Customer Knowledge

CareerCast.Com has released its list of “most underrated jobs” for 2012.  Number 5 on the list?–Market research analyst.  Ahead of MR on the list are computer systems analysts, civil engineers, veterinarians, and biologists.  These jobs make the list on the basis of projected growth in employment, relatively good compensation, and lower stress levels than more glamorous or otherwise high-profile occupations.  Here’s what CareerCast says about market research as a career:  “One of the fastest growing fields per the [Bureau of Labor Statistics], market research analyst makes a vital impact on the direction of business decisions by applying data of economic and technological trends.” (emphasis added)

ESOMAR Congress 2012 took place in Atlanta, Georgia during the second week in September.  This was the first time the Congress has been held in the United States, reflecting the extent to which ESOMAR has become the most important global organization of market and social researchers.  This also happens to be the 65th anniversary year for ESOMAR.

The current and past ESOMAR Councils, together with the Director General, Finn Rabin, and the rest of the ESOMAR team, have done a terrific job in building a robust and resilient organization and a public voice for market research.  My desire to serve ESOMAR as a council member does not reflect any dissatisfaction with the direction of the organization.  Rather, I believe that I can make a contribution to the continued growth and health of ESOMAR.

My involvement in ESOMAR has grown steadily since I attended my first ESOMAR-sponsored conference ten years ago (Automotive–where I had the privilege of presenting my first ESOMAR paper).  More papers and events followed (Consumer Insights, Asia Pacific, and Congress).  I was honored beyond imagination to have my 2010 Congress paper, “Riding the Value Shift in Market Research,” selected for the Excellence Award.  More recently I’ve served on the juries for the Effectiveness Award and for this year’s Excellence Award and I presented a workshop on the cognitive aspects of survey design (“Think Like a Respondent”) at the Online conference in 2010.

Outside of ESOMAR I’ve been involved with the American Marketing Association, CASRO, and the American Psychological Association for many years.  I served as president of my local AMA chapter, leading the successful turnaround of a struggling chapter.

As I expressed in my Candidate Statement, I have three particular areas of interest that support ESOMAR’s overall mission of encouraging, advancing, and elevating market research throughout the world.  These areas are:  professional development, collaboration with other related MR organizations, and finding new business models that will enable sustained growth for MR.

ESOMAR’s continued growth will depend on both capturing and reflecting the diversity of global market research.  The election rules insure a measure of geographical diversity.   It’s equally important to have diversity of experience and industry perspective.  I believe that I bring a unique point of view–as do the other nominees–that will help me contribute even more to ESOMAR’s future success if I am fortunate enough to serve as a council member.

Thank you!


2 October 2012


I’ll be speaking at the upcoming ESOMAR Congress (Athens, Greece, 12-15 September 2010).  You can find an abstract of my presentation, “Riding the Value Shift in Market Research:  ‘Only the Paranoid Survive'” by clicking here.  Click here to see the full conference program.

As I noted in my last post, the American Marketing Association’s Advanced Research Techniques Forum took place in San Francisco the second week in June (June 6-9).  The program is an intentional mix of presentations from academic researchers and market research practitioners.  While the practitioner presentations are often more interesting, at least from the standpoint of a fellow practitioner, this year the best and most useful presentations either came from the academic side or had significant contribution from one or more academic researchers.  In that last post I wrote about three papers that explored different aspects of social media.  Three more papers from this year’s ART make my list of the most worthwhile presentations. (more…)

The 20th occurrence of the Advanced Research Techniques Forum, an annual conference sponsored by the American Marketing Association, took place in San Francisco a couple of weeks ago (June 6-9).  For those of you not familiar with A/R/T, this conference brings academic researchers together with market research practitioners in a format that produces (nearly) equal representation of contributions from each of these two groups.  Half of the twenty presentation slots are reserved for “practitioner” papers (where the lead author is not an academic researcher) and half are held for papers from academics.  One of these academic slots is assigned to the winner of the annual Paul Green award for the best article published in Journal of Marketing Research in the previous calendar year.  More papers than in the past are collaborations between academics and practitioners, and choice of one or the other as lead author can impact the chances of getting on the program given the limited number of slots.

