Tag Archives: technology

Infographic of the Week: Will Apple Watch Succeed?

Although the store availability of the Apple Watch has been delayed until June, today is the day the anticipated gadget mostly ships out to those who ordered it online (although some early orders may actually arrive this weekend). It’s officially the dawn of the wearable tech era, with Apple once again the glorious shining sun of market success.

Or is it?

This week’s infographic visually addresses the Apple Watch. It’s gleaned from our own study on consumer sentiments towards the new product.

Pre-order sales are astronomical, according to preliminary numbers. However, qSample’s research does detail some concerns the Apple Watch might have to overcome. Additionally, there are these three issues as well:

1. Apple is not a pioneer this time. Smart watches are already settled in the marketplace. Apple won’t be in its customary role as a trailblazer, as it was with tablets and smartphones.

2. The brand Apple isn’t king of the tech hill anymore. According to a recent study, Samsung beats Apple in customer loyalty. Apple has spent immense energy perfecting its image for decades, yet these days its competitors work just as hard in branding.

3. Wearable tech is just not ticking with consumers. As mentioned, smart watches are around. They’re not exactly an established item in any demographic, whether made by Samsung or Google. Also, the last great wearable tech noise, knowns as Google Glass, went out with a whimper.

But Apple is Apple, time after time conquering the times. Maybe this trend will continue with the Apple Watch. In any event, let the data set your own internal market watch:

Study reveals consumer resistance to Apple Watch

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Infographic of the Week: Consumer TV Viewing Habits

Mad Men is eclipsing, Game of Thrones is catapulting, and May sweeps are around the proverbial corner. (Someone tell me where has the year gone!).

Thus, we are harnessing and refocusing for your viewing our internal study for this week’s infographic. Much of the data is found in our article Why Are We Paying for 200 Channels When We Only Watch 17?

If you can’t wait and want to know the answer to the headline’s question, it comes down to this: loyalty and convenience. Put another way, as television consumers we like to horde channels—especially ones that evoke nostalgia and we might want to return to “just in case.”

But onto primetime! Our infographic (as well as the article) reveals deep market insights into the habits of television viewers, including how to better advertise to them. Of course, you can download or embed, as shown at the bottom of the page.

Enjoy the show:
Infographic of consumer tv habits

button panel book second

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6 New Technologies that are Transforming Online Research Methods

Innovative technology is being infused into various online research methods, making the industry not only advanced but an almost virtual reality rewarding to respondents and researchers alike.

I’ll get to them at once, not to appear as tedious as the last phone company provider’s questionnaire or Starbucks online survey for those extra gold stars.

Eye-tracking Technology



Woman using glasses that follow her gaze to heat spots







Already utilized in tablets and home products by such companies as Samsung, eye-tracking technology can be implemented to online surveys or focus groups, with the assistance of cameras. The technology can support market researchers with issues like respondent bias.

Gauging honesty by eye movement has been widely criticized in scientific circles. However, we reported a recent University of Buffalo research noting how eye movement could indeed measure levels of honesty in individuals:

In their study of 40 videotaped conversations, an automated system analyzing eye movements correctly identified whether subjects were lying or telling the truth 82.5 percent of the time. That’s a better accuracy rate than expert human interrogators typically achieve in lie-detection judgment experiments. (Experienced interrogators average closer to 65 percent.)

Beyond that, eye-tracking technology can capture the focus of respondents’ gazes in order to find preferences in web page design or copy location.

Online Focus Groups




It’s no secret that with the popularity of video conferences and chats—widely used with Skype or Google Hangouts—getting acquainted to a group of people in a virtual setting is almost painless. In the online research industry, such enterprise software as our QualStorm can seamlessly execute and manage an online focus group through the entire process—from incentivizing to cross referencing survey data after the research. This can also include inline polling, available chat transcripts and exchangeable audio files.

One consumer research specialist detailed the various advantages of online focus groups for both provider and respondent:

 Excellent in obtaining detailed feedback on copy, marketing concepts, adverts and packaging.
  Relatively easy to convene, especially if participants are engaged in an online community.
  Customers from a broad geographical region (or even different countries) can join together to share their views.
  More convenient for customers to take part – especially significant for groups such as       professionals and those with young families.
  No travelling for researchers or clients.
  Moderators can present visual, audio and video stimuli.
  A degree of anonymity disinhibits participants.
  Transcripts are readily in text format for analysis.
  It’s no surprise focus group facilities are eclipsing.

Mobile Technology



Advantages of Mobile Surveys








A huge chorus across the world clamors at the dynamic dawn of the mobile age, and the perils and opportunities of this tech sunrise include online research. The opportunities are too many too ignore, though. After all, more Americans use mobile devices to browse the internet than they do PC’s; and already 60% of cell phones are smartphones. As our research shows, the advantages of mobile technology for online surveys include:

  Ability to use GPS technology.
  Easier to administer, and with a more available audience.
  More versatile with video and audio recording endemic to mobile technology.
  Superior real-time input, as respondents are typically close to their tablets or smartphones.

