Research!

August 25, 2010 at 3:43 pm
filed under life, saving the world 9-5
Tagged , , ,

Because I appreciate market research and the information it provides to the industry and the world, and because I like free magazine subscriptions, I participate in an online market research survey-taking company called e-rewards. I’ve taken surveys there for years now. One survey I took recently just fit me perfectly. Usually they’re asking questions I’m no good at, questions for a market that doesn’t include myself or my demographic, but this time it felt spot on. So I took the survey and it felt like every question was speaking right to me. I qualified for a further, in-person research session, a focus group. The topic of this, just to mention it, is granola and cereal bars. I know a lot of people in the world consume these things, but Drake and I each eat one every single day at least, and we’re fussy about which ones we buy, and we have strong opinions on what’s good and what isn’t, based on flavor, texture, hunger satisfaction level, price, nutrition info, availability and other variables. I take my granola bars seriously, that’s all.

Research to me is like eating. I may even have issues with it, perhaps not too unsimilar to my issues with food. If I have a flash of curiosity (which happens 99% of my waking hours) I am the type to need instant gratification – instant answers to whatever questions are on my mind. New knowledge brings new curiosity, and it’s a dangerous cycle if there are other “more important” things to be done. If I have a flash of hunger – also a too frequent occurrence – I want to eat up right away.

The internet is more blessing than curse, because I’d rather live my life satiated than starving. Even if that means bursting at the seams. My brain has room, after all. All I know is that I know nothing.

Gongos Research is the firm that’s doing this granola bar focus group. They’ve called me twice and sent me a letter to confirm my attendance. Yes, I’ll be there, and not just because it pays $100 for 2 hours of my time. I thought it paid less and still I’d be happy to go. Maybe I’m naive, but I think I’m kind of proud to be representing my demographic at this focus group. It’s like my civic duty, right? I think companies want to give consumers what they want, and I’m going to do my best to tell them what I want them to give me. Companies do listen to what we ask for. I think so, anyway.

So because I was curious, I did research about this research firm. It was funny – Google automatically populated “Gongos Research Scam” when I typed in Gongos Research. There wasn’t much info on that, thankfully. So they’re in Auburn Hills, and they look like a small to medium-sized operation, and my God, how refreshing it was to just look at their website. They’re edgy, modern, clean and extremely professional, but there is heart. There is so much heart that their moderators each have a bio which includes a baby picture of them, a timeline of personal microanecdotes, and a photo of them now. I thought, this is a company that clearly cares about people.

Then I saw that their very first company value is “Humanistic.” If this is true, and I swear to you I’m getting the slightest bit moved while writing this, I just can’t say how refreshing and promising that notion is to me. Humanistic, intelligent, passionate and prideful. And HIP(P)! It’s like I just met the man of my dreams.

So, to be a company that conducts research on the public, you have to know some things about the public. You have to be able to level with them and understand them. Psychology matters here!

To my cynical friends in college, when I was completing my degree in advertising and public relations, I used to have to make the argument that the advertising industry is not about selling things that people don’t need to people who don’t need them. It’s about finding the right audience, and engaging people in intelligent dialogue, and “influencing behaviors” by raising awareness of good products and their features and benefits. Good products sell themselves, after all. It’s about human psychology and finding a good balance between finding out what they want and why they want it and then giving it to them. Good companies who are doing good things for consumers deserve to make piles of money. So do teachers and policemen, but that’s another blog for another day.

I participate in “research” in my current role at the non-profit where I work. I recognize the importance of it, and that’s what gets me through. The “why,” I agree with. The “what” and the “how” are where I am all wrong. My organization is perfect. I love them and support them, not only with my time 9-5, but with lots of time on top of that as well as plenty of financial contributions and sincere, free word of mouth to my social network, family and friends. But my role here is all wrong. They have me in a small-picture, data and number centered spot. I have no say in the design of the evaluation tool or its implementation, analysis or, most appealing to me, the final report of the results. I have little contact with the outside world. I’m stuck in this data gathering role because that’s the only opportunity there is right now. It breaks my heart because my boss knows I have strengths outside of this box, she sees my talent in vastly different areas than what I’m presently responsible for, and she’s asked for other places for me, but they’re just not available. Organizationally, donations are down, and staff who have made it through the rounds of layoffs know not to be choosers.

This is not to say that I have a beef with getting my hands dirty or entering numbers into spreadsheets. I know these things are critical to the process of conducting research. But if I have no room to think, to interact with others, to flex my creative muscles, I will lose sight of the big picture, the end goal. Let me out of here – I need to fly!

