09 November 2009


Book review: SUPERFREAKONOMICS by Levitt and Dubner.

The sequel to the bestselling Freakonomics, Superfreakonomics, starts out by telling us that the authors lied in the previous book by telling us that it had no "unifying theme" when, in their own words, it had, namely that "people respond to incentives". Based on the near hysterical reaction to this book, it looks like they will need another clarification for book 3, if there ever is one. Let's deal with that furore first. Much has been negative and mostly on the theories raised on the cause and cure for global warming a topic that can cause many an eye to glaze over. I think they have missed the point: namely that Levitt and Dubner are asking us to look at things differently, to ask questions in a different way and how data can reveal surprising results -often contrary to popular thinking. As data people at Sensorpro Research, our mantra is "do you think everyone else thinks like you do" and this book speaks to that in terms of questioning commonly held views. Let's look at a few:

On unintended consequences. New York pre motor car was awash with horse manure and every block had a horse pooh mountain causing no end of misery to its inhabitants. Along comes the motor car. Problem solved but new problem created. The point being that solutions to these problems can come from the most unexpected quarter. The authors call this the law of unintended consequences and it's one of the most potent.

On War. From 2002-2008 the US military averaged 1,643 deaths per year. The corresponding "no major war" period of the 1980's show 2,100 deaths per year. When the authors looked at the data it turned out that the non-war figures were higher due to accidents when training. So less military lives are lost in wartime. But of course no right thinking citizen would say that war is good especially since they fail to take into account the victims of military attacks. But these numbers on their own don't lie. It is the like of these examples that are causing such furore. They are diametrically opposed to what we consider to be 'Normal thinking'. Our view? Question the numbers being thrown at you -they may not stack up. And for your business following 'Normal thinking' may not always be the right answer.

On TV. The authors claim that the long held view "violence on TV begets violence on the street" is not valid. Their claim is that children watching a lot of TV, even family-friendly ones, are more likely to engage in crime when they get older. Their approach was to compare crime statistics with the rollout of TV in the US. The data stacked up. US States that were behind in the rollout had less crime. What they did not do was answer the question "why it did this?" Instead they postulate: -was the resulting less parental attention a factor? Or the ineptitude of the police in certain shows made them less afraid of getting caught?

On Altruism. So how kind and unselfish are we? Turns out, when it suits us and that people respond to incentives. So some interesting lessons if you fundraise for a charity –reason enough for you to read this book But the section on altruism raised a much more interesting debate and a concern I've shared for the longest time. Namely that of research conducted via the University. We employ a number of online panels for our research. Their makeup, diversity and sourcing are critical to the results of any research. The authors question the veracity of the University approach. They find a type of "forced cooperation" -where the research assistant reports back the very things the researcher is most eager to find. For example is it appropriate that senior researchers use students for research when that student may at some point be awarded a grade from the researcher? Of course it's not. Does it happen? Of course it does. Our view? Bravo, Levitt and Dubner.

Conclusion. So you might think we liked this book but overall found it somewhat lacking when compared to the more meatier Supercrunchers by Ayres and Buyology by Lindstrom. It does, however, concur with our view on data and how to use it to benefit your business. This book reminds me of Gladwell's "Tipping point": interesting as a blog post but as a whole book? Well, No. Levitt and Dubner have learned in a very public way that not everyone else thinks like they do.

The commercial. Buy the book http://amzn.com/0060731338 Learn more about Levitt’s firm http://www.freakonomicsconsulting.com Our research platform http://www.sensorpro.net

The authors will be presenting in London, 13:00 GMT Tuesday 10 Nov and you can watch live http://bit.ly/superfreaklondon The event will be on Twitter using hashtag #superfreakonomics We’ll be there as @sensorpro

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18 September 2009

Measuring Campaign Effectiveness for Brand Management Companies

The recent acquisition of Omniture by Adobe confirmed how valuable web analytics are for companies that can measure campaign effectiveness, all the way to sales completion. But what about companies that sell through indirect channels such as through retail stores, partnerships, and Joint Ventures? What is the best practice for top brands who need to measure campaign effectiveness under these constraints?