Heat Map Technology



A copy of an online survey map with heat spots










In the online domains, heat map technology offers a visual representation of user activity such as clicks and eye focus on a website. Companies like Crazy Egg already utilize it for marketing. In the online research industry, understanding the focus of attention of a respondent could potentially filter respondent bias, honesty rates and even drop off rates.

A market researcher furthermore explained how heat map technology can integrate with online survey methods:

Here is a theoretical example of a print advertisement displayed through a theoretical online survey screen. A simple question can ask the respondent to click on the first item that catches their eye, second item, third item, etc. The colors show frequency of clicks (dark red represents a higher number of clicks, yellow represents a lower number of clicks, followed by green, and lastly white). Additional follow-up questions can be asked to probe as to why that item caught their eye, what they liked and what they disliked about each zone clicked. Heat maps illuminate what your customers and potential customers are looking at first and their impressions of it. In this instance, this technique helps the business optimize and re-focus the print ad so it stands the best chance of being noticed by customers to generate leads.

Sensory Analysis



People before screen testing food an inputting their results.








This is commonly use in facilities—where experimental design and statistical analysis are combined to the use of human senses, all for the purposes of evaluating consumer products. Panels are required for this research, and already companies are using sensory analysis for online panels. The products are mailed to respondents for testing, with data collected acquired via questionnaire, video or even an online focus group. On the other hand, respondents that are known to utilize certain products can be contacted by various means.

Combining sensory analysis to online focus groups, heat map technology and eye-tracking technology could be productive and even save costs in versus fielding a facility for research.




Pepsi using gamification to find user preference of soft drink.







This is a burgeoning method of data collection in online surveys. The word means what it sounds like: the application of game techniques to enhance processes that are not games. For online surveys or focus groups, these may include:

  Leader boards.
  Achievement badges or levels.
  A progress bar to show how close respondents are to completion.
  Virtual currency.
  Respondent challenges.
  Unique rewards.

As with the other technology mentioned, gamification may be a valuable online survey tool, reducing respondent fatigue by making the overall process more enjoyable. Maintaining an online sample is never easy. Gamification is one method that can assure engagement and mitigate drop offs.

These technologies are already being implemented or are in the alpha stages, and just in time. The New York Times reported that the online research industry is booming, a main data collection tool for market research, but many issues like respondent fatigue has caused “declining response rates over the last decade.”

Help is already on the way, and in some instances already here, in the form of innovative methods of data collection that can potentially benefit all sides of the marketing equation. This before or after a Starbucks and its gold stars, as it always should be.


20 Overused Marketing Terms that Need to Go

Frustrated man hitting screen because of so many overused marketing buzzwords

I say them. I say them to look like I’m part of a greater movement. I say them in meetings to look good. I say them in posts to seduce potential clients to the point all the senior account executive has to do is whisk them away down the proverbial sales funnel (at least in my Tuesday fantasies).

Marketing terms and words—the categorically irritating ones. The kind you might gibber at a HubSpot or Marketo conference with a smile while cringing inside. It’s time to expose them, or more like keep exposing them. I’m not the first or alone in this; other articles have been written on this topic. Even Ann Handley in her bestselling Content Rules provides a list, and many consider this book the Bible of content marketing.

Let’s uncover some of the most annoying marketing terms, overused business jargon, worst marketing words, annoying marketing buzzwords, or whatever you want to call them (as I stuff this post with keywords).

