Saturday, May 7, 2011

7-Part Series, Beyond Market Research Numbers; Part 6, Social & Polling

David Kieselstein
Polling, or opinion sampling, is also referred to as psephology. This name originated from the Greek word “psephos” which was a stone used to cast a vote by Athens citizens.

Polling is a social science. It is an organized sampling, of random or targeted selection, to measure and dissect public opinion and attitudes on social, political, or other issues. Social science is the study of people and society. It is a study that encompasses sociology and psychology. It examines anthropology, history, economics, and political science.

Polling for market research takes into account social customs, culture, morals, family, groups, economics, politics, gender, religion, ethnicity, sexuality, demographics, and activity in looking beyond the numbers to the “why” that assists companies in understanding existing and emerging consumers and markets for their products and services.

Market research includes social polling for consumer opinions, attitudes, and needs in understanding consumers’ buying decisions and patterns. Input and feedback gathered from social media sites like Facebook and Twitter are adding a new layer to market research. Social media's real-time element and strong influence ability is an excellent collaborator with more traditional social, political, and issue driven polling for an immediate overall study.

Market research is also widely used in evaluating the viability of political candidates and ballot initiatives as well as tracking a candidate’s progress and forecasting election outcomes. After all, a winning politician or ballot initiative comes down to a voter’s “buy” or a cast of their stone ultimately.

TNS Global proudly notes, “Our political teams have an unmatched record of accurate polling and voting intention results in many countries.”

Social and political sectors, including policymakers and governments, use market research as a study of human behavior and to understand how to influence that behavior in a desired direction or acceptance of policy. This study may include the “why” of influence factors, or in fact policy or laws, that are rejected by the public too. According to TNS Global, “Policy development is one of the fastest growing areas in Political and Social research.”

From TNS Global’s brochure “Behavior Change and Social Marketing”, a page provides, “The vast majority of public policy aims to shape and facilitate people’s behavior…over the last decade our understanding of influences on behavior has increased significantly and this points the way to new approaches and new solutions.” (foreword to UK Cabinet Office discussion document, 2010).”

Social polling can look at attitudes on individualism in collectivism, choice in authority, free will in policy, and free thinking versus indoctrination and whether these attitudes are based on feelings, on experience, and/or on facts whether based in the subjective or objective. Data collected helps determine policy content and context as well as successful communication that may determine acceptance or rejection.

TNS Global is an industry leader with a long history in providing social polling. “Our roots go back to 1932 when Canadian Facts was established as Canada’s first survey research organization.” TNS Global has established a specialized division for Political and Social research recognizing the unique requirements of research in this sector.

“We are world leaders in customized political and social research. We are recognized as the research partner inspiring the world’s leading policy makers by providing action-oriented analysis and recommendations based on reliable and unique data.”

With more than 500 political and social researchers working in over 40 countries, TNS Political and Social experts help clients with complex multinational and multicultural contexts examination and understanding.

TNS Global clients include public sector and government bodies, political parties, the media, non-government organizations and major international and national institutions. TNS Global conducts millions of interviews tracking public opinion for clients on a local and an international level.

“We cover elections and deliver insight to assist decision makers in a wide range of social policy areas: education, health, social services, environment, labor market, family policy, public transport, justice, immigration, community integration - to name a few.”

TNS Global assists governments and non-government organizations to plan, implement, and evaluate a wide range of Behavior Change and Social Marketing programs. They assist governments and political organizations to develop and test policy, to set policy strategy, and to develop and test communication.

TNS Global uses customized, pragmatic approaches to assess the impact and effectiveness of government programs worldwide. They use unique coordination tools developed over the last 35 years of working with international organizations like the European Institutions and the World Bank.

The study of society, or the social, in understanding product needs and buying decisions is front and center in the TNS “Next 4 Billion” report. It contains a comprehensive and fascinating study of “The Do’s and Don’ts of Marketing to the Bottom of the Pyramid”.

The TNS “Next 4 Billion” report notes with a social eye, “The poor have always been seen as victims to be rescued, needy recipients of charity, incapable of influencing their own destiny, not capable of having any impact of destiny of others, and certainly not as producers of economic wealth.”

The report explains this is changing, and the B of P market is a strong emerging market. It is noted “Their spending priorities are different. They may lack sanitation and running water, but will spend on traditionally considered luxuries – TV and mobile phones.”

