Tag: marketing strategy

Ethical Research Discussed

Monkey research

This week’s blog post for our Marketing Research & Strategy class instructed us to take a closer look at our classmates’ blog posts and what point of view they took towards ethical research. Reading through many interesting posts, one of the post that stood out was a post by Katlyn Hoge, “Monkey Drug Trials”. Her blog post took a closer look at how monkeys were used to test the effects of drug and more particular the effect of overdosing on drugs. They were conditioned to inject themselves with drugs. Once they became addicted, they were giving large amounts of drugs which would give them the choice of continuing their addiction or not. The results described in her blog were horrific. Examples ranged from monkeys breaking limbs in order to escape to animals dying of an overdose.

I completely agree with Katlyn’s statement that these practices are considered to be very unethical and that we should come up with different practices were these innocent animals get spared from tests and possible death. What seemed pretty meaningless to me when reading the article that she read, is that the reasoning for conducting these experiments on animals is needless. I think there are plenty of cases in the past that have shown the devastating effects of large amounts of drugs on the behavior and health of humans. Why would we try to further investigate this research on innocent animals while we have humans dying daily from overdosing on these types of drugs?

Lab mouseAnother blog post by Stephanie Liou, called “Animal Research: The Ethics of Animal Experimentation”, argues both sides of the topic. I think she is bring forth some very interesting points for both cases. She also presents a middle ground with tries to limit the use of animals for scientific research, but doesn’t necessarily completely ban it. In her case against animal experiments, her strongest argument is that animals deserve to receive the same respected treatment as humans.
On the other end, in her statement for animal experimentation the main argument is turns to moral status. Researchers that are for animal experimentation state that “humans have higher moral status than animals and fundamental rights that animals lack.”

Stephanie provides a middle ground at the end of her blog post that brings both sides together. The middle ground provides an argument that allows further animals experimentation but under strict rules. One of those rules for example is that animal research should not be allowed when there is already extensive literature research out in the scientific community. Another argument she addresses is that when there is no research out there yet that researchers have to ensure the best possible treatment of the animals while being studied. This includes first of all, reducing the pain and suffering the animals have been through in the past as much as possible, through for example the use of anesthesia.

Both Katlyn’s blog and Stephanie’s blog are very interesting readings and worth checking out in case you’re interested in reading the full article.

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Calculating Sample Sizes

The market research toolboxThroughout this week’s lectures in our Marketing Research & Strategy class, we’ve been taking a closer look at how to determine a sample size for a research project. McQuarrie (2016) provides a relatively easy way to calculate how big your sample size should be in his book The Market Research Toolbox: A Concise Guide for Beginners. In his book, he describes a three-step process that will help you calculate the sample size based on the preferred confidence level and margin of error (precision) that is proposed by management judgement:

  1. Square the Z value associated with the desired confidence interval.
  2. Multiply it by the population variance.
  3. Divide by the square of the desired precision.

To find the population variance, you have to use the following formula:

Variance = proportion #1 x [1 – proportion #1]

sample size

Now we know how to theoretically calculate the sample size, we can apply this to a problem. One of the problems that was presented by McQuarrie (2016) stated: “To determine the effectiveness of an ad campaign for a new DVD player, management would like to know what percentage of the market has been made aware of the new product. The ad agency thinks this figure could be as high as 70 percent. In estimating the percent aware, management has specified a 95 percent confidence interval, and a precision of ±2 percent. What sample size is needed?”

Following the method presented by McQuarrie for calculating the sample size, the first thing we need to do is to square the Z value associated with the confidence interval. The problem states that management decided on a confidence interval of 95 percent which means that our Z value equals 2. In the next step, we have to multiply our squared Z value with the population variance, which can be calculated through the formula shown above for variance. In this case the variance equals 0.21 [0.70 x (1-0.70)]. Once, we’ve established this, we have to divide our nominator (Z2 x variance) through our denominator, which equals the square of the desired precision. This means that our final formula will look like this:

[22 x 0.21] / 0.022
= 2100

I think a margin of error (precision) of ±2 percent is a reasonable confidence interval. At first, it seemed really tight but after taking a closer look at an article by Billy Hulkower, a Senior Technology Analyst for Mintel, on the market for Movie Sales and Rentals in the US in 2014, we can conclude that the market for movie sales and rentals is declining rapidly. The tables show that movie sales in the US, when adjusted for inflation will decline from $17.5 billion in 2014 to $14.6 in 2019. Based on this information, it is extremely important for a company, that is about to introduce a new DVD player into the market, to know how effective their ad campaign will be.

