Alan Frost

Tribute to Alan Frost – a Market Research Pioneer

This article is by way of an acknowledgement of the pioneering work undertaken by Alan Frost in the field of market research. His work was undertaken before the days of the internet so we would like to take this opportunity to give Alan the recognition he deserves. This article has four authors, Ray Poynter, Elaine Bowyer, Michael Davis and Graham Croome (and special thanks to Graham for organising this tribute). Ray Poynter This article is to highlight and remember a great innovator, who because his time was before the internet, runs the risk of being unjustly forgotten. Alan Frost studied psychology at Liverpool University in the late 50’s and realised that the great leaps that were being made in psychology could be applied commercially in the rapidly expanding world of market research. From the outset Alan was an innovator, applying Kelly repertory grids, cluster analysis (accessing shared time on bureaux offering computer mainframe access), and gamification approaches to attribute elicitation. I started working with Alan Frost in 1978, when he became one of the first in the UK to buy and use an Apple II computer – I continued working with Alan until he retired due to ill heath in […]

Chart of device usage

Useful summary of mobile device usage in the USA

Posted by Ray Poynter, 3 April 2018 A recent Pew Report (Mobile Fact Sheet – 5 February, 2018) shared some great data on the devices the US population are using. The topline numbers show that by early 2018, 95% of the US population had a mobile phone, with nearly 80% of the population having a smartphone. The chart below was created by using data from two sections of the report and combining them (if you click on it you will see a larger version). Several key trends are clear and important. Mobile phones are ubiquitous – nearly everybody has one. Smartphones are really common, but over one-fifth of the population does NOT have one. The ownership and use of desktop/laptop computers has plateaued at about 70-75%. Tablets are still growing, and may overtake desktop/laptop computers soon. E-readers seem to be stuck at 20% of the population – and perhaps that will fall when the ones currently in use break? Digging into the data The report from Pew has some great nuggets relating to differences by groups. For example, smartphone ownership amongst the over 65 year olds is less than 50% (46%). Ownership of smartphones is over 90% for the under […]

Photo of the book Attack of the 50 Foot Blockchain

‘Attack of the 50 Foot Blockchain’ – Book Review

Post by Ray Poynter, 12 March 2018 For anybody interested in the current hype around Bitcoin, blockchain and smart contracts, I would recommend reading David Gerard’s book ‘Attack of the 50 Foot Blockchain’ (many thanks to Richard Young for recommending the book to me). The book is a thorough deconstruction of the history, mythology, and outrageous over-claims of this popular new technology. The book provides a useful and timely counterpoint to all those making claims for the benefits of blockchain and its associated technologies. The book is short and very readable. The tone is clearly negative about blockchain and I would advise any reader to crosscheck the information they gather from the book (I have done that and so far everything I have checked has been confirmed.) Key items covered in the book are: How blockchain, cryptocurrencies, and smart contracts work. This requires some technical understanding of the language of IT, but even without that you will get a sense of what is happening. The problems that cryptocurrencies (such as Bitcoin and Litecoin) have had with criminality, fraud, lack of security, volatility, and more recently with capacity. The reasons why smart contracts seem doomed for the foreseeable future, despite the […]

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Blockchain and Market Research – A force for disruption soon?

Post by Ray Poynter, 3 March 2018 Have you noticed that there seems to a lot of people who are shouting about how important blockchain (and or cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin) are going to be for market research? In November 2017 a Quirks article claimed “blockchain is turning marketing research on its head” and at IIeX Europe Rolfe Swinton and Snorri Gudmundsson presented “10 Reasons Why Blockchain is a Big Deal for MR – And What You Can do About it”. Although I am a fan of technology, I am a sceptical fan, and all the buzz about blockchain stimulated both my interest and my scepticism, so I set about finding out more about blockchain and issues such as cryptocurrencies (like Bitcoin) and smart contracts (such as those created using Solidity and Ethereum). Whilst I can’t be 100% sure, my gut feel is that blockchain will not disrupt market research within the next five years (and maybe never), and here is my line of thinking. Of course, I could be wrong 🙂 What is blockchain? Blockchain is the technology that underpins Bitcoin. Indeed, in 2008 blockchain was Bitcoin, and Bitcoin was blockchain – but now there are other blockchains, some with […]

Image of someone stepping forward

Are you a collaborative and productive worker? Does your employer know that? Are you sure?