The program is assembled by a committee comprised of academics and practitioners (disclaimer–I’ve been on the committee a few times and was program chair for 2008).  In a typical year, the call for papers might yield around 70 submissions.   In addition to the presented papers, “poster” presentations are considered, and the program includes optional tutorials (extra cost) before and after the main conference sessions.

The A/R/T papers, especially those presented by academic researchers, can be dragged down by the weight of too much algebra.  Over the years, the “advanced” has more often referred to “models” than to “research techniques” in general, and this year was no exception.  Still, there were a few presentations that are noteworthy. (more…)

You’ve probably heard about Spirit Airlines’ decision to charge customers for carry on baggage–$30 per bag if purchased in advance, or $45 “at the door.” You’ll still get your one free “personal item.”  This latest example of an airline unbundling one more feature of its service offering resulted in a promise to Sen. Charles Schumer (D, NY) from five other major airlines that they will not follow Spirit’s lead, at least for now.

Spirit claims on its website that this charge will lower overall costs to passengers and improve service.  Here’s how this is supposed to work:  fares will be lowered somewhat, as will fees for checked baggage.  Since carry on bags have a big impact on how long it takes to board and to deplane (according to Spirit, but many passengers will probably agree), reducing the number of carry on bags on a flight will reduce turnaround time and get passengers off the plane more quickly once it has arrived at its destination.  Security lines will also move more quickly (ignoring the effect of passengers traveling on other carriers who will still have their carry on bags).

One wonders whether Spirit gathered any consumer intelligence or conducted any experiments to arrive at this decision.  Airlines have had varying success at generating revenues by implementing fees for service features that were once bundled into the fare.  US Airways, for example, seems to have retreated from charging for non-alcoholic beverages (including bottled water).  JetBlue has started charging for headphones but recent experience suggests that on some flights they still may give them out for free once the plane has left the gate.  Fees for checked bags may stick–as long as you get that free carry-on–but any additional fee gives a competitor a potential point of differentiation.  Have you seen the Southwest commercial, “Battle Cry,” where the ramp crew, in the manner of sports fans, flash the passengers on a rival airline with “BAGS FLY FREE” spelled out across their chests?

People’s Express was one of the first post de-regulation airlines built around a low cost no-frills business model, and perhaps the first to charge for checked baggage ($3 per bag).  Many elements of PE resembled Southwest’s model–one type of aircraft, open seating, and really large overhead compartments for those carry-on bags.  Food and drink were available for purchase, and all the seats on a given flight were the same price.  In many ways, the experience was more like being on a train or bus than an airplane, and with one-way fares between Newark and cities like Boston as low as $19, a lot of passengers were likely switching from those modes.   There’s no question that PE helped democratize flying, overcoming the affordability barrier for many passengers.  Following it’s initial success, People’s Express went on a buying spree (taking on a lot of debt) and the legacy carriers discovered yield management, enabling them to match or come close to PE’s fares for at least some passengers.  With all that debt, PE abandoned its original customer value proposition and profit formula and began to look more like other airlines.  Ultimately, PE was acquired by Texas Air and ceased to exist as a brand.

Whenever an airline makes a move like charging for carry-on bags or for using the lavatory (Ryanair), I can’t help but wonder if they even have a customer value proposition.  One problem may be that flying on an airplane is only a means to an end (the job that the consumer wants to do at the other end of the flight) rather than an end in itself.  This makes it hard to find a price that both matches the value to the passenger (which is a function of the value of completing the job at the destination) and the cost of providing the service, plus some profit.  The carriers have long inferred that business travelers place more value on the job to be done at the destination, and they have implemented a variety of pricing strategies to segment their customers based on the assumption that leisure travelers are far more price sensitive.  However, most of the assumptions about pricing do not reflect any understanding of the ways customers evaluate pricing relative to the value of the jobs to be done.  In the absence of such understanding, carriers have resorted to “mechanical” solutions to pricing and revenue generation.

Actions like Spirit’s carry-on fee often provide new instances of the law of unintended consequences.  It will be interesting to see what happens in the next few months.  Will Spirit retreat, or will other carriers follow suit?

Copyright 2010 by David G. Bakken.  All rights reserved.

Yahoo Finance published an article today from Investopedia by Mark Riddix titled “Business on the brink: Change or fail?”  Of the five companies profiled, the only one that evokes a twinge of sadness for me is Borders Books (the others are Blockbuster, Rite-Aid, Palm, and trucking company YRC). (more…)

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