1. Anything with an “-ize.” You can include strategize, incentivize, or monetize. Let’s –real-ize there is better, simpler vocabulary out there.
2. Any and all sexual terminology. “sweet spot,” “pain point,” or “sticky content.” We’re doing market research here, not posting on Tinder.
3. Leverage.  It’s a noun! It’s a verb! It’s a word that should be taken out. I can already see “harness” replacing it in a near future outside of good context.
4. Robust. It means healthy and strong, rich or full-bodied—like an athlete or freshly brewed coffee. Or perhaps Derek Rose drinking Starbucks on the bench after his latest injury. Why it refers to a marketing platform or enterprise software is a cosmic mystery. Methinks someone said it at a marketing conference and the rest is viral history.
5. The internet of things. A term that could have been invented by Yoda. It implies apps in your household appliances that are connected to the web, just another step towards the arrival of Skynet or the Matrix.
6. Thought leader. A person not in the rabbit hole of marketing may see this expression as an oxymoron…like “military intelligence.” In truth, it’s just a mystic label for an expert in the field.
7. Vertical. The word means a specialty instead of a broad market, but it sounds more celestial. Just say “niche” if you really need to sound refined or all Morgan Freeman.
8. Learnings. A business-created word that is pompous, pompous, pompous! I’ll learn you some better words like “lessons.”
9. Impact. Content is king, as they say, but context is god in marketing. This word is better suited when you get kicked in the face, not after your latest SEO campaign.
10. Synergy. A favorite word of Jeff Skilling when he was running Enron. He went to jail, but this word for “everything working together” infected the business world.
11. 360 Campaign. A useless phrase that means a brand is going to be marketed everywhere: online, offline, outer space, King’s Landing. It makes people sound like they know math.
12. Holistic. I always think of Oprah or Dr. Oz swooping in to take over a marketing campaign when I hear this word. It’s only a business synonym for “encompassing” or “universal.” Still needs to go, though.
13. Actionable insights. The terminology signifies the discovery and communication of meaningful patterns in data. Versus what? Sitting before your computer on Google Analytics not knowing what might be the ROI? Then again, this phrase has saved my behind many a Monday meeting…
14. Seamless. I usually hear this bigheaded synonym for “smooth” or “effortless” in the same breath as “robust.” E.g.: “Your transition to a web base company with our robust marketing platform will be seamless.” Put down that kool-aid and step away from that land in Florida, sir.
15. Repurpose. Just call this what it is: recycle, reuse, or rip off your own content in different mediums. This word just hurts less, as does the irksome “curate.”
16. Partner. The politically correct word for “buy from me.”
17. Growth hacking. Another possible oxymoron, but it sounds so deliciously tech. It basically means using the web to sell to the web, in all its analytic glory.
18. Granular. This word would be better suited to what happens in your bathing suit after a day at the beach. In the marketing cosmos it suggests anal or pedantic.
19. Snackable content. The term really exists, I’m sadly not joking, defined as websites pleasing to the eye (for some reason).
20. Scalable. In the business world it refers to a facility whose size, performance, or number of users can be increased without an increase in cost or functionality. In marketing, however, it means I promise you it won’t cost you (too much more) after we “partner.”

There are other obvious ones like “make hay,” “think outside the box,” and “it is what it is,” but these are span several industries and social sectors. They are more like equal opportunity offender clichés.

Do you have any marketing terms you feel need to be atomized by the Death Star of common decency? Let me know through Twitter and we’ll work on a second round.

Will I continue using any of these words or phrases? Good question, but right now I’m just trying to write one long sentence using all 20 of the above (in the vein of Cormac McCarthy).

In the end, there is nothing wrong with a little self-deprecation, and a lot right with revealing to our clients that we have similar shortcomings in a world of questionable jargon in all facets of society. If Justin Bieber can be roasted, everyone else can be too (don’t think too much on this one). And let’s face it: Neither President Obama nor Seth Godin is going to issue a decree banning any marketing terminology.

That’s better left to social media shaming and red wine to the face at marketing conferences.

5 Historical Market Research Disasters You Might be Committing Right Now

Hinderberg zeppeling crashing against tower

Market researchers labor hard to make sure probabilities work to the benefit of their organizations. It’s as much of a numbers game as it is a value-finding egg hunt. After all, marketing campaigns are typically long and expensive, with failure something akin to the Hindenburg disaster (certainly one of history’s great marketing catastrophes, beyond the horrible human tragedy). Yet the reality is that there are instances where market research contributes to the very crashing of product zeppelins.

Here are some of the major misadventures of market research:

New Coke



This is easily one of the most notorious failure of marketing analysis, although some business conspiracy theorists contend it was a ploy to actually deepen the desire of an iconic product by its removal and return (Michael Jordan mastered this years later).

Regardless, the sad tale is that in early spring of 1985 Coca-Cola changed its formula after almost a century. The company feared that Pepsi was making too many inroads in the soft drink market. In any event, the release of New Coke was met with widespread resistance, including:

Protest groups — such as the Society for the Preservation of the Real Thing and Old Cola Drinkers of America (which claimed to have recruited 100,000 in a drive to bring back “old” Coke) — popped up around the country. Songs were written to honor the old taste. Protesters at a Coca-Cola event in downtown Atlanta in May carried signs with “We want the real thing” and “Our children will never know refreshment.

(Yes, we’re talking about carbonated water here. This underscores the power of branding.)

In July of that year, Coca-Cola switched back to the old formula.

What market research said: New Coke actually proved to be better in taste choices, not only beating Pepsi but also Old Coke. Some accounts report the company tested up to 200,000 consumers. Doesn’t get more mathematical than that, does it?

What market research overlooked: The brand Coke represented an American lifestyle from a bygone era. Furthermore, if it ain’t broke don’t fix, and change can be perceived as an admission of weakness. As marketing academic Daniel Turner said:

In a naïve way, it made perfect sense for Coca-Cola to improve its product, making up for a known deficiency versus a focal competitor. But it made a fundamental error in forgetting what value it was offering customers—brand associations of America, friendship, nostalgia. These are emotional associations we cannot ignore.

Protesters not angry at the Cold War but at New Coke

Protesters not angry at the Cold War but at New Coke

The Ford Edsel



This lead balloon is the quintessential poster child for a marketing research problem. Released in 1957, Ford’s new vehicle was meant to be the evolutionary zenith of automobiles. The Edsel, featured Teletouch steering wheel, electric gear-shifting, self-adjusting brakes, a nifty speedometer redesign, and many other gadgets. It ended up costing the company $400 million, never resonating with the consumer.

