Gray matters: research, Gen Z and location

Researching research

“Market research industry in crisis” says ex-Labour Party president Mike Williams in the NZ Herald, discussing the latest political poll results. The 1News Colmar Brunton poll and the Newshub Reid Research poll results were so different, the usual margin of error excuse could not suffice.

While these discrepancies are irritating to political tragics, the failure of market research companies to poll accurately is worrying for marketers who make many of their decisions based on research which they have hitherto believed to be accurate.

Colmar Brunton sampled 1,009 eligible voters in the latest poll, including 506 polled via landline phone and 503 via mobile phone. Reid Research polled 750 by phone and 250 online. For the online interviews. respondents were sourced from one of several online research companies’ panels which, Reid Research claims comply with the ESOMAR guidelines for online research.

Considering the recent Statistics New Zealand’s census debacle, the Reid Research practice of correcting for non-response in any of the quota sampling variables is concerning, the data having been weighted based on Statistics New Zealand’s population counts.

So, who do we believe? Professor Bela Stantic, director of Griffith University’s Big Data and Smart Analytics lab in South East Queensland, Australia, seems to be the go to guy. While everyone else got the election of Trump, Brexit and the Australian election wrong, Stantic accurately predicted all three.

“With polling and betting markets missing the mark, experts are increasingly turning to social media to judge voter sentiment on a larger scale,” reports the Sydney Morning Herald. “In the five days before election night, Professor Bela Stantic analysed two million social media comments, from more than half a million unique accounts, relating to 50 key terms, and predicted that Scott Morrison would win.”

That’s right, two million social media comments are more accurate than 500 landline responses (who has a landline anymore) 250 mobile phone responses and the views of 250 weighted respondents on an online panel.

It appears that the old school researchers at the legacy research houses are out of touch in this digital age of disruption. “Many experts are wondering whether the answer is to not survey people at all but look at the opinions offered freely on social media,” writes Maani Truu, in an article on SBS but “despite the success of his methods, professor Stantic agrees that the future of polling is likely a combination of new and old practices, taking in big data and face-to-face interviews.”

There are some interesting, emerging methodologies in market research, that may help the modern marketer, including social media analytics, text analytics, mobile ethnography, research gamification, and sensory testing. While social media analytics appears to be a game changer, and word clouds from text analytics now seem a bit passé, a researcher observing the actions of a participant over a period of time using their mobile device (mobile ethnography) is an interesting research methodology for marketers, as is making research fun for respondents by making the process game like. The latter particularly useful with younger digital natives.

Sensory testing, the research of taste, sound, smell, feel, design, look, etc. is really useful in the development stage of a product. More on all of these can be read here.

In a rapidly changing landscape it is the development of artificial intelligence that will have the greatest impact on the future of market research but are our local researchers keeping up with the change? So far, the indications are not good.


The Conscious Advertising Network (CAN) recently announced its official launch in the UK with a “mission to stop advertising abuse, by highlighting the conscious choices advertisers and agencies can make to ensure good practice”. CAN is supported by an organisation ISBA which purports to represent the leading UK advertisers.

“We champion the needs of marketers through advocacy and offer our members thought leadership, consultancy,” it says.

CAN would appear to be an advocacy group that reflects the expectations of the younger generation, particularly Gen Zs, which, according to CAN, are “taking a stand on issues they believe in regarding human rights, race and sexual orientation.”

This is just one more indication that marketers and advertisers are going to have to think differently about how they communicate their brands to a socially-conscious younger market. “The contract between people and brands is being rewritten,” says the CAN manifesto. It would appear that there are forces out there trying to reset the ethics of advertising.

What happens in overseas markets eventually gets to our shores, and there are signs locally that the attitudes of the younger generations to advertising are very different to those that are heading up the ad industry.

“This is the year Gen Z takes over, and fusty companies that want to sell them stuff have to crack the kids’ code,” says an article in Bloomberg. Whereas millennials were digitally native, Gen Z are social-media natives.

Tiffany Kary writes in the Bloomberg article:

“Gen Z consumers don’t much care about brands. Or labels. Or corporations. They see themselves as entrepreneurial; around half may never work for someone else if they get their way. They’re ethnically diverse, socially tolerant, globally connected, environmentally aware. One nickname for the group: Philanthroteens​. They don’t much use e-mail or Facebook; think Instagram and YouTube instead. They’re into thrift-shopping and internet influencers. They sure don’t watch ads on TV, whatever that is.”

As Adam Grant, the CEO of the marketing agency Campus Commandos, reports: “They prefer word-of-mouth (preferably through meme or post or video) when it comes to enlightenment about what to buy.”

Local marketers and advertisers should take cognizance of the Campus Commando belief that college students are developing lifelong brand preferences and buying habits.

The same applies to all of Gen Z, and Emily Gaudette, writing for The Content Strategist, advises “the great drama of their lives plays out on social media” and they “have a unique relationship to content”.

According to Gaudette, Gen Z is used to seeing branding everywhere and as habitual users of social media know that each social network calls for a different tone.

“As young people start to earn disposable incomes, analysts expect them to care more about cause marketing, than previous generations. Gen Z cares the most about issues like climate change, frugality, and equality. These kids are opinionated, and they prefer brands to support their views.”

Back in the Mad Men days, Boomers would signal their prestige and wealth through the brands they wore and the cars they drove. Today, social media gives Gen Z the ability to flaunt their virtue though the purchasing of brands that have an ethical significance.

It may even be time to start targeting even younger than Gen Z. New research from PwC projects the global market for child-friendly advertising will hit $1.7 billion by 2021. As reported in Adweek, “the spend—which is largely driven by advertisers looking to hit an international audience of 130 million digitally-savvy children—is spread across desktop, mobile and tablet devices. Here, media buyers are snapping up inventory across video-on-demand (VOD) platforms like YouTube, search engines and social media.”

Location, location, location

We all walk around with location devices in the form of smartphones and a new survey by Lawless Research and Factual found 87 percent of marketers in the US were using location data or targeting in their marketing campaigns.

As reported in Marketing Land, the report also contains a critique of Facebook and Google and asserts that transparent, location-data driven campaigns (presumably programmatic) represent an alternative vehicle to reach intended audiences at scale.

In a related article, Marketing Land cites an example of Burger King utilising geo-conquesting to run a campaign offering the one cent whopper to audiences that had their app open when they visited a McDonald’s location.

More than 80 percent of the respondents surveyed have acknowledged that location data boosts advertising and marketing campaigns’ effectiveness. Most respondents agreed that geo-marketing is the next-big-thing after automation and AI-driven ecommerce.

As Brian Czarny wrote in Adweek last year: “Location data is powering ad targeting, customer insights, user engagement and campaign measurement and has established equal footing with traditional assets like purchase histories, digital interactions and email response rates. Marketers need to keenly focus on leveraging location data or miss out on crucial opportunities to engage customers and acquire new ones.”


“When classic traditional advertising strategies aren’t delivering, you send in the guerrillas, they implement killer tactics. In warfare context, guerilla strategies depend largely on the element of surprise.” — Josh Turk CMO for Blitzbet.com suggesting you can use friends and staff to create a flash mob.

About Author

Graham Medcalf is a freelance writer and owner of Red Advertising.

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