Today marks the start of Random Acts of Kindness Week (February 11 – 17). According to the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation, RAK Week encourages people to go above and beyond to make others feel special.

Not sure how to get involved. Needs some ideas? Check out 29 pages worth of ideas here.

Needs some Inspirational Kindness Quotes to help motivate others? Find a great collection here.

Want to see how random acts of kindness can change lives? (Need a tear?) Check out this video highlighting last year’s Extreme Kindness Challenge winner: Peach’s Neet Feet.

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A lot of ideas go to Kickstarter in hopes of getting needed funding. Many die but a lot of good ideas are successful and become products. If you’ve missed the initial wave of a Kickstarter project, you can still be an early adopter by grabbing a product off of Outgrow.me. Outgrow.me is a marketplace for many of the Kickstarter projects that were successful. So instead of waiting six months to see if a product idea will get funding and then another few months for fulfillment, you can jump on the bandwagon once it’s all smoothed out. Some of my favorites include:

Keylet: A metal wallet that holds a key like a Swiss Army Knife

Cap Buckle: A means of ensuring you don’t lose your camera’s lens cap

Weerol: An adjustable wooden toy

Creatures: The craziest looking card game I’ve ever seen

Stick-N-find: A way to use your smartphone to find lost stuff (except lost smartphones)

4906582_sEvery winter I get on a non-fiction reading kick. With the new(ish) year underway, now feels like a great time to think a bit about our industry and best practices, to catch up on methodologies and alternative approaches we should be thinking about, and to explore what other thought leaders are publishing.

Creativity and inspiration may not necessarily spark from dense textbook surveys of the market research landscape, but they’re a good place to start. There are two books I would recommend for anyone interested in what we do and how we do it:

  • Ray Poynter’s The Handbook of Online and Social Media Research is a helpful introduction to online research, how it’s evolved over the past ten years, and how researchers reach out into the world in different ways to consult with consumers and business constituents in various categories.  This book is a great place to start learning about marketing research and some of the newer and interesting ways in which consumer insights are being culled (social media, communities, etc.)
  • Naresh Malhotra’s Marketing Research: An Applied Orientation, now in it’s sixth edition, is an excellent textbook for in-depth understanding of how market research can provide businesses with strategic value – exploring how insights from market research studies can be applied toward bigger picture business questions, hypotheses, and problems. This text is comprehensive, providing an overview of how many diverse market research methodologies contribute to feed into the channel of consumer feedback.

In addition to these resources, the field of psychology continues to contribute meaningful “food-for-thought” to market researchers. For a fifth (!) year in a row, Dan Ariely’s name and works have come up in our conversations around rational and emotional drivers for consumer behavior. Start with the famous Predictably Irrational, if you haven’t already, and if you find it engaging, follow his thinking through the more recent The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty, on the shelves in many bookstores now.

“Did you ever notice how grown-ups hate it when kids are having fun?”

According to the new Captain Underpants book and the majority of those kids who read the series, this statement could not be truer. And today, the tenth epic novel by Dav Pilkey is released, Captain Underpants and the Revolting Revenge of the Radioactive Robo-Boxers.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with this series, Captain Underpants books are about two kids, George and Harold, who get into trouble for having mischievous fun. A prime example, when George and Harold get busted for leaving ketchup packets under the toilet seat in a prank they call “Squishy” in Captain Underpants and the Big, Bad Battle of the Bionic Booger Boy.

Every book in the Captain Underpants series has made it to the USA Today‘s best-seller list, as well as the American Library Association‘s “Hit List,” the annual top 10 list of most-complained about books. The number one complaint you ask? Pat Scales, chair of the ALA’s Intellectual Freedom Committee, says, “The No. 1 complaint is — this is kind of funny — nudity. I guess because the superhero has on jockey shorts. [Also] vulgar language, and they feel that kids are being taught not to obey authority.” However, it’s not just the “nudity” that had most parents up in arms over the series. Many are frustrated by the misspelled words. “Laugh” is spelled “laff.” “Trouble” is spelled “trubbel.”

So why dedicate a marketing research blog post to a children’s book series? Well, misspelled words, potty humor, mischievous fun and brilliant cartoon drawings align with a ready audience of elementary school boys. The point: knowing your target audience enables you to deliver products that create demand. And in Dav Pilkey’s case, this strategy has proven to be successful not just once, but ten times …and counting.

Despite the looming Mayan apocalypse there are still those looking boldly to the future and offering their prognostications for what our world might be should the poles fail to shift and the tides not rise.

Here is an assortment of trends for 2013 and beyond.

Frog Design examines the future of technology with the Tech Trends that Will Define 2013.

Mashable is looking ahead too with 11 Big Tech Trends for 2013. There is a lot to be excited about. I’ll give you one hint: ROBOTS.

Pantone’s Color of the Year for 2013 is 17-5641, otherwise known as Emerald.

Say hello to baby Thor. Ancient names are among the Baby Name Trends for 2013.

“Snackification” and more in Baum+Whiteman’s Food and Dining Trends for 2013. (PDF)

The National Intelligence Council, the strategic thinking arm of the U.S. government, is looking far ahead to the Global Trends for 2030.

Harper’s Bazaar’s Most Anticipated Hair Trend for Spring 2013: Knots.

What you’ll be watching: the Atlantic’s 18 Films to Look Forward to in 2013.

And finally, no one is looking forward to the apocalypse more than Jets’ fans: 5 Changes the Jets Must Make in 2013.

Happy Holidays!