What market research said: Everyone wants an encompassing product that does and has everything (it certainly worked for smartphones and personal computers). That certainly should have overcome an unattractive name in a world with so many car models with odd names (the name actually based on Henry Ford’s son).

What market research overlooked: Being everything to everyone is not always a good idea (just ask Google+). Perhaps more than that, as a marketing source explained: “One of the biggest problems with the Edsel was that it was competing against itself, matching retail value on many of the cars in Ford’s established Mercury line without bringing anything new to the table.” Lastly, hubris blinded Ford during its golden age, making it perform one of the worst mistakes in marketing by offering “the answer to a question nobody asked.”

In recent times the Ford Edsel has become a collectors item for a hipster generation

In recent times the Ford Edsel has become a collectors item for a hipster generation

Calvin Klein’s Sex Sells Campaign



Calving Klein certainly made money pushing the envelope, as have many other fashion brands. After all, trendy often means counterculture. In 1999 Calvin Klein overstepped the line with a series of commercials featuring underage, barely dressed amateur models—in a wood-paneled room basement, being interviewed by a creepy middle age man. The commercials were certainly stylistic and highlighted denim in all its glory. The public blow back was intense, however. The company yanked the commercials within 24 hours.

What market research said: Sex sells, goes the conventional wisdom, and when parents feel offended it commonly means teens and young adults will open their wallets.

What market research overlooked: Market research methodology should never take conventional wisdom for granted. According to a 2007 study from the University College London, sex actually doesn’t sell:  “There was no main effect of advertisement type on brand recall suggesting that the presence of sex in advertising does not assist memory for the advertisement.”

More importantly, an air of pedophilia is never, never a good atmosphere for advertising…or really anything…

I don’t have to quote any experts on this. Look at the video:


McDonald’s “I’d Hit It”



McDonald’s launched in January 2005 a doomed banner campaign presenting a young man slobbering over a double cheeseburger. The young man says: “Double cheeseburger? I’d hit it. I’m a dollar menu guy.”

McDonald’s quickly pulled the advertisements before any instances of romance between human and burger. There is certainly an odd connection to this year’s marketing campaign failure from McDonald’s—where consumers could express romance before a cashier for a free meal.

What market research said: Young people develop a certain jargon. Being perceived as sensitive to their culture, like talking their lingo, makes perfect sense in a marketing plan template.

What market research overlooked: McDonald’s own marketing department admitted it did not research the term “I’d hit it.” They say content is king in marketing, but context can be the executioner. Research every term, and go here if you’re still wondering about “I’d hit it.”

mcdonalds_id_hit_it marketing failure

It would be interesting to see what interpretation McDonald’s would have of Britney Spears’s first hit single


Google Glass



Not too long ago, Google possessed the Midas touch when it came to anything in its grasp. That ended last January when Google Glass unceremoniously failed. The dawn of the wearable tech got a rude awakening with a resounding rejection from consumers. This seems odd, since outside of the NSA, Google leverages the largest sphere of information in the galaxy.

What market research said: If tech can be shrunk to fit in the hand, as with smartphones and tablets, why not other parts of the human body?

What market research overlooked: Everything, it seems. Privacy and price concerns alienated much of the public—and the fact Google released early copies only to rich geeks in the west coast, thereby branding the product as elitist instead of the “affordable luxury” philosophy of Apple. As a CNN story explained:

“Google’s fast retreat exposes the most fundamental sin that companies make with the “build it and they will come” approach. It’s a process that tech companies rely on, referred to as public beta testing.”

Speaking of, it should be interesting to see what happens to Apple Watch at the end of April, although it’s safe to assume it actually has done some market analysis.

(And I should bring up Google+ again, the Edsel of social media).

Would offering a mustache with each pair have saved it?

Would offering a mustache with each pair have saved it?

Obviously there are often variables that no market research studies can predict. Ford couldn’t foresee a sudden recession in 1957 that crippled any possibility of saving the Edsel; Google can’t be blamed that America has entered an Edward Snowden era. Nonetheless, each of the examples above reveals serious blind spots in marketing research that were costly, if not sadly humorous.

Perhaps Jim White, a founding partner of RealityCheck, offers what is always needed for market research in his Greenbook article: empathy, experience, sharing, translation, and quality.

With these elements, surely some of the marketing Hindenburg’s could have been avoided. In the end, these examples showcase the limitations of market research—especially with its heavy leniency in number crunching and quantitative studies.

In the end, there are humans involved who tend to defy all probabilities.

button panel book second


5 Veterinarian & Pet Health Trends Taking Over

Veterinarian taking sample from kitten's mouth with qtip

What does the future hold? For the veterinarian industry, it means Marmaduke strides in pet healthcare. Everyone wants to be able to keep their furry friends healthy, and with the new trends of the future it is becoming easier and more manageable.

