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The Market Research Survey Is Dead; Long Live the Market Research Survey

by Lev Mazin  |  
March 11, 2011

In this article, you'll learn...

  • How boutique agencies and other marketers can measure results without traditional MR
  • The advantages that social media offers to marketers looking for customer feedback

We have moved into the data-centric era. It is now a best-practice to measure everything we do in business.

If you are a professional in one of the creative fields—design, advertising, marketing, branding, or PR—you need to measure your creative output and validate that it will do what you intend. When creativity and commerce intersect, measurement and validation are essential and overrule gut feelings.

We usually receive such validation by resorting to disciplines related to marketing research.

Market research surveys have been around for ages. But traditional marketing research (MR) is very expensive, difficult to access, and not very agile (i.e., slow). If you are an owner or a professional in a boutique agency in one of the creative fields, traditional MR's negatives are big: It is difficult to turn to your clients and propose a MR project to validate your creative output or plan, especially when it will cost them tens of thousands of dollars and require up to three months to turn around.

So, what's a boutique agency, sole proprietor, or consultant—or, for that matter, any marketer—to do? Well, fortunately there is a revolution brewing in MR that's good for nearly everyone and makes MR something that even the smaller players can fully participate in.
Tapping into the social graph reduces the cost, accessibility, and speed of MR. The social Web has made consumer opinions more easily available than ever. Plus, consumers are much more amenable to giving their opinions online than when they are sitting down for dinner and the phone rings.

This new revolution is also bringing a do-it-yourself (DIY) opportunity to the fore. Boutique agencies and creative professionals can perform MR via online services that provide survey tools and built-in consumer panels.

Imagine being able to write a survey, drill down into your target respondent, launch to target audiences, and start seeing survey results streaming back in minutes. Such services now exist, and they will disrupt traditional, expensive, slow, and difficult-to-access MR. These new types of surveys also address some of the problems of traditional, boring online surveys: nobody likes to read gobs of text and look at large matrices. (Twitter has taught us some big lessons. Less is more, and that principle applies to surveys as well.) Shorter questions and answers allow respondents to focus better.

Now, you can launch an MR survey over the weekend and come to work on Monday with the answers you need. The competitive playing field between smaller and larger agencies is being leveled. Boutique agencies generally have the advantage of agility, and this new MR technology plays right into that strength. Professionals at the smaller agencies can do fast DIY MR, validate their creative output and plans with real US consumers in a few hours or days, and make the timely decisions needed to keep their edge.

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Lev Mazin is co-founder and CTO of, an online market research platform with a built-in US consumer panel.

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  • by Stefan Fri Mar 11, 2011 via web

    This article intrigued me as I'm always keen to learn new techniques, ger results faster and cut costs.

    So now I know that using social platforms can help me ... but I've no real idea how it is accomplished.

    So where is the real meat in this article? Where is the clue as to how it is done? All I'm left with is an empty feeling and disappointment.

  • by Susan Fri Mar 11, 2011 via web

    Yes, Stefan, I feel the same way - I now know what I CAN do, but have no idea HOW to go about it. Bummer...

  • by Laurence Bernstein Fri Mar 11, 2011 via web

    The new ways of capturing responses to measure are indeed awe-inspiring, and if the manner in which or the channel through which information is captured were the only issue facing MR, then the new media alternatives would go a long way to making us perfect.

    But the problem goes deeper. For instance, we are still asking the same questions we asked 50 years ago. With all we have learned, with all that neuro-marketing is teaching us, with all we now know about people and the way their minds work, that we did not know before, we still ask: what did you do last week (people are unable to accurately report what they did yesterday, let along last week, in the previous three months, within the last years, etc.); do you intend to ...?(people cannot accurately predict what they will do -- the world is way too complicated -- nor can they predict what their intention might be at some later date).

