Chart showing ice cream sales

What is the Counterfactual? – Why do we need to assess it?

Posted by Ray Poynter 19 October 2018 If we are told that a before a marketing campaign the sales were at 10,000 units a month, and after the campaign sales are 20,000 units a month, then it is easy to assume that the campaign has increased sales by 10,000 units a month, or by 100%. However, this is an example of the classic fallacy “Post hoc ergo propter hoc” (which is Latin for ‘after this, therefore because of this’. Consider the chart below, an edited and anonymised version of a presentation I saw at a conference last year. The chart was presented by the head of social media to the head of insight in a company selling ice cream. The head of social media protested that the spend on social media advertising should be maintained at a high level. He pointed out that when social media advertising was increased sales, increased, and when the advertising budget was cut, the sales dropped. Therefore, the advertising budget should be increased, so that the advertising could be maintained at the higher level. However, the head of insight took out her pen and scribbled onto the chart three words and images, as in the […]

Sign with two directions

What is semiotics and how is it used?

Posted by Ray Poynter 17 July 2018 At the most basic level, semiotics is the study of how meaning is made. We often hear that semiotics is the study of signs, but that is only true when we take a very broad view of what a sign is, i.e. anything that communicates a meaning beyond itself. For example, the word Rose is a sign that can signify the plant, and the plant (a red rose) can be a sign that signifies love or passion (or the England rugby team). At one level, we all interpret signs every day of our lives, we negotiate the signage of human interactions, purchases, work, travel etc. In most cases we do this successfully because we have learned how to decode and use the signs in our everyday lives. However, the ability to understand how other people interpret signs, how new signs might be interpreted, and the linkage between different signs is a specialised discipline, that of the semiotician. Where semiotics becomes useful to marketers, market researchers, and insight professionals is where we hope to change behaviour, which typically means either creating new signs, or changing the way that signs are interpreted. For example, a […]

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Why you should subscribe to NewMR’s newsletter?

Every week NewMR sends out one or two newsletters/updates that we think you will find useful. You can subscribe to our newsletter by clicking here. Last week’s mailing included: How to access the slides and recordings from our recent webinar on Artificial Intelligence and Market Research (8 great presentations). How to become a speaker at NewMR’s Festival of NewMR, to be held in February 2018. Three new webinars to be held this year: Maximising Mobile, New! But Not Tech, and Beyond Market Research. So if you want to be aware of all the new resources, of the chances to speak at events, and hear about new blog posts, subscribe to NewMR’s mailing. You can access last week’s newsletter by clicking here.

The Paradox of Automation and Increased Employment

In Western society, fears and concerns about automation creating job losses and social disruption date back, at least, to the early 19th Century and the Industrial Revolution. In 1811 the UK saw the rise of the Luddites, protestors who were smashing looms and factories that were changing their lives – shifting them from self-employed home-workers to factory employees. The luddites were unsuccessful, production moved into factories, cost fell, output increased, wages fell and many starved. However, across the wider economy more people were employed and more people were better clothed. The economy won, many people won, but some people lost and suffered terribly. The history of automation has not simply been a history of job destruction; it has also been one of change and job creation. During the 20th Century the US saw automation change the nature of work. For example, automation-led change resulted in a fall from 40% of the US workforce being employed in agriculture to 2%, but it also led to an increase in the proportion of the US population in employment and a massive increase in the total number of people employed. The growth in jobs created by automation was facilitated by massive levels of immigration. This […]


Many Conference Exhibitors Could do Better

I am lucky to attend a large number of conferences each year and at most of these conferences there is a trade-show or exhibition area. With a few notable exceptions many of the companies exhibiting at these shows are selling themselves short, they can and should do a much better job. This underperformance by most exhibitors matters as the revenue companies pay to have a stand reduces the fees that attendees pay and contributes to the financial viability of the events. If exhibitors fail to optimise their investment they will be reluctant to pay what the space is worth. So, this post is a call to arms to improve the value that exhibitors gain from the events they attend. How to improve stand/booth performance There are a number of ways to improve the performance of a stand at an exhibition or conference, and here are a few examples: Say what you do When I walk around an exhibition I often play ‘Guess what that company does?’ This game involves looking at a stand from 5 metres away and seeing whether I can work out what service they are offering. In perhaps 50% of cases it is not clear what a […]

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Are you a new entrant in the NewMR World?

