Andrew Walmsley on Digital: A vote for the straw poll

Andrew Walmsley
Andrew Walmsley

The need for speed is leading many marketers to seek out rapid, non-traditional polling sources.

Fellow marketing folk, we've got a problem. Given the choice of four major professions - estate agents, lawyers, architects and marketers - 29% of my survey would throw marketing people off the back of a ship, second only to lawyers.

It's an unfair question, of course; I could have made us appear more popular just by substituting politicians for estate agents, and bankers for architects. But this global survey (posted on Ask500People.com) took me less than 30 seconds to put together, and just 24 hours to run against a sample of 34 people.

This poll website lets you pose questions to the world, answer other people's questions and compare your answers with theirs. It's free, but if you've got money, you can push your question out faster and to more people, making it useful as a preliminary research tool.

Bad news for David Cameron on the world stage: at 39%, as many respondents think he's a film director as leader of the Conservative Party. Just 6% think he's a fashion designer, and 17% believe him to be an evangelical preacher.

Ask500People is part of a movement that is changing the face of planning and research.

Research has for years been fuelled by a toolkit that values accuracy over speed, research is the slow train of marketing. From commission to report often takes months, a time during which a business opportunity can come and go. Both tracking surveys and one-offs can take so long to report that their application is growing more limited, and cost has never been such an issue as it is in these straitened times.

Quick and dirty research has often been used as a gut-checker, to refine propositions and subsequent research. Speed to market has always been a competitive advantage, and, as the business cycle gathers pace, research via other venues such as social networks, search and buzz is becoming more attractive.

Firms are also shifting to more iterative means of development. They are less driven by large-scale planning, and more by test-and-refine approaches. They use the market to test their marketing, communications and products.

Some might question the accuracy, relative to older methodologies, but there is a fundamental point to be considered here.

There is an old adage that badly used research is employed like a drunk uses a lamppost: for support rather than illumination. I use it here to make the point that research is about illumination. Research can rarely give you 'the answer' - life is not that definitive. Rather, it enables you to take steps in the right direction.

Google Insights for Search indicated Boris Johnson's victory a month before the London mayoral election. YouTube insights is regularly used in the testing of TV ads, looking at how interest is sustained through the video. Digg, Reddit and Stumbleupon tell us about the popularity of content, and Twitter, meanwhile, gives instant feedback on events, launches and questions.

Combining these tools is being used to predict pandemics, track brand health, test propositions, and develop content. One car manufacturer discovered from forums that mothers had expressed overwhelming concern about a feature of one model that the brand team, mostly men, had never expected. Their response was to make a YouTube video, and post links to it in the forum - closing the loop on a learning they'd never have got before.

Getting better at listening may never be enough to keep us from being thrown off the ship, however. As one of the respondents to my survey put it: 'I chose marketing people because most advertising sucks, and in the few cases it doesn't suck, it still sucks.'

Andrew Walmsley is co-founder of i-level

30 seconds on Ask500People.com

  • The site was inspired by a 2004 book by James Surowiecki entitled The Wisdom of Crowds. Surowiecki argues that 'under the right circumstances, groups are remarkably intelligent, and are often smarter than the smartest people in them'.
  • The site positions itself as a rapid-response centre for broad polling. 'There are tools for surveying groups of independent voters, but they're either slow, expensive or both,' reads the site's introduction. 'We built Ask500People to gather input and opinion data in minutes instead of days.'
  • Current questions on the front page include 'You think our earth will be habitable after 2070?', 'Do you feel your boss is an idiot?' and 'How do you view govern-ment, generally?'
  • Ask500People.com offers three tiers of business polling: internal polling, which is priced from $20-$200 and runs for several days; external polling, which costs $19-$149 and takes hours, and a formal survey, which runs for weeks and starts at $5000.

Discussion

Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus
Brand Republic Jobs

subscribe now

Latest

Lynx tells men not to leave love to fate
HBO captures awkwardness of watching sex scenes with parents
Primark to open first US stores with Boston chosen as flagship location
Marketing spend on the up but a reality check is needed before celebrating
Top 10 ads of the week: Jackpotjoy and BT Broadband fend off Kevin Bacon
Lidl beats Tesco to 10m Facebook fans
Center Parcs ad banned for encouraging parents to take kids out of school
Coca-Cola, Cadbury and Amazon named top brands for targeting youth market
Leaked document shows Nokia to be rebranded as Microsoft Mobile
Nike lays-off hardware staff in move that casts doubt on future of FuelBand
Greenpeace says save the bees or humans will die
What brands need to know about changes to VAT and online downloads in 2015
Jimmy Savile victims urged to claim compensation in new ad campaign
UKIP launches biggest  ad campaign and stirs up 'racist' accusations
Apple boss Tim Cook provides voiceover on ad touting firm's renewed green commitments
John Lewis walks consumers through its history to celebrate 150 years of business
Waitrose boosts content strategy with 'Weekend Kitchen with Waitrose' C4 tie-up
Hottest virals: Cute puppies star in Pedigree ad, plus Idris Elba and Fruyo
Amnesty International burns candles to illuminate new hope
Toyota achieves the impossible by calming angry Roman drivers
Tom of Finland's 'homoerotic' drawings made into stamps
YouTube reveals user habits to appeal to 'older' marketers
Ex-M&S marketing chief Steven Sharp consulting at WPP
Wolff Olins reveals new CEO after Apple poaches Karl Heiselman
Glasgow offers £30,000 prize to best digital idea for 2014 Commonwealth Games
Google's revenues surge but shares drop as it grapples with transition to mobile
Facebook beats Twitter to most 'marketing friendly' social media site crown, says DMA
Fableists believe children like Finn should be outdoors enjoying life
Homebase, Baileys and Camelot join the line-up at Media360
MasterCard renews Rugby World Cup sponsorship to push cashless message