Having explored in previous posts how to explode a concept to improve the odds of finding a winning combination, and looked at the pros and cons of different approaches to evaluate these ideas, focusing especially on how you measure synergy, we now turn to the issue of getting your sampling right.
In order to savour a good whisky, you need to start with the right glassware. So before we start this whisky lesson, get your tumblers out of the sideboard, and place in your recycle bin these relics designed not to accentuate, but to dull the taste of bad, prohibition-era, bootlegged moonshine. Instead, reach for a small, round-bottomed wine glass, brandy balloon, or even certain sherry glasses, or ideally a tulip-shaped whisky nosing glass. And much like your whisky deserves the right glass, market research deserves the right sample.
The consumer sample should all be relevant for the task in hand, i.e. they should be regular malt whisky consumers. Hence for qualitative methodologies, researchers quite rightly recruit against a pen portrait of their archetypical or core target consumer. For the co-creation phase, we might want those with above average involvement in this category because they are likely to be able to contribute the best ideas. Enter Archie:
Archie is a self-employed consultant who can afford to work when he chooses, following a successful career in the city. 5 years ago he moved out of his Bloomsbury apartment into a converted farmhouse in the Oxfordshire countryside - making London easy to reach for meetings, and easy to ignore the rest of the time.
He was introduced to whisky by his boss who toasted new deals with a premium blend, but developed a taste for malts when he and the boys chased Bollinger with Laphroaig when they had something to celebrate like the fact that for once they were not pulling an all-nighter. His palette is now more discerning, preferring an 18 year old Glenlivet, which he enjoys while doing the Telegraph crossword when his wife Prim has gone out for the evening and his terrier Wolf stretches in front of the fire...
And this is why you may be unlikely to be recruited for a focus group on the subject of malt whisky unless you are an affluent, late middle-aged male who spends his winter evenings in his slippers by the fire, dram in hand. And have a wife called Prim.
This also means qualitative samples are not necessarily representative of the market, nor will they often try to be. Archie is probably going to have more detailed ideas to contribute than the "average" consumer. At the co-creation stage, generating only ideas that only have mass appeal is not the concern, for the breadth of appeal of the leading ideas will be evaluated subsequently.
Beyond this, there should also be a degree of homogeneity within the sample. Why? Because if you're going to put consumers in a room together, the conversations within the group will flow more smoothly if they are from the same psychographic segments. Where is this room? Increasingly these days, it is virtual chat room (a.k.a community), but if offline, respondents will necessarily be sampled from the same geographic location.
The difference in the need for a qual sample and a quant sample to be representative could barely be starker than that between a mellow aged Speyside and a young spicey Islay. As the name implies, the purpose of quantitative research is the application of robust numbers, which will only ever be representative of the sample interviewed. Do you want to know which are the most popular ideas among all whisky consumers, or only among those who do a bit of high-end consulting to keep a hand in following early retirement (and call their dog Wolf)?
So before we copy and paste the qualitative screener into our quant survey, let's review the relevance of each recruitment criteria:
1. Regular category consumers
Yes, this remains absolutely relevant. Our need to talk to consumers who are active in this category remains equally valid. What is your category? On-shelf neighbours provide a good starting point, but also consider who volume is likely to be sourced from. This will help determine how narrow or broad? Are we only interested in buyers of aged Speysides, a broader whisky sample, or anyone who spends more than £30 on a bottle of premium spirits?
2. Above average category involvement
For co-creation we targeted these consumers as being the most likely to contribute new ideas. In the quantitative stage the task is easier for respondents - they only need to provide feedback to ideas presented. And while infrequent users individually may consume less, collectively they contribute a significant proportion of category sales. Furthermore, studies such as those done by the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute demonstrate that what appeals to lighter users appeals equally to heavier users, so eliminating lighter users from our sample won't change the insights generated, but will negatively impact incidence, which inflates fieldwork costs and can stretch project timings.
3. Demographic homogeneity
Quantitative respondents do not have direct, peer-to-peer interaction, so group dynamics is not the relevant cause for sample homogeneity it is for many qualitative methodologies. Nor is it necessary to use demographics to define category users. Just because most baby wipe buyers are mums, doesn't mean we should exclude Archie if he also buys them because they're the only thing that gets the stains out for the carpet when he falls asleep, half drunk glass of amber nectar in, and slipping out of hand. Quotas, not terminates, are better guarantees of sample quality.
4. Geographic location
In the days before online research (anyone remember that?) geography played a key role in the science of sampling, to mitigate the risks of consumers from one particular locale being very different from the geographically dispersed peers. For quantitative research, thankfully we now have the internet and a wide net of online panels with consumers from every corner of your geographic market, and with a minimum of quota controls we can ensure samples diversified not only by mileage, but also by community size.