Another reason why it is so important for companies in the DVD player market to know how effective their ad campaign will be, is the increasing competition of digital movies provided by for example Amazon Instant Video, iTunes, and Google Play which is also discussed in Hulkower’s article. Technology is constantly evolving and helps us make our lives easier. Customers now have the option between buying movies at home from their computers or running to the store to physically buy the movie. I think we can all agree that it is a lot more attractive to stay at home and buy a movie online without having to leave your couch instead of driving all the way to the store for that same movie.

Due to these two reasons, a ±2 percent precision level in this problem seems a very reasonable estimate, because as a company in a declining market with a lot of competition wants to get an accurate reflection of the percentage of the market that is aware of the new DVD player that you are to introduce into the market.

Surveys as part of quantitative research

Survey

The last couple of lectures in our Marketing Research and Strategy class, we have been taking a closer look at quantitative research. More in particular, the types of surveys and how they are set up. One of the differences between surveys, discussed by McQuarrie (2016), who is a professor at Santa Clara University, is that some surveys are set up to describe customer characteristics and behaviors, while other describe a customer’s stance toward the brand, or positive and negative experiences with product ownership. Describing customer characteristics and behaviors is referred to as descriptive surveys. When describing a customer’s stance toward the brand, or positive and negative experiences with product ownership, then we’re talking about evaluative surveys. McQuarrieEdward McQuarrie (2016) states that the purpose of descriptive surveys is limited compared to evaluative surveys, because they have a greater claim on your research dollar. He says that it is more important to know if the customer’s satisfaction is dropping or that dissatisfaction is pared to a particular action on the company’s part. Also, a company will want to know if its brand is fading in customer perceptions or if a competitor’s brand is gaining strength. What I think McQuarrie means with this is that he thinks it is more important to find out first why something is happening, before finding out how customers are feeling towards the product or service. He says that it is more important to find out the direct cause of why something is happening first, before continuing to find out the underlying reasons.

As a student at WVWC, I’ve taken course evaluation surveys at the end of every semester. These surveys are a prime example of an evaluative survey, because through these surveys professors try to find out if what they are doing is directly helping students. These surveys are set up in two different sections. The first section of the survey looks at how the student perceived the course. These questions are looking for more information about if the course objectives were met, if the professor presented the material across well, etc.
On the other hand, the second section of the survey looks more at the individual professor and their performance in teaching the course. Here the questions are looking more at if students felt comfortable asking questions, if assignments were returned within reasonable time, if students received the full attention of the professor when asking questions, etc.

Comparing my personal experience of taking surveys with the description of descriptive and evaluative surveys given by McQuarrie, we can take two different perspectives. First, we can look at it from the student’s perspective. Students might value a survey like the course evaluations as unimportant. One of the reasons for this is that they are completing a survey for a course that they will most likely never have to take again (as long as the don’t fail the class). Another reason is that there isn’t an incentive for students to complete this survey. In the short run, they are not getting anything out of it. The only way taking the survey will help the student is if he or she has that same professor again for another course throughout his or her college/university career.
On the other hand, we can look at it from the marketer conducting the survey (the college or university in the case of course evaluations). In their case, the course evaluations are extremely important. Based on these surveys, they try to increase the quality of the professors teaching the specific courses, which would result in a higher quality of education for the college or the university. Considering that students take these surveys truthfully, the college or university and its professors will make important decisions for the future of that course and the education of future students.

Qualitative Research Implications

During this week’s lectures, we took a closer look at the implications of qualitative research. Gathering data for market research is usually done through two different methods: qualitative and quantitative research. Merriam-Webster Dictionary and Thesaurus describes qualitative research as research that is relating to how good something is, or relating to the quality of something. There are many types of qualitative research that can be done in order to gather information about a topic or field of study. Example include: ethnography, interview, focus groups, marketing research online communities, and so on.

