Monthly Archives

January 2018

Dirty Hair, Messy House and an Impromptu Baby Shower

By | Have Fun, Invoke Passion, Take Risks

I recently had shoulder surgery. I went into surgery very optimistic (aka dumb) thinking my arm would be in a sling 7-10 days and I would have a few months of painful physical therapy and then voila – magically better. Turns out, that is not the case at all. Looking back, it’s also like all the people around me knew what was really going to happen, but they just humored me and nodded in encouragement. I suppose, in the end, things are just how they are anyway so in these situations, ignorance prolongs misery, and I guess it is worth it. Why squander the hours that could have been useful worrying about what is going to happen? If it’s going to suck, may as well just wait until it sucks instead of worrying about how it will suck.

When I woke up from my surgery, I was in a full on terminator contraption – an immobilizer that wrapped around my waist and back and held my arm out from my body. It did not allow it to move at all. You see, I needed an anchor and a pin so I had to be in an immobilizer for 6 weeks. Six weeks in a bulky, scratchy, itchy contraption that needed adjustment every five seconds. And yes, I had to sleep in it. I am still only doing range of motion physical therapy for at least another month before I even start strength training.

So I have to wear this brace. It is so big and bulky that we have to buy Double XL sweatshirts from Walmart to go over it. I cut off all my hair as I knew I couldn’t blow dry or style it. I don’t bother putting in contacts as it is a pain. It was starting to seem like Christmas decorations would just be up early for next year since I couldn’t manage to get them down. I had started this home redecorating project (no, I don’t think things through sometimes thanks for asking) that is half in the works and half just boxes of crap everywhere. Our dog is not getting walked and digging up the back yard. Basically, both I and my entire house are one great big sh*t show.

Oh, and I can’t drive. My doctor said maybe around the ten week mark. Are you kidding me? It is so maddening. My husband and my daughter’s Nanny drive me everywhere. It is lovely. It’s not like I really go gallivanting about, but not being able to get in the car and just go, is crazy making. And my husband doesn’t put up with my foolishness. If I am like “hey let’s stop at [insert random store here]” he always wants to know what I need to get there. How the hell do I know what I need if I haven’t even gone in yet? RIGHT? Like if I actually NEED something I just order it on Amazon Prime. It’s not about needing things. Geez.

Then, last week, the unimaginable happens. I am on a conference call in my home office, with my disgustingly dirty hair, glasses, no makeup, sweatpants that are 3 sizes too big because they are easy to pull up, and there is a knock on my door. Assuming it was on those Amazon Prime deliveries (you know, something I NEED), I answer the door, with my headset, totally unsuspectingly to find SoapBox’s marketing assistant at the door wearing one of those masks people wear given the crazy flu epidemic. I have no idea what she is doing at my house, but feeds me some line about visiting a sick family member and was sent to see what I need help with. I embarrassingly help her weave her way to the kitchen table through all crap that is everywhere and keep going on my call. Then I finish and realize that she maybe can give me a ride and then I ended up back on the phone with I.T.

From my office I hear her yell, someone is at the door. This time, it MUST be an Amazon Prime delivery. I open the door to find my front steps full of SoapBoxers with their phones in the air filming me. “Surprise” they yell. Some are nervously laughing, some looking down at the ground fearing for their lives (or at least their jobs) and others just kind of holding their breath to see what happens. You see, since I can’t make it the 70 miles each way to the office right now, our VP of Operations thought it would be fabulous to bring the whole team to me for our annual kick off meeting, That’s right. TO MY SUPER DIRTY HOUSE WITH SH*T EVERYWHERE for a surprise visit. Oh, and let’s forget that I could not look any worse if I had tried. I wanted to scream obscenities, punch someone in the face, slam the door and run up the stairs (maybe fire a few people and then die), but I am not a total a**hole.

Instead, they all come piling in. They have computers and food and balloons and cake. Why balloons and cake you ask? Turns out we are also having an impromptu baby shower for one of our staff members. They had some amazing Greek food delivered from a local place I didn’t even know existed. I pretty much blacked out, but in between moments of clarity I observed some things.

