Tag Archives: consumer insights

10 Iconic Products Originally Invented For Something Insanely Different

Old coca-cola advertisement, promising body numbing

 

There comes the idea. There comes the vision. There comes the sound market research to ensure a virgin good takes its place in the hallowed pantheon of world-changing products.

Oy vey! There comes a product that ends up employed for something completely different from its original intention. The product still changed the world, people got rich, but what the heck…

More than a comedy of errors and that fool of fate vibe, we think you will find some powerful lessons from these products on determination, insight, adaptability and other vital characteristics of entrepreneurship.

 

1.   Coca-Cola

 

 

CocaCola-ad-from-1800s

America’s favorite soft drink started out as anything but soft. Coca-Cola’s original purpose was to combat anxiety, headaches and drug dependence. John Pemberton, a pharmacist and Confederate veteran suffering from morphine addiction, invented the primordial Coca-Cola in the late 19th century. He named the drink Pemberton’s French Wine Coca, and it started out a sweetened alcoholic beverage infused with coca leaves.

As it grew as a brand, Coca-Cola was gradually honed with carbonation and non-narcotic sweeteners to give the world its most famous soda.

 

2.   Kotex & Lysol

lysoldouche8_0

I place these two products together because they reveal the plight of women wading in the torrid currents of marketing. On one hand, Lysol began as a feminine douche and contraception, failing on both accounts and being downright dangerous to women’s health. Marketing campaigns even accused women of being deficient spouses if they didn’t use the product. Mercifully, research and politicking mutated Lysol into what it is today: a cleaning and disinfecting home product.

If you don’t believe me or the header graphic, check out this old ad found in Mentalfloss:

lysol advertisement

Sickening.

On the other hand, Kotex started out as a surgical dressing. Perceptive Red Cross nurses discovered another use for it due to its absorbent material: feminine hygiene. After the war, Kotex discovered a new market.

 

3.   Play-Doh

 

 

play doh

No, this product wasn’t created for your toddler to make your carpet crusty, even if it buys you a break. Soap manufacturer Cleo McVickers first invented this salty clay-like substance in the 1930s. Originally, McVickers believed he’d discovered the ultimate wallpaper cleaner. He didn’t get rich for this, but 20 years later his son Joseph remarketed the product for kindergarteners. The rest is messy history.

 

4.   Bubble Wrap

 

 

bubble-wrap-wallpaper

In 1957, engineer Al Fielding and Swiss inventor Marc Chavannes thought they had a hit by designing the ultimate wallpaper—plastic sheets with air bubbles. Needless to say, the idea went over like a lead bubble. Fielding and Chavannes attempted to market their invention as a greenhouse insulation, and that approach failed as well. The product found its purpose (and was saved) by an idea from a marketer at Sealed Air, who used in 1959 as the wrapper for IBM’s 1401 computer. Is there anything computer technology can’t do?

The material was quickly dubbed Bubble Wrap. Today it’s a $4 billion a year in sales product. The home decorating industry is eternally grateful.

 

5.   Viagra

 

 

Viagra-heart-health-study

Not everything is about sex in society, and Viagra is a perfect illustration. At first, the med was conceived as a treatment for symptoms of heart disease. However, in Phase I clinical trials researchers discovered that the drug was a failure for its intended purpose. However (again), researchers noticed that male subjects were hardening not in the arteries but other places. Voila! A heavenly product “erected” from a failed drug, and now Viagra rakes in an estimated $1.9 billion dollars a year.

 

6.   Listerine

 

listerine-uses_5

Over a century ago, Listerine was invented as a surgical antiseptic. It didn’t quite catch with the medical community, and later was employed for these purposes:

–  A cure for gonorrhea
–  Treatment for sweaty feet, soft corns, and toe crust
–  An additive for cigarettes
–  Treatment for dandruff

Sometime in the 1920s Listerine found its destiny as a cure for stinky breath. Thus, if you’re ever booted from Shark Tank, know that you can come back many times with the same product and different marketing.

 

7.   Post-It Notes

 

Arthur Fry

Arthur Fry

Talk about the greatest failure becoming the greatest success. In 1968, Spencer Silver was working for 3M trying to create super strong adhesives for the aerospace industry. Instead, Silver created the opposite: an extremely weak, pressure-sensitive adhesive. Interestingly, the substance left little residue and could be reused several times. As with the other products mentioned, marketing and market research attempted to find a use for it to no avail.

Years later, another employee of 3M, Arthur Fry, used the adhesive simply to keep hymnal papers together when he was singing at church. One sticky thing led to another sticky thing, and the Post-It Note came to the market in the 1970s, floundered for a while, and finally became an American staple (or replacer) in the 1980s. And no airplanes had to fall apart either!

 

8.   St. Patrick’s Day

 

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I know. It’s not a product, but it’s still is a brand. Moreover, St. Patrick’s day reveals that some celebrations are steeped in fiction and lies, but that doesn’t make them any less meaningful. As we reported, St. Patrick’s Day was originally a day of devotion lacking in parades where the government outlawed liquor consumption in pubs; and that American activism and thirst for equality is what truly inspired the holiday’s modern variation.

Oh, and leprechauns aren’t real either, if you were wondering.