With that in mind, here are five trends that are creating a vast impact in the veterinarian industry:

Holistic Medicine



The American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association defines holistic medicine as “treatment that is minimally invasive.” This means the techniques and products used to treat the animal cause less physical stress and typically produce fewer side effects than with traditional drugs.

According to statistic from the National Center for Health Statistics, almost 40% of Americans in 2007 utilized holistic medicine (also referred to as integrative/complementary/alternative medicine).

Holistic medicine’s popularity has sprung from the fact that many pet owners have personal experience with alternative medicine themselves (herbology, acupuncture, massage therapy, chiropractic, etc.). In turn, they are searching for less invasive ways to treat their pets. Holistic medicine is traditionally a natural, nonintrusive, and often affordable alternative that focuses on preventative treatments—as well as the emotional wellbeing of the patient. For more information on the topic, visit our article Is Holistic Medicine for Pet Care the Next Big Trend?

Pet Insurance



Treatment for pets isn’t cheap, and pet owners don’t mind putting down the money. According to a recent survey by Kroger Co., 61% of pet owners say they’d spend between $100 and $1,000 for life saving medical treatment. Another 15% would be willing to pay between $1,000 and $3,000 for treatment. 10% of owners said they would be willing to pay $3,000 or more for medical care if their pet required it.

Beyond the heroic sentiment, animal health insurance has become increasingly popular in a world of unexpected veterinarian costs and tightening budgets. Several years ago, few companies existed that offer animal health insurance. Now the market is booming. Our internal research found that 97% of pet owners surveyed had personal health insurance, and 60% of those employed animal health insurance for their pets. Pets Best and Petplan were the most popular choices.

Women Veterinarians



Women have come a long way from what once a male-dominated field. The Houston Chronicle reported: “As of 2010, the veterinary profession was about 50% men and 50% women, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.”

Fast forward two years, the percentage of female veterinarian students grew immensely in 2012. Dvm360 noticed this trend when more than 75% of graduates were women, with Tufts University leading the pack with almost 88% of its graduating class represented by female students. The current enrollment in veterinarian medical colleges is approximately 80% female.

Move over boys, the girls are taking over.

Mobile Technology



Nowadays, almost everyone has a smartphone and access to mobile apps, and this is spreading into the animal kingdom.

Mobile technology has facilitated the communication between pet owners and veterinarians. Through numerous mobile apps and automated SMS messages, facilities can transmit patient test results, appointment reminders, and notifications pertaining to new services and/or medications. Clinic techs are even able to perform an x-ray on pets and send it to the veterinarian for a review within just a few minutes.

Other apps that assist pet owners are real-time webcams to ensure the safety of animals (and slippers, too!), pet training programs, and (yes) social media platforms exclusively for pets.

Exotic Pets



There are no sightings of a Baby Groot as of yet, but exotic pets is certainly a trend. For example, in the UK alone:

“The number of monkeys and other primates being kept as pets has soared to an estimated 9,000 animals in England and Wales as rising interest in exotic creatures fuels demand while the internet makes them easier to trade.”

According to the American Pet Products Association, cats and dogs were still king in the pet world in 2013, but already 19.4 million U.S. households owned exotic animals. The term “exotic” is loosely defined, but it commonly refers to reptiles, amphibians, birds, and small mammals. The reasons for owning exotic animals go beyond just being provocative and unusual; they can include being suitable for people with allergies (as with reptiles) or that they require less space than dogs or cats (as with hamsters).

In other words, it’s not just hipster monkey business.

We are still waiting for that flying car and commercial trip to the moon. Yet it’s wonderful to know we are close to a future where a large percentage and variety of animals are treated well and with the best possible care. With the continued support of a maturing and hard-working veterinarian profession, all dogs might possibly be in heaven while on earth.

Make sure to like and subscribe to our YouTube page, follow us on Twitter, and like us on Facebook.

vet panel button

Big Data is Science Fiction Already Here

Big data is a tech buzzword that instills varied emotions in the business community, from excitement to cynicism. To some, it’s a new era that is either:

An incoming apocalypse (there goes our privacy!)
An incoming paradise (there goes their privacy!)

The hype has arrived, but the era of big data is not exactly here although it’s here—yet organizations better be ready for it or they’ll go the way of the Myspace dodo (or something like that, according to some digital prophets).

Okay, but what exactly is big data?

Big data may seem like actualized science fiction, and in actuality science fiction is a suitable means of crystalizing technological advances (and sometimes inspire them, such as in the case of some of the first cell phones, inspired by Star Trek). By taking a look at some groundbreaking science fiction movies, one can easily (and perhaps ironically) demystify the notion of big data.

First, a technical definition of big data: There isn’t one.

To illustrate the murkiness of defining big data, Forbes published 12 Big Data Definitions: What’s Yours? The piece proffered several characterizations, from bland Wikipedia to eccentric scientists conjuring terms when pausing in their search for the next God particle. Nobody fully agrees, and in fact nobody even knows if the term should be capitalized.

In the most simplistic way, big data could be defined as this:

A lot of big-ass information floating around in digital form that if corralled could be useful for data research and statistical analysis…but it takes a big ass a machine as large as Skynet to successfully store, handle, and make sense of all this big ass information.

