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  • Repères registered as a certified sub-contractor eligible for research tax credit

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    CIR_205085.34.jpgWe have the honour of having been recognised by the French Ministry of Higher Education and Research as a sub-contractor eligible for tax credit for research. This certification validates the fact that Repères has sufficient R&D potential to be a registered service provider for third parties.

    In practise this implies that any company which calls on the services of Repères within the framework of a Research and Development project eligible for research tax credit may benefit from a tax cut for this service (up to 30%).

    Do not hesitate to contact us for more information.

  • Reperes has the pleasure of inviting you to the Printemps des Etudes, 5th and 6th April, 2012, at the Palais Brongniart in Paris

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    The Printemps des Etudes is the new annual event organised by Etudes Marketing et Opinion, created on the initiative of players of the marketing sector grouped within the Collective Recréation, and supported by leading associations of the profession (Adetem, Esomar, Irep, Syntex Etudes Marketing & Opinion, UDA).

    The idea behind the event is to place content and added value for the visitors at the heart of the approach with a conference programme, feedback, and meetings with exhibitors, validated by a programme committee composed of advertisers, research institutes, inter-professional associations, and researchers.

    Repères has been very much involved in the designing of this event and we shall be delighted to meet you at our stand or during one of our presentations:

    . Thursday 5th April at 11:30, client case study with Danone Research and Mémoire & Marketing: Implicit Tests: Measuring the impact beyond what is stated

    . Thursday 5th April at 4:30 p.m., presentation with Synafap of the results of a qualitative/quantitative study: Arguments for Retail to develop fresh catering products

    . Friday 6 April at 4:30 p.m., we will be participating with TNS Sofres and Actfuture.com in the Flash Benchmark workshop (plenary session): Brand and Emotion: How to gain access to a brand's emotional value

    Proposals for presentations upon registration on the site www.printemps-etudes.com, where you will be able to apply for your badge.

    We wish you a beautiful Spring!

  • What is the nature of the link between the consumer and the brand?

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    logo Emotional Monitoring.jpgThe last MarketResearchNews article was on the efficiency of brands.

    On this occasion Marie Laurence Juan Lallier (Head of Repères Qualitative Research) and Catherine Schutz (Managing Partner at Repères) had the opportunity to express our perception of the nature of the link developed between the consumer and the brand: a link which is fundamentally emotional and individualised and cannot easily be understood by using traditional marketing study approaches.  

     Here is a transcript of their joint interview conducted by Thierry Semblat (*):

    Thierry Semblat:The issue is that of the efficiency of the brand.But maybe this is not the approach you adopt spontaneously?

    Marie Laurence Juan Lallier and Catherine Schutz: It is true that we raise the question from a slightly different angle, by defining what it means for a brand to be loved... Working with some of our longstanding clients, such as Moet Hennessy for example, or Heineken, led to our addressing the two following questions together: What establishes the difference of my brand compared with competing brands? And how is it possible to get an understanding of the emotional link between my brand and my customers?

    Terms are never neutral… Posing the question from an emotional standpoint implies many things…

    Indeed. The first point is that this question does not only concern the major brands, those that target huge market volume or who seek to be the leader in their segment, such as Danone or Coca Cola. Being loved is something that is relevant to everyone!

    We therefore take inspiration from certain scientific breakthroughs we see as major and which clearly reveal the decisive importance of emotions in the way the human brain functions and therefore in the decisions people take. The breakthroughs concerned are in neuroscience, with Antonio Damsio for example, and they may be applied to marketing. The research challenges the opposition between rational and emotional aspects. The human being’s perception of reality is an emotional construction. The way brands are perceived does not escape this rule… The challenge for brands is to know how to capture and nurture this emotional link.

    Consumers also choose their brands according to precise needs, and therefore according to the offers and to the characteristics of the products… Is there not a risk of only focusing on the emotional variables by forgetting the transactional aspects which are nevertheless essential?

    Such a reality, which is that of the products, services, and of their characteristics, clearly fits in with this pattern. It becomes a part of the consumer’s emotional construct to which he or she associates the message and the values expressed by the brand.  Basically we are saying nothing more than that: consumers as a human beings reinterpret reality, whether it concerns the reality of the products or of the brand, by associating one with the other. They do not take reality at face value but reconstruct it in a process in which everything interferes, including personal parameters such as their needs and wishes, but also their past, their experiences, their values, and their beliefs. All of this is a part of a highly unconscious process.