  • This was my team and they are awesome. We are slow at hiring to make sure people are “right”. This team is totally right.
  • They were laughing and teasing and seemed like a group of friends at a reunion – not just employees working together.
  • They like working at SoapBox – while some were hesitant (like are you sure we should drive to COO’s house and surprise her hesitant) they were all happy.
  • They take care of each other (me included) – that it was I want from a team.

And finally, Dan Parcon, our VP of Operations is in deep doodoo. That’s right. Payback for this one will be of EPIC proportions. We have had a five year “prank” game running (I always win and he has zero points), but this was good. He tried to call truce. I thought he knew me better than this. There is NO TRUCE. This is only the beginning…

Confused Robots, Puppy Love, and Super Judgy Mirrors

By | Create Value, Inspire Ideas, Take Risks

I’m so not the cool kid anymore…

OK. So some may argue I was never the cool kid. But whatever, coolness is in the eye of the beholder (yes, I know that is not the right saying). Anyway, I’d be lying if I were to say I wasn’t totally jealous that two SoapBoxers attended CES this year and I didn’t get to go.

I read articles from afar, watched some live videos and was totally intrigued with what they would come back with. I was especially interested in how they would come back and convince me that all the coolness and crazy gadget viewing was 1) related to their job and 2) had some sort of value for us and 3) could help SoapBox support client needs, and that it was not just a trip to Vegas on the company dime. I needed to be sure what happened in Vegas did not stay in Vegas. You know what I mean?

Well, this article by our Director of Marketing, Adriana Hemans, pretty much sums it up. She managed to tie all coolness and relatability together. Not only that, but I got super excited thinking about our current and future clients we can help. Hey, I get this is a long article. I also know you have time to read it. Just substitute reading this article for one of you time wasting activities. Don’t EVEN try to tell me you don’t have any. Blog to follow on that topic.

There may, or may not, be a few shameless SoapBox plugs sprinkled in. I have taught her well. : ) Enjoy.

Highlights from CES 2018 and Why Researchers Should Care

Where can you play ping-pong with a robot, fall into love with a mechanical puppy and see inside a refrigerator without opening the door? At CES, the Consumer Electronics Show. Every January tech companies from around the globe convene on Las Vegas to showcase their products — gadgets and gizmos that consumers can look forward to one day owning — sort of.  They won’t be coming to a store near you anytime soon, and a lot of them leave you wondering – who would actually want that? In the aftermath of CES 2018, many critics pointed out that most of the products on display would only appeal to two types of people – people with money to burn and lazy people with money to burn. But we don’t have to rely on guessing who would buy these things, because we can actually ask people and find out. (Yay research!) SoapBoxSample conducted a mini poll* to gauge people’s awareness of CES and to find out if consumers would actually buy any of these high-tech gadgets. (You’ll find the results sprinkled throughout this article. I had to find some way to get you to read the whole thing.)

The research industry has been accused of being slow to adapt. While analysts are locked in rooms figuring out how to produce non-biased sampling frames, people are out making robots with Artificial Intelligence. The very same robots you can see at CES. The tech industry could benefit from paying attention to what consumers actually want (something research can supply), but researchers should be paying attention to the tech industry because big changes in the way people use tech in their everyday lives provides new opportunities for gathering data.

“Alexa, let’s do a survey”

At CES this year, Google came out looking like they were trying too hard. They built a three-story installation in the Las Vegas Convention Center parking lot. They also clearly shelled out big bucks for an advertising presence that plastered the entire town with the phrase Google wants you to remember – Hey Google. Amazon didn’t exhibit at all. They didn’t need to, because every other device at CES boasted about being “Alexa compatible.” All the free marketing garnered by Amazon, in contrast with Google’s flashy displays made Amazon look like the cool kid who doesn’t have to try to be cool.

People love the Amazon Echo. They consider Alexa to be a trusted part of their family. This is good news for researchers. When people are taking voice-activated surveys through Alexa (coming soon), the higher levels of trust will evoke more accurate, detailed, and honest responses from respondents.

Car tech – knowledge drives enthusiasm

You can’t talk about CES without bringing up the cars. They’re sleek, they’re stylish, they glistening under the showroom lights. I’m not a car person at all (my car has roll-up windows), but these vehicles were really beautiful. As a non-car-person, what I appreciated about the new smart dashboards and infotainment systems is that they were built to provide the driver with more insight into the inner workings of the car, something that I wouldn’t be able to assess by opening the hood.