 

9.   Super Glue/Krazy Glue

 

soldats-americains-guerre-vietnam1

Everyone’s favorite repair hack was once utilized as an emergency wound-sealer in combat situations, specifically the Vietnam War. That’s not how it started, though. These glues are composed of a substance called cyanoacrylate. Harry Coover invented cyanoacrylate in 1942 for Kodak Laboratories—in an attempt to create a special extra-clear plastic suitable for gun sights. That intention didn’t work, and neither did other uses such as plastic for airplane canopies. After years of tweaking, cyanoacrylate found a temporary home on the battlefield as makeshift would sealer that prevented soldiers from bleeding to death before being taken to the hospital.

The invention saved many lives, but the Food & Drug Administration never allowed it for the general public. This version of cyanoacrylate made its way to consumers for home repair, although some variations are employed in orthopedic surgery and dental procedures.

 

10. Saccharine

 

Süßstoff_Saccharin_Zucker-Museum

This product was a joint stumbling of both men and women. In the late 19th century—around the time Pemberton was getting high on Coca-Cola—chemist Constantin Fahlberg thought he had almost perfected a coal tar derivative. During that discovery time, when at home after work, he noticed that his wife’s biscuits tasted much sweeter than usual. Fahlberg discovered that the reason for those sweet-ass biscuits had to do with him not washing his hands after work and getting the residue of the coal tar derivative on the food.

Sometimes bad hygiene can lead to vast riches, as well as pink packets on every restaurant table.

 

Conclusion

 

 

As you can see, the line to success is rarely straight, and often seeming mistakes can be transformed into vast opportunities—just as good intentions and aggressive marketing can cause massive damage (as with Lysol). Also, what starts as something base can evolve into sophistication for consumers. The key with these inventors and entrepreneurs is that they kept their eyes and ears open, accepted failure as a bridge to triumph, and simply never gave up…stoned out their minds or not.

 

old advertisement

 

 

15 Free Market Research Tools & Resources When You Need A Hack

Lady holding umbrella underneath falling numbers

 

Market research is a discipline of precision. It’s also an industry that—if it could—would melt into the essence of numbers themselves. There are occasions, however, when a researcher might need some ad hoc statistics or data to support a project during nascent stages. Also, with market research budgets tightening across the business world, sometimes a researcher just needs a hack to gain a sense of perspective.

We’ve compiled a list of some free market research tools for the mentioned occasions. These can work from business development to brand analysis.

 

Economic & Financial Data

 

 

For mining the business and consumer landscapes, certainly start with FreeLunch. Moody Analytics provides the data, centered on capital markets and risk management. You can acquire data on an astonishing 180 countries that represent roughly 93% of the global GDP.

For sources with a little lighter scope, we recommend Quartz’s Atlas. This resource doesn’t exactly extracts profound insights, but it does provide sensible data in the form of charts and graphs you can embed in your documents or presentations.

 

American Demographics Sample

 

 

Our own government’s The American FactFinder allows you to search for any chunk of data related to any geographic location in the country. Gain access to documents such as demographic qualities, population estimates, housing valuations and business statistics. All data you find can be segmented further into age, sex, race, location and more. The US Census Bureau manages the search engine, which is a huge asset both for both exploratory and later-phase market research.

To understand a specific area’s lifestyle habits, you can then take advantage of Nielsen’s MyBestSegments. This platform offers tools to discover which areas would be most receptive to a brand campaign or launch—as well as nearby competitors and shifting shopping trends.

 

Brand Competition

 

 

With Upfront Analytics, you simply provide your company information and two competitors. The company then collects market research data through app games instead of traditional surveys—just to navigate biases and traditional response rates. In a few days, data returns to you with a national representative of the population as well as brand awareness statistics for your company.

As a companion, utilize Business Dynamics Statistics, which allows you see economic data on job creation, startups and shutdowns, business openings, expansions, and closures.

If you need assistance in where exactly to stay away from competition, there is ZoomProspector, a nifty tool allowing you to identify the optimal locations for startups, relocation or expansion of your or a client’s business.

Lastly, if you want to know how market research is evolving (and competing with itself), you can never go wrong with Greenbook’s GRIT Report.

 

Surveys and Focus Groups

 

 

If you want “free,” then obviously these tools are certainly quasi-scientific, at least in their no-cost levels. Nonetheless, they may present a snapshot of a brand or feedback on a product.

There are many and popular “free” survey platforms. We recommend the services of our sister company, QuestionPro, for their overall agility and intimate service (as they aren’t one of the mammoth survey providers). For an even simpler hack, Twitter and Facebook now provide polls if you happen to have a vibrant social media community for a quick data portrait.

Obviously, we recommend enterprise online surveys, which comes down to well-managed and highly-engaged panels. If you’re going the route of generic sample, use a free sample calculator to get closer to scientific.

As far as focus groups, Google Hangouts or a Skype group conversation is the way to go. Again, nothing scientific but certainly insightful or even stimulating.

If you really, really need brand analysis, try Userlytics—which provides a platform to test mobile apps, videos, display ads and more. It presents both a webcam and a screen recording of participant engagement. Afterwards, you can compare user answers with their reactions on video to understand how people are truly interacting with your brand. (Userlytics is not free, but it’s inexpensive, and that’s sometimes as good as free when you need a hack).

 

Conclusion

 

 

For a truly real free market research tool, we probably should have mentioned Siri or Cortana, but perhaps you already used them. That’s a bit of an exaggeration, as either platform is a close as rolling the dice as you can get. But you never know, right? In the end, there are more free market research tools available in cyberspace, but the ones we mentioned can move your research forward even as budgets and timelines move backward.