 

 

Here at W5 we recently completed a research project for a company testing a change in the way customers order one of their core products. To accurately gauge reaction to this change we interviewed people at locations where they purchase this product. The discovery process of diving down the rabbit hole of such unique and varied consumer interactions is one of the most fascinating parts of conducting consumer insights research in diverse industries. I mean, who knew that the way consumers think about and buy socks could be layered with so many levels of complexity?!

However, the real challenge I enjoy in conducting research is to frame the research question in a greater social and cultural context.  Decisions are not made, nor actions taken, in a vacuum. So while this research was very esoteric in focusing on the product itself and the ways in which customers think about how they purchase that product, the deeper issue this research raised was people’s resistance to change.

When companies decide to make big changes, for whatever reason, those decisions are not entered into lightly. The benefits of introducing change must be measured against the potential blowback that will occur as a result of those changes to any well established brand, product or process.  The classic example of such blowback being of course the New Coke debacle, which was more accurately speaking a blowback against the elimination of original Coke.

In more recent times we have seen negative reaction to change every time Facebook introduces changes to their user interface. The pattern is predictable with Facebook announcing the changes, Facebook users denouncing the changes and threatening to cancel their accounts, the changes being implemented and eventually frustration to the change dying down.

In purely rational terms it should be clear that fear of and resistance to change is irrational. Why must something that is new and different inherently be worse? I suppose that whatever the new thing is must be judged in comparison to whatever it is replacing. As the saying goes – don’t fix what ain’t broke. But on the flip side of that coin is belief that there is always room for improvement.

Change is the only constant

According to research (discussed here) that questioned the human aversion to that which is newer, or more accurately, a preference for that which is older, there is an inherent belief among humans that things that are older are better. Study participants who were told that a piece of European chocolate was first sold 73 years ago rated it as better tasting than those participants who were told it was first sold 3 years ago. Similarly, participants who were told that a painting was painted in 1905 found it more appealing than those who were told the painting was painted in 2005.

But why? What is it deep within the collective human psyche that drives us to believe that which is older is better and that change is threatening? This is a question that I don’t have the answer for, although it is something that I will continue to ponder and hopefully gain insight into through future conversations and observations.

As we well know, the only constant in life is change. The attempt to understand the unknown variable (the reaction to change) and encouraging people to embrace that change, is the real challenge.

A recent enlightenment has caused me to take notice to a number of things that had previous not been on my radar. Simple things, really. Like smiling for example. Or the lack of. I find this particularly interesting as we enter the Happy Holiday season. Why? People don’t really seem to be happy at all. If anything, this time of year seems to bring more frowns and stressed-to-the-max looks than ever. This is baffling as we know that by simply putting a smile on your face you will actually feel better. Not rocket science.

Okay, I understand it’s not that simple and there are a number of factors that influence what makes someone happy. JWT’s October trend report took this idea of happiness one step further. Health & Happiness: Hand in Hand, explores the rising notion that a healthier person is a happier person and, in turn, a healthier person is a happier person. I agree with that and can see the correlation.

Now, this idea of health and happiness carries into the workplace as well. JWT Stockholm/SWE Advertising went to the drawing board to develop a new campaign for Adecco, a Swedish staffing firm, with this in mind. The agency used the foundational insight that a lack of praise and flattery in the workplace is one of the biggest contributors to poor health, sick leave and overall dissatisfaction among employees. The agency launched “The Praise Challenge”, a 10-day program activated through an app where both employees and clients were challenged to complete one exercise a day that involves encouragement, positive feedback, appreciation or acknowledgment. The success of the campaign encouraged over 18,000 praises that would have otherwise gone unsaid. A rough translation (via Google) of the campaigns can be found here.

This holiday season I challenge you to make it a Happy Holiday season. SMILE. Make someone else smile. Be the positive attitude in the room. Give a stranger a compliment. Smile some more. Because at the end of the day it’s not about what you get, it’s about what you give. Happy Holidays.

 

Recently, a few colleagues in the marketing research industry have sent me documents, decks, and general thought pieces to review. Putting content aside, each article is unique in character, but what is common to each is a static framework, or context, to communicate thoughts.

Each framework is similar by seeking to convey  a certain meaning that augments or leverages associated meaning to text. This is accomplished by employing visual cues and heuristics such as headings, indentation, and grammatical symbols throughout the document. It’s much different than writing a standard cohesive paragraph; it’s lexical “pimping.”

Unfortunately, despite some compelling ideas and insights, many documents nevertheless are all over the place in the methods used to frame and accentuate thoughts; rarely does the context of these documents leverage the ideas written.

Truth be told, most of these documents are written in Power Point, which has plenty of detractors, and I will avoid such comment here. A few are constructed in Prezi, “this year’s model” a rarely well adapted and over-stylized, yet extremely linear presentational software. Software, regardless of origin, however, is not the culprit. Rather, it’s that we’re not following a few simple rules.

What are The Rules? Well, let me share them with you:

Fonts
All fonts are not created equal
Choose a font that feels right
Try to use one font throughout
Don’t be afraid to to bold, sparingly

Color
Color is an art and a science, so know color theory
PowerPoint is good with color

Images
Use images deliberately
Full-bleeds create breaks
Watch your resolution
Clip art is not your friend, nor are stock photos

Page Layout
Present one idea per page
Don’t be afraid of white space
Bullets are for lists
People can read sentences
Use transition slides as bridges, not breaks

Infographics
Find inspiration in today’s news, don’t be afraid to reinterpret
Storytelling, not statistics
Avoid data for data’s sake
The appendix has a purpose