Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Millward Brown's Nigel Hollis attacks "voodoo" research

Research has come under attack recently. People have been citing neuroscience, cognitive psychology and behavioural economics learning that suggests much of what we do is rubbish.

Who will defend the status quo?

Who better than that standard bearer of normative data, that bete noire of every shaven headed, trendy spectacle wearing, Mark Earls reading account planner? Step forward Nigel Hollis of Millward Brown.

His latest post here attacks "Voodoo" research and defends the tried and er pre-tested (a little MR humour). And this is about as direct as a genteel and collegiate British researcher gets. Attacking the journalist but taking indirect aim at the Advertising Research Foundation.

I posted below that Joel Rubinson of the ARF had gone outlaw like Waylon and Willie. Millward Brown is the Grand Ole Opry and Mr. Hollis our Porter Wagoner.

OK, the country music analogy is probably done now. But what's important is that it's on.


Brian Baumal said...

Gotta agree with most of the ARF article. OK, we can say that there is a lot of journalistic hyperbole in it, but I do agree with the assumption of "an impossible degree of analysis" on the part of the consumer. This is not to say that models don't have a place in research - they do. They can predict optimal product features, pricing, distribution methods and competitive factors in very nice ways.

However, in terms of relying on models to create a "brand meaning" or "essence", I've got to agree with the latter part of the ARF article. In fact, I quite like the fact that "Brand loyalty" is really "self loyalty" and "through you, I become more of me." It's actually a fundamental tenant of the psychotherapeutic relationship. A person self-actualizes in the presence of someone who can hold their own ground and accompany a client on a journey of self-realization.

Would the article be interpreted more favourably should we replace "shaman" with "evangelist"? We're always talking about people responsible for brands as evangelists for a particular meaning - just look at Steve Jobs at Apple - he is out to change the world. And despite the fact that he sells computers and software, I don't think he's relying on a model to create his brand's essence. Jobs is doing exactly what the article suggests, getting consumers to realize that Apple is like them (underdogs), the fact that Apple likes them (view Apple advertising) and the fact that using an Apple will make someone "more complete".

Nigel Hollis said...

Damn, and I thought my spectacles were trendy too!
The funny thing is that I do not disagree with the many of the points made in the ARF session. What I fundamentally disgaree with is the way it has been reported.
Of course we don't analyze every single decision we make. Even when we do our analysis is influenced by our emotions.
And I agree that creativity is key to marketing and research. As you will see from my follow-up comments to the original post you will see that I belive the key thing missing from research is insight, aka creativity, the ability to see beyond the numbers and imagine how things could be.

Robin said...

Nigel - glad you are putting a stake in the ground. We've probably had too many questions and should start discussing the answers.

I will return to your blog and am encouraging people to join this.

And I'm sure your glasses are trendy too.

Brian - I am going to get in touch to discuss that idea of self in brand meaning.