Four Trends Spotted at The Market Research Event (TMRE) – Part 2: Consumer Opinions and Social Media

In late October I had the opportunity to attend The Market Research Event in Nashville, a meeting of over 1500 global industry researchers, including both those working as brand strategists from within a company and those partnering with brands to provide external support and guidance. After three full days of engaging breakout sessions and keynote addresses, and one and a half notebooks worth of insights, I returned to the office with four trends that remain top of mind, several weeks after leaving Nashville.

Trend Two: The opinions of your “brand lovers” are the (only) ones that matter

One theme echoed again and again throughout The Market Research Event is that consumers, whether they are current customers, potential customers, or simply survey respondents, love giving their opinions. However, having an opinion and caring about a particular brand, product, or topic are two completely different things. The difficulty lies in separating those who hold a cherished conviction and those who only have a temporary view. For brands, the key is to find the customers who truly love their products or services, the ones who evangelize a brand to their friends. These customers shape the brand’s “story”, and even stereotype, in the marketplace.

More and more, these “brand lovers” want a seat at the table when brands are developing new products and envisioning future directions for the company. Interactions with brands via social media and an increase in “crowd-sourced” products (such as Lay’s “Do Us a Flavor” campaign to create a new type of chip), has empowered consumers to take a more active role in shaping their favourite products and services. As when they are soliciting general opinions, however, brands must filter out the input of consumers outside their “brand lover” group and focus on strengthening the aspects of their products that are beloved by their key market, while avoiding the mistake of trying to become everything to everyone.

Trend Three: Social media could become your next focus group, if you are asking the right questions

In the past few years, “big data” has become a ubiquitous buzz word among market researchers. Social media, in particular, is a mostly untapped trove of what are essentially unsolicited consumer opinions. Although many brands and market research firms are aware of the potential power of social media analysis, most are still in the very early stages of understanding how they could use these information sources in their own research and business decisions.

As Wayne St. Amand, of the social media analytics firm Crimson Hexagon, put it: “social media is a billion member focus group, an open forum filled with people you know and people you don’t.” As with any focus group, the key to unleashing the potential of social media analysis is to ask the right questions. Once able to access and analyse tweets on Twitter, for example, breaking down the percent of positive, negative, and neutral tweets about a particular brand, product, or topic is relatively easy – just as it is easy to ask survey respondents whether they like a brand or product. However, this breakdown on its own does not give any insights into the “why”.  In order to unlock the potential of social media data, researchers must look beyond the “what” contained in the billions of available posts and analyse the motivations behind each opinion.


This will be a three part series.  Stay tuned for more trends.

Full 2013 Survey Results Report available here