    Emotions are ever-present; they are always involved, this has now been proved scientifically. And the more the emotional dimension is involved the stronger the memory.

    Does the way our society evolve appear to you to be consistent with this importance of the emotional link between brands and consumers?

    There is a societal dimension that needs to be taken into account. In short, there is a rearranging of values, with on the part of individual people a very strong need for reassurance, a search for meaning, for references. And brands are references. The story the consumer builds in his relationship with a brand activates many different dimensions. There is of course the experience of the product or the service. There is the imaginary dimension of the brand: where does it take me, and with which values? This will also have an impact on the relationship that is established with the brand: what the consumer is ready to sacrifice in order to buy the brand. And this will also have an impact in perhaps a more unconscious manner in terms of identity. What image of myself does the brand represent for me, will this image be positive? Using a brand has an impact on a person's identity.

    We need to reassure ourselves, we need references, and the brand provides these, whether it is a major brand or a less well-known brand. Because I have a link with the brand, it transforms me; it is always there and therefore reassures me. It represents a reference that is valid through time. It reassures me whereas society today generates a great deal of anxiety. This means that it is crucial for brands to get a feel for this link and to build it up.

    And at the same time consumers are increasingly prone to switching brands, isn’t that so?

    That’s the other side of the coin. The greater my confusion, the more I seek meaning, and the more I look for it everywhere. And that is the strength of certain brands, their ability to vary their offers while adopting a posture which is basically very stable. People may change, but they know their brand is always there, a bit like a mother.  The important thing for the brand is to know in which respects it needs to be stable.

    Let’s talk more specifically about the nature of the studies that seem to you best able to help brands in this quest for efficiency, or for being loved more...

    With a subject such as this one and using these reflections as a starting point we developed a specific monitoring approach, our Emotional Monitoring, that we use as a complement to tracking methods and which is specifically aimed at assessing and analysing the brand’s emotional impact on the person. This is what we use to study the soul of the brand.

    Classic approaches don’t enable this?

    No. That’s what the Moet Hennessy teams told us several years ago. Some research work enabled them to get an understanding of the personality of the brand, its inherent identity, but this was never reflected in image assessments through the sets of items usually used.   Quantitative approaches completely “flattened” what they perceived through qualitative research and, on the contrary, qualitative studies presented a limit in that they did not sufficiently order the information and, by definition, did not produce figures, thus possibly hindering decision-making.

    These brands with whom we work needed to integrate the quality of this emotional link in their image tracking or image evaluations, and to monitor it so as to measure the impact of the actions taken by the brand. They also felt the need to make this a part of their marketing strategy, so as to define how to project the brand into the future.

    Conventional tools do not address emotional aspects?

    Most quantitative tools don’t because the respondents are asked to rationalise their emotions. Qualitative approaches seek to identify these emotions; they present this projective vision of the brand. But they also have their limits. With focus groups at a given moment we lose the individual story.

    The effects of seeking a consensus and achieving consistency make it impossible to know what people think individually. Emotional monitoring works precisely on the individual perceptions of each respondent, and among a great many people.

    What is this tool and what is its aim?

    It doesn’t do everything. It isn’t there to provide confirmation, or to measure how the brand evolves according to items. It isn’t intended to be used as a method for measuring change on a continuous or daily basis. It’s a tool that's a bit like a sponge which will absorb two or three years of PR and marketing actions. It serves to measure the impact of a medium-term strategy on the brand and the link it establishes with the consumers. The idea is to measure what has been established over time.

    This tool is intended to bring to light the identity and the anchoring of the brand. The terminology is highly qualitative. We talk of the way the brand functions and its dynamics… The aim is to know what the public interprets from the signals emitted by the brand, with the possible "misinterpretations" that may occur.