 

Poor survey data driving you crazy

How Virtual Reality Is Transforming Market Research

 

Certain trends seem to surge and sputter, and then surge and sputter. Two examples might be 3D movies and Ska. The most recent instance is virtual reality, which surged at times in the 90s and 2000s but then sputtered without adhering to mass culture. Virtual reality is back again, with somewhat of a vengeance, highlighted by such technologies as Facebook’s Oculus and Samsung’s Gear VR.

Will virtual reality stick this time? Only time will tell, but it’s already influencing market research and could potentially inform survey research.

In a GreenBook article, editor-in-chief Leonard Murphy makes a strong case that virtual reality is now valuable for market research. Some companies are presently investing heavily on its benefits. Murphy’s findings are largely based on research by Rutgers, and here are his main takeaways:

Approximately 70% of brand decisions occur when consumers are already inside a store. Many consumers wait until the last minute to make a decision. Therefore, no amount of market research preparation can fully overcome the mentioned percentage, except for virtual reality, which can simulate buyer’s journeys in a store in real-time and in-depth behavior.

–  Virtual reality seamlessly incorporates into already-proven technologies like eye tracking and heat maps, in order to gain a comprehensive view of the consumer subconscious desires. As an example, Cadbury has combined these technologies with virtual reality to decipher product shelf placing.
–  In virtual reality shopper simulation, multiple scenarios can be executed. This ultimately may be cost effective for businesses in research projects.
–  Virtual reality focus groups cost 50% less than traditional focus groups, and yield the same accuracy of data.

The pixel-sky is the limit. Virtual reality can be employed beyond just the shopping experience— such as new product concept testing, customer experience model testing and restaurant menu optimization/pricing.

Contrary to some market research Luddites, it should be mentioned that being placed in a virtual world (or The Matrix) is not detrimental to providing accurate responses. As a recent report from a market research company explained, nearly a quarter of consumers feel that virtual interactions are as good as “being there.” The numbers are higher for millennials. Thus, the future implies that virtual scenarios do not pose a problem for researchers.

Nevertheless, could virtual reality pertain to quantitative research? Of course. Google Glass may have been a failure, but it taught that individuals are capable of inputting data while simultaneously interacting with the “real world.” Questionnaires, then, can flash before respondents in virtual settings and completed in real-time. Moreover, the trending issue with widespread consumer rejection of surveys (which we reported on) could also be solved as surveys become far more entertaining and engaging at the same time.

Virtual reality surveys are basically an actual reality, as seen by this graphic from the Lieberman Research Institute:

virtual reality in online surveys

Again, the pixel-sky is the limit. The question remains on whether virtual reality will remain as more than an ephemeral fashion. One figure who is publicly skeptic about virtual reality is computer genius and tech entrepreneur Walter O’Brien (television show Scorpion is based on him). During a recent interview on the Tim Ferris podcast, O’Brien bemoaned the fact that virtual reality has not evolved that much from its 90s incarnation. The technology still needs much more of a “wow” factor, according to him.

Even the buzz on virtual reality appears nonexistent, perhaps due to the past incarnations of the technology. As recent Horizon Media study found that two-thirds of Americans are either unaware of uncaring about having virtual reality.

Following the money trail says otherwise, though. As Murphy explains in the GreenBook article, virtual reality is estimated to generate $30 billion in revenues by 2020. Much of this is due to the increasing reliance of market research projects for this technology.

In essence, market research has time to embrace virtual reality, and those in survey research can get excited at presenting some exciting surveys that improve overall data quality.

Even Ska could be played in the background…

Is Apple Watch Finally Being Accepted By Consumers?

 

Not that long ago our syndicated research pointed to the tepid attitude towards the Apple Watch. Right before the release of the much-touted wearable in spring of 2015, our custom audiences in essence collectively shrugged cold shoulders (41% said they were not interested while 18% were not aware of its arrival). Later on and early that summer, in an article for Quirks, we further demonstrated that the iPhone accessory (which it basically is) wasn’t the next watershed tech moment.

Could qSample have been wrong about the Apple Watch, now that it’s early 2016? Could market forces be changing, once again revealing Apple as a slayer of conventional wisdom and even conventional market research?

There’s a case to be made for saying yes to the above questions, although it’s ultimately hard for a reason: Apple doesn’t release sales figures on the Apple Watch. During the last Holidays—with some fuzzy math and fuzzy analysis—the projected estimates of Apple Watch sales range from 3 million on the low-end to 10 million on the high-end. Nobody really knows the sales of the gadget, except for Tim Cook and his band of merry executives.

However, there are hints the Apple Watch might be finally breaking through, as provided by the insights of popular Linked Influencer, Anurag Harsh, in his post Is Apple Watch Killing the Mainstream Swiss Watch Industry?

Harsh makes an astute case by juxtaposing the rise in popularity of smartwatches with the slow collapse of traditional Swiss watches (based on data by Strategy Analytics). The data reveals that smartwatch shipments dramatically increased to 8.1 million units in the last quarter of 2015 compared to traditional Swiss watches that shipped 7.9 million units (down 5 percent from 2014).