As car manufacturers are scrambling to bring the first self-driving cars to market, they also have to convince people that self-driving cars are safe. Last quarter SoapBoxSample published the results of an internal study on the public’s perception of self-driving cars. Almost half of those surveyed believe that self-driving cars are dangerous and would not feel comfortable sharing the road with them. Only 28% said they looked forward to owning one. Developing smart dashboards that give drivers detailed information about how the car is operating is one way that car manufacturers can combat negative views of their product’s safety.

Related: Who’s in the Driver’s Seat? An Infographic About Self-driving Cars

Beauty tech – look better, feel worse

I tried out the HiMirror, one of CES’s #beautytech products. The HiMirror measures your pores, dark spots, wrinkles and dark circles. Just what women need, right? A super judgy mirror. Their marketing promised that the in-depth analysis would result in better “skin care goal-setting”. But what is the goal, to stop aging, or to sell products? The next generation of the HiMirror will probably show targeted ads for skin care products. I think I would rather skip the recommended products, and not know that my dark circles had increased by 3%. Turns out most people agree with me. Our poll showed that 68% of respondents would not want to use a high-tech mirror that measures skin imperfections.

It’s not so much consumer electronics, as it is competitive electronics

Is there really a consumer demand for a laundry-folding robot the size of a washing machine that requires you to manually tag each item of clothing you own, and can only fold adult-sized clothing? (And by the way, it takes longer than folding by hand.) Of the nearly 1,000 people who answered our poll, 79% said no thank you to the $980 laundry-folding robot.

Are the companies that produce these robots more focused on giving consumers what they want, or trying to out-do their competitors? What you might notice about this year’s line of robots is that their designs are very similar. White casing, black trim — almost without exception. Did the robot manufacturers forget to do their competitive analysis? (Shameless plug – did you know that SoapBoxSample’s passive metering application is great for understanding how people interact with your brand’s competition online?)

Can Americans fall in love with a robot dog?

I’m not a dog person, or even a pet person, so I didn’t expect to catch feelings for SONY’s robot dog Aibo. But it won me over instantly. Aibo is life-like, expressive, and responds to voice and touch. Knowing that his OLED eyes were mechanical did not make them any less puppy-like. Aibo is currently only available in Japan and costs $1700. SONY has said that they expect to sell at least 150,000 units. Could Aibo gain the same type of popularity in the United States?

Americans are waaaaaay into their pets. Here are some highlights from SoapBoxSample’s 2016 survey of U.S. pet owners to prove it – more than 60% of pet owners sleep with their animals, 40% of dog owners dress their pets up in costumes, and 73% of pet owners believe their pets are “smarter than average”. Could a robot dog one day occupy the same space in our hearts (and in our beds)? According to the results of our poll – heck no. When asked if they could see robot pets becoming more popular than live pets, 89% said no.

Related: Valentine’s Day Pet-fographic – We Know Americans Have a Close Relationship with Their Cats and Dogs But Just How Close Are They?

The future is full of glitches

If robots had emotions, the Aeolus would have experienced total confusion during its live demonstration. The booth presenter repeatedly ordered the bewildered bot to pick up a remote control off the floor, which it finally did after about a minute or so. (This scenario would be nothing new for the 8.4% of U.S. households with teenagers.) But the limitations of the robot’s responsiveness are no hurdle when compared to its price tag. The company wouldn’t name the actual cost, other than to say it was “less than a vacation for a family of four.” For the purposes of our poll, we guessed the price to be $10,000. Turns out most people don’t really see the value in it.  Over 83% said they would not be picking one up anytime soon.

I need a fridge with a camera in it

The ThinQ smart fridge unveiled by LG has a 29-inch touchscreen on the door. If you knock on the screen twice it becomes transparent so you can see the contents inside. But my favorite part was the wide-angle camera inside the fridge. How many times have you thought to yourself, “I wish I could look inside my fridge while I’m at the store so I can see what I need to buy”? Maybe never, but you know who else wants a look inside your fridge? Researchers. The smart kitchen of the future is a paradise for people who hate making lists, and for research ethnographers. With cameras inside every appliance, researchers can see inside the homes of their subjects without setting foot in the door, and more importantly, without disrupting the routines they are attempting to study.