My Strengths Finder 2.0 list of top 5 strengths includes:
Stragetic – I make smart decisions based on a million possibilities that I come up with all inside my head, in an instant.
Intellection – I am deeply thoughtful, internalized, and I like to read and think a lot.
Input – I have a HUNGER for information. I need to be kept in the loop. I want you to send me links to articles you liked. I am constantly searching for knowledge. Innate spark of curiosity.
Empathy – The highest form of emotional intelligence. I’m naturally able to deeply connect with others and genuinely feel what they’re feeling.
Connectedness – I see things “big picture.” I feel that everything and every person is connected. The “why” of any decision is deeply important to me. I want to do the right thing. (To me, this is very much the INFP of me.)

I thought these “strengths” were useless when I took the test in the back of the Gallup book. But the more I learn about them and think about them, the more I see that I have plenty to offer. I just need to find the place where I fit.

It’s the psychology of it — the human aspect — that fans my fire to know more. I love reading awesome works of literature, but as much as I love completed works themselves, I love what people have to say about them. I scour Amazon for book reviews in my spare time, and in college I read uppity scholarly lit criticism because I liked it. I care as much about the effect that the piece of art has on the general public as I do about the fact that it’s had an effect on me. The response to a piece of art, the fact that it connects people to other people somehow, is its reason for being. It matters to me what people think of it, whether they like it or not, what they liked about it and why, what they thought of certain aspects, what message they think the creator was trying to convey. It’s a conversation – artist, piece, and audience reception. All three play a part in the process of communication. I care a great deal about the authors I admire, the poets, the musicians, the painters, and the filmmakers. Their histories, interests, upbringing, comments on other artists’ work, perspectives on life in general, give me clues to the real message they’re trying to send in whatever it is they create. I want to know the individual – experiencing the art is just a means of doing that. It’s a passive conversation I can have with them at my leisure.

Reading product reviews and restaurant reviews is another time-consuming activity I adore.

So I have education in advertising and public relations. I have professional experience and extreme personal interest in research. This place does market research to help companies better serve their clients. That’s a business with which I can’t fundamentally disagree. So I’m leaving now for this focus group on granola bars. I can’t help but feel like the universe is trying to tell me something.

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  1. Amanda

    on October 29, 2010 at 2:08 pm

    Thank you for a well-written article about what survey research is and helping to dispel the myth that all market research companies are out to scam consumers. I really liked this: “It’s about finding the right audience, and engaging people in intelligent dialogue, and “influencing behaviors” by raising awareness of good products and their features and benefits.”

    As management staff at our market research company (Resolution Research), I’m aware that not everyone wants to do an online survey or participate in a taste test, and don’t want to twist any arms. But, for those to whom such activities do appeal, there are a lot of fun (and paid) opportunities out there!

    Thanks again for a great article, and if you’d like to join our panel, you can do so at http://www.panel.resolutionresearch.com/join. We love enthusiastic people who want to share their opinions!

    -Amanda

  2. carol

    on January 8, 2011 at 11:28 am

    I have been a mamber of this survey company and about 15 others who most definatly are real. I have weeded out the ones out there that are, which was why, when I saw your site that this was a scam, I wanted to read it. I did find what you had to say interesting, if not at all on point, which is why I am writing this comment. What was your end result? scam or not?

  3. Kerry

    on January 8, 2011 at 11:43 am

    Carol, I don’t know if you got my gist or not. What I said was that Gongos isn’t a scam. They’re legit and a class act. I had a good experience with them.

  4. Greg Heist

    on February 11, 2012 at 9:29 am

    Dear Kerry,

    My wife found your blog post and asked me to read it. As someone who has been part of Gongos Research from its beginnings in 1991, I take an incredible amount of pride in our firm and what it has become.

    I was both touched and flattered about what you said about our site and our company. And, I can assure you that the HIPP values you noted are not just words: they truly represent both the culture of the company and every employee we hire. In fact, when we interview candidates, we’re just as concerned about how HIPP they are as we are about their technical proficiency as researchers. In fact, if you’re not HIPP, you don’t get hired, regardless of how talented you are.

    Anyway, thanks again for your kind words. You just made my day. 🙂

    As an aside, keep your eyes peeled for any positions that might be a good fit for you in our Careers section. If you ever apply, please copy me at gheist@gongos.com. I’ll be happy to put in a good word for you!