What are conferences for?

I am in the midst of the September-November conference season. Having spent last week at the Australian Marketing Institute’s annual conference in Melbourne and being just about to attend the ESOMAR 3D event in Amsterdam and the MRSS annual conference in Singapore my mind turns to thinking about the purposes of conferences. Several things seem to have changed about conferences over the last 20 years: There are a lot more of them A smaller proportion are category specific (20 years ago more of them focused on things like retail, or finance, or auto). A larger proportion tackle ‘fashionable’, generalised topics. In 2012 we have been deluged with mobile related conferences. Attendances for the larger conferences tend to be smaller than 20 years ago. For example, there are very few attracting over 800 delegates these days. Attendance fees appear to be paying for a smaller part of the cost of conferences, with sponsorship becoming ever more important – a pattern which is mirroring how a large part media has changed over the last 20 years. The key sponsors of conferences used to be research agencies. These days the key sponsors tend to be suppliers to the research industry, such as the […]

Are two genders enough?

A couple of times recently I have had a several discussions with research colleagues about whether simply asking Male/Female is adequate or even fair in this day and age. Before, discussing the number of options it may be best to clarify what is meant, at least by social scientists by gender versus sex. Asking whether somebody’s sex is male or female is interpreted as referring to their biology. If they have a Y chromosome they are male, if they don’t they are female. This difference is of interest to some people, for example the Olympics testing committee, but of little relevance to marketers. Gender, by contrast, tends to be used to describe the way people express themselves through the way they live their lives. Live as a woman? Click female. Live as a man? Then click male. This definition is useful to marketers as is describes how people behave in the market. Of course, in wording the question in the survey it is not necessary, or even desirable, to distinguish between sex and gender. My preferred question is to ask “Are you …” with the options Male and Female. With this question I tend to avoid using images, unless they […]