From time-to-time people reach out to us to tell us about a new company in the market research space. Sometimes we are able to engage in a conversation, sometimes we are in a position to help with advice with marketing or consultancy, but usually new start-ups do not have the budget to hire us and we do not have the bandwidth to do anything for free. So, we have come up with a new proposal that we hope will be of interest. Are you relatively unknown? If so, we’d like you to write a guest blog post for NewMR. If you’d like to write a guest post, here are the rules: Fewer than 1,000 words, fewer than 5 images (and a minimum of 1). The tone should be informative, not pure sales. Avoid superlatives such as ‘the best’, ‘the only’, ‘first ever’ unless it is demonstrably true even to your competitors. Please describe your field of operations, are you global, regional, or national? Are you mostly talking to agencies or end clients? Include a simple way for people to find out more, for example an email address or a link to your website. BTW, our decision whether your piece meets […]

Social Media, Curation and a Personal Brand – 3 hot topics for 2016

In November our thoughts stray to 2016 as we try to guess the key topics we should be following next year. Here are three topics that I think will be big in 2016. Curation As data becomes ever more plentiful the need to organise that data becomes greater. Curation is what turns a junk shop into a collection, it turns random scribblings into an anthology, and it terms disparate strands of data into a resource to help organisations make better decisions. 2016 is going to be a big year for curation. Insight is the flashy and useful product, but curation is the hard work that facilitates insight. Curation is going to be covered further by Martina Olbertova in the NewMR Webinar ‘Embracing the Future’ Social Media Social media as tool for insight has had a bad couple of years, a direct consequence of excessive hype from some vendors and the frequent misconception that listening to social is a) cheap and b) a replacement for most other forms of insight gathering. However, the pendulum is swinging back in favour of social media as an insight tool and 2016 looks set to be a sort of ‘Social Media 2.0’. There are several […]

Listening to talk about Beacons

The social media research contribution from empirica takes a slightly different angle from most of the other reports in the GreenBook / NewMR collaborative review of the benefits of social media research. Rather than researching market research as a whole, it looks specifically at one technology, namely that of beacons. You can read the full empirica report by clicking here. Beacons are widely tipped as being one of the key elements of marketing and market research over the next few years. Beacons are used to help locate a customer or research participant. The early beacons did this through a high frequency sound signal (high as in too high for humans to hear). The current leading example of a beacon is the iBeacon from Apple, which uses Bluetooth. Empirca listened to the conversations in social about beacons and identified to broad locations for the discourse, marketing and technology. The empirica study focused on the marketing discussion and found the discourse to be overwhelmingly positive. The report goes on to list the sorts of comments made and the topic areas covered. Empiraca went on to plot the interactions and potential influencers for the conversations about beacons. Not surprisingly there were relatively few […]

Keen as Mustard

What’s special about Keen as Mustard?

The post below is the result of a discussion between Ray Poynter from NewMR and Lucy Davison from Keen as Mustard. Q: Can you describe Keen as Mustard for me in 140 characters? A: Keen as Mustard is the only full service marketing agency that specialises in the market research industry. Let us tell your story. Q: What sorts of things do you do for your clients? A: We run the full gamut of marketing and PR activities for our clients. From branding and website design to media relations and PR, and the development of content that really tells the story of the client and raises their profile inside and outside of the industry. Building that narrative is where we excel. If you take a look at some of our clients, such as MaritzCX, Research Now, PRS, and end-clients like CPW, Sony and Lucozade, we’re telling stories with data. Whether that’s a press article, infographic, conference presentation, or a dashboard; we’re experts in communicating insights and getting the right, engaging content in front of the right audiences But the key to our work is strategy. A website, an email campaign or collection of content means nothing if the strategy isn’t […]

What’s special about MESH, the Experience Agency?

The post below is the result of a discussion between Ray Poynter from NewMR and Fiona Blades, President and Chief Experience Officer at MESH. Q: Can you describe MESH for me in 140 characters? A: Brand growth is driven by all experiences people have with brands, yet half or more typically go unmeasured. MESH uniquely addresses this gap. Q: What sort of brand experiences are going unmeasured? A: Three that come to mind are: Retailer advertising, advertising by retailers such as Best Buy, Tesco, or Walmart. We have seen many cases where being featured in retailer advertising has had major impacts on brands, but it is not usually picked up by traditional Share of Voice measures. Peer observation, seeing other people use a product, e.g. a mobile phone, impacts brand consideration, but is rarely measured by most brands. We have seen cases where ‘Seen others using it’ was actually the lead driver of purchase. Experiential touchpoints, for example for Gatorade in Mexico this meant understanding how people interacted with the brand and its messages in gyms, fitness centres, and parks. People experiencing these touchpoints were twice as likely to endorse the brand. Q: Why do you think so many brand […]