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Market Research in 2020: The Brands They Are A Changin'

Pandemic, social media, big data for all: a quick overview of the major change agents in market research

2020 has been a year of changes to how people work, shop, eat, and communicate. What people expect from brands is also changing. Evidence shows consumers - especially younger - are looking to brands to act and advocate for social change. One recent survey shows members of Gen Z are three times more likely than others to say businesses should serve communities and society. Another survey reports that in the past two years the percentage of consumers who are belief-driven buyers — those who choose, avoid, or switch products based on the brand's stance on societal issues — increased from 51% to 64%.The pandemic has been a significant change agent: research shows 58% of consumers say COVID-19 has impacted their view of brands. It's a new world for brands; consumers will exercise the power of their preferences in unprecedented ways. Examples abound.

  • After the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke, Facebook lost $36 billion in trading the following day, with shares down ~20% for the quarter following.

  • A coalition of brands including Ben & Jerry's, Coca Cola, Hershey's and Eddie Bauer, among others, paused advertising on Facebook as part of the #StopHateforProfit campaign led by the Anti-Defamation League and the NAACP. The brands issued statements calling on Facebook to stop its platform from being used to divide citizens and undermine democracy.

  • Just a few weeks ago, a Hootsuite employee publicized the company’s contract with ICE, noting the relationship was distinctly at odds with its B corporation designation and mission.

The initial tweet garnered more than 34,000 likes and spawned an online letter-writing protest. Within days, the Hootsuite executive team posted their intention to withdraw from the contract.

There hasn’t been such a dramatic shift in brand growth drivers since the advent of the internet, leading to strong demand for new techniques like Kwantum's innovative switchable consumer modeling and brand density metrics. The brand density score is a way of assessing brand health in a single metric that is highly predictive of market share, and without the drawbacks of current methods i.e. extensive data collection, and vexing consumers with zillions of attribute measurements, leading to questionable data quality.

Technology has not only brought brands closer to their customers, it has also unleashed a democratization of data collection and analysis. The companies - and brands - that thrive will be the ones for whom predictive modeling becomes a core competency, whether built internally, and/or through partnerships with agile, professional modelers like Kwantum that understand how to match the best modeling techniques to business issues.

Now that Zoom is a verb meaning “to meet” we can expect to see more companies seizing on the opportunities - and necessity, at least until a vaccine for coronavirus is widely available - for remote qualitative research. The pandemic has swept away many of the previous barriers to conducting effective qualitative research online. There has been a wide and rapid diffusion of video conferencing in the business and consumer markets as gatherings of all types go virtual while the pandemic rages unevenly around us. In a world where shopping and working have largely moved online, qualitative research must necessarily follow. Don't be surprised when many brands find the cost-benefit analysis justifies moving their qualitative projects online, and that they'll be able to do so without a lot of fuss and at great cost savings vis a vis the high price tag associated with traditional in-person qualitative research.

you better start swimmin'

or you'll sink like a stone

for the times they are a-changin' ~Bob Dylan


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