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It's No Fantasy: Online Research Is Like a Player Who Has Hung on Too Long

Posted by MFour on Sep 19, 2018 6:00:00 AM

Blog Football Player 13Sept18

If you're a Fantasy Football player, you probably have been researching yards gained, touchdowns scored and interceptions thrown in your breaks from your main research agenda as a consumer insights pro. Assuming that your Fantasy League hasn't taken over as your main research agenda.

Chances are that one of the research questions you faced was how to evaluate aging stars against emerging young guns. Are Tom Brady, Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning still Fantasy-worthy, their advancing age?

Or would you be better off suiting up one of the new guys -- Sam Darnold, Deshaun Watson or Josh Allen, for example?

Believe it or not, you face similar choice when you're wearing your market research hat instead of your Fantasy Football GM's cap. Can you eke out another project with legacy data from online surveys? Or is it time to recognize that your longtime warhorse has worn out, and its time to jump to the speed, range and versatility of mobile data? If you make the wrong decision, you won't just lose a Fantasy League membership fee. You'll bring in suspect data that could undermine multi-million dollar business decisions.

Our advice as you decide whether to stick to comfortably familiar online studies is to consider Bret Favre, who was one of the greatest -- until he hung on just a bit too long to get the job done. There's no sentimentality in business, so you need to be sure about the data quality you're getting.

Favre had an epic career that lasted 20 seasons – including more than 17 straight seasons in which he set an all-time NFL record by playing in 321 consecutive games (playoffs included). No quarterback in pro football history threw the ball more (10,960 attempts) or completed more passes (6,781). Along the way, Favre won three straight Most Valuable Player awards in the 1990s, and quarterbacked his Green Bay Packers to two Super Bowls, winning one.

Online research also has had its time of glory. For about two decades it was the most prolific survey mode in the consumer data game, and it provided many most-valuable insights. But as was the case with Brett Favre -- and just about every other great athlete -- time and change take their toll. Online research is in its twilight now, its performance and capabilities greatly diminished from its prime.

The statistics show that Favre hung on one year too many: in 2010, his last season, he threw nearly twice as many interceptions as touchdowns, had the worst quarterback rating of his career (69.9, down from peak years when he was always above 90), and suffered a sprained shoulder and a concussion that kept him out of three games, ending that mighty streak of consecutive games played. Meanwhile, the Packers had moved on, trading Favre to clear the way for Aaron Rodgers, who quickly established himself as a great, Super Bowl-winning quarterback for a new generation.

And so it is with online research as it stands today. Quality completes are harder to come by, projects are being routinely intercepted by fraudulent survey bots, and doubts have set in about online’s ability to deliver a demographically representative consumer panel. Increasingly, we see online providers resorting to Hail Mary tactics such as routing, river sample, and multi-source panel-blending -- and sometimes even claiming that approach is a virtue. But the result is compromised data and widespread discontent with project results. 

Meanwhile, the game has moved on to its next dominant player, in-app mobile research conducted with a validated, first-party consumer panel. Brands and major market research firms are becoming increasingly aware of what it can accomplish. To have a productive conversation about how in-app mobile can help you effectively tackle your projects' specific needs, just click here.

Topics: mobile research, market research, consumer insights, pro football

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