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Posts from November 2013

Game-changers and same-changers

I am a political junkie. I wish I could write “recovering political junkie” but I know I’m not there yet. One current challenge is to not buy Double Down: Game Change 2012, the new book on the 2012 US presidential election by the same guys who gave us Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime on the 2008 election. I know in my heart that books like this are no different than websites like Politico that I visit several times a day and all of those TV pundits I listen to (despite Nate Silver’s sage advice to the contrary). They all make their money by taking everyday events of political life and make each one seem like the beginning of a turning point in history. Nonetheless, I struggle to stay away.

Fortunately, I stumbled on this review of Double Down by Ezra Klein, himself an emergent TV pundit, and it strengthened my resolve to not buy Double Down. The review actually is of two books: Double Down and The Gamble.  The latter is a different retelling of the 2012 election based on continuous polling from start to finish. The Gamble thesis is simple. While the political pundits pronounced 68 events over the election cycle to be game-changers, almost none really were. The underlying dynamics never changed, and the polls bear that out.

There is, of course, a parallel in contemporary MR. By my count we are about five years into, what shall we call it? MRX? It might be fun to go back and count the game-changers and see how many of them have really changed in any fundamental way how clients spend their money on research.  More likely, we have had a lot of “same-changers.”

MR has its pundits, too. Takes one to know one.


"Is it legal?" is not enough

I just posted a link to this Computerworld article on my Twitter feed, but I think it's so important that I have decided to mention it here as well. The article describes the dangers brands are beginning to face with over aggressive big data and data mining practices. The key point is that it's not just about what is legal, but that consumers are can also be sensitive to what they view as privacy violations and over aggressive marketing.

These are extra legal areas where codes of conduct developed by industry and trade associations have traditionally protected both research agencies and their clients from public backlash. It has become fashionable in some quarters to argue that these quaint notions are holding back market research and providing an opening for new entrants to realign the competitive balance in the industry. This is a good reminder that respect for consumers never goes out of fashion.