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Don't Get Lost in Translation: 4 Simple Rules for Global Researchers

Posted by Carole Hubbard

Tue, Feb 26, 2019

international research

As brands expand into developing markets, the need to gather opinions of local consumers has increased in kind.

To get accurate information and responses, it’s common practice to translate surveys into local languages when conducting international research. However, all too often the quality of the translation can make or break the success (and accuracy) of research results.

Many years ago, at a previous company, one of my clients, a leading athletic apparel company, conducted a seven-country global study to segment their consumers and understand underlying brand perceptions. One of the key perceptions we explored was the notion that the brand had “sold out”, which in the US means no longer being true to oneself or one’s heritage.

During analysis, I couldn’t understand why some of the countries highly agreed with this metric, as expected, while other countries (e.g., Germany and China) completely disagreed. Looking at the translated questionnaire, I quickly realized why.

Our conceptual term “sold out” was literally translated as “sold out”, as in, out-of-stock or not available in stores. A complete disconnect from what we originally meant.

While this was a disappointing discovery, there are some valuable takeaways on best practices for setting up global questionnaires which can easily be applied to any international market research project:

1. Choose your words carefully. A successful translation begins with the chosen English words. Avoid colloquialisms, expressions, and any words or phrases that may have multiple meanings.

For example, idioms and other phrases “cash cow”, “standing engagement”, or “hangout” may seem innocuous, but could have very different meanings if translated literally into other languages.

Read the questionnaire out loud and think critically about what's being said. If anything has the potential to be misconstrued, select different English words to express your meaning.

2. Conduct a conceptual or content translation, not a literal translation. This approach looks beyond the actual written words and instead focuses on the original intent or objective.

3. Encourage your client to ask a local colleague to review the translation. If your client is an international brand, they likely have global colleagues. If so, encourage your client to ask a local colleague in the country where research is being conducted to carefully review the translation. This will also help ensure any messaging or industry-specific terminology has been captured properly.

Be sure to provide the English version along with the translated version so the translation is being reviewed in the English context.

If no local colleague is available, translation services can usually offer an independent translator to review the document or conduct a back-translation (the questionnaire document is translated back to English). The latter is often more expensive but can be well worth the investment as opposed to getting unusable data.

4. Remain engaged throughout the entire translation process. As the researcher, you are most familiar with the project objectives, so it's critical you work closely with the translator to ensure nothing is overlooked or skipped in the translated questionnaire.

Implementing these four simple practices can literally help make your next global research project a success!

Carole HubbardCarole Hubbard is a Sr. Project Manager at CMB whose travel bucket list includes Ireland, Austria, Tuscany, Greece, and Switzerland.

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Topics: international research, research design

The Essential Ingredients of a Successful Market Research Project

Posted by Youme Yai

Fri, Jan 11, 2019

baking ingredients-1.11.19

I’m a big fan of The Great British Baking Show—a tv series following the trials and tribulations of amateur bakers vying to be named the UK’s best baker. Each episode, the bakers tackle a different skill with increasing difficulty as the competition unfolds.

For those unfamiliar with the delightful show, the second portion of the competition, called the Technical Challenge, requires bakers to make an unfamiliar recipe with scant instructions. They must leverage their baking prowess and creativity to successfully make the recipe and impress the judges, Paul and Prue (or Mary, depending on which season you’re watching). Meanwhile, the competition is timed—which can be really tricky when baking time is unspecified.

As a custom market research project manager, I empathize with these contestants. Here are three ways the Technical Challenge is like managing a market research project:

  1. It's possible contestants have come across the Technical Challenge bake subject or recipe before. But even if they’re somewhat familiar, the recipes always have some unique element—making them feel new. Similarly, as a project manager you’ve probably done your fair share of customer journey, segmentation, or optimization. And while you may be an expert in each topic and approach, every project is 100% customized and will almost always include “new” elements. Maybe the sample is unique, or your client has a very specific business objective. Whatever it is, you’ll need to approach each project armed with your industry experience and thinking cap. Even with brand trackers which are usually repeated, each wave is unique and poses different circumstances. There are no exact prescribed instructions in market research—you must be innovative and open to new challenges.
  2. Ingredients are provided during the Technical Challenge, but not always with an explanation of how to properly integrate them into the bake. In a new research project, research objectives, desired business outcome, and potentially a sample list, may be the “ingredients” provided, but you as the project manager must successfully incorporate these components to uncover actionable insights that meet clients’ (or judges’) needs and expectations. While a crude “recipe” exists for research (e.g., Step 1: Questionnaire Development, Step 2: Fielding, Step 3: Analysis, Step 4: Reporting, Step 5: Delivery and consultation to client) it’s up to the research team to use their industry knowledge and experience to successfully account for all "ingredients."
  3. A fielding period, like the bake time in a Technical Challenge, may not be explicitly specified at the onset of a project. Therefore, you must use your best judgment and expertise to determine the length of fielding. Much like the bakers watching the oven, you must carefully monitor the metaphorical research oven—response rates, panel entries, etc.—until you’ve achieved desired results.

