24 Feb 2010

My Latest Musings on MROCs

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I’m preparing to participate in a panel discussion at tomorrow’s CASRO Panel Conference in New Orleans.  The moderator, Jeff Miller from Burke, has asked us to gather our thoughts on MROCs and express these opinions while on the panel.   I’ve frequently written about MROCs — what they are, how to set one up — but today I thought I would express my down and dirty opinion of them.  Are they a bunch of hooey?  Or will they take research by storm?

Opinion #1: They are not hooey.  MROCs represent a fundamental shift in marketing research practices.  This scares those who are deeply embroiled in ‘classic’ research techniques, as   MROCs are anything but ‘classic.’  But clients like them because they are fast and they can involve a broader team than just a researcher.  They’re real time — and findings are not issued in a 200-page binder.  They make research participative — albeit less scientific.

Opinion #2: They are best used for qualitative research.  I cringe when I hear clients ask to get a quantitative read on an issue from their community.  This is like asking my husband five nights in a row if he liked my dinner, and using that data as my grade for cooking school.  He knows where his bread is buttered.  These community members are biased, engaged and on your team!  Don’t ever think that they will provide you with representative quantitative data.  What they will do is give you an inside view into subject matter — over time, over different aspects of the subject, over the internet.

Opinion #3: There are a lot of badly managed communities out there.  If you don’t know what you are going to do with your community, don’t start one.  It’s not fair to those who agree to become a member — and further tarnishes our industry.  If you have to brush off the dust before you throw a question into a discussion forum, send those members a parting gift and ask their forgiveness.

Opinion #4 (related to Opinion #3):  They take a lot of work. If you don’t have the staff to manage one, don’t try to do it yourself.  Best to go full service — but even this will take resources (both human and monetary).  If you don’t think you have the forces to run one properly, look into an MROC omnibus — the capital and human commitment is minimal, and is helpful for point in time research.

Opinion #5: MROCs are not going to wipe out focus groups.  Life is more complicated than that — we have 600 cable channels, 7,000 items in a grocery store and three days of music on your iPod.  No one methodology will eliminate another.  It’s just another tool in our toolbox.  And you are still going to need a quantitative assessment of an issue.

Jane Mount
Executive Vice President