No Cuts (on bagels): when you get it wrong, you “gotta” change

"This might look like an embarrassing reversal but the main point is, we listened to YOU. Just don't tell us to slice again or we'll hit you."

“This might look like an embarrassing reversal but the main point is, we listened to YOU. Just don’t tell us to slice again or we’ll hit you.”

I was surprised to see on the side of my bagel packet this morning the aftermath of an emotionally charged drama, as heart-wrenching as anything seen since Sophocles.

It appears the New York Bakery Company’s recent habit of pre-slicing the bagels has been discontinued, due to some kind of wild public outcry.

I sincerely hope it wasn’t market research that occasioned this cowardly loss of nerve by everyone’s favourite purveyors of boil ‘n’ bake yeasted wheat rings. I can only hope it was a twitterstorm or some kind of Occupy Movement sit-in that prompted this humiliating volte face. Perhaps they saw this and took it the wrong way:

We must listen to the people ...

We must listen to the people …

Call me weird, but I couldn’t help checking out how the Rotherham-based bakers’ website handled the climb-down. Here’s what they say:

Dear Bagel Fans
We have been listening to your feedback about our recent decision to stop slicing our Plain [capital 'p' - are you sure? Ed] bagels. We’re sorry that some of you are disappointed with our decision – trust us, it wasn’t taken lightly.
But we know that pre-slicing affected the quality of our bagels and here at New York Bakery Co. that’s what we’re all about, no compromise.
That’s why our original, unsliced bagel is back. We just wanna make the best bagels we can.

They wanna and they’re gonna. And I gotta say, I’m glad they did it.

And if you’re going to do it, do it with the chutzpah for which New Yorkers – and people who live in Rotherham – are renowned. Cos they ain’t slicing nothing no more. The customer is always right.

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A light buzz year: to infographics and beyond

I came across a link to this today while browsing the wonderful @brainpickings by Maria Popova. I know 2013 is so last year, but still – some brilliant visualisations of data on here. These examples are American, but no less interesting for that. I love the vote-weighted electoral map and the wind map in particular. Inspiration for any presentation. Or just inspiration.

Brain Pickings: the doors of perception without the acid flashbacks

Brain Pickings: the doors of perception without the acid flashbacks

If you’re a qual researcher – or a person generally – and you haven’t checked out Brain Pickings yet, you should. It’s probably the best thing on the Internet if you have a curious, arts and humanities-leaning mind. A gateway to a lot of interesting people being interesting – and not so much taking you off on tangents as showing you some great paths through the thicket of life. The best ones tend not to be the obvious ones. It’s not just some resource, it’s wise and has got a soul. That seems rare these days in world where we struggle to step off the hedonic treadmill (some interesting further thoughts on that also here). It isn’t afraid to talk about what really matters in life, not just the practical stuff we all have to do. And therein lies its brilliance (and therein), if you’ll excuse the Fall reference.

Technology was supposed to free us up to spend more time on the important stuff of life, not on more technology. So for those of us bored with meaningless distraction, who want to think more about a meaningful, thoughtful and fulfilled life – and God knows, even have one – here’s a good place to start.

Posted in 21st Century Britain, All Over The World, Brand communications, Media, Qual Research, Semiotics, Shore, Society | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The ship is loaded, now a voyage into the future of qual

No sooner had a couple of ships left the harbour here at Shore than a couple more have hoved into view to replace them.

Busy at the Shore

Busy at the Shore – and also blurry and pixillated. Would you believe this is a pic of Brendan Rodgers’ home town? You should, it is. Lovely place, Carnlough, Co. Antrim. Limited footballing opportunities though.

A busy summer and autumn await. Thanks to all who responded to last week’s message of availability. In no particular order, I’m going to be getting more acquainted with garden equipment, health products and meat in the coming months.

As for now, I’m looking forward to Monday’s big AQR meet-up to discuss the small matter of the future of qual research. Like a lot of agencies, Shore chipped in some dosh to help sponsor the day and I will be taking part in the session myself. It will be fascinating to see how others in the industry are seeing it. Qual in the UK is, in many senses, in rude health and has a fantastic future – but there are some strategic challenges facing qual researchers. Some senior qual practitioners are concerned our ability to continue to do great, transformative qual work is threatened, now that a new tendency to commoditise qual has been added to the age-old undervaluing of qual by people who don’t fully get it.

Have you guys never heard of swimming against the tide?

Have you guys never heard of swimming against the tide? I’ve always felt a bit different from the rest of you anyway.

In my view, it’s because of our main strength – we are, in a business or public sector project context, genuinely disruptive. We do things differently, we often think very differently from the people we advise. That’s because we carry in our heads, when we walk into our clients’  business and government environments, an acute awareness of how people really think and act out there, across a range of activities. It can make us sound jarring or even awkward at times – our discourse is different from the usual language of business or government.