Unlike the British cake bakers and pastry makers, research project managers are backed by a dedicated team that is integral to the success of each project. From the Advanced Analytics team and Senior Consultants with robust industry expertise, successful custom market research projects are a team effort.

Of course, there are a few more differences (no worries about soggy bottoms or overbaked Genoese sponge for example).

At the end of the Great British Baking Show, the bake is eaten, contestants are judged, a winner is announced, and that’s that. But as market researchers, we don’t just deliver a final report and the show ends. A successful initiative means socializing the findings, conducting follow-up discussions, and more--being true, consultative strategic partners to our clients. 

Still, when our clients tell us how our insights and recommendations have made a concrete difference in their business—well that’s as good as a Paul Hollywood handshake.

Youme Yai is a Project Manager at CMB who is on a search for the perfect chocolate chip cookies recipe (suggestions welcome!)

Topics: research design, project management

How Triathlon Training Makes Me a Better Market Researcher

Posted by Shira Smith

Wed, Nov 28, 2018


From training to crossing the finish line, competing in triathlons is one of my favorite hobbies. So far, I’ve completed four sprint races, each consisting of a short swim, a 10 to 15-mile bike ride, and a three-mile run. Not everyone would consider this "fun," but I love it.

When I'm not an training, I'm a market researcher who likes to draw parallels between my personal and professional life. Here are three ways training for a triathlon is like managing a research project:

Scheduling is key

Triathlons are long multievent races that require a ton of preparation and training. Months before race day, I map out a detailed training schedule that allots time for each event (e.g., swimming, biking, racing) to ensure I’m well-prepared.

Managing a research project also requires a rigorous plan. Before the onset of each project, I develop a meticulous schedule that outlines every step, due date, and expectation, from project kick off to final reporting and delivery. This keeps my team and me on track and hitting our goals.

I also share this schedule with my clients so our teams are always aligned on how the project is progressing. It sounds simple, but it's critical to be transparent and ensure everyone's on the same page.

Be flexible when plans change

Even the best laid plans can go awry. Despite my planned training schedule, sometimes things come up and I must adjust. If it's downpouring on a running day, for example, I could instead go for a swim. If the pool is unexpectedly closed, I'll hop on a bike. Whatever the obstacle, I always find an alternative that keeps me marching towards my goal.

Unforeseen events can happen in research, too. The important thing is to flex and stay nimble so surprises won’t derail the project. So long as I stay focused and proactive, my team and I can pivot, overcome challenges, and keep the project on track.

Data consistency is also key

I track data to measure and improve my race performance. With the help of a sports watch, I can analyze my pace, heart rate, distance, elevation, cadence, and more. Tracking these metrics helps me see my progression over time and can help identify variables that may be impacting my performance. For example, I often run in the morning, so external variables (e.g., traffic and temperatures) are more consistent. Since my running environment is consistent (as much as it can be) I can be more confident my tracked pace is real.

Consistently tracking data over time is critical in market research, too. In brand trackers, for example, we’ll measure the same dimensions so we can accurately compare results wave after wave. This helps ensure our clients can refine the most compelling positioning, optimize brand and market communication, and then track influence on behavior over time.

I'm glad I found a hobby that I love, and I’m even more excited that it connects in so many ways to my job as a market researcher. I’m looking forward to growing both as a triathlete and as a market researcher – and I know if I plan, stay flexible, and remain consistent, I’ll be successful at both!

Topics: data collection, research design, project management

To Label Me is to Negate Me (Sometimes): The case for occasion-based segmentation

Posted by Peter Cronin

Wed, Aug 29, 2018


One of my favorite lunchtime routines is to walk from my office over to the Trillium Brewing Company in nearby Seaport to grab a 4-pack of their current small-batch, limited-time, freshly brewed double IPA.

As far as Trillium knows, I’m an “Epicure”—a beer drinker characterized by my ardor and appreciation for craft beer.

During the summer months, I occasionally stop at BJ’s Wholesale Club to get a 30-pack of Corona (along with a couple of limes) because I like to have something to offer guests when hosting a cookout. In these instances, I’m looking for value, but not necessarily the cheapest option because quality and image are still important to me. BJ’s might consider me your average “Cost-aware Enthusiast.”