We at SensorPro work with some of the world’s best brands and many household names. We developed an approach that allows these brands to quickly evaluate the effectiveness of both offline and online marketing campaigns. The solution uses a combination of control/exposed group testing using our enterprise grade survey platform in combination with our email marketing partners and other techniques. So how does it work?

1 First, define the objectives of the campaign evaluation

Like every good market research project, the brand team need to define the objective of the evaluation: was it raising awareness? the announcement of a new promotion or partnership? or just the good old fashioned increasing sales? Once the objective is defined you can move onto defining a project approach and time table. For the purposes of this article we are going to assume that the objective is to “increase sales” and that the deployment is online using an email marketing platform.

2 Then, create Control and Exposed groups

Using your email marketing platform, identify subscribers who were exposed to the campaign. The control group will be subscribers who were not provided a copy of that newsletter . It can be more difficult to do the same thing with traditional print media, but clearly it can be done using creative techniques like mobile phone tag readers or simple urls for people who were exposed. The other approach is to use a blind panel for the control group where you can filter out people who have had exposure via some simple survey techniques.

3 Next, prepare the evaluation survey

Our typical engagement will call for an initial survey to the exposed and control groups being deployed fairly soon after the deployment of the campaign. This is important as you do not want other factors influencing the decisions and answers that the respondents will provide. With the explosion of social networks like Facebook, LinkedIN and Twitter, this can raise additional hurdles but should clearly be incorporated into your approach.

For the initial survey we recommend that the survey be kept short and focused, you can always use triggers and recurring survey campaigns to send out requests for more information. The questions should clearly all be tied back to the objectives of the evaluation so if the campaign objective was to raise awareness of a new promotion, then you would measure awareness and purchase intent, whereas if it was for a new product announcement you probably would be asking about awareness and favorability.

Our objective for this sample research project was to measure the effectiveness on increasing sales. Then, depending on the time period of the promotion or campaign, you will send out a follow up survey asking about actual purchases. We typically see this follow up type survey sent out seven to fourteen days after the commencement of the campaign.

To see an example of this type of survey process, click on the link Example of a Brand Management Research Survey which will open a high level example of a sample survey. For this example, please select the product Energy Bars with Protein Plus to see the questions to measure favorability, purchase intent and certain brand attributes that were important to the brand manager. This is a hypothetical example and any resemblance to existing products is coincidental.

4 And finally, the Analysis and Evaluation

Assuming that you have properly defined your objectives, selected good groups and had a reasonable level of responses, you will want to perform a statistical significance test on your survey results. The following is an example of the type of report that helps decide if the objective was met:

The critical metric is the Lift Factor which measures the net result of the marketing campaign between the control and exposed groups. Just because the numbers are higher or lower do not by themselves speak the result, as we used a sample of the population. So we must employ a little science to verify the results. Thankfully SensorPro has built in Statistical Significance Testing to test our hypothesis of "is the difference in responses statistically significant?" When Statisticians say a result is "statistically significant" they don't mean it's important, just that it's "probably true". Ultimately we want to know if the difference in response happened by chance or not. If they did not happen by chance, then we are reasonably sure it was our campaign efforts that influenced the outcome.

Not a project but a process

But this should not be the end of the market research project. You have now opened a conversation with these prospects and customers. They have told you something about your campaigns, your products, your brands and your company. So use this data by integrating with your email subscribers and segment and target these people based on their responses. For example if someone said that a certain new product is not favorable to them, then exclude them from future campaigns that highlight that new product. Conversely if they tell you that they like something, use that information to expand your sales by cross selling and up selling, all traditional and proven techniques.

Do you what more information?

This is a market research technique that is being used by leading brands today to great effect. Contact us for your free evaluation on how you can benefit from this approach. Tell us in the comments below what else you are doing to measure the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns when you sell through indirect channels.

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14 April 2009

StrongMail Launches StrongSurvey via partnership with SensorPro

We are excited today to announce another new partnership, this time with StrongMail Systems, one of the the leading providers of commercial-grade solutions for marketing and transactional email.