Sometimes clients even mistake what we have to tell them for entertainment. Qual debriefs can be very engaging, we hope, but they are also often addressing fundamental issues for our clients. The shame is that the potential for a qual debrief to be taken further to change thinking within client organisations is often missed.

But as I said in my talk last September at the AQR event at Wallace Space, I do think the idea of developing a clearer and more recognised professional status for qual researchers has much to commend it. Having a recognised professional status, as I had when I worked as a solicitor, cuts out a lot of the unnecessary crap you otherwise have to deal with.

Give us some space to do our thing. We're better at it than you.

Give us some space to do our thing. We’re better at it than you.

People using an unfamiliar lawyer can rightly assume, at a base level, that she has proven herself as bright and knowledgeable enough to be accepted into the profession by senior guardians of the profession. She will have worthwhile expertise on the areas upon which she advises clients.

Having a defined area of expertise as lawyers have, non-lawyers are largely prevented from dabbling ineptly in these activities. This helps lawyers of course but it’s also for the benefit of anyone using legal services. In qual, we could do with more of that respect sometimes – and our clients would be the ones who would benefit in the long term.

They are sold short when they are offered ‘qualitative insights’ by people without substantial qualitative research training or experience.

What clients don't see - we have to write everything we're thinking out in the air first. Bloody difficult skill, I can tell you

What clients don’t see – we have to write everything we’re thinking out in the air first. Bloody difficult skill, I can tell you

Qual seems beguilingly simple at first – then you realise the mental gymnastics required to produce proper insight and it takes most of us a few years before we get our heads around how to consistently do that and become the finished article. That’s years of focussing solidly on qualitative thinking and insights. The difficulty of getting to that place is not, I think, always appreciated, especially when we make it look simple.

How the accreditation is done is more of an open question. I look forward to thinking through the ideas on Monday.

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The World Cup of Everything Else

The Brazil World Cup starts tonight, if we can see any of it past the massive arse of aptly-named Brazilian frontman Hulk. I think he frequents the same gym as former star Ronaldo; that is, one that is a front for a pasty shop.

Mate, it's 2014. And I'm afraid not only did Brazil not win it in 2010, but they actually didn't win it in 1998 either. Lesson" don't rely on Wikipedia. Oh and the Ronaldo impression needs work too.

Mate, it’s 2014. And I’m afraid not only did Brazil not win it in 2010, but they actually didn’t win it in 1998 either. Less Wikipedia and more paying attention please. Oh and the Ronaldo impression? Needs work.

As a football nut, I am a little beside myself just now. Less nutty about “soccer” perhaps, the Wall Street Journal has nevertheless put its emotional detachment to good use by creating a marvellous interactive info graphic. It shows how the tournament would play out if countries competed against each other on various different demographic and geographical statistics. Have fun with it (if the link works).

A few tasters:

  • Belgium wins on Biggest Urban Population (an incredible 98 per cent of the Belgian population)
  • Japan has the Most Forest (67 per cent of total land area) of any World Cup nation
  • Iran has the highest inflation rate at 35.2 per cent (they would beat Ghana in the final).
Stories From the City, Stories From The Sea: the Sea Organ, in Zadar, Croatia. Will in roar in an unlikely Corluka screamer?

Stories From the City, Stories From The Sea: the waves makes music through this piece of seafront architecture, the Sea Organ, in Zadar, Dalmacija, home of my in-laws (and Luka Modric). Will the Adriatic roar in an unlikely Corluka screamer this summer? Or a peach from Nikica Jelavic? Probably not …

And having married into a Croatian family, and with a son called Tomislav, I wish Luka Modric and the lads the best for the tournament. Croatia didn’t, however, make it onto the smorgasbord of wastrel bets I placed on the tournament last week. I’m prepared to share what they were if I win any of them.

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Knowledge frameworks in qual: Jon Chandler’s seven pillars of wisdom (IMJR 55/5)

Simon Riley:

This from Simon Shaw’s blog, “Changing My Mind” – a wonderfully simple but comprehensive table summarising John Chandler’s “7 Pillars of Qual”. It would be great if everyone commissioning or using qual had this one-pager on their wall. My one amendment would be on the final column to ask “Are all responses equally useful” (rather than equally valid), as you could argue that all responses are equally valid if recruitment is right, it’s just that some give you more useful meaning and insight than others. But overall, the table is a really useful contribution to practical qual. I know I’ve already come back to it for reference several times.