To wit: The big-ass information is basically a universe of records, forms, surveys, applications, and what not, just waiting to be organized and analyzed. This, in theory, can potentially make an organization near-prophetic (and others maybe just efficient). Big data could be a boon to such bulky industries like healthcare, military, human resources, and consumer insights.

At an American Marketing Conference, Justin Massa, CEO of Food Genius, adroitly defined big data as having five “V’s”:

Volume: The most obvious of the 5, there’s lots of data!
Velocity: The data grows and changes quickly.
Variety: Data comes in a variety of structures, creating complexity.
Veracity: “Dirty” data may need to be cleaned up.
Value: All that data is only useful if you can extract value.

(Perhaps coming close to the most suitable definition of big data, Massa added that it is any data that is too large to fit into an Excel file).

All of this ought to be useful. But again, glancing at science fiction movies we can see the allure and even potential of big data:

The Matrix

Matrix and big data

This iconic movie about rebellious machines is typified by those green digital numbers floating before the screen. The numbers clearly represent big data. Even the Matrix itself cannot fully manage this big-ass information with all its data mining  (as seen by mathematical anomalies, rebellious programs like the Oracle and the Merovingian, and its many (many) climaxes in the plot). In the end (or after the first and third movie of the series), it’s actually the protagonist Neo who is able to process all the big data, becoming the ultimate tragic hero.

Lesson: No matter how efficient the technology, it still takes a human to understand the big picture of big data.


Pi and big data

Many might not remember Darren Aronofsky’s directorial debut. The film is certainly an engaging exercise in understanding big data. The plot centers on the protagonist Max and his computer Euclid’s ability to predict the future movement of big data anywhere (something already in our world, called predictive analytics). As an example, Max is able to make stock predictions based on the calculations of Euclid. Could this eventually get him to unravel the secrets of the cosmos, all one big mathematical equation? In any event, all of this gets Max in some trouble with the authorities, business moguls, and even Jewish Kabbalists.

Lesson: The universe is one big, big data processor, unmatched by any mortal device. Be nice to it.


Transcendence and big data

The latest bomb by Johnny Depp deals with the concept of Transhumanism, where computer and human become united in byte bliss. Depp’s character is the first to undergo this phenomena, immediately enjoying access to almost limitless information while struggling to retain his humanity (and girlfriend). Ultimately, it’s humanity’s ignorance that aborts so much potential, not the information being gathered and utilized.

Lesson: Turning back the clock on big data could be unwise, but not as much as not raising one’s empathy in any new era.


Lucy and big data

In this movie, it’s not curiosity or miffed machines that causes the leverage of big data. It’s motherhood. Lucy (played by Scarlett Johansson not being the Black Widow) is accidentally injected with massive amounts of CPh4, a drug found in expectant mothers that accelerates brain activity. Lucy acquires so much brain activity that she is able to tap into all the information of the planet and become basically divine (and still able to karate-kick bad guys, as happens in any Luc Besson film).

Lesson: Intelligence has to be nurtured like a child even before birth, so does big data.

None of the mentioned films really grants a pedantic definition of big data. Yet in a very Joseph Campbell-style, they make the idea of big data approachable, understandable, and even romantic. Part of the function of mythic art is to bestow humanity’s a workable relation the changing environment. These films are certainly mythic art; and science fiction additionally offers possible results in didactic flavors without us having to undergo them.

Ultimately, big data is nothing but a natural stage of the information era, another tool of qualitative market research. It’s just not as sexy as social media or smartphones (and no one still agrees on capitalizing those two).

There is one specific future we can depend on when it comes to big data, and all the cited movies agree: It’s not so much how big data acts that matters, it’s how humanity reacts to it that will make the difference.

The path to big data will certainly be a fine path between an apocalypse and a paradise.

button panel book second


Study Reveals Consumer Resistance to Apple Watch

Apple Watch has been revealed but there is consumer resistance according to study

When it comes to making the release of a product into a cultural celebration, no company compares to Apple. This certainly translates to the release of the Apple Watch. CEO Tim Cook recently made the case on why the Apple Watch is a must-have gadget at a San Francisco event. Will this product shatter all expectations like the release of iPad, throwing cyber-egg on critic’s faces? Or will it flounder like other smart watches, perhaps going the way of the Google Glass dodo?

Data reveals that the sailing of the Apple Watch could encounter some choppy waters—as the much-touted release is still not resonating with consumers beyond Apple enthusiasts. This and more findings are highlighted in a survey qSample conducted with more than 300 panelists in the last week of February.

According to the study, the release of the Apple Watch is split between the general population:

–  41% are interested.
–  41% are not interested.
–  18% have no idea of its arrival.

Of those surveyed who prefer Apple products (31%), the interest in the Apple Watch doubles to 82%.        