    In evaluating (testing) advertising we still deconstruct the creative into it's component parts and ask linear questions that bear no resemblance to the way people process external stimuli and thought. Or we show the ad in a qualitative group and hope that the respondents will have the good sense to say the right things -- because if they don't, the moderator has a rough time twisting what they did say into what they should have said.

    I am not a cynic, but rather a realist. This is what is going on in most MR situations. But, and here, obviously, is the shameful plug:

    Prediction Market theory offers a truly new way of gathering meaningful input. Rather than asking people what they will do, we ask what they think other people would do (hence removing personal bias while allowing for personal projection). Research (?) shows that people are much better at guessing what other people will do than what they will do, and there are a number of sound reasons for this, which we'll skip for the moment.

    Plus, prediction market based research is not based on theories of probabilities, which current quantitative research is theoretically based on; and it works the way people's minds work. So, in essence, rather than about a behavior, we ask about a probability of a behavior. Understanding that business is the balancing of risk, then being able to quantify the risk in any particular decision makes the decision more reasonable for professional managers. A prediction market measurement would suggest that a new product has a 65% probability of being successful in-market, or an ad has a 75% probability of getting people to try the product, etc.

    Finally, in order to generate thoughtful consideration, respondents are rewarded for being right -- they are asked to bet on whether their answer is right or wrong. The amount (of virtual money) they bet is indicative of how strongly they feel about their answer. In current online research -- including the social media kind in most cases -- people are rewarded simply for answering the questions; most people try their best to get to the end quickly!

    While I don't know if this is the final panacea or even a new paradigm (actually, it is definitively a new paradigm, but whether it is THE paradigm, remains to be seen), I do know that it works as well, if not better, than the alternatives, is faster, less expensive and easier to understand. What's so bad about that!

    You can learn more about it by viewing the online (and downloadable) e-brochure at

  • by Beth Fri Mar 11, 2011 via web

    I agree, Stefan. Where's the beef. Point us to the most commonly used apps and some examples of how they're applied.

  • by Kevin Fri Mar 11, 2011 via web

    Full disclosure - I'm a marketing researcher. There. Said it.

    I can't help feeling that the article has a very simplistic view of market research. Like others have mentioned, there seems to be no meat apart from "it's easy to do market research yourself for next to nothing."

    While I agree that market research can be expensive and time-consuming, it is those things for a reason: proper market research isn't about taking a quick pulse - which this article suggests. Do you know how long it takes to write a decent questionnaire? What about figuring out who you need to talk to? What's the research strategy? How does it tie in with your overall objectives?

    That being said, there are tools that smaller companies can use that will help. Twitter for one: bearing in mind that if people are talking about products and brands then you're generally dealing with folk who are either really really happy with the product/service/brand or those who are really mad.

    Surveymonkey is a good DIY online survey tool - pretty easy to program. But that's not going to give you the knowhow of writing a questionnaire, or actually get people to take part in the survey...nor will it tell you how to accurately interpret the results.

    The website of the American Marketing Association ( has a lot of useful information about how to construct survey questionnaires and sampling criteria - that might be a great place to start if you're looking to do some DIY research.

    I think the biggest thing this article failed to indicate is that before jumping into DIY research, it's worth taking the time to learn about the components that drive a MR project.

    Wow, hope I didn't sound like too much of a Debbie Downer. ;)

  • by Vahe Habeshian, MarketingProfs Fri Mar 11, 2011 via web

    Steafan, Susan, Beth, Kevin--you're right, of course. In hindsight, it's apparent that the article needs a part 2! We'll see what we can do to provide you, and our other readers, with some tools and concrete examples of how. Thanks for your input!

  • by Kevin Fri Mar 11, 2011 via web

    EDIT: By the way, Laurence brings up an EXCELLENT point. People cannot reliably predict what they are going to do when you outright ask them. There is a science to good question building - and I agree, many research firms take an out-of-date approach to things.

  • by Kevin Fri Mar 11, 2011 via web

    Awesome, Vahe! I look forward to reading it!