To read the Japanese version of this post (from Mr Ryota Sano) click here. Post by Ray Poynter, 21 February 2018 I have just been reading an interesting HBR article (Rob Cross et el, Collaborative Overload, first published in 2016) that I think highlights the need for people in organisations to develop a personal brand – especially if they are amongst the most productive and collaborative people in their organisation. The paper reports on studies that looked at collaboration inside organisations and found that, on average, 20-to-35% of the value added by collaborations came from just 3-to-5% of employees. These productive people were the ones who were able to offer one or more of the following: Informational resources, knowledge that can be passed on to other to use. Social resources, knowing who to refer a problem or query to. Personal resources, including time and energy – this is the most draining of the three. The researchers reviewed about 300 organisations, using a variety of tools to map collaboration and value added. The studies found that at least 50% of the people who were most valuable to the organisation were not known to be so important by senior management. Think about […]

Things you need to know 1

To lose one may be regarded as a misfortune, to lose two looks like carelessness!

‘To lose one may be regarded as a misfortune, to lose two looks like carelessness.’ From time to time, you will hear this useful phrase. Here are some notes about what it means, where it comes from, and key facts about Oscar Wilde (the originator of the phrase). Where does it come from? The original quote comes from a play, ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’, written by Irish poet, author and playwright Oscar Wilde (1854 – 1900). The quote in the play is spoken by Lady Bracknell, “‘To lose one parent, Mr Worthing, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.” What does it mean? The statement implies there is something wrong with the person being spoken about. For example, ‘To lose one CFO is unlucky, to lose two looks like a pattern.’ The device shifts the focus away from the event (for example a CFO leaving) and moves it to the person being ‘judged’. The tone of the comment sounds humorous, but the intent is quite sharp. The speaker is saying there is probably something deficient with the person/company being spoken about. The term is similar to ‘There is no smoke without fire.’, but it […]

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Market Research Knowledge Benchmarking Study 2017

In November 2017 Ray Poynter and Sue York conducted a study into Market Research Knowlege and produced a report. This post reproduces the Executive Summary and the start of the main section. At the bottom of this post, we will tell you how you can download the whole report. Executive Summary This report looks at the state of market research knowledge and the factors associated with higher levels of knowledge. The authors believe that skills are going to be a key driver of the future success the market research and insights profession. The study supports our view that there are specific initiatives (such as attending webinars) that are associated with higher knowledge levels. This report covers a study conducted globally (in English and Japanese) in November 2017, with 730 market researchers and insight professionals. Key Findings People differ in terms of how many market research terms they are familiar with (i.e. able to explain to somebody else). This is not surprising, but it reminds us that when data is presented or reported there will be variations in the knowledge levels of the audience. Nearly 40% of this sample did not attend a single training session or workshop in 2017. The […]

Image of a Temple Gate

Hints for Presenting at International Conference

Earlier this week I attended the IIeX APAC Conference in Thailand and it was a fantastic event – I strongly recommend it for next year. Although most of the presentations were great, there were occasional reminders about things that presenters need to be aware of when presenting at conferences, and in particular at international events. Make your first couple of sentences clear, welcoming, and redundant. When you first start to speak, the audience needs to tune in to your voice, to assess your speed and volume, and get used to your accent. If you have a truly international audience, there is a good chance that 50% of the room will not really understand your first couple of sentences – that is why they should be redundant. For example, I might start a presentation about the ESOMAR Pricing Study with something like “Good morning, my name is Ray Poynter, and I am based in the UK. Today, I am going to be exciting you with five important messages from the ESOMAR Pricing Study”. This sets the tone, is polite, is redundant, and allows the audience to tune in to my voice and pronunciation. Avoid words, examples and metaphors that might be […]


Is it time for market research to ditch the ritual of the Null Hypothesis?

From time to time, I am asked to write some notes (or teach a section) on hypothesis testing. Each time I do this, I am reminded how little the theory of hypothesis testing has to do with modern, commercial market research. Perhaps we should stop focusing on a theory that does not really apply, and talk about what we actually do? At its simplest, the hypothesis process is as follows: Decide we want to show X is correct Design a situation ‘Not X’ and collect data to investigate ‘Not X’ Show that ‘Not X’ is very unlikely Assume X is right. This is highly unnatural for most people. People want to focus on X, not show it as a by-product of something completely different. This method is loosely what is done in academia, but almost never in the commercial world. Consider an example from concept testing Assume we are testing three new concepts and the forecast market share values are 5%, 6%, and 12%. What do we really want to know? On most occasions, I think we would like to know whether we should choose the concept with the 12% score. For example, is it genuinely better than the 5% […]

Ray Poynter on stage

Ray Poynter’s presentation at JMRA Annual Conference 2017

This week, Ray Poynter was the opening keynote speaker at the JMRA (Japanese Market Research Association) Annual Conference in Tokyo. Ray’s topic was ‘Where next, and how do we get there?’ The four final points, the big picture, that Ray left the audience with were: Traditional Research is yesterday New methods are the future A dichotomy is emerging Data / DIY / Automation / AI Consultancy and Storytelling The tide of change is mostly English The key priorities for clients are usually in the following order: Speed Cost Agile Quality If you would like to download a copy of Ray’s presentation click here.