I am here in Washington, DC, at the CASRO International Conference. Over the next two days I will do my best to keep up with the presenters.
Mike Cooke, one of the conference chairs, is introducing the speakers and making the key point that international research is ultimately about culture. We can focus on process and rationality, but ultimately the ability to generate insights rests on understanding the cultures of the countries in which we do research. He is arguing that historically culture has been more or less imposed by communications media (books, newspapers, radio, and TV) but all that has now changed. Now it's all about user generated content rather than media generated content. Example: Iran where the media has been largely squeezed out and the news we are getting is coming out of various social media outlets like Twitter. That's meant as a transition to the first speaker.
That first speaker is Nick Nyhan, Chief Digital Officer at Kantar. He's talking about the Obama campaign from the point of view of a volunteer. It's interesting in its own way but I'm not sure what it has to do international research and he never really gets to Mike's point.
The next speaker is Ari Popper from BrainJuicer. This is cool stuff. All about using faces to measure emotions. I've posted on this before and I think it's a very interesting line of research. Some of it comes out of behavioral economics, some from fMRI, and some of it is just common sense. The central point is that we all respond instinctively to things. The problem with survey is that we try to translate these instinctive reactions into words and it just doesn't work. This is especially true in international research where culture and language interact in ways that it is difficult for us to understand. So the trick is to find a way to record people's emotions without asking them to translate that into words. Just react instinctively to things. The basic theoretical underpinning comes from Ekman's seven basic universal emotions and the use of faces to represent them. MR is all about the rational when real decision making (including purchase decisions) is the irrational—emotions and instinct. They ran an experiment across 11 countries in which they tested 19 ads in five different categories. The findings across countries correlated very highly, while more traditional measurement had all of the inconsistencies that we often see in cross cultural research. Good and interesting stuff.
Now we are getting into the real meat. First we have Ndirangu wa Maina from Consumer Insights. He is talking about research in Africa. He is recommending a book called Africa Rising by Vijay Mahajan. Africa is much like the BRICs—huge markets but a difficult place in which to do research and market products. He's not pulling any punches, pointing out that Africa is often synonymous with disease, instability, corruption, and violence. But he is quick to remind us that it is a huge market with huge potential—53 countries and 900 million consumers who want a lot of the same things other consumer societies want. Economic growth is strong –about five percent per year—and it's rapidly urbanizing. But there are issues with the technology infrastructure. Mobile phone penetration is only about 15 percent and Internet only five percent. There are other challenges. Seventy percent of markets are informal and unregistered and including them in research is very challenging. Roughly half the population is at subsistence levels, but another 40 percent are more middling and good targets for the usual consumer goods. And, of course, there is the top 10 percent with money to spend. The total value of MR is pretty modest (around 500 million) compared to other parts of the world, but growing quick (at around 15 percent a year). The research is almost all face-to-face, tends to be ad hoc rather than continuous, and quantitative rather than qualitative. This is changing very slowly. But, of course, given the low wage rates face-to-face is very cheap. And cooperation is high. But there also are challenges: shortage of qualified staff and over 1000 languages. Sometimes the corruption gets in the way as does violence. And the weather can also delay survey work. All in all, a nice informative talk.
In the QA someone asked him to name four countries where it would be worthwhile to do research:
- South Africa because it has a well developed economy
- Nigeria because it's a large market
- Kenya because the economy is developing rapidly
- Congo because it's large and has/had a well developed economy, although that is changing and it's just not safe
When the questionnaire pushed about Egypt and Libya he described them as culturally distinct from the rest of Africa and better considered with the Middle East.
Now we move to China and presentation by Linda Liu, an independent marketing consultant (formerly of Pfizer). She has started by over viewing the tremendous changes in the Chinese market over the last 20-30 years. Consumer aspirations have moved from basics like bikes, radios, and sewing machines to electronics, cars and high end consumer/luxury goods. Of course, most of that is in the urban areas. The myth of 1.3 billion consumers really breaks down when you look at where the money and the people are which is mostly on the coast. She argues that the real market is more like 500 million. She also sees an ageing population, health problems like obesity and smoking (western influence), and higher stress levels. And so it's a potentially lucrative market for health care. But some real issues:
- Multiple government agencies setting policy
- Under developed health insurance system
- 80% of hospitals are government owned
- 80% of drugs are dispensed from hospitals
- The drug distribution system is highly fragmented and chaotic
- Public awareness of health issues—especially in urban areas—is rising rapidly
The government is aware of these problems and has an ongoing health care initiative designed to address the key issues.
In terms of MR, China ranks eight globally in terms of spend and increasing fast. Like Africa, cooperation is high and people tend to be very engaged in research. Another excellent presentation.