Originally posted on changing my mind:

shutterstock_123917302 Jon Chandler’s article Seven pillars of wisdom: the idea of qualitative research made me pick up a copy of the IMJR for the first time . In a few thousand words Chandler defines and delineates seven different ‘knowledge frameworks’ within qualitative research. He articulates the underlying assumptions inherent in day-to-day quallie practice – teasing out how what we’re doing fits into what framework, what the benefits and limitations are. It’s one to ponder, ruminate. I can see it coming in useful come proposal time.

Chandler applies three comparisons to help define the frameworks:

  • Is ‘accessing data’ straightforward? Does the model assume people are self-aware, that they have easy access to their own motivations and drives?
  • Is the ‘meaning’ of the data unproblematic? Does the model assume people say what they mean and mean what they say?
  • Are all responses equally valid? Does the model assume all respondents are equally valuable…

View original 128 more words

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Organising chaos: what co-creation workshops can do

I came across this today and thought I’d share it, though I wasn’t involved in this work myself. It’s a workshop done by the Bristol-based Pervasive Media Studio, a co-creation “ideas lab” on the Internet of Things. Worth a watch, for a few reasons:

  • it’s a great example of how bringing together talented people from different disciplines and giving them some structure and tools can inspire them towards radical innovation.
  • the film, put together by Tim Crawley whom I’ve also worked with (and highly recommend), is a great example of getting across the story and feel of a really creative workshop day.
  • the Internet of Things is in itself a pretty interesting development – it’s starting to find its way into more and more of my consumer projects, as big brands wonder if they can be a winners from it (and if so, how).

Such workshops aren’t new – this film is from 2011 and I’ve been doing similar stuff myself for a decade and more. But they are a brilliant way to generate new ideas, make connections and inspire people to go off and develop interesting, relevant and above all useful things.

My own co-creation work has tended to centre on bringing the public together with designers, business strategists or policy-makers – but it’s the same idea. When unfamiliar people come together to work to the same end, there’s an initial discomfort – and then, if well managed, the sparks start to fly.



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Which party will Calm Persistence favour?

How we voted in 2010. My analysis: Wales definitely has the prettiest colour combo

How we voted in 2010. My analysis: Wales definitely has the prettiest colour combo

I was interested to hear on The World At One the other day about the voter segmentation Populus (who have advised the Conservatives) have been using: BBC on Populus voter segmentation. There’s a test on there so you can see which category you’re in.

The Populus segments are:

1. Comfortable Nostalgia: “They tend to be older, more traditional voters who dislike the social and cultural changes they see as altering Britain for the worse.”

2. Optimistic Contentment: “Confident, comfortable & usually on higher incomes they are prudent & tolerant but think Britain is a soft touch.”

3. Calm Persistence: “Often coping rather than comfortable, they hope rather than expect things to get better.”

4. Hard-Pressed Anxiety: “Pessimistic & insecure, these people want more help from government and resent competition for that help particularly from new-comers.”

5. Long-Term Despair: “Many are serial strugglers; angry & alienated they feel little or no stake in the country or that anyone stands up for them.”

6. Cosmopolitan Critics: “Generally younger, more secular and urban-based, worried about growing inequality & the general direction the country is going in.”

Thanks to Populus and the BBC for that.

It’s interesting, looking at the percentages in the BBC article, that the Calm Persistence segment is the biggest. I was recently involved in carrying out a big segmentation study for a financial services provider – complete with 5 minute ‘talking head’ films I made for each segment with the wonderful Bristol-based videographer Tim Crawley (I’m quite proud of those!). One of our segments was called Keep Calm And Carry On. We weren’t segmenting on political attitudes, but the segment appears very similar attitudinally to this Calm Persistence group that Populus’s analysis has identified.

There's nothing more British than Just getting on with it

Don’t get carried away … There’s nothing more British than just getting on with it

Everyone’s favourite bit of film, when we showed them to client audiences, was a retired teacher in the Keep Calm And Carry On segment. Comfortable on his sofa, he was thick-skinned, unflappable and, even though there was a lot of hard-bitten apathy there (and who could blame him), I really warmed to him during the interview. And when I went through our own segmentation algorithm on myself, guess what? I was in the Keep Calm And Carry On segment myself. In the Populus voter segmentation, though, I’m guessing I’ll be a Cosmopolitan Critic (which is slightly embarrassing, but then my job kind of wedges me quite solidly in there). I say “guessing” – there is so much interest in this stuff the ‘test yourself’ web link can’t cope at the moment. Such high online traffic is not an issue Strangers On The Shore has ever had to face, but I cater for a select band of crack elite time wasters on here …

How to impress the Calm Persisters will be a big part of the challenge for party strategists over the next year. Let me tell you, it ain’t going to be easy – good luck with that!


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