StrongMail's new StrongSurvey tool will allow marketers to generate customer survey data that can be leveraged by StrongMail Message Studio to create highly targeted email marketing campaigns. Using StrongSurvey, marketers will be able to easily create fully branded surveys that capture customer preferences and satisfaction metrics. Featuring real-time reporting and analysis, StrongSurvey empowers marketers to drill down on individual questions or respondents to better understand and meet customer needs and expectations.

"StrongMail's innovative email marketing solutions are perfectly designed to take advantage of the wealth of data that can be collected by a well designed online survey," said Jon Erickson, general manager of North American operations for SensorPro. "As one of the established leaders in email marketing solutions, StrongMail enables SensorPro to extend the reach of its technology to an impressive and rapidly expanding customer base."

“StrongSurvey is a powerful tool for generating rich customer data that can be incorporated into targeted and relevant email marketing campaigns," said Ryan Deutsch, vice president of strategic services and market development at StrongMail Systems. “By partnering with SensorPro, we are able to offer our customers a world-class online survey tool that's easy to use and complete with all the features marketers need to better engage their customers."

This relationship is a continuation of our strategy to partner with all of the leading marketing and transactional email providers. However this relationship is the first to offer SensorPro both as a SaaS hosted solution and as an On-Premise solution, both of which will provide the data integration with the StrongMail Message Studio application. Thus our joint clients will have the option of hosting their market research solution either in the cloud or on their own premise, providing them with a multitude of options and benefits.
For more information regarding the StrongMail and SensorPro partnership, please contact sales@sensorpro.us.
Link to the press release: http://urlx.ie/strongmail/

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08 April 2009

Team SensorPro Cycles for LiveStrong Foundation and MS Society

At SensorPro we get great enjoyment in helping our clients with their market research projects, but we also have other interests, one of which is competitive and endurance cycling. We have formed Team SensorPro and will soon be starting the cycling season here in Northern California.

This year we decided to upgrade the look of our team jerseys and are excited about our new kit which we believe puts a whole new concept behind the “Powered by SensorPro” branding. What do you think of our new jerseys?

Wouldn’t you want to wear one of these jerseys on your next century or group ride? Read on and you can learn how you can get one and become a rider for Team SensorPro!

BikeShirt3Our competitive and endurance race schedule will cover events ranging from Ojai Valley to Monterey to the Lost Coast in Northern California. It will include such great races as the Road Race at the Sea Otter Classic, The Tour of the Unknown Coast and our locally sponsored endurance ride the Wine Country Century here in Sonoma County. It is great fun to compete and to strengthen the relationships we have with other riders and teams.

But we also encourage Team SensorPro to give back to the community. This year we have selected two organizations to be the focus of our fund raising activities, Lance Armstrong’s LiveStrong Foundation and the National MS Society. Both of these are internationally recognized organizations that are committed to helping solve and cope with some of the world’s most difficult health care issues. We are proud to always exceed our fund raising goals for the organizations we support and we want to continue this trend in 2009.

How to Donate

How can you help? First any donation that you can make to either of these organizations as part of our Team’s fund raising goals, no matter how large or small will help both of these organizations. Here are the links for you to go on-line to make a donation that will be credited to our Team's fund raising goals.

1. For LiveStrong please go to the following web site:

http://urlx.ie/TeamSensorProLiveStrong/ This will take you to my personal LiveStrong donation page.

2. For the National MS Society please go to the following web site:

http://urlx.ie/TeamSensorProMSSociety/ This will take you to my personal MS Society donation page.

3. If you do not want to make a donation on-line you can let me know that you want to donate via physical check. You can make the check out to either organization and send it to me at our office which is located at 7435 Poplar Drive, Forestville, CA 95436.

How to Join Team SensorPro

To make this more beneficial to you we are offering you a way to join Team SensorPro and get one of these cool cycling jerseys. Who would not want to wear one of these while racing around Manhattan or climbing the hills outside of Los Angeles? How do you get one? All you have to do is make a combined donation to either of our supported charities in an amount of $500 or more and you will get one of these hot Team SensorPro jerseys in your size.