Here is a graph from the article demonstrating the changes:

smarwatchers versus traditional watchers

 

We did our own search through Quartz, and found corresponding data:

smarwatchers versus traditional watchers part 2.png

Harsh further offers this graph revealing how Apple’s stocks have risen while other watch companies continue to tumble, all around the release of the Apple Watch:

smarwatchers versus traditional watchers part 3.png.jpg

 

Lastly, Harsh has some harsh words for traditional watchmakers:

There will always be a market, albeit evidently a smaller one, for traditional regular watches for the more discerning customer, but the Swiss companies have criminally underestimated the rise of timepieces of the smart variety, and their original display of arrogance towards them could prove to be deadly. No matter what we believe, the numbers are starting to indicate that very fact.

In the end, we agree with Harsh that traditional watchmakers are making the same mistake as video stores, book publishers and PC makers: resting on their alleged omnipotence and disregarding consumer tech trends.

Regardless, it’s too soon to claim that consumers have fully embraced the Apple Watch. After all and somewhat tellingly, the release of the Apple Watch 2 has already been moved from March to September. It’s doubtfully the reasons are due to technical or distribution setbacks.

What can be inferred from all the mentioned data above, though, is that the watch market has become more competitive and more fragmented. Fitbit and other wearable-makers exploded into the watch market with their own products in the last five years. Even before, companies like Samsung and Microsoft already offered a variety of smartwatches and electronic wristbands.

There are indeed some tectonic shifts in the watch industry, and no one is sure who will remain on the surface or who will be cast down to the underworld of the forgotten with such, once-glorious companies such as MySpace, BlackBerry or Yahoo!

The Apple Watch may not be a tent pole item, but it certainly seems to be enjoying being part of a growing acceptance of wearable tech (and thus qSample stands by its research). Also, one shouldn’t forget that presently Apple inspires the most love out of consumers than any other tech company, according to the brand engagement indexes. All of this will at least grant the smartwatch some time to evolve and survive.

It’s the traditional watchmakers who ironically might have finally run out of time.

 

Top 10 Consumer Research Questions (and a damn fine cup of coffee)

man drinking coffee

 

Jay Conrad Levinson, the author of Guerrilla Marketing, once stated that the greatest billboard in history would simply have these words: “Free coffee, next exit.”

Imagine the traffic. Now, imagine you were one who placed this billboard, along with a rented space right off the exit where the coffee would be served. In this hypothetical space—while playing a mixture of barista and Coyote Ugly—you would be able to ask eager visitors for their feedback on a product you’re developing.

What would you ask, in this supposed scenario perhaps directed by your inner David Lynch? You would have to ask the right, pithy questions. The rapid coming and going for coffee, after all, reflects an age where the average consumer has the attention span of a goldfish.

Here are the chief consumer research questions that will elicit the exact data for your product, even for a crowd demanding their complimentary java:

1. If I created a product about (problem you solve), would you be interested in buying it?

This question is always a good icebreaker, although a notion called response bias warns that people often say what you want to hear. They key is how excited they get. As marketing guru Seth Godin explained: If you mention a product or idea to a friend and then this person, on their own, tells ten other friends about it, then you probably have a winner. If the friend remains silent, go back to the drawing board. No need to terminate friendship, though.

2. What are these problems costing you?

Another way to slay response bias is to make the cost of their problems concrete. When we’re shown in numbers how bad our issues are, we tend to get real honest real quick.

3. How do you hope (product) will make your life better?

People want problems solved, sure, but they also want a better quality of life. This concept may also include a product that elevates their status in society. Furthermore, in our digital age, the Fear of Missing Out phenomena is more powerful than ever.

4. What’s happening in your life that brought you here today?

This question is considered perhaps THE question to ask consumers, but it won’t work for the Twin Peaks market research situation. However, the inquiry is key for online research. Finding the process of why consumers arrived at your site or store is almost as valuable as what they say about your brand.

5. Does (product) remind you of another brand?

If by any small chance you have a unique product, then life is good…at least until its release and then reality bring challenges. However, if a product loudly evokes another brand out there, or maybe one you might have overlooked, then it’s a good launching pad to analyze the competition or rebrand into something more niche.

6. How much are you willing to pay for (product)?

At the initial stages of product development, it’s prudent to get a feel of value and expectation of a brand. You can couch the value in terms of the value of the product solving a problem in a respondent’s life.

7. What would stop you from purchasing (product) right now?

Nothing wrong with finding out early what resistances future customers might have. This also provides essential materials for the sales team you probably have in the hypothetical backroom brewing the coffee.

8. How do you prefer to receive information about (product)?

As with pricing, gaining a good vibe on preferred platforms (i.e. video, audio, internet) may go a long way.

9. Who, what why, when, where and how would you use (product)?

Using a little journalistic acumen can open up vast understanding in potential customers. In addition, most people efficiently respond to the “Five W’s and One H” formula. Become a hypothetical New York Times.

10. Would you recommend (product) to a friend?

Some say this is the greatest question in marketing, in any medium. A respondent’s honesty and altruism shine through when it comes suggesting a product or idea to someone who might ruin their face or status in the community.

(Bonus) Was the coffee good?

It better be, but we mention this question as a reminder of the invaluable tool of small talk whenever possible. One of the tenets of sales is to get a customer in a “yes” mode by asking questions that will result in a positive reaction. In market research, this can sentiment can negate confirmation bias and other cancers to quality data.

