Horses for Courses: The Folly of Dichotomies

Our positivist, Cartesian way of thinking likes dichotomies: black / white, traditional / nontraditional; qual / quant, evaluative / prescriptive, empirical / normative, new media / old media…you get the picture. In the research world, we tend to then move on to suggest that some approaches, a priori, are more valid than others. “Never use online research for measurement. That is not valid” go the purists. “Don’t ask consumers directly why they like or dislike something – you will get only misleading answers”. And so on.

The fact of the matter is that the appropriateness of a research method largely depends on the research objectives – horses for courses. And it is often wise (if at all possible) to combine various data sources and modalities for gaining as comprehensive a picture as possible, before recommending concrete action.

As more and more of what happens in our lives finds expression in our online behavior, digital research has been increasingly accepted as a legitimate means of generating insights. Sir Martin Sorrell estimated recently, that we (in the developed world) spend 20% of our time, on average, online. He ventured a guess that the proportion may even be approaching 1/3rd.

So online research is here to stay, both in terms of understanding how the online environment impacts on the marketing of brands, and as one important component of the spectrum of research tools – enabling us to generate consumer insights more quickly and efficiently. As the web continues to grow in penetration and sophistication, and embraces a larger proportion of our consumers time and attention, online research will play an increasingly important role as one of the signposts towards better business decisions.

Nicos Rossides
Advisory Board Chairman – Digital-MR




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