This should ideally be two blog posts, but one thought led to another, and so on! With that warning, here goes…..
An article I read recently – Paying for Sport Online – highlighted the challenges with sports research in India (actually most research in India)! This was a Global Web Index survey which covered 16,000 internet users across multiple countries. Indians ranked really high on consuming sports highlights on the web – I guess you could credit the IPL-YouTube deal for that. But here is the killer – the sports fans ‘most likely to pay to enjoy streamed sports without advertising’ are…..you guessed right….Indians!! Check out the chart below!
The guys at CricketNirvana and Ten Sportsm will be laughing at this research (for those of you who are unaware, CricketNirvana tried offering LIVE India cricket matches on the internet through subscription, found no takers and finally had to go to a free, advertiser funded model)! They know (and so do we) that we in India prefer our content for free. If that means having to put-up with hundreds of ‘irritating’ ads, so be it! Paying for content is out of the question!
So what’s with the survey then? Marketers and researchers in India describe this as “the top-box phenomenon”! I.e. we Indians have a tendency to be extremely generous with our ratings of products, answers to questions etc – always pick either MOST LIKELY TO BUY or LIKE IMMENSELY or some such superlative! In the 5 point scale, our answers are almost always in the ‘TOP Boxes’ (4 or 5). Which means that absolute ratings/scores in India have no meaning – we always need a benchmark/control sample score etc. to interpret results (there are cases where 90% consumers surveyed saying that they would DEFINITELY BUY a product is interpreted as – the product is doomed!!).
Top-box phenomenon or not, most consumer research in India is flawed. When you (the researcher) ask a consumer a question, his answer is dependant in many factors – who you are, who he is, what he thinks, what he feels, what he thinks you feel, what he thinks you will think about what he says etc etc. This is a global phenomenon, but is especially exacerbated here, which is why a lot of the ‘scientific ways’ to address these ‘research challenges, biases’ etc still fall short.
That said, consumer research is still really useful, provided you know what you are doing. I’ve been a part of quite a bit of quali research, where we have got quite a lot of insights – the key is to look for stuff beyond what the consumer is saying – what is the tone in which the consumer has responded, what are the circumstances, the facial expressions, the body language and most importantly – what is the consumer not saying?
Which brings me to something that was recently showcased in India – neurological research. This is about capturing consumer’s responses at the sub-conscious level – eliminating cultural, social and language barriers – and quite literally getting to the heart of the matter. This research is quite expensive (you need proper medical equipment) and has been in the developmental stage for quite some time – but has now acquired some serious momentum as a commercial offering. NeuroFocus is a leading company doing such research (the founder incidentally is a Dr. A.K. Pradeep). The company is supported by Nielsen as well – so we will probably see it in action in India fairly quickly.
NeuroFocus has done some sports related research as well. A piece on the Beijing Olympics - Was Beijing Worth Billions - concluded that “Achieve” and “Inspire” were attributes that resonated highly with the Olympics. Attributes like “Peak” and “Celebrate” didn’t resonate too well (which probably means that Coke shouldn’t be extending its FIFA “Celebrations” activation idea to the Olympics). They did another piece around picking the right NFL Quarterback for brand endorsements - NYT SuperBowlQuarterbacks.
Undoubtedly, this stuff will get more refined as we go along. The potential to really understand what the consumer feels (instead of getting swayed by what they say), holds great promise in a market like India:-) The potential of applying this kind of research is even more with sport fans - after all there is so much passion involved in sport!