Depending on the type of qualitative research, there are different implications of qualitative research. Why using ethnography as a qualitative research tool, we try to get a deeper understanding of the consumer and consumer behavior. Ethnography is particularly effective when studying trends, personal habits, lifestyle factors, and the effect of social/cultural context on behavior. Therefore, we use ethnography in product categories that are visibly consumed over time and in space and are rich in socio-cultural meaning. The one-on-one interview is another example discussed during the lectures. This type of qualitative research is great to understand consumers’ decision making, details on how products are used or to take a closer look at the emotional and private aspects of consumers’ lives (Mcquarrie, 2015).

journal-of-ibIn a research article form the Journal of International Business Studies, Yves Doz examines qualitative research for international businesses. The article shows a couple different implications of qualitative research in the field of international business. First, Doz (2011), recognizes that by providing rich, thick descriptions of real phenomena and action instances simulate deeper thoughts that provide a safeguard against the “seeing what you are already believing” risk of semi-structured empirical research and allow richer and stronger conceptualization.

Yves Doz.jpgAnother implication is that it allows someone to bring a variety of theoretical lenses to bear on the phenomenon being investigated and to compare systematically the nature and extent of the insights provided by these various theories. By using theory testing, it is possible to compare the prediction a theory would make about a phenomenon to the observed instance and to extend and/or challenge the validity of the theory. In relation to theory testing, another use of qualitative research could also help to communicate it by showing its applicability. By using conceptual coherence and hold in its logical structure, qualitative illustration could make communication easier.

Next, Doz (2011) points out that qualitative research may also be essential for surfacing contextual dimensions in international business. In this case, qualitative research in a new context is a way to learn about that context up close, rather than risk assuming away contextual differences. Creating theories that recognize context and qualitative case-based research can contribute to the contextualization of general theories.

Finally, qualitative research may also enable your research to discover the importance of a previously neglected phenomenon or the relevance of a particular theoretical perspective to that phenomenon. It could result into strong inspiration for new ideas and research topics. In a field like international business, qualitative exploratory research may help identify and understand new phenomena as they come forward and help decide if it is interesting researching these.

Doz (2011) concludes his section on implications of qualitative research in international business by stating that although there is no right answer to the question if qualitative research is worth the risk and the effort, it contributes to the development of a field of management research in multiple ways and definitely could contribute more to international business that it has done in the past.

More information about qualitative research for international business can be found in Doz’ article on jstor.org.

Focus Groups as a type of Qualitative Research

focus-group

richard-a-kruegerIn our Marketing Research and Strategy class this week, we focused on qualitative research and especially looked at focus groups and how they fit into qualitative research. For this week’s blog, I watched a YouTube video from Richard A. Krueger, who is a Ph. D. at the University of Minnesota as he talks about focus groups in a video titled “Moderating focus groups”. In this video, Krueger gives some pretty interesting insights in what focus groups are, what the steps are in order to conduct a focus group, and provides us with some tips on how to moderate a focus group.

Setting up a focus group takes more preparation than I actually thought when I first heard about this type of qualitative research. The steps of setting up a focus group as identified by Krueger include:

Before the focus group meeting:

  1. Identify the relevant participants
  2. Recruiting these participants to attend
  3. Arrange for the logistics
  4. Develop the questions that will be asked during the focus group

On the day of the focus group meeting:

  1. Make sure everything is set up correctly
    • Arrive early in order to check out the room and recording equipment needed that day
    • Name tags are placed in the appropriate spots so people know where to sit. People who were identified as talkative are place close to the microphone, while other are placed directly across
  2. People arrive and are welcomed upon their arrival

Starting the focus group meeting:

  1. Short introduction that includes:
    • Welcome and introduction of the topic
    • Background on the topic
    • Ground rules for the focus group
    • Opening question
  2. Participants introduce themselves
  3. Questions are asked and the participants answer, discuss, and interact with each other
    • Moderator interacts by trying to include everyone in the discussion
    • Some topics are addressed through role plays, using lists on which the participants write down several things which will all come together on a flip chart, the use of hand gestures or writing down words on small pieces of paper, and projections where participants assign objects or animals to certain topics that would represent their thought on these topics

Concluding the focus group meeting:

  1. Ask participant to reflect and indicate what they thought were the most important things that were talked about
  2. The moderator often addresses the assistant moderator to ask her about any questions that were important in the meeting and to give a very short summary on what has been discussed
  3. Assistant moderator turns to the group and asks for confirmation on their answers
  4. Moderator closes the focus group meeting

After the focus group meeting:

  1. Doing the analysis and preparing a report

 

Tips:

  1. Short pauses of about 5 seconds. This allows participants to reflect and think and gives them a chance to express their thoughts
  2. If one of the participants talks to much, which interferes with the chance of other participants presenting their thoughts, you can solve this by:
    • Stop taking notes
    • Stop making eye contact with the person talking too much and make eye contact with the other participants
    • If the participant still keeps talking, then you find a pause in order to interrupt him/her and turn the attention to the others
  3. In order to get someone to talk, the moderator often looks at them while posing a question or calls on them and invite their comments
  4. The use of role play is particularly effective when you are trying to get people to discuss complex ideas. Afterwards, the other participants are asked about any comments on the role play that just took place
  5. Using list can also be very effective to address difficult topics. The use of lists is used to identify large numbers of items to then quickly identify which items of this larger number are the most relevant to participants. Each participant makes a list of their thoughts on a particular topic, which are then all written down on a flip chart. Once the complete list is on the flip chart, participants are asked which ones they consider the most important ones
  6. Rating sheets which list possible answers/situations to a topic that participants will then rate based on their own experience. The answers are then again reflected on a flip chart
  7. Rapid feedback can be achieved through the use of hand gestures by participants or writing words on pieces of paper allows you to get quick information from people. This information is designed to figure out the reasons why something might be happening. The answers to the questions posed are repeated out loud by the moderator so they appear on the recording and allow the assistant moderator to make quick notes
  8. Projection by the use of animals or objects in order to find out what something might present. In this case, it is important that participants explain why they are choosing this object or animal

 

What I thought was particularly interesting in this video from Richard A. Krueger was that at the beginning the participants seem to be talking directly to the moderator. But as the focus group cares on this changes mostly automatically to the participants talking to each other. If this is not directly the case the moderator will try to change this so the participants interact more with each other and the moderator becomes more of an observant. Also, at certain moments participants start to get comfortable talking within the group. When this occurs, moderators encourage this and allow people to talk across the table to each other. Finally, I realized that there is a lot more to conducting a focus group that just asking questions. Like Krueger said, you have to think about what has been said, what is been discussed at the moment, and even what is possibly going to be said later on.

Through the information received in our lectures about focus groups and analyzing this video, I definitely became a lot more knowledgeable about focus groups and the effectiveness. At first I was a little skeptical about their effectiveness, because I thought a lot of bias would be related to it. After watching the video, I think I can conclude the exact opposite of what I first thought. Focus group meetings can actually be very beneficial to qualitative research for a company. One of the main reasons for this is that the actual company the focus group meeting is organized for is kept “secret”. Another reason is that it is the moderator’s job to create an atmosphere where participants feel comfortable addressing their true feelings and experiences and kind of forget about why they are really there.

I can’t really say that I disliked anything about the focus group simulation that was shown in the video. The only thing that I might have changed is the setting. I thought the setting was pretty plain and a little to formal. If I would have been one of the participants in this focus group, I think I would feel more like I was in an actual business meeting which would directly change my behavior into a more formal way of acting. I would pay more attention to the way I express myself, which could possibly cause bias in my answers.

This YouTube video by Richard A. Krueger is definitely worth watching if you are even planning in partaking in a focus group as moderator and even as participant.

Big Data, bigger than you would ever expect

 

pbs-documentary

During this week’s class period, we took a closer look at Big Data through a documentary by PBS called “Big Data Revolution”. A good definition of big data was given inforbes an article on Forbes.com. The article defines big data as “an all-encompassing term for any collection of data sets so large and complex that it becomes difficult to process using on-hand data management tools or traditional data processing applications”, which is in my opinion a pretty good all-covering definition.

I had heard about the term big data before I watched the documentary, but the documentary gave me a much deeper insight about the concept than I would have ever thought possible. The information that experts in today’s society are able to gather through algorithms literally blew my mind. Almost every move we make and everything we do is somehow registered somewhere. For example, by simply watching the documentary from PBS, analysts don’t only know that I’m watching it, but are also able to find out where I’m watching it from. Thanks to today’s technology, which allows us to turn almost every bit of information into something that is measurable or quantifiable, we are able to store huge masses of data.