Within the 2.6 million square feet of exhibit space occupied by CES, there were devices that could change our everyday lives, and some other ones that were pretty dumb. There were also plenty of opportunities for researchers. Tech companies seem to have bought into idea that they should be creating things that the public doesn’t know they want yet. Based on the public reaction to some of the products at the show, this might not be the best plan. Tech companies need consumer research more than ever to tell them if there’s a market for what they are attempting to create. Researchers should keep a close eye on developments in tech — there are lots of opportunities coming along for research to become less invasive, cheaper, more efficient and more accurate. The two industries should work together as we move into the next phase of consumer technology.

*P.S. By the way, this poll was a lot like the exhibits at CES, fun to look at, but lacking scientific validity (probably biased and non-representative).

You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

By | Create Value, Inspire Ideas, Motivate Others
So many topics capture my attention, from Hot Cheetos to cleaning up dog poop (yes, really). Anything could end up on Telltale Ten. I just write random stuff. Sometimes people read it, and sometimes they don’t.
 
On a rare occasion (like a handful of times in a few years), probably much to the dismay of the higher ups,  I like to get all businessy, and write about things related to my industry – market research specifically. Oh, you didn’t know I was in Market Research?  That’s ok. My family knows that, but have no idea what that means even after twenty years.
 
A recent piece I put together about passive metering was published in the Quirks January edition. If you’re in Market Research, you may have seen it already. If you’re not, you probably have no idea what passive metering is. Basically, it’s a way for researchers to get an in-depth look into what people are doing online. If anyone were to track my online behavior, they would probably be deeply confused by my recent searches. I’d love to see a researcher try to put me into a segment based on my online behavior. I’d more likely end up in an institution instead of a segment.
 
Good thing I’m the researcher, and not the researchee.

Google now processes, on average, over 40,000 search queries every second; this translates to over 3.5 billion searches per day and 1.2 trillion searches per year worldwide. The way people engage with brands and online content is constantly evolving. No single day of digital behavior is the same as another. If I want to learn about the newest fitness gadget, I search it online. By the next day, I may be over fitness and want to know how to convert my home to a “smart” home, so I search it up. Later that same afternoon, I may want a new refrigerator that can build me a shopping list. Or, I may just want to buy something mundane like shampoo (you know the kind that makes my hair that cool silver-purple color) , so I simply look it up on Amazon and click “buy now.” If brands want to stay competitive, they need to able to keep up with radical, fast-paced changes in consumer online behavior.

Brands have a great appetite for understanding how people behave and make decisions online. They need to understand their customer’s purchase influencers beyond demographic and attitudinal data; passive tracking data captures how consumers move across the digital world, allowing brands to keep up by tracking their customer’s digital journeys – in real-time.

Adopting a passive metering strategy is not without challenges. The challenges range from technology implementation and respondent adoption to understanding of the data. There are oceans of it, and it is totally unstructured. Despite these challenges, more and more clients are diving in and having success finding those nuggets of “data gold” they would never have uncovered with surveys alone. Brands need to start somewhere, and rather than trying to uncover the holy grail of all that Passive Metering can do, simply looking for trends in the data at a high level can deliver those unexpected “aha moments” brands want.

Keep in mind, consumers are complex. Passive Metering is a super effective starting point to understand what people are doing without disrupting or influencing their behavior. However, there is no one simple research formula or methodology that is all-knowing. Blending methodologies has been — and will continue to be– crucial for brands to really understand their customers. The opportunities for connecting digital behavioral data with traditional survey data, 3rd party data or even longitudinal data available through other innovative research approaches such as Insight Communities, translates to in-depth, actionable insights brands need.

We keep hearing Passive Metering is coming as the next “big” thing in research. Truth is, it is already here. It has been here for years. I encourage researchers to stop overcomplicating it. Take the risk of not knowing everything in advance, find great clients to experiment with and dive in. Remember, you don’t know what you don’t know until you know it.