Where qualitative samples may be narrow to hone in on the most quintessential consumers, quantitative samples should be broad to be representative of as many potential buyers as possible. To force a quant sample to adhere to a pen portrait definition reduces the validity of the results as much as it increases fieldwork costs.
A highlight of Ben's recent holiday in North Devon was watching the craftsmen of Dartington Crystal hand-blowing exclusive bottles for a very premium whisky. He has now returned to helping organisations make better marketing decisions by including consumer wants, needs, and behaviours alongside the corporate agenda. You can follow Ben on Twitter at @BenLangleben.
The story so far: In the first installment of this mini-series, award-winning new software was used to organise a multitude of ideas for each aspect of a new whisky, covering the name, age, cask-finish, reason to believe, tasting notes, and bottle colour. Last month's post examined the pros and cons of different approaches to evaluate these ideas. This post takes a closer look at how the most appetite-whetting whiskies can be identified from 4.8 million holistic concepts.
Perhaps the most enjoyable and challenging tasks in whisky production belongs to the Master Distiller. For it is he who must not only constantly taste samples drawn from different casks varying in age, size, provenance, and even position in the warehouse, but also determine the optimal combination for the whisky in creation. In the Highlands of Scotland this process is called "marrying". And just like a marriage between people, the best partnerships are not necessarily those between the best individual people. It's a cliché because it's true: The whole is not merely the sum of the parts; for in bringing different elements into the mix, the best combinations also contain an additional ingredient: Synergy.
And this creates a problem in my endeavour to distill down to the very best fully-fleshed propositions from all the partial ideas for my new whisky. For there isn't really a scientific way to to evaluate my ideas for each element of the mix without either ignoring the influence of the chemistry or culling the vast majority of ideas on little more than a hunch. Or at least there wasn't, until a fortuitous meeting of minds in Massachusetts. He an expert in bio-chemistry; he an expert in mechanical engineering; the two from divergent disciplines brought together by a fascination in improvement through evolution. Together they had an idea. And this evolved into IDDEA.
So what is IDDEA?
I will continue with my whisky fantasy to illustrate what IDDEA means to those with different priorities and agendas according to their involvement in the innovation cycle.
For senior management, it's how we get better products to market more quickly. Better, because it roots out the very best combinations of all the ideas in the business. It's dependable because it is proven to significantly improve the proportion of new products that meet internal requirements to launch, their likelihood to survive in market, and the revenues they generate.
For my brand manager, it is an easy and efficient way of creating better holistic concepts that also takes into account the synergy between the different elements. Being able to accommodate large numbers of ideas cost-effectively reduces timelines and internal politics because there is no reason to eliminate ideas or combinations internally before the select few are subjected to consumer evaluations.
It gives my consumer insights manager the confidence of a best-in-class methodology, using choice-based tasks to get more discerning data, and advanced algorithms which add value in actually improving concepts beyond the mere evaluation that alternative concept tests provide.
And for consumers taking part in the survey? It is an easy and engaging way for them to share their preferences individsually and collectively, so they can collaborate with the team and help to create the optimal consumer propositions from all the part-ideas on the table.
And who are these consumers taking part in the survey? Next month we'll look at how we can optimise our survey sample. Until then, I'd love to know what is your warm-weather whisky of choice...
Between drooling over drams, Ben helps organisations make better marketing decisions by including consumer wants, needs, and behaviours alongside the corporate agenda. You can follow Ben on Twitter at @BenLangleben.
Spring is upon us, which means we're closer to BBQs, flip-flops, and lounging by the pool. It's also a good time to explore new fitness routines (cue collective groans).
I'll be the first to admit I have a go-to routine when I need to break a sweat, but I've learned that stepping outside my comfort zone is always beneficial. In fact, last week I finally tried hot yoga (after weeks of pressure from my sister). 90 minutes of 26 postures and 2 breathing exercises in a room heated to 105°F. Oh, and 40% humidity. Sign me up!
It was humbling to say the least. I could barely do a back-bend, while the guy 40 years older than me did a headstand with ease. Show-off.
But I knew exercising different muscles results in better overall strength. This got me thinking about trying new things and the natural resistance that comes with doing something completely new. As the Product Manager of Affinnova Concept Studio, I spend much of my week fielding new feature requests and keeping track of enhancements we want to make. New is the name of the game.
So many of us are stuck in a daily routine that we forget the need to stay current on new things. It’s easy to forget we need to excel at our jobs before we can begin to climb the ladder. To keep on moving and get recognized, we need to stay current and be thought leaders. Now.
People that mix it up tend to know what’s going on in their field. They’re the people that spread the word about a new app, or read the latest articles and books. They’re also, not coincidentally, the ones who get the promotions.
If a regular routine works, why should you change it up? Because you don’t want to get bored, or worst yet–plateau.
Here are some tips to mix up your work routine:
- Quiet the Lizard Brain. This primitive part of our brain has kept us alive for a long time. To the Lizard brain, things we are unfamiliar with represent mortal danger, which may have been useful when our ancestors were living in caves, but in today’s world it’s kind of annoying.