So what’s holding you back? Get involved with Team SensorPro and help us support these great organizations. If you see one of our Team members riding around in our jerseys honk and wave. You will always get a smile back from us! Thank you for your support!

Follow Our Progress

We will be posting our racing and fund raising achievements throughout this summer’s racing season. You can follow our progress using the following:

Twitter; http://twitter.com/jonofsma (daily updates) or http://twitter.com/sensorpro_us (less frequent, but more company and industry focused)

Facebook: http://urlx.ie/jonofsmaFacebook/ Link to this post http://urlx.ie/TeamSensorPro/

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02 March 2009

Endurance cycling is similar to market research?

This past Saturday kicked off the cycling season for Team SensorPro when I joined the small group of riders who were going to ride the Santa Rosa Cycling Clubs ACP 200k brevet.  Now this is not a race against anyone but yourself, but still you are there to compete against your prior times and to build your network of cycling friends.

So with 25 other riders I headed off from Healdsburg to Napa and then to return back to Healdsburg. There were riders from Oregon, Idaho and San Jose, so it looked like it was going to be fun.  I was feeling very good and felt confident that I would beat my goal for the ride of finishing in less than 7 1/2 hours.

Everything was great until we were cruising down the descent into Calistoga. I was riding second in a pace line in the second group when the leader swerved to the right but I did not react. I hit a large pot hole at about 35 mph and about two seconds later I heard what sounded like broken glass. My first thought is that my iPhone had fallen out and broken.  But then I had to take a sharp turn and I proceed to fall on my left side at about 25 mph (luckily I was slowing down to pick up the "pieces" of my iPhone).

Well I had two compression flats but not to be deterred, I started to change the tires (I did have two tubes), the first went without a hitch, but the second blew out just as the CO2 canister was finishing. I thought I must have pinched the tube (I was in a hurry to get back to the group as I was now being passed by the third and fourth groups). I had to call my wife to bring me another tube and luckily I got her before she headed out on her own ride.

When she finally got there, I was now 30 minutes behind my group, but I felt I could still catch them if I skipped lunch, but we put this tube on and double checked that it was not pinched and yes it went flat again.

So now I had to throw it in and go to the local bike shop where they looked at the tire and thought it looked fine.  But guess what when they put the tube in and filled it, pop it goes. After a close look at the tire you can see that I had torn it right at the rim so now I had to replace the tire, to go along with my bruised ego and my road rash on the left arm and hip.

So how does this story relate to market research.  There are several common but critical points.

First in both cycling and market research you need to have a plan for your research, an object of what you are trying to measure and a contingency plan for when things go wrong.

For example if you have a good plan for your research including what your objectives are, what will be considered a successful project (measurable objectives) and what are your contingency plans when things go wrong, then you are ready for what the market will throw at you.  Remember you are dealing usually with consumers who will not always think the way you believe they should nor will they always react to the message that you are sending to them.

Second, you have to realize that there will be times to call in the experts from your agency when the preliminary results are significantly skewed from what your initial estimates were.  Are the variances due to how the questions were framed, is the sample representative, could there be outside influences that are impacting the results?  There can be many different reasons for the interim results varying from the initial estimates, so it is always good to get some outside help from your advisors.

Finally market research as well as endurance cycling is always subject to Murphy's Law.  Sometimes you will have a great plan with measurable objectives, a great sample, well defined questions and an appropriate contingency plan.  But guess what, s#*t happens and sometimes the research will just go astray.  Here you need to be flexible to retain as much value and critical information you can obtain.  Maybe the original hypothesis was too broad but can you gain some nuggets of knowledge from the project?  Is it possible to evolve the project without compromising its integrity?  Or maybe you just need to write this one off to the failure bin.  But in all cases remember to be flexible, adaptive and listen to your respondents.   They are always trying to tell you something.

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18 February 2009

Surveys, the other white meat

Last week I spent three very cold and wet days in Scottsdale AZ at the DMA's Email Evolution Conference. It was a very informative and interesting conference that had numerous sessions on email and digital marketing. Some of the most interesting were presentations by outdoor sporting goods firm REI, Alaska Airlines, Dell Computers and Borders Books.