We hope the coffee in this hypothetical research project was a damn fine one. Obviously, more questions ought to be asked in consumer research; and many ought to be directed at the brand itself. Self-knowledge is just as significant to product development. Maybe in real life (yet) you cannot afford a billboard and a place with flowing coffee, but asking the right questions is always priceless.

NFL Scandals Not Affecting Surging Popularity of Super Bowl (qSample & QuestionPro Study)

 

In these divided days of political campaigns and social upheaval, one event that always brings the country together is the Super Bowl. It’s a marketing and celebration bonanza surrounding the two best teams in the National Football League, this year being the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos. More than a cultural phenomenon, the Super Bowl is a chief bellwether of American consumerism.

Moreover, the Super Bowl seems to be an increasingly family affair unaffected by past NFL scandals. These are just two of the findings from a joint study by qSample and QuestionPro, surveying more than 300 panelists from a general population sample. Nine-nine percent of respondents claimed they would watch Super Bowl 50, another exclamation point to the popularity of this quasi-holiday.

Nevertheless, the Super Bowl is famed for being an extravaganza stew of sports, entertainment and advertising. Why are people tuning in primarily on Super Bowl Sunday, then? It appears the game itself still dominates the country’s attention span, according to the data:

1.  The game (39%)
2.  To enjoy a social event (22%)
3.  The commercials (7%)
4.  The half time show (1%)

It should be mentioned that 33% of respondents claimed they were participating in the Super Bowl for all the reasons mentioned above. Only 18% of these said they were avid football fans who typically bought NFL merchandise. A majority (48%) stated they were casual fans, with 28% being avid fans that rarely bought merchandise.

As far as interest levels, one ought to wonder if the halftime show might garner more significance if an American or more blue-collared act than Coldplay was performing. As far as commercials, the low percentage may not bode well with advertisers spending a record $377 million for Super Bowl 50.

Will bars and restaurants fare better, even if the winter weather is more clement on Super Bowl Sunday? According to the study, ranking on location preference of the game, not likely:

1.  At home (78%)
2.  A party (12%)
3.  At a bar/restaurant (6%)

As with other extroverted, national celebrations like New Year’s Eve or St. Patrick’s Day, it seems Super Bowl is becoming more of a home festivity instead of a going-out occasion.

Supporting this, most respondents said they will spend the night with family members (53%), followed by friends (32%). Eight percent will watch the Super Bowl alone (and unfortunately Coldplay as well). A vast majority (91%) will watch the game on television.

Image3whereandwhomSB

With the Super Bowl becoming a family event, does this mean that this year it might lose viewers due to the recent NFL controversies like Deflategate and the Ray Rice video? That doesn’t seem to be the case, according to the study, when ranking respondents’ view of the NFL as a brand, as shown in this graph:

Image4-ScandalsSB

With this in mind and considering that nine out of ten most-viewed shows in history are Super Bowls—and that last year’s game was the highest-rated Super Bowl—the viewership this year should be extremely high.

Along with bars/restaurants and passionate interest in commercials, social media is not a main player during the plays of Cam Newton and Payton Manning. The exception is Facebook. With 47% of respondents claiming they will be active on social media during the Super Bowl, 41% of those will be on Facebook. All other social media channels receive less than ten percent. This percentage includes Twitter, once the primary social media channel for real-time cultural events, revealing the deepening trouble with the company.

Of course, these findings do not mean social media is irrelevant during the Super Bowl. Last year, Facebook saw 265 million posts, likes and comments during the game, the most measured for any Super Bowl. At the same time, Twitter generated over 28 million global tweets, making it the most tweeted Super Bowl ever. What it does mean is that engagement on social media is potentially not as high as brands would desire.

Image2-SocialmediaSpeaking of engagement, there are social critics who propose that the Monday following any Super Bowl should be a national holiday. The argument has merit. The study found that 26% of respondents will not go to work after the game. Furthermore, it’s estimated that last year 1.5 million people missed work the day after Super Bowl (at a loss of roughly 12 million hours of productivity for that Monday), while 4.4 million workers showed up late to their jobs.

What about the game itself? Is there a favorite team to win the Super Bowl, according to the study? Indeed there is, with respondents giving the edge to the Broncos over the Panthers (45% to 41%).

But as they say: that’s why they play the game and on any given Sunday. On Super Bowl Sunday it will be clear who wins, not just the team, but also consumers, marketers, work bosses and perhaps even Coldplay.

Super Bowl 50 Infographic

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5 Digital Tech Trends Transforming The Pet Industry In 2016

This year promises the continuation of valuable digital technological trends. There will be a new iPhone and there will be a lot of talk about big data. The flying car will probably not arrive nor will the true version of the hoverboard.

Digital technology will certainly benefit the veterinary world. It might even move the veterinarian world up to date with all other worlds. We’ve listed here some of the chief digital veterinarian trends for 2016 and beyond, largely based on the excellent ebook How Digital Technology Is Revolutionizing Animal Health.

Some of the listed trends have been present in some form or another, but this year they fully integrate with both veterinarian practices and pet owners. This happens just in time, as some estimates state that 60% of all pet-care sales will ultimately be facilitated by digital channels, with 20% of sales occurring online by 2018 (versus 10% today).

1. Big Data lands on the veterinary world. Okay, maybe it’s not exactly big data; but the reality is that farmers sit on a lot of data concerning their animals that remains unharnessed to the fullest potential. For example, the ability to efficiently mine and share the effects of hormones or what diseases are affecting pigs in different regions could be a game changer. Companies like Bayer HealthCare Animal have introduced apps that allow farmers and veterinarians to track body conditioning using photos of animals; these apps can then assesses the animals for potential signs of diseases.

