Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Research Studies Move To Facebook?

Caught a very interesting article in Ad Age this week on the trend with a number of big name advertisers moving their survey research to social media (Facebook).  Proctor and Gamble (which spends 350 million on consumer research) and Coke both are looking to dive into exploring their brands and consumers through social media instead of spending all their efforts on random sample data and more formalized/structured research systems which we've all used for years.  

The leaders of the trend cite the fact that in today's world we can have a lot more interaction with the consumer and vice versa.   Today we don't have to dial out and hope to catch someone at home, wait for a mail in survey to be returned, or have the respondents show up at a conference to find out what they feel about any product or brand.

The ease of finding 'fans' of your product on your fan page or building panels from the large Facebook community gives any product manager lots of opportunity to easily do polls, review product comments, track marketing impressions, and catch the level of engagement.  You also can collect tons of rather open ended responses without dealing with as many group dynamics as you can have in focus groups or group studies.  The research mavens here claim that they get a lot more from the social network's two way communication.  The opportunity is there to easily get away from counting impressions to looking at the consumer's real 'expressions' on the brand - more feelings than just market shares.

The other side of the coin here - is this social network sample reflective of the total consumer picture?  In traditional sample research a lot of science and math goes into building a representative sample with measured margins of reliability.  In the social network world you are likely to be talking mostly to P1 fans in your sample and have less opportunity to see what the non fan is thinking.  But, when you look at most products it's more about building a fan base to a fever pitch and keeping it excited as the brand spreads from the early to late adapters.

We already have a new start up service that specializes in building panels and doing research off of social media samples.  It's called CrowdTap you can see how they approach the consumers on this site.  And also see how they approach marketing and research teams here.  It looks like they just launched at SXSW at the music fest just week or so ago.  I bet this will be a HOT company real soon.

How will this affect radio brand research?  This could be the next BIG trend in radio product research.  It will take a whole new system of interaction with the audience and a whole new world of analysis for all of us.  Extracting the real potential tools to building our brands from this new frontier of research will not come from using the same analysis angles we've been using since we started researching the audience.  

You can read more in the Ad Age article here.   You should also take a look at the comments from many of the advertising industry people who had a lot of very interesting reactions to this development.  You almost learn more from their comments than the article.   

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Is Pandora Radio?

While Pandora does clearly deliver music to the people who are logged on to the system are they using the service as a replacement for radio or as a replacement for their MP3/I Pod music player or playing CDs?

Radio has always had competition for music listening from LPs, 8 tracks, cassettes, and now MP3/IPods.  You could always get your music without listening to the radio.  Obviously now it's become a lot more compact and anyone can carry around thousands of songs in the palm of your hand.  Still radio's listening levels have not taken that big of a hit from the evolution of personal music listening.

While it seems that we in the industry, clients/advertisers, investors and industry pundits all seem to be looking at Pandora and other customizable music services we may be forgetting the real role that radio has developed with its audience.  That role has evolved beyond music to entertainment through the personalities and the imaging as well as the local information (traffic, news, weather), the infotainment, and the promotions/community events that we bring to the audience.  Really the music is not designed to be 'your personal favorite music' - it's a collection of the most popular songs in a given style (Rock, Pop, Country, Contemporary).  This is 'Broadcasting' and it is different from individual casting.  

Yes if the individual casters get their product to be more usable in the car and as easy to navigate as broadcast radio they can have more opportunities to take away time spent listening to music on the radio.  But, the Pandora's and Slackers of the world are computer program driven systems to build personal streams and libraries of music for individual listeners.

No doubt they serve a purpose, but it very well could be the ultimate replacement for the CD collection or even the MP3/IPod collection.  Why buy songs on ITunes or carry around your music and have to go through  the task of downloading and categorizing it when you can punch in some artists and create channels around them that you can sculpt to your taste.

Yes, radio should explore the new narrow casting - customizable media.  Clear Channel moving into the Thumb Play world is a good thing as is CBS with Last FM.  Just keep in mind that both CC and CBS will be gaining a lot more by developing the strengths of their long standing broadcast properties.