The one consistent point that was raised by all of these different presenters was the importance of testing and continuing to improve your creative, message, relevance and deliverability.

All of the sessions talked about the need for A/B testing, multi-variant testing, among others, but in all cases the test results were all based on web analytics and perceived behavioral results However in all of these testing methods, not one of the presenters suggested "ask your subscribers".

As a firm that provides on-line surveys and consulting services, I started to feel like the old advertising campaign "Pork - the Other White Meat". It seems that many of these people have become obsessed with web analytics, CTRs, CTORs, etc. that they are missing one of the most useful techniques - Asking and Listening.

Now I do not mean that it can be easy to prepare and analyze these survey results but to rely solely on statistics that can be interpreted in different ways by different people, I suggest that you combine your web analytics with other techniques such as surveys. These can also provide quick and focused results which provide you with an alternative testing method.

We have worked with many major brand management companies to compare creative images that will be used in print advertisements (yes people still do that), to assess the success of various digital campaigns in ways that can measure the conversion of subscriber awareness, favorably, purchase intent and actual purchases and to assess packaging and pricing alternatives.

Last year when we were at the annual DMA conference one of the presenters from a leading web analytics firm even said the same thing. For example when someone leaves a shopping cart to answer the front door, then forgets to complete the sale, that can be considered a problem with the campaign when in fact it is just normal human nature.

So as you are implementing some of these new best practices from the eec conference and a comprehensive testing program, don't forget the other white meat and use surveys to help improve your digital marketing campaigns. Link to this post: http://urlx.ie/eec09

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09 February 2009

The King of Madison Avenue by Kenneth Roman

The advertising bible for many, "Confessions of an Advertising Man" by David Ogilvy, is now complete thanks to Kenneth Roman's "The King of Madison Avenue". Kenneth, ex-CEO of Ogilvy, worked with David for many years and completes the picture with some authority. Oft-cited as the original "Mad Man", David passed-away in 1999, but he eschewed the Mad Men characticture and frowned on the drinking culture. This is timely -Series 2 of Mad Men airs on BBC4 Tuesday, 10 Feb at 10pm. Link to this post http://urlx.ie/ogilvy

We now we know that Ogilvy's mother was Irish from Co Kerry, that his elder brother Frank started Ogilvy in London and played a major role with his beginnings in the US. David worked for the British Secret Service in the US, one aim of which was to bring the US into WWII. We also learn that the saying "The Color Red Sells", sometimes attributed to Ogilvy, instead came about from his fondness for the red leather seating in the UK House of Lords.

Ogilvy was a researcher first and an advertiser second. His first job in the US was with George Gallup, the American pioneer of survey sampling techniques and inventor of the Gallup poll. His early work with Gallup's Audience Research Institute (ARI) on nationwide surveys with cinema goers caused Hollywood to focus on the hitherto dismissed adolescent market. He was to later always ask copywriters "How do you know", when they were making an assumption on how consumers would react to an advert. His relentless focus on research was to change the game of advertising forever.

His mantra "Create advertising that sells" stems from his stint in England as an Aga cooker salesman. The Aga is a Swedish cooker adopted by the British that is as synonymous as Hoover is to Vacuum cleaner. It was this experience that led to his embrace of direct mail with the counting of coupons to verify advertising results. Ogilvy said that "direct response is my first love and my secret weapon"

Ogilvy was a fan of long copy and justified text but hated reverse type (eg white text on a red background) even though the cover of Confessions is just that. This probably stems from the intent to use the book to promote the Ogilvy brand but it quickly became the de-facto must-read for anyone in this business for many many years. But history will at least remember Ogilvy for his three "big ideas": The man in the Hathaway shirt (the model wore a black eye-patch), The Dove campaign "Dove is One-Quarter Cleansing Cream" and American Express "Don't Leave Home Without It". Each of which transformed their business several fold.

When we started our research and marketing business, we employed an ex-Ogilvy firm to instill their practitioner led approach into our software. Having read this, I am so glad that we did.

David Ogilvy on Video http://urlx.ie/47256/
Follow us on Twitter http://twitter.com/sensorpro
Our business www.sensorpro.net

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