Anne Bailey Berman

Recent Posts

Problem Analysis: The Value of Probing Negativity

Posted by Anne Bailey Berman

Thu, Aug 18, 2011

I like to think of myself as a very positive person.  I appreciate the good meal at my favorite restaurant, my laptop’s ease of use, and the friendly service or good prices of our panel suppliers.  But, I’m only human, so when asked, I respond with much greater clarity about the things that irritate me.  Be it the noise in the restaurant, or the broken button on my computer; and when my suppliers provide similar offerings, I factor in how much irritation they’ve caused right along with price and service.

This quFly in soupality of being much more articulate about what irritates us than what benefits us is salient to those in product and service planning. How do you have a competitive edge on what is important to consumers?   How do you get insight into out-of-the-box ideas that have market appeal?  What attributes should be accounted for in next generation products?  For providers of products and services, seeking market input for new products or feedback on service, a focus on the negative cuts to the heart of differentiation.   

I’m a fan of an old methodology that uncovers generally unarticulated “problems” that consumers have. Problem analysis utilizes long lists of potential problems that may not be top of mind. While it may seem depressing, it produces valuable and useful insights.  Although social media also picks up the negative, problem analysis differs in that it proactively and methodically probes for irritating issues.   These are issues that can direct providers to future “solutions” such as new products, or little considered but notable competitive distinctiveness.

For example, consider a medical equipment supplier that wanted to separate themselves from other competitors by implementing a meaningful service guarantee.   What should be included in the guarantee— friendly representatives, quality products, good prices?  Yes, those are important, and expected by the customers.   As it turned out, customers told us that all suppliers were friendly, were about the same in quality, and had prices in the same ballpark.  

However, while probing for problems, we found some very specific issues causing varying levels of irritation and ranging in importance to the customer.  These were issues which the supplier had not recognized as being real irritants or better yet, real opportunities for distinction.  In terms of service, customers indicated they needed more rapid product replacements.  They also indicated that they wanted representatives that were product trainers more than sellers, and during medical emergencies they had an extreme unmet need to consult with product managers. 

Armed with these insights, the medical supplier equipped a meaningful service guarantee including the “usual” aspects of service with some that would normally not have been included.   In addition, they were able to revamp their sales program and establish a new consulting service. 

I prefer being a positive person, but when it comes to useful market insights, proactive probing of problems is crucial. 

Posted by Anne Bailey Berman. Anne is the President of Chadwick Martin Bailey and enjoys volunteering in the community, traveling with her family and spending time in her vegetable garden.

Topics: Consumer Insights, Brand Health & Positioning

The market research industry is evolving, are you?

Posted by Anne Bailey Berman

Thu, Jul 07, 2011

Midnight in ParisI recently went to see Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris movie and I am still thinking about it.  My husband and I have been talking about it in snatches since we walked out.  It is what you might call a thinking person’s movie.

In Allen’s movie, Gil, the protagonist, seeks the intoxicating time in Paris that followed World War 1, the 1920s, when so many writers and artists lived and started careers in Paris.  Yet, we only know so much about their lives in the 1920s and we only know about their successes and dramatic failures, if any.   Gil – and we -- are not able to “live” the day to day toil and grind that T.S. Elliott and Faulkner faced as they produced work after marvelous literary work.   Yet, it was the detail and grind in which they spent their lives that produced the masterpieces that we are all so familiar with.

What Roger (my husband) and I took away was a blatant, clear realization that although the past– near and far- often seems so much better, more fun and exciting and . . . . fill in the blank, the absolute best time is the present.  It is now -- today -- that we can experience the changes in the world and make our own mark.

The world of market research is so different than it was when Chadwick Martin Bailey started in 1984.  Back then it was all about the advent of personal computers and software that we could use to analyze data that could only be previously analyzed on mainframes.  Market research startups started with a flourish. Opportunity was everywhere.

Small companies that could never use market research or have it available to them were able to gain market insights that previously were only available to large companies.  Some used it well and prospered.  We know them as household names today.   It was a revolutionary time in market research and it was fun.   It was also hard work and for our employees, it was a continual learning experience.

Today, market research has evolved!  It has grown up, it is everywhere and new technologies and developed databases allow for insights that we could never conceive in the 1980s.  Now consumers get questionnaires almost every time they buy something.    Samples, data collection techniques, analysis methods – all have changed and continue to evolve.  Things are moving so fast, one has to constantly be learning just to stay abreast. 

Is the change for the better or worse?  As in Allen’s movie, it is easy to look back and be nostalgic.  Yet, when you think of what is possible today, when you think of what we can do by combining technology with perceptual market feedback and then analyze for insights, we are living in an exciting time, the present time- the time to leave our mark

Woody Allen was right.  A prior era, the 1980s, was a wonderful time to be in market research.  Today is even better- filled with new possibilities and great opportunity.

Posted by Anne Bailey Berman. Anne is the President of Chadwick Martin Bailey and enjoys volunteering in the community, traveling with her family and spending time in her vegetable garden.


Topics: Consumer Insights