Habit makes it so easy to resist the new. So does fear. Maybe you never sign up for those dance classes because you think you will look silly doing the Salsa. Or stay quiet about that new strategic idea you had at work because you’re not in senior management.
Even if you don’t take to something, at least you learn from it (like learning to balance after tipping over in a hot yoga headstand).
- Be an early adopter. Everyone uses technology, no matter what the job level. Knowing the latest software gives you a better chance of recommending products or services. When colleagues come to you for recommendations it shows your opinion is valued. This has many benefits, including closer work relationships and growth opportunities.
- Explore new methods. Stay current with industry trends and innovations through conferences, seminars and online training. Not only will it help spark new ideas to improve your organization, but will help diversify your skills. Most jobs require multiple skill sets, so it’s good to have some flexibility.
Mixing up your workouts and skills isn’t a guarantee you’ll look like Cindy Crawford or Brad Pitt, or make a beeline for the CEO position. But it is a way to make sure that your skill set matches your goals. Diving into learning a new skill takes a time investment and commitment, but it’s well worth it.
I have 3 confessions to make. The first is my weakness for whisky. Single Malt Scotch preferably. I have tried more malts than I could name, and though I have my favourite brands, I do like trying new variants, or expressions as we aficionados like to say, from my preferred distilleries.
But what if I could create a new whisky? What would I call it? What type of casks would I use for maturation? And for how long? How would I describe the nose, taste, and finish to my fellow connoisseurs?
Having a large number of dimensions to think about is nothing new to people working in innovations. And so I decided to try out Affinnova Concept Studio to organise my ideas. And so to my second confession. And my third - sort of.
Confession #2: I have had no training on Concept Studio so far other than a short demo presented at a company meeting. I only joined Affinnova last week and my formal training begins this week. But curiosity got the better of me, and I decided to give it a go. And I have to say, I am seriously impressed! By now you may have predicted that my third confession is that I work for Affinnova. So does that make me biased? Maybe. Until I tell you that it was the very idea of Affinnova’s IDDEA (incorporating Concept Studio) that meant their headhunter was the one I called back.
I found Concept Studio to be intuitive, intelligent, and capable of doing everything I would ever want to be able to do to explore different ideas, propositions, and combinations. The 3-minute online intro video provided orientation, and the helpful little buttons gave me instant and contextually relevant advice for the more complex functions.
You start with a base concept, which is at least as easy to create in Concept Studio as it is in PowerPoint. Then simply highlight the words or phrases for which alternatives can be considered and just type these variations into the box that pops up. Ditto for age, cask finish, reason to believe. Want to display 3 out of 6 flavour descriptors for the tasting notes? So easy, I made smell, taste, and finish separate variables. And it works in exactly the same way for images.
And now for something really complicated. I wanted to display an image of the bottle… with 3 different bottle designs… and dynamically “stick on” the label design relevant to the name presented (of the 4 options). A quick Google image search and a bit of photoshopping to create my image layers was the hard part. Adding different options for the colour of the closure and the design of the emboss would only have taken a few minutes more. But within the 2-hour limit I had set myself, I already had just under 5 million unique concepts!
Now if only I can persuade Marketing that funding a concept optimization to find the best of these ideas would be good for PR purposes!
As for any other confessions, those will have to wait until we share a glass.
Ben likes to help organizations make better marketing decisions by including consumer wants, needs and behaviour alongside the corporate agenda. You can follow Ben on Twitter at @BenLangleben.
I’m writing this post from my new office sitting right across from Jeffrey Henning at Affinnova, and I’m truly excited for what we’ll be doing and sharing in coming months. For those of you who followed me when I was at Forrester, I’m glad you’ve come over to read what I have to say here!
The first time I heard of Affinnova was when I was contacted by a recruiter here. (He is awesome by the way, and we are hiring like crazy if you’re interested!) But man was I impressed with what I learned about the company in the conversations that followed. In the end, I joined because it was an opportunity too good to pass up. I get to work with amazingly smart and friendly people, at a company that’s growing like a weed, thanks to some really cool technology that’s attracted a long list of top brands as clients. And it’s my job to talk about the kinds of things this company does, and share my thoughts in the process? Sign me up!
I like to say that Affinnova helps companies innovate the innovation process, so my focus on this blog will be about different facets of innovation at companies today: from trends in insights gathering, to ideation and product conceptualization, to concept evaluation and benchmarking. Then Jeffrey and I will throw in reviews of recent research and innovation events and news that you’ve come to expect from us based on our former lives.
I hope that this will be a place for discussion and iteration on our ideas from the many business roles that have a part to play in the innovation process. And given that I’m working with Jeffrey on all of this, I hope I can keep up with his prolific blog-writing abilities!