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    This is the personal blog of Simon Kendrick and covers my interests in media, technology and popular culture. All opinions expressed are my own and may not be representative of past or present employers
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The conversation doesn’t have to be continuous

apple new beginning
Photo by http://www.flickr.com/photos/benjamin_ellis/

A strange thing happened when I met up with an old friend recently. He mentioned that he had deliberately avoided me online in the time leading up to our drink, so that “we would have something to talk about”. By not reading my blog or browsing my Facebook profile, he felt he wouldn’t pre-empt any possible conversations.

After being initially perplexed, this started to make a lot of sense. There are far too many “I saw you did this..” and “So how was that…” conversations. There is no intrigue or surprise. Knowledge may be supplemented or consolidated, but it is essentially repeating the same thing.

Breaks can therefore be a good thing. And I believe this theory can be applied to both advertising and research

1. Advertising, particularly TV advertising

In the same way that television series come and go in seasons, could adverts? This isn’t really such a jump. Only the biggest brands are on TV continuously, and then it is rare that it is the same product that is being advertised.

Why not announce your advertising schedule? For seasonal products – whether they be sun cream or mittens – a defined schedule may already be in place (allowing for some contingency over weather fluctuations). But I see no reason why this couldn’t apply to products, particularly ubiquitous FMCGs. Teaser campaigns in the lead-up can stir interest, and the finale can conclude a conversation that develops over the course of the campaign.

There are of course considerations of competitor activity “spoiling” this notion, factoring in the asymmetrical information into a game theory model. But choosing whether to buy a Ripple or a Flake is only as zero sum as deciding whether to watch Casualty or Pushing Daisies on a Saturday night. The likelihood is that only one will be consumed at that time, but catch-up creates plenty of opportunities to consume both over a longer period. And when the choice pops up next time, the consumer will be in a position to prioritise the preferred good.

2. Market research, particularly online panels

This theory may be impractical for many brands but it is highly pertinent to market researchers. Respondent fatigue is a big problem in the industry. Too many people being over-researched. So, longitudinal studies aside, why not provide the option of an explicit opt-out or a time out (rather than a non-response)?

This could be in the form of an option in the community profile page, a screener or a message in a newsletter. Offering prize draw entries across the period of the time-out could compensate for a lack of incentives accrued.

And if the first survey in the “new season” were deliberately chosen to contain new and interesting questions, rather than the same-old dull-but-necessary-for-tracking-purposes, then a fresh conversation with a rejuvenated respondent could begin on strong footing.

A break could even be constructed around times of necessary technical maintenance or upgrades. An announced break would provide time for the new systems to put in place. And when the research starts back up again, respondents are greeted with a new and improved system, emphasising the fresh beginning.

Done correctly, I can see this being a powerful panel management tool that can improve response and enjoyment among those that are becoming disillusioned with the same old process.