2. Communication tools shrink the veterinary world. Even if data is leveraged, communication needs to be nimble in a global market. Connectivity between pet owners and veterinarians will be fully forged as well in 2016. Digital tech like Pet+Pixie fosters seamless communications, promising to streamline the pet health industry long fragmented and paper-based. These tools will enhance everything from the timely delivery of vaccines to sending alarms on emerging illnesses that threaten livestock. Just as important, they can prevent global disease outbreaks.

3. Wearables take foot in the veterinary world. This trend was inevitable, between the reality of microchipped pets and the unreality of such dazzling gadgets like Fitbit and Apple Watch. Pet wearables, along with apps, allow users to monitor such pet health habits as exercise and nutritional intake. Even socialization and playtime can be monitored. Lastly, built-in calendars can transmit alerts for routine care like as vaccines or heartworm prevention.

4. Pet insurance becomes seamless in the veterinary world. Pet insurance has been around for a while, indeed, but it hasn’t exactly been Bo-care (naming it after President Obama’s dog, Bo). In fact, Bo-care has been as cumbersome as Obamacare in many respects. However, 2016 promises to offer the same advanced operations for pet insurance as with human insurance. For example, pet insurer Trupanion allows veterinary hospitals to file claims and be reimbursed directly by the company. Bo knows insurance.

5. Video comes to the veterinary world. Video rules the internet, from entertainment to marketing. By 2018, an estimated 79% of internet traffic will be video content. Why shouldn’t video rule the world of pets? Video will at least modernize the relationship between veterinarians and their clients. Vet On Demand, as an illustration, provides virtual visits between veterinarians and pet owners. Apps like Fetch are interactive, diagnostic tools that bridge the first lines of concern of pet owners.

 

Conclusion

 

The digital technologies mentioned should make 2016 a very good year for pet owners, veterinarians and animal producers. And certainly for savvy marketers and entrepreneurs, since the pet industry is currently a $58 billion industry. Maybe the flying car won’t arrive this year, but at this rate pigs will fly.

Vet panel Book

4 Stellar Tips For A Galactic Online Focus Group

Online research is the favored method of analysis in the marketing industry. Thus, it’s no surprise that online surveys are booming across the internet skies, whereas telephone polling and paper surveys purportedly join that great market research heaven in the sky.

One could say the same regarding online focus groups. Although this mode of qualitative research is nowhere near the thunder of online surveys, advances in tech have made online focus groups feasible and cost-effective for researchers.

With this in mind and as online focus groups navigate to a new normal, it’s wise to stick to simple but stellar points to produce galactic data. We’ve compiled four points, all from thought leaders in the market research industry.

1. Stick to the script: Or more like make sure you have a script to begin with, according to market research company Lead. Online focus groups can become as chaotic as unregulated in-person focus groups—if not shepherded from beginning to end via a script. It should follow this pattern:

1. Welcome participants
2. Introduce the moderator
3. Explain the purpose of the focus group
4. Set the ground rules
5. Ask the first question

Oh, and make sure everything is on (but we’ll get to it). Lead also suggests you exclusively ask open-ended questions (we’re in that qualitative arena, remember) and keep the questions under ten. That way you can “elicit the maximum number of unique ideas from as many people as possible in the time allotted.”

2. Stick to the technology: That should be obvious with any mention of the word “online.” As research company Angelfish states:

Carefully consider which software provider you choose. Security is key, so you want to select a provider that will be able to ensure the privacy of the focus group. You also, of course, want software that everyone is comfortable using and that you feel will facilitate an online discussion with ease.

Moreover, Angelfish advises getting acquainted with the focus group software, testing and re-testing, and ensuring that the participants are educated as well.  As they further state:

Send your focus group participants information in advance on how to log in and use the platform. If they have detailed instructions to read ahead of time, or an instructional video to view, they will be better prepared on the day of the focus group and less likely to experience problems that will cause delays.

Stick to speed: Online focus groups grant several advantages to in-person focus groups: no need to travel, no bias due to physical appearances of others, and no large overheads. They also tend to be faster in pace, which can be dangerous if the moderator/analyst isn’t on his virtual feet all the times.

Basically, be a good typist.

Market research firm Flex says that proper recording tools are important, yet “for ad-hoc responses and probing, it makes life useful to be able to post a speedy reply before the discussion moves on. Now where did I leave that Mavis Beacon Teaches Typin’ disc?”

(A bit of a strange mention in the middle of a market research piece, but whatever…)

4. Stick to moderating: Being an able moderator is more important with online focus groups. Sure, you don’t have to worry about a fist-fight occurring during a sessions (those do happen!), but you don’t have the intimacy available in in-person focus groups.

Beyond typing fast and knowing technology, an able online moderator should have all the qualities of a traditional moderator: listening skills, objectiveness, emotional constraint, etc.

That’s still not enough.

According to market researcher Liz Van Patten of 20/20, an online moderator should be as visual as possible. That means “using colors and images of things like sticky notes to draw participants’ attention to certain areas” and “inserting pop-up pages to writing ‘walls of text.’”

Furthermore, Van Patten suggests:

Keep sessions under 40 minutes, as the internet just brings out the ADD in all of us.
– Don’t skimp on incentives because it’s happening online.

