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A Simple Tale


There is a story told about a small food company who wanted to get their product into a major supermarket group. All of the consumer research had said that people loved the product and would pay a premium price for it.


But the business owner kept getting knocked back by the supermarket buyer. “Never heard of” it she said “and I doubt anyone else has either. Come back when you’ve built awareness.”


Things were getting tight cashwise for the food entrepreneur who tossed and turned at night trying to figure out what to do.


Then a smart team member came up with a bright idea. They found out that the supermarket buyer drove the same route to work and back each day. She listened to the same radio shows on the way to work and back in the car. She got her news from the same social media sites every day.


So the agency bought outdoor sites along the buyer’s route to and from work. They bought ads in the specific radio shows the buyer listened to and bought into relevant social media content.


As the campaign reached its peak and before the cash ran out the entrepreneur went back the buyer to make a do or die pitch.


This time the buyer said “yes” and congratulated the food entrepreneur on a highly visible and engaging ad campaign. The product flew off the shelves and the entrepreneur lived happily ever after, or at least until the next crisis came along.


Moral of the story? We all live in a small bubble of repeated behaviours. We create our own village despite considering ourselves adventurous and cosmopolitan. If you want to win someone over you have to understand them and go to where they are.

It sounds simple and it is simple. But lots of brands miss it because complexity is often more alluring and seductive.


Intern Issues


Two big issues tend to concern people starting out on their chosen careers. One is getting a permanent job that takes them out of the gig economy, the other is getting a permanent roof over their head.


The two needs are strongly connected. It can’t be easy going to a lender to look for a mortgage when your income is “flexible”.  But even before you consider clicking on the mortgage application button you need some kind of a job that looks acceptable on paper.


Having worked hard to get a primary degree followed by a master’s you would imagine people might be prepared to hire you with some degree of commitment. Instead commitment, like customer loyalty, tends to be a one way street. It’s similar to playing cards with someone who holds all the aces on their side of the table.


At some point the word internship entered our vocabulary and rapidly became accepted not just in linguistic terms but also as a concept and an accepted part of our work culture. Big and small companies have since adopted the process. Some no doubt see it as a form of apprenticeship or probationary period during which both parties can check each other out and decide if they want to commit to the next stage. It’s a bit like dating but with one side holding the power while the other waits to see if the “it’s not you it’s us” conversation will happen.


Parents who have worked hard and worried long to put their child through college understandably feel anxious as to when their investment will yield a dividend. Out the door at twenty four has been replaced by the boomerang generation who have not got the resources to go it alone.


We hear a lot of anecdotes about interns so it was good to see some hard data coming from a survey commissioned by Dublin ad agency Chemistry.  One hundred and forty people who are in, or have recently completed an internship, took part in the survey. Most of them are not happy. Over half were not paid, or just had expenses covered despite doing the same job as a paid employee.


You might argue that at least people are getting a foot on the ladder and that the experience they gain will eventually win them a proper job. The majority of the survey participants believed this to be the case in theory at least. They feel they have to complete one or more internships as a pathway to launching a career.


Problems with the internship process seem to be more about expectations created and undelivered.  There is a natural justice and fairness involved in paying people for work done regardless of the title you give them. Better defined and fairer policies would benefit both parties. In Chemistry’s survey 61% of participants were not hired, 44% took a part time job to keep things going and 8% took a loan to fund their internship.


Given that many major corporates have strict rules about the ethics involved in running their own and partner organisations supplier companies might need to look at their treatment of interns. A lot of procurement pitches require standards that might not tolerate the regular use of unpaid interns as part of a company ethos.


The current system, according to Chemistry MD Ray Sheerin, constitutes “a significant barrier for entry into these creative roles for people from a rural background, or those who simply can’t afford to work for nothing and very little experience. None of this is good news for industry, in particular an industry like ours which thrives on creativity and diversity of teams.”


He advises graduates who are considering taking on an internship to make sure that the internship has a clear start and end date. “Don’t extend out the internship if it isn’t really valuable for your own experience.” Good advice and a reminder that like a lot of things in life, there is a benefit in hanging tough rather than taking the first opportunity that comes your way.

Still Waters Run Deep


There is an entertainment element to focus groups particularly when they are held in a viewing facility.


We want to provide interesting, dynamic groups that generate “meaningful insights” that send both clients and researcher home happy.


Sometimes recruitment briefs specify that focus groups should contain “no wallflowers” or words to that effect.


X factor, Big Brother, I’m a Celebrity, Instagram and Twitter all favour a loud, extrovert approach to life.


But elements of celebrity and social media values are creeping into a process that should be confident enough to include the multitude of personality types that go to make the world an interesting place.


As has been shown time and time again, this apparent confidence and conviction can mask ignorance and insecurity.


We should make room for quiet, thoughtful people in our research.


A few easily learned moderating techniques can encourage a quiet participant to engage with the process and offer insight.


“Empty vessels make most noise” and “still waters run deep” are two phrases we should bear in mind when putting together a recruitment brief.


According to the Huffington Post well known introverts include J.K. Rowling, Bill Gates, Eleanor Roosevelt and Albert Einstein.


What do you think?

Think. Act. Feel.

I saw a guy wearing a baseball cap the other day. It said “Think Positive.”


I wondered if he meant the message as a reminder to himself every time he picks it up.


Or maybe because it’s facing out when he wears it he’s advising other people to think positive.


Think positive is a useful reminder when we’re inclined to dwell on the negative side of any situation.


Sometimes things are not as bad as they seem.


But sometimes they are.


Thinking positive is fine unless it means you do nothing about a bad situation.


“I’ll win the lottery” is positive thinking but it won’t make bad things go away.


Sometimes it’s better to think negative if that’s what it takes you jolt you into doing something.


“This is a bad situation and I need to do something about it.”


So the thinking is negative but the action will be positive.


It’s the think, act, feel, triangle. When you act positive things get resolved. Then you feel better.


Then your thoughts become positive.


So my baseball cap will say Act Positive because that’s how things get fixed.


Appropriate Attire

In an interview with the Irish Times, management columnist Lucy Kellaway (pictured left) told of her experience when speaking at a banking event in Singapore. She began her address wearing jeans and Birkenstock  shoes.


The theme of the conference was authenticity and she wanted to demonstrate that the authentic her was not appropriate when addressing a conference of bankers.


During the course of her address she changed into a Diane Von Furstenberg dress which she considered more appropriate to the occasion.


Closer to home people like Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary and Mick Wallace TD have challenged the authentic versus appropriate debate and even senior Ministers can be seen out and about on formal occasions without a tie.


“Appropriate” is a relative term and one that evolves with time and convention.


A survey of office workers in the USA revealed that about a third would prefer to work in a company that has a business casual dress code while just under a half of senior managers said that dressing too casually was the most common dress code violation in their company.


To break a dress code dramatically you either have to own the company, be absolutely brilliant, or just not give a damn. The rest of us conform.



Talk to Us

If you need the kind of consumer insight that drives successful brand and advertising development call Colm Carey on 087-2573346 / 01-2881884 or click here to get in touch so that we can find out what you need and how we can go about meeting your objectives. Our combination of enthusiasm, experience and competitive costing will make sure you get the understanding you need from the research process.