  • by Marianne Fri Mar 11, 2011 via web

    Continuous investigation of your customer and possible new customers coupled with creative thinking all day, everyday.

    But I believe there still needs to be statistical analysis, or else one can follow a red herring for a long time.

    It’s the cost that is making everyone crazy, and the time involved, regarding survey market research.

    If you could have accurate statistical results coupled with low cost and fast turn-around, it would be the holy grail of research.

    With any innovation it is important to understand what the value proposition is from the consumer’s view of the benefits.

    In this case, that benefit is accuracy. What is accurate enough to invest resources? How does the company manage risk?

    It’s no different then “good, fast, cheap, pick two.” Right now in this economy, business is picking fast and cheap.

    It is up to the professional consumer insight developers and marketing strategist to define “good” or accurate so that we can maintain integrity and manage expectations of our business customers.

  • by Marianne Fri Mar 11, 2011 via web

    I agree with Kevin! It's the upfront work that shows the intense training and expertise of good market research - particularly with survey work. Garbage in gets garbage out.

  • by Jennifer Fri Mar 11, 2011 via web

    I have to agree with Kevin's original post. I am not a market researcher, but I have studied market research. While there are tremendous benefits to being able to DIY a survey with the simple, accessible tonline survey tools currently available, the fact that virtually anyone can now conduct a survey does not make you a survey researcher, just as 20 years ago, the ability to use a graphic design tool did not make you a graphic designer.

    There is substantial science behind the methodlogy of crafting a market research survey, from the overall methodology to the sampling approach to the determination of the question/response type (Likert or semantic difefrential? Open ended versus multiple choise? Etc.) to the actual wording of the questions themselves.

    And like most things, the value and validity of the insights that result are often only as good as the time and expertise that went into it on the front end. (The acronym "GIGO" comes to mind.)

    That said, there is clearly a benefit to being able to quickly field a brief survey for purposes of a pulse-check or to secure directional insights. But for studies intended to be used to drive major organizational strategy, it's best to engage the experts.

  • by Laura Moon Fri Mar 11, 2011 via web

    Full disclosure, I work for Zoomerang Online Surveys & Polls.

    While all the comments are very valid with respect to engaging professional market researchers and looking for statistically relevant data, online surveys or polls can be very helpful in giving directionally relevant feedback to an agency that needs a quick gut check, a small business or non-profit with limited/no budget or those on a tight timeline.

    We’ve seen and heard from numerous clients in the creative industry how they used a Zoomerang Online Survey to get quick feedback on an offer, positioning statement or concept boards. Zoomerang Online Surveys are free to use for the basic version and can be sent with one click to Twitter or Facebook, post on your own website/blog or sent via email. You can also purchase an online panel (Zoomerang sells Zoomerang Sample) to get a targeted reaction. (Zoomerang Sample is one of the highest quality online panels around.) Additionally, you can ask demographic/psychographic questions in a survey and screen out the answers of people who are not in your target.

    Zoomerang also helps the novice with best practices covered in our Online Knowledge Base articles and blog posts.

  • by Dhana@Loyaltics Fri Mar 11, 2011 via web

    'Do It Yourself' tools are coming up in a big way, because of simplicity. Clients need not worry about how as it is a technology vendor's problem, but should worry about why you need it !.

  • by Stefan Sat Mar 12, 2011 via web

    As a small business i don't want to spend a lot of money or a lot of time in conducting MR. That is OK for corporates and I appreciate why it is important.

    As an alternative I might use a simple system like a split testing ad in Google Adwords to test, say, one benfit against others. The results come in fast and are from buyers .. not people who say they might buy or would buy in some artificial situation. this works for me but no doubt will upset the purists .. but I know the shortcomings ... and I am using this in a practical buying situation.

    I'm looking for other tools and methods that can do this for me fast and effectively.

    Any ideas?

  • by Marianne Sat Mar 12, 2011 via web

    Re: Stefan

    In retail, experimentation is always a viable option. Promotions are often tested this way before national roll-outs.