The report identifies influential social factors in their world at work, at home, and at play in these new markets. The social market research reflects, “They are social with strong tribal tendencies in social interactions, beliefs, and even aspirations. There is a high influence of their social groups on decisions. They need to see products in a social context – how they are used within the community.”

The report details, “Emerging markets aspire to a better life, and they have begun to contribute significantly to the growth of developing economies. Despite the seemingly dismal conditions, they do represent significant latent unmet needs. They wish to be treated with dignity and respect. Their optimism is reflected in hopes for their children.”

It appears those in the most undeveloped markets are not all that different from those in developed markets socially. All people have the same desires and goals for a better life and for their children to have an even better life. In many ways, perhaps the social and political intertwine for allowing opportunity to prosper.

What would be an example of market research polling data that takes into account both the social and political attitudes in the U.S.? With keeping companies and jobs in the U.S. is there a strong consideration for many Americans to “buy American” in buying decisions? Is a company having a strong social conscience a part of America’s buying decisions?

TNS Senior Vice President, Consumer Sector, North America, Mike Fridholm shares, “We do “not” have data that points to a clear, growing “buy American” trend.”

Mike notes, “We do have data that supports consumers are seeking more fresh food products that are less processed. Some major brands in food, over-the-counter medicine, and automobiles have faced tarnished equities due to recalls. Thus, there may be some who have a greater sense of loyalty and security in purchasing products that are “locally grown” or made.”

He continues, “In addition, some may feel that they are contributing to the revival of the local economy through their purchase (i.e. Detroit recovery and General Motors cars). Nevertheless, hypothetically these are secondary drivers of purchase after knowing that the products will satisfy other needs including taste, value and convenience in the case of food; or style, performance, reliability and fuel economy in the case of cars.”

Mike offers, “Many of our clients are focused on global emerging market growth as the world is becoming “smaller.” In addition, the demographics of the United States are changing to become increasingly multicultural and “buy American” messaging might alienate non-indigenous residents.”

Mike comments on companies having a social conscience in branding, “Social networks and online communication through blogs, Twitter and Facebook are playing a larger role in driving brand perceptions and companies need to be part of the conversation. The issue of sustainability is one community and social issue of increasing importance to a growing number of consumers.”

He details, “Companies that take steps on line, and off, to convey that they are supporting the environment and other social issues of importance will assure consumers that they are helping to leverage their considerable resources in a responsible manner. These messages are becoming commonplace with large corporations.”

Mike notes, “I’m sure you know one company that makes a large promise to help you “live better,” another that runs a program called “box tops for education,” and numerous companies that have changed their packaging to increase recyclable content in products such as bottled water, and reduce the overall waste. I’m not sure about a notable increase in 2011-2013, but consumers will buy more from these companies in the long run because 1) it is an easy way for them to feel good about making routine purchases and 2) more companies will communicate these types of messages.”

He continues, “On a related note, brand management has become more of a dialogue, versus the old-fashioned one-way messaging, and consumers wish to relate to brands that are helping the greater community well-being. In addition, consumers like brands that seem to tailor and personalize communication to them rather than solely marketing the same to everyone.”

“TNS has had a growing number of clients ask us to set up custom on-line communities and to link with Kantar capabilities that help them mine and understand on-line social media.”

Mike offers, “TNS links with The Futures Group (within our parent company Kantar), as well as our global TNS Business Intelligence Team led from Germany, to stay on top of macro trends and their business implications.”

In today’s world, the social and the political are often intertwined even if it’s not always obvious. Both sectors have an extreme need to interpret the public context of desired communication and leadership. Meeting needs must start with a meaningful grasp of specific needs and acceptable solutions. This is imperative for successful social campaigns, strategy, and policy. Social market research is a necessary tool for consumer market expansion or political victory.

President TNS Global North America, David Kieselstein shares an executive expert’s summary, “In the political realm, the integration of traditional polling and new information sources such as social media offers the opportunity to deliver a representative cross-section of public opinion, while imbuing it with color, texture and immediacy. Our ability to synthesize and make sense of this confluence of data streams takes public opinion measurement to a new level and provides politicians and policy makers with increasingly powerful means of keeping abreast of the needs, desires and mood of their constituencies."

See also:
Part 1, Insights From Global Leader TNS
Part 2, Automotive
Part 3, Consumer Products
Part 4, Financial Services
Part 5, Technology
Part 7, Global Focus

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