sure they lead to action.

That’s one reason we’ve started using “star ratings” to show the results of our concept tests. A five-star concept is a “next big thing” – a potential game-changer for its category that should be backed as heavily as possible. And a one-star concept is a “high loss risk” – an idea that simply doesn’t have the potential to succeed and should not be progressed.

"Calm down Chewy, you'd have been a 5-Star concept!"

“Calm down, Chewy, you’d have been a 5-Star concept!”

Obviously companies will aim at five-star concepts. But these are extremely rare – most good ideas will get four stars (which means they’re ready to go) or three (which means they might need a tweak or two). We put the rating system together to really discriminate between decent, great and amazing ideas like this – and to spot the polarizing concepts which split reaction but have a kernel of greatness.

The fact remains, though – one-star concepts are far more common than five-stars. In fact, around half the concepts we test end up with one solitary star.

And at first sight this seems a bit unfair. Brutal, even. If you’ve worked hard to innovate and come up with a concept, and are going to the expense of testing it, it’s harsh emotionally to get results that tell you, in very certain terms, that this idea is going nowhere. Continue reading