The indifference from those who prefer either Android or Kindle could reflect the notion that wearable technology is not appealing, as a majority of respondents admit (39%) . Also challenging, 26% state their indifference stems from Apple Watch being too expensive (18% hold a “see and wait” attitude for the gadget).

Still, Apple’s brand will likely hold some sway. A majority of respondents (36%) believe that the Apple Watch will be superior to other smart watches, while only four percent feel the competitors produce better products. Furthermore, a majority (39%) contend that Apple is releasing this product to remain competitive in the tech industry, instead of just wanting to make a profit (26%) or exploit its loyal fan base (22%).

As for the Apple Watch itself, those who plan in purchasing it claim these reasons:

1. A new way to utilize apps and integrate with other devices (24%).
2. Wanting to be part of the latest technology (19%).
3. Other reasons  (16%).
4. I like anything Apple releases (15%).
5. Its design/fashion (9%).

(17% answered “all of the above”)

The low interest in the Apple Watch as a fashion brand could be further problematic. Apple is diverging from its “affordable luxury” marketing philosophy, offering some models at a retail of up to $10,000. In the online survey, 50% of respondents state they would not pay more than the baseline price of $350. Only 13% of respondents claim that price was not an issue, potentially leaving it in danger of becoming a niche product like Google Glass.

Adding to the seemingly indecision of consumers for the Apple Watch, a majority of those surveyed who are interested (36%) have no idea as to what type of Apple Watch they will purchase (between the Watch, Watch Sport, and Edition Watch). When it comes to the success of the actual product, the results are a bit more split with the panel: 47% believe the Apple Watch will not be a permanent staple for mobile devices, and 38% deem it will be.

In the online survey, a majority of participants were female (57%), while a majority (37%) fall in the 51-65 age group (odd since Apple as a brand is notably considered to attract a younger generation).

As mentioned, Apple certainly possesses the track record to rewrite trends and expectations. It was Steve Jobs who famously said that customers don’t know what they want; they have to be taught what they want. This attitude certainly paid dividends with such products as the Mac, iPod, iPhone and iPad. Will it work with the Apple Watch?

It is too soon to tell, but the study points to Apple having some hurdles to overcome, mainly an apathy towards wearable technology and a consumer base not fully informed. This time, though, it will not have Jobs to educate the consumer. That also could be an issue—as in the study 80% of respondents think Jobs is a superior CEO than Cook.

Perhaps Cook will have to sell himself before selling the Apple Watch.

Study reveals consumer resistance to Apple Watch


Is Predictive Analytics the Next Minority Report for Businesses?

One of my favorite cultural tropes has to do with one of my favorite writers, Philip K. Dick, and his work Minority Report (also adapted as a blockbuster movie, with Tom Cruise and directed by Stephen Spielberg). The storyline essentially deals with law enforcement having the ability to predict a crime before it happens (and arresting a suspect before he or she becomes a suspect!).

Predicting behavior before it happens: a trope many beyond the authorities would like to see as a reality—certainly in the corporate world where management eternally clamors to market research departments for the ultimate crystal ball.

In our tech era it seems science fiction is regularly an actuality, and predictive analytics is being considered as the (next) ultimate crystal ball.

Is it? What exactly is predictive analytics?

The Matrix and Big Data

I know that you know that I know what you’re going to buy

First, it should be mentioned that in order to be prescient, predictive analytics needs to be paired with big data (a tech buzzword that, like the word “gluten” in the food industry, many still don’t know what it is). Big data is basically information too unwieldy to be addressed by traditional databases and software. Massive data centers that look like the inside of the Death Star are required to store big data. Often the firepower of the Death Star is necessary to process big data.

I like how a tech expert simply defined big data:

It’s all about sorting variables and tracking them, piecing together things that humans can’t. Computers are very good at sifting tremendous quantities of information (with the right software, of course), and that’s the core of big data.

Google data center, where the Arc of the Covenant is also stored

Google data center, where the Arc of the Covenant is also stored

More or less going back to science fiction, in order to understand predictive analytics, picture all the digital numbers cascading down in The Matrix, with the business world attempting to be Neo after his resurrection. So far not many in business have become “The One” in their efforts to corral big data into consumer meaning.

Morpheus might actually represent predictive analytics, though, the carrier of the Red Pill to tap into big data. According one source, predictive analytics is:

Predictive models and analysis are typically used to forecast future probabilities. Applied to business, predictive models are used to analyze current data and historical facts in order to better understand customers, products and partners and to identify potential risks and opportunities for a company. It uses a number of techniques, including data mining, statistical modeling and machine learning to help analysts make future business forecasts.

In essence, it appears this is something close to the ultimate crystal ball. In the Huffington Post’s Can Big Data Save World? the author illustrates the potential in the marriage of big data and predictive analytics:

Online retailers not only know what you bought, they know what you considered buying (viewed); where you came from (prior URL); what path you took through their site; what you finally bought; and how you paid for it. They can even suggest products that appeal to your personal tastes and interests. In other words, they now have the information to create a unique shopping experience just for you.