 

Conclusion

 

Stick to these four points when conducting an online focus groups and your market research will likely travel to those final frontiers of supernova data. Don’t forget to choose a good provider (whether it’s a third party market research group or software company). They should assist with any and all concerns including the four points mentioned.

Just don’t be disappointed if they don’t have lying around a copy of Mavis Beacon Teaches Typin’.

 

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Time To Permanently Demolish The 40-Hour Work Week

Picture of Narrator in Fight Club looking at boss from Office Space

 

The 40-hour work week. The 8-hour work day. Ah yes…

These two measurements are staples of the American workforce, entrenched memes in most industries and positions. One size fits like a first world glove.

But do these schedules really make sense? Is that the best way to work to remain competitive before the arriving robots take our jobs? Is there a better way to work?

The answers aren’t blowing in the wind, even if Bob Dylan disagrees, but the data could lead to liberating answers in your professional and even personal life.

 

How did the 40-hour work week begin, though?

 

In his popular article for Buffer, The Origins of the 8-House Workday and Why Should We Rethink It, Leo Widrich offers the history of the modern workweek. He explains that today’s work hours are certainly better than the 19th century’s six days of 10-16 workday hours—all to leverage the busy Industrial Revolution.

These incredibly long work days weren’t sustainable, at least for some. A brave (or maybe lazy) man named Robert Owen started a campaign to have people work no more than 8 hours per day. His slogan was “Eight hours labour, eight hours recreation, eight hours rest.”

working too many hours 2

Owen’s calls took a while to find ears, but in 1914 Ford Motor Company not only adopted the 8-hour workday it doubled the pay of its workers. The result was an increase in employee productivity and double profits within two years.

The business world figured out then that treating workers better actually benefited a company, and this 8-hour day became a standard across western society.

 

But are 8-hour work days necessary?

 

Obviously, we live in a different times, a world of technology, automation and shared economies. Does the 8-hour workday/40-hour work week really “work” in the Information Age?

Needless to say, many proponents exist for fewer work hours, contending they result in more productivity (just as Owen did). One could spend 40 hours on Google surfing for the arguments for shorter work schedules.

One of the leading proponents would be Tim Ferriss, who makes the case in his bestseller, The 4-Hour Workweek. The book mostly focuses on being a nimble entrepreneur, but it does contain insights on the bulkiness of working an 8-hour day.

Another example would be Ryan Sanders, cofounder of the HR software maker BambooHR, who instituted an “anti-workaholic policy” in his company. None of his 130+ employees is allowed to work more than 40 hours. Sanders believes that “Burning out is bad for the employees, bad for their families and bad for business.”

On the other hand, many worry that we’re actually regressing to Industrial Revolution levels of work. As Business Insider reports, Americans are staying longer on the job, where “58% of managers in the US reported working over 40 hours a week.” (We work harder than the Chinese yet less than Mexicans).

 

working too many hours 3

Research says longer work hours are hurting productivity across the board, and the Business Insider piece agrees. As a matter of fact, the standard workday is not even that productive. Research from American Online and Salary.com found that “the average worker wastes about two hours every eight-hour workday, doing stuff like making personal calls or surfing the web.”

More time is not the solution, but better time.

Working 40 or more hours is also creating a culture of dishonesty. As Quartz reports on a study from Market Probe, Americans pretend to be busy, even when there is no reason for it except for being at work, because the feel busy equates with success. The article states:

The report’s authors suggested that our tendency to lie about how busy we are comes from our belief that being busy is equivalent to “leading a life of significance” and not wanting to be “relegated to the sidelines.” This belief, they found, was paramount in countries that applaud hectic lifestyles, such as Germany and the US, whereas countries known to value leisure above work, like Italy and Belgium, are less convinced that keeping busy is a good thing.

Emotional intelligence expert, Dr. Travis Bradberry, writes that this obsession with being busy is detrimental to our jobs, quoting several studies:

They found that the belief that busyness is a sign of success and hard work is so prevalent that we actually fear inactivity. A recent study coined the term idleness aversion to describe how people are drawn to being busy regardless of how busyness harms their productivity.

 

working too many hours3

So what happens next?

 

Eliminating the 40-hour workweek will not be easy. After all, part of the reasoning behind standard work schedules is to be fair to all employees (although Henry Ford himself admitted that he lowered work hours not out of fairness or compassion, but so that his employees might have more time to buy products like his cars!).

As Forbes’ Jayson DeMers explains:

Giving all your employees exactly the same schedule and exactly the same number of hours may seem like a “fair” system, but it’s ultimately illogical. Real life doesn’t adhere to such fixed standards, and trying to compartmentalize the natural flow of work can lead to serious problems in individual and company-wide productivity.

Fairness may seem right but it’s ultimately not right for a productive company. Yet it’s hard to argue against fairness.

 

Blueprints to work less than 40-hours a week

 

For employers, as DeMers advices, the key is to create a more “project-based” office environment instead of an “hour-based” environment. Meeting deadlines should reign over counting the minutes.

Beyond this, many companies are already experimenting with these options to the 40-hour workweek:

Four-Day and Three-Day Workweeks
Flex-Time (or self-schedule)
Working From Home
Employee Votes (letting workers decide hours on a rotating basis)

Again, these schedules are based on a “project-based” system where results are more important than clock management. Of course, these options would not work in many industries such service or health.