    I think what the researchers here are saying is that one methodology cannot simply replace another one.

    The art of research is the expertise in understanding which methodology is best for each objective.

  • by Rohan Sun Mar 13, 2011 via web

    Some people like stawberries and others need bananas.

    I also think its best to leave it for the experts, but if you are not equiped to do it, use an alternative method to get to your answer.

  • by Karen Mon Mar 14, 2011 via web

    Kevin, thank you for such a thoughtful description of why market research for real INSIGHT cannot be conducted overnight - or even this week, in most cases - and for $500. I join in your honestly by disclosing that I, too, am a market researcher. My experience with clients is mixed: some are so amazed at what they read in a questionnaire or discussion guide that they immediately understand the value of a professionally crafted tool. But some are so incredulous about the cost of well-constructed research that they never get to the process of having me create the tool that they need to RELIABLY answer the questions they have. I use SurveyMonkey for our client satisfaction surveys. But if you are doing a quantitative survey, the platform is no where near as robust as you want it to be, for multi-level cross tabulations, for example, or anything but the most basic statistical analysis.

    There are so many approaches and methodologies; I for one do not ask the "what did you do last week" questions. When you need insights into values, attitudes, ask open, provocative questions. Not easy to do in a quick online survey; but very productive in the hands of a trained moderator/interviewer.

    Market research is not dead. Do we need a Time Magazine cover story here? As long as marketers know that they need to get insights and not just data, marketing research will not die.

  • by Greg Timpany Tue Mar 15, 2011 via web

    As a researcher that has worked with many creatives I can share the lament about the cost and time commitment needed for large-scale research projects. On the other hand, I have dabbled in design over the years, but in no way would consider myself a designer. This is the danger of DIY anything.

    Sure there are many tools available (SurveyMonkey, Cvent, Zoomerang,, but it is the knowledge and expertise that is needed to accurately connect the dots. My advice is beofer you jump into the fray, get some understanding of the MR process OR partner with someone who has that expertise and is willing to work with you.


  • by Sherrie Tue Mar 15, 2011 via web

    Full disclosure, I work for Cvent and specialize in our web surveys and enterprise feedback management solution.

    This is a great discussion stemming from the simple fact that more organizations are adopting a DYI research model instead of hiring agencies. However, this doesn’t mean organizations aren’t conducting valid market research as a lot of organizations are building internal departments. While it's nice to have the flexibility to put a survey in the field in under an hour (which some of our clients do), organizations need to be thinking about feedback on a bigger scale now - executives everywhere are demanding more data and want actionable insights from customers & employees alike. Of course putting a survey into the field that's "garbage" isn't going to get that done, you're just going to get "garbage" back that doesn't mean anything. When you’re basing decisions on the feedback, executives want to know it can be trusted – and survey authors need knowledge to do that.

    For years, we’ve been having discussions around the need for feedback programs, not just a single survey whenever management feels like caring about satisfaction/customer insights/market movement. If you’re just doing an annual survey, it’s probably not enough – we should all be measuring more often. Online technologies like survey solutions and social media have made it easier for the every-day person to field a survey (if they have enough background and knowledge to understand how to avoid garbage). And as DYI grows in popularity, organizations connected to feedback collection and market research are continuing to put out resources to help those new to market research educated. This includes everyone from technology solutions to market research agencies. While our goals in providing these helpful hints may be different, the result is the same: more and more people are becoming educated in the importance of market research and are gaining skills to help build effective programs (both in and out of house).

    I love Karen's comment: "Market research is not dead... As long as marketers know that they need to get insights and not just data, marketing research will not die."


  • by Modeco Surveys Tue Mar 29, 2011 via iphone app

    A new online tool with be up and running this summer called Modeco Surveys. Check out and stay tuned. Or better yet follow us at for updates.

  • by HenGz Sat Aug 20, 2011 via web

    The price will fall which is gud for companies tat intend to do MR, but how do surveys firm survive?

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