Seems the Oracle instead of Morpheus might be a better illustration of predictive analytics (and if big data can’t save the world, at least we still have The Avengers). In fact, the company Oracle already provides predictive analytics software (as do Microsoft, IBM, and Microsoft), as well as other smaller companies in what is a blooming market.

Does predictive analytics work

I see dead shopping people

Here are some other ways other major players in the tech world are using predictive analytics to augur your very future:

Google: from trying to finish what you’re typing in the address bar with autocomplete, to selling its proprietary software platform, this company spends a lot of time kissing everyone’s kismet.

Facebook: Not a surprise to see this name as well, for your News Feed is all about knowing what you want to read at before even logging in. As an article in Forbes reported, researchers have concluded that Facebook “could predict our personality more accurately than most of our close family, friends, and maybe even our therapist.”

The Video Game industry: Okay, not surprising either, considering the amount of information that gets injected into the various companies from an industry that is larger than Hollywood. As an example, one source stated that:

EA games generate a whopping 50TB of data per day. This data is in the form of gameplay data, micro-transactions, time stamps, in-game advertising, multi-player information, and much more.

The piece concluded that video game companies “see the huge opportunity to customize gameplay, find new ways of monetizing games, and even enriching the gaming experience by making it social.”

Not leaving the basement, Mom, and I'm busy with important predictive analytics

Not leaving the basement, Mom, as I’m busy with important predictive analytics

All of this may indeed sound futuristic, and perhaps bordering on Orwellian, but the reality is that predictive analytics has been going on since someone told someone not to eat a fruit because they might venture on a fig-leaf shopping spree. Market research has been in the prophecy business for generations, crunching numbers in various capacities to understand consumer conduct.

As one MIT Professor put it, predictive analytics is basically “a way to predict the future using data from the past.”

All of us continually use the past to measure the future of those around us all the time, like during Thanksgiving with our families. The difference is that predictive analytics, along with big data, takes prophesying in a scope never seen before in the far reaches of the internet clouds. Not exactly science fiction, perhaps, but it certainly is a report that is not minor in any way.

How Eye-Tracking Technology can Transform Online Surveys

Eye-tracking technology is a recent tech gift for online marketing and advertising. It allows businesses to evaluate the intimate desires of test subjects—by using a combination of an eye-tracker device (usually digital video camera) to capture eye motion or point of gaze, and software to record and analyze the digital images from the device.

In essence and from a selling standpoint, eye-tracking software deciphers a potential customer’s preferences in regard to webpage layout, brand placement, or even the product itself. Reading an individual’s eyes may not be as essential (or romantic) as in film when one thinks of gun fights in Westerns, card games with tuxedo-wearing spies, or epic love affairs; but it can make a sizeable impact in market research.

In a way, eye-tracking technology is a form of online survey, albeit in a different language, able to measure the intimate tastes of respondents.  In fact, online surveys and eye-tracking technology could be a marriage made in marketing heaven, as their union truly focuses on a key issue in any manner of research sampling: honesty.

The idea of measuring an individual’s honesty while responding through eye movement has been around for a while (beyond movies), although in recent times it has been criticized by scientific examination. However, leading research indicates that the eyes are indeed the windows to the soul (or at least windows to the mind’s most sincere intentions). A piece in Psychology Today detailed a recent study at the University of Buffalo’s Center for Unified Biometrics and Sensors. The article stated:

In their study of 40 videotaped conversations, an automated system analyzing eye movements correctly identified whether subjects were lying or telling the truth 82.5 percent of the time. That’s a better accuracy rate than expert human interrogators typically achieve in lie-detection judgment experiments. (Experienced interrogators average closer to 65 percent.)

The study utilized an automated system that focused solely on eye movement, and employed a statistical method to model how people moved their eyes in two separate situations: during regular conversation, and while fielding a question designed to stimulate a lie.

Without getting too technical, determining a person’s honesty through eye movement is viable, and (also again) technology can now and readily track eye movement.

So why not blend eye-tracking technology with online surveys to maximize honest responses?

After all, honesty from online panels is an issue that deeply concerns all companies. Beyond ensuring panels are properly nurtured and engaged beforehand, marketing researchers utilize different methods to negate dishonesty/laziness during online surveys, such as:

Time tracking
Pattern reading
Trick/repetitive questions

These safeguards are for the most part efficient, but adding eye-tracking technology could further improve online surveys by gaging a respondent’s sincerity before and during the survey.

The costs might seem staggering at the moment, from a developer’s standpoint. However, the idea of eye-tracking technology on smartphone screens and other mobile technology was once deemed too pricey. This is no longer the case, with companies already offering eye-tracking technology for home devices at under $100. Samsung, as an example in the marketplace, has incorporated eye-tracking technology for a variety of its mobile products.

Humans are not perfect, and there is no such notion as a perfect technique to mining for the most distilled desires of an individual—unless it is James Bond studying the eyes of the villain across the casino table. Yet eye-tracking technology is an intriguing option for better online surveys, as it already has improved both consumer markets and market research, for your eyes only.