Big data analysis goes above and beyond. It is not only by manually adding data into databases that we are adding to big data. As stated above and in the example given, big data analysis is present in everything we do, just like analysts say in the PBS documentary: “We are adding to big data just by searching the Internet ourselves.” The example given in the documentary shows that doing a search for the symptoms of the flu doesn’t only result in what you want to find out. For analysts, internet searches for the flu could indicate a possible outbreak, when a lot of these searches are centralized around a specific area.
sasNow, this might all seem scary when you actually think about it a little more and yes there is a dark side to it where it is practically impossible to stay anonymous in today’s society (especially with platforms like Facebook, Twitter, etc. around). But SAS, a company founded in 1976 that provides software support to help customers in all sorts of industries, made a very solid point about big data. They said the following: “It’s not the amount of data that’s important. It’s what organizations do with the data that matters.” Thanks to big data and the algorithms created to record information we are now able to find out about upcoming diseases even before the first symptoms show up. By analyzing human behavior and record daily tasks through big data, we are able to predict when someone might end up having a depression in the near future.
On top of that, societies who were once never noticed by more than a hundred people are now in contact with millions of people through big data. They are now able to teach themselves and others around them. Those who would have never been noticed before now have the ability to show the world their talent and knowledge, they now have the opportunity to become known and leave their footprint on earth.
I definitely think the documentary from PBS is worth your time if you would like to find out more about big data. It has taught me a lot about both sides related to big data. First of all, I think it safe to say that big data will only become more and more apparent in our society as we move forward. I also think that it will benefit my academic and professional career as it will be easier to find data about topics that are being researched now and weren’t research in the past because of the lack of knowledge about big data and the algorithms related to it.
On the other side, becoming more knowledgeable about this topic and the effects of it on my daily life without even realizing it, has definitely made me more cautious about the things that I want to share with the world through social network platforms and things that I want to keep to myself.

Wesleyan’s Annie Merner Pfeiffer Library, more than just a library

wvwc-libraryThe Annie Merner Pfeiffer Library at West Virginia Wesleyan College is WVWC’s greatest sources of resources, ranging from books to movies, newspapers, databases, and more.
Their mission, as stated on their website, says: “We are committed to providing high quality resources and services that empower students for advanced learning. We affirm the American Library Association Code of Ethics as the model for high standards in professional librarianship, and we seek to encourage the appropriate and ethical use of information resources and intellectual property in teaching and learning.” They definitely manage to stick by their mission statement through the many resources they provide to all students that attend West Virginia Wesleyan College.

The Annie Merner Pfeiffer Library is built up in two different floors. The first floor is more of a social floor, where students have access to computers to do online research and have the opportunity to sit in group and work on group projects. This is also where the staff members of the library are located.
reading_room_muralAn interesting fact about the mural that can be found on the main floor on the wall in the back is that this was part of some art students’ final project as they tried to create a visual map of the library that allows students to find certain sections in the library back. For example, on the mural you can see Albert Einstein in the top right corner. This means that the physics section is located on the second floor in the right corner of the library. The second floor of the library is also called the silent floor. Student who like to do their homework or studying in silence can go up here to get their work done.

For our Marketing Research and Strategy’s class on Wednesday, January 25, 2017, we got to meet with one of the staff members, Beth Rogers, who is a Reference, Instruction, and Outreach Librarian for WVWC. She introduced us to the Annie Merner Pfeiffer Library’s website and focused on the online databases that are particularly interesting when studying Marketing Research and Strategy or doing research projects that revolve around marketing. These databases included academic research databases (Communication Source or Sage Premier Journals) and commercial databases (Mintel, Statista, and BrowZine).

Of these five databases, Communication Source (which directs you to the EBSCO database) is probably my favorite one, because I’ve been using this one for other business and economics classes in the past. Although, it is a smaller database, it always allowed me to find the information that I needed in order to complete my research projects by making very accurate searches through the filters that they provide. My second favorite one, which is one of the databases that has only recently been added to the list of our library’s databases, is Mintel. This was initially a database primarily used by businesses in order to conduct business research, but has now been made available to all Wesleyan students. This database holds tons of research done by various analysts about topics that are trending in today’s society as well as topics that were trending in the past. This database also allows you to filter your results until you get the information you really need for your own research.

Throughout my college career here at WVWC, I have been using the library’s online database almost every semester in order to complete research projects for different classes. Therefore, I’ve had attended more than one of Beth’s classes before. But even though most of the databases are pretty similar to use, attending these sessions have always helped me to not only getting to know new databases that could be very helpful for me to use in a course that I’m taking that semester, but also to make it easier and faster for me to access the right articles or research reports. I’m not losing lots of time anymore trying to find articles or research reports that are relevant to my own research compared to the beginning of my college career here at WVWC. mintel-logoIf you’re conducting research yourself, for school or the business you’re working for, I definitely advise you to take a look at Mintel as it has helped me a lot throughout a couple of courses I took in the past.