In truth, other countries are now finding success with experimentation of shorter workweeks. Danish workers average 33 hours per week . Sweden is testing a 6-hour workday. One Swedish executive stated that the change “hasn’t really made a major difference in how people work.”

The key, according to the executive, is to ensure employees work efficiently and without distractions such as social media.

Until you find yourself in the right company or the right labor-shift paradigm, many experts (including Ferriss) contend you should just worry about your own time management. In other words, become a one-person “project-based” employee, if anything to maximize whatever hours lie ahead at work.

As Widrich explains in the Buffer article:

Human minds can focus on any given task for 90-120 minutes. (Then it’s time for a small break). Thus, the thinking should not be about what can be accomplished in eight hours, but what can I get done in a 90 min session.

This attitude makes the work hours less impactful and the day more manageable.

Just as important, champion the idea that the mind requires breaks and these breaks reward the mind with more productivity.

As Michael Cho writes in Entrepreneur:

Research discussed in the landmark book Creativity and the Mind showed that regular breaks significantly enhance problem-solving skills, partly by making it easier for you to go through your memories to find clues.

Focusing only on your work for four or five hours straight limits your chances to make new, insightful neural connections, which won’t help you when you need to be creative.”

To wit: tackle projects before you, take breaks, and recycle this schedule throughout the day.

Samuel Beckett by Qsample on Success for WordPress

 

Oh, and as most experts agree, including Widrich, Ferris and Bradberrry, distractions and multitasking are destroyers of productivity and accumulators of needless work hours. Multitasking may make us feel good, but as we’ve researched, it’s damaging to the mind and results in the U.S. economy losing $650 billion a year.

I hope this humble and brief article sparks the beginning not so much as a movement but a movement to a better work life for you. I hope you haven’t been multitasking while reading it. I hope…

Oh, boss coming around…I better look busy…

 

The Negative Effects of Multitasking

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Consumers Not Jolly About Shopping This Holiday Season (qSample Study)

Santa Claus asleep by a pile of gifts

 

It’s getting to look a lot like Christmas…at least in the minds of retailers eager to race into the black as the Holiday Season gears up. With a seemingly improving economy, many businesses expect a robust increase in sales this year.

Will their Yule wishes be granted?

Not likely, based on qSample’s syndicated study. Christmas shoppers appear to be stuck in neutral from 2014, in many ways. The primary research was conducted utilizing our general population online panel. More than 300 respondents participated. The findings agree with the National Retail Federation, which sees holiday sales tepid in 2015 (even if it’s estimated that Holiday sales will total $630 billion).

Almost half of surveyed respondents (49%) claimed they would spend the same amount on gifts as last year. Twenty percent said they would spend more, while 24% plan to spend less in 2015. As the National Retail Federation forecasts, holiday sales will only increase by 3.5% from the previous year, the lowest raise since 2010.

That’s a “Ba Humbug!” if it holds true.

 

Reasons why consumers are resistant to spending

 

Why holiday spending seems to be sputtering could be due to a negative perception of the economy. However, that doesn’t conform with the study’s results. Thirty-seven percent of respondents claimed to be positive about the economy this Holiday Season. The same margin of respondents (37%) felt that the economy was the same this time last year, with 25% stating they felt negative towards the economy.

The data could reflect a “what and see” attitude for consumers, who are neither excited nor concerned about economic realities or opportunities. It will likely mean more work for vendors to entice shoppers once Black Friday comes and goes. That will be a hard task, it appears, as 40% of respondents plan on spending between $100 and $500 on gifts, while only 20% will spend more than $500 during the Holiday Season.

 

Other difficulties for sellers

 

A further startling takeaway is the notion that tech will rule the Holiday shopping world. It doesn’t seem to be the case, or the vision of expensive iPhones and Samsung Ultra’s flying off the shelves. According to the study, devices such as smartphones, tablets, computers and tech accessories come in sixth place for all preferred gift categories. Other technology like televisions or home appliances ranks even lower. Here is the breakdown:

1. Clothing (21%)
2. Gift Cards (19%)
3. Toys (14%)
4. Cash (13%)
5. Home decoration/products (11%)
6. Mobile technology (9%)
7. General technology (televisions, home appliances, etc.) (7%)
8. Other (6%)

As for shopping preferences, a majority in the study (37%) plan on using both online and stores as their preferred method of shopping (with 25% shopping online and 29% going to stores exclusively). Less than one percent said they would use catalogs to buy gifts.

The hospitality and airline industries might not fare better than retailers in 2015. Sixty-eight percent of respondents claimed they would not travel during this Holiday Season, while 54% said they plan on going out for celebrations and parties at the same rate as 2014.

Everything could be stuck in neutral this Holiday Season, even stress levels. Forty-nine percent of those surveyed said that they feel the same levels of stress during any given Holiday Season. The largest source of stress are finances (27%), with shopping itself coming in second (20%) and family in third(15%). Dieting was considered the least source of stress (six percent), but it’s reasonable to think that number will go up as the new year approaches.

 

Conclusion

 

Clearly, these numbers could shift as the Holiday Season gains more velocity and retailers get creative (and desperate) in their marketing efforts in the latter part of December. However, it seems that, like the economy, Holiday shopping will be neither good nor bad in monetary terms.

Yet when it comes to retailers across the country, average usually equates with having coal in a stocking.

Holiday Shopping Infographic 2015

 

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