Every year on my birthday, which typically coincides with the start of March Madness, I stop at my local beer store to buy a six-pack of Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout. They probably consider me a “Sports Oriented” beer drinker.

So, who am I? A beer snob, a deal-seeking but conscientious host, or a sports fan?

The answers are “all of the above” and “it depends.”  

In some categories (like beer) the same person may experience a variety of needs in any given time and make different choices based on those needs. Segmenting people by their dominant motivation/need risks majorly oversimplifying reality.

To understand opportunities for growth in categories like this, a better alternative is occasion-based segmentation. Rather than segmenting people into groups, occasion-based segmentation considers multiple use occasions instead of just one. As you can see from my example, I’m more apt to purchase one type of beer over another based on the occasion (e.g., time/day, who I’m with, what I’m doing).

Occasion-based segmentation is particularly successful when anchored in the psychology of habits. When a behavior is rewarding, we tend to repeat it. The more we repeat it, it eventually becomes a habit. For many people, drinking beer is habitual. Take my backyard BBQ, for example. Throughout the summer, I repeat the cycle of having friends and family over, eating good food, drinking Corona with lime, and feeling relaxed, restive and connected. This occasion has all the key components of a habit: my craving (motivation) to host triggers a routine of good food and drink that results in feeling connected (reward). Feeling connected makes me to do it again.

When we ask people about their occasions at CMB, we also ask what motivates these choices and to describe the rewards—including the emotional and functional outcomes. These inquiries become the base of the segmentation. 

Segmenting your market by usage occasion can be a powerful source of insight about your consumers. By linking brands to occasions and understanding the psychological needs and emotions that drive choices, marketers can position their brands to be the preferred choice. They can tailor messaging to each occasion to build engagement, preference and loyalty.  

Brand managers at The Boston Beer Company, AB InBev, MillerCoors, etc., should be less concerned about whether I’m a “High Impacter,” a “Macho Male,” a “Trend Follower,” or a “Chameleon.” Classifying me attitudinally will dramatically underestimate the complexity of my buying habits. 

Instead, understanding the core types of beer drinking occasions (and the driving psychological needs and emotions of each), how much volume each occasion represents, and which groups of people over-index on them, can enable marketers to make informed decisions on where and how to focus their messaging, promotions, and product development efforts.

Peter is a brand guy who is fascinated with understanding how others see the world, and an equal opportunity beer drinker who refuses to be labeled.

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Topics: research design, quantitative research, brand health and positioning, market strategy and segmentation

The Anchoring Effect—Avoiding Bias in Market Research

Posted by Hannah Russell

Thu, Feb 08, 2018


Consider the following questions:

  1. Did Thomas Edison patent more or fewer than 7,000 inventions?
  2. To the best of your ability, estimate the number of inventions patented by Edison.

Unless you retained your 7th grade social studies knowledge, you’d probably have a tough time answering. But based on the context given in question 1, you may guess somewhere in the several thousand range. Why is that?

As Nobel Prize winning author Daniel Kahneman explains, this is an example of the anchoring effect—a cognitive bias in which humans tend to rely on the first piece of information offered (the “anchor”) when making decisions. The detail (e.g. number) we automatically “anchor” to then influences subsequent decisions.

So, in the Edison example, according to the anchoring effect, the “7,000” in the first question impacted your answer to the second question.

Consider then, if instead the first question had been: “Did Thomas Edison patent more or fewer than 100 inventions?” Your answer to the second question would likely be a lot less than what it had been in the first scenario.

Our perceptions are often influenced by the stimuli we are exposed to—both consciously and subconsciously. Sometimes, though, this information is useless in helping us make correct judgements (such as the number 7,000 in the example above). Even if we’re aware of an external influence, it can be hard to discount.

As market researchers, we have an obligation to manage and mitigate this type of bias to preserve the integrity of our data.

When creating a survey, we try to avoid anchoring respondents in a particular number (or other pieces of information) and are careful in the way that we order questions. If we’re exposing respondents to various numbers (which is often the case in pricing research), we rely heavily on analytical techniques that ensure randomization and exposure to multiple scenarios.

Ultimately, we can’t avoid priming effects altogether—there is no such thing has 100% unbiased data. But, we need to keep these psychological biases in mind when designing, implementing and presenting data. By recognizing the downstream consequences of something like the anchoring effect, we’re better positioned to find truthful and actionable insights for clients.

Hannah Russell is a Project Manager at CMB who indeed retained her seventh grade social studies knowledge. Thomas Edison accumulated 2,232 patents worldwide, 1,093 of which were in the US.”

Topics: consumer insights, research design, consumer psychology