    The aim is not to seek a confirmation, but to list in order of importance the threats and opportunities of the brand…

    That’s exactly right. While finding out whether over a period of several years the brand has worked in the right direction. This tool doesn’t seek to define the strengths and weaknesses of the brand in relation to the competition. This is done in a different way. The central issue is to know what is special or unique about the brand and what it can use to build on. We are very monadic, however, this doesn’t prevent us from looking at others to gain a better understanding of who we are, and of measuring which brand establishes the strongest emotional link with its customers.

    Your approach seems very qualitative, doesn’t it?

    It is qualitative and quantitative! But we don't seek to establish an opposition between two different techniques. Our philosophy is to provide a “market research” answer rather than a technique.

    The tool we are offering is resolutely projective, to avoid a rational perspective and to gain access to emotions. Each person expresses himself in his own words. But there is a quantification aspect involved since we work on samples of at least a hundred people. This gives us the solidity and reproducibility of the approach. But it also allows us to go into fine detail because we have many individual answers. We don’t do a simple coding of a verbatim transcription, we analyse the answers of each respondent to get an understanding of his vision of the brand.

    In other terms, they are monographs?

    That’s exactly right. We take different “stories” told by individual people and proceed by interpreting the answers of each respondent. But although each point of view is unique, there are "types of perceptions" which emerge. We know how to position each individual in relation to these perceptions and obtain a distribution or quantification among samples of at least a hundred people. We aren’t conducting a mechanical type of study but a process which requires a significant amount of time to analyse.

    In the end, we obtain a quantification of the types of perceptions of the brand according to major routes that structure these representations.

    How do I measure the global performance of my brand, and how do I know what to work on?

    We know how to position each respondent according to a "type of perception" of the brand, but we also know how to measure his or her degree of implication via projective indicators. Does the person wish to remain in the world of the brand as he or she has described it? This is very different from a global perception which corresponds to a sort of abstract average, a rational position which is basically of little use.

    And these figures will be very interesting to complete the qualitative perception in one direction or another. In other words if there is a perception of the brand which is very negative and very present on the market it will be necessary to reduce its impact, the advantage being that we know very precisely what this is based on, including in terms of consumer experiences. It’s of course true in the other direction, we know which experiences and which parts of offers are associated with a positive perception of the brand and must therefore be developed or highlighted.

    The tool is original, how is it perceived by PR agencies?

    We don’t use this tool only with the people we usually work with when doing market research. Exchanges are greatly facilitated with the teams in charge of marketing or of brand image and the agencies because we don’t intervene with an approach that seeks confirmation as is often the case with market studies. We give them elements that they can relate to and which are nevertheless quantified and ranked in order of importance. And we can safely say that even PR agencies like us. And we’re like everyone else, we like to be loved!


    (*) This text was reproduced here with the permission of MarketResearchNews.You will be able to find the five other interviews on this topic on the site: Jean-François Levionnois (LH2), Mériadec Blegent, Marion Luro Zayati et Marcel Botton (Nomen), Michael Bendavid (Strategic Research), Danielle Rapoport, Georges Lewi.  

  • “Le Printemps des Etudes” (The Spring of Market Research): The new event for our profession will take place 5 and 6 April 2012 in Paris!

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    The initiative begun at the end of 2010 by the Collective Recréation has borne fruit: the collective’s ambition was to recreate a new annual event for the market research profession, with the aim of refocusing on the quality of the content and to provide added value for the visitor.

    Recréation, with its 300 members, worked in collaboration with the associations of the market study and communication sectors to define the requirements, to launch a request for proposals, and to finally choose an organiser. After consultation, the agency Empresarial was selected for the relevance of its proposal and because its values were consistent with the collective’s ambition.

    The event, called “Le Printemps des Etudes” (The Spring of Market Research) is designed according to the following principles: a balance between the exhibition function of the fair and its intellectual content, an event with a great deal of added value focusing on business contacts with a wider attendance, and a prestigious venue in a central location.

    The first “Printemps des Etudes” will take place on 5 and 6 April 2012 at the Palais Brogniart in tne center of Paris.

    We look forward to seeing you there!

  • Can science still contribute to marketing progress?

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    Marketing research has advanced by incorporating contributions from a variety of scientific fields, mainly in psychology and sociology, but also from mathematics (specifically, from statistics).

    Does marketing have much to gain from current scientific advances?

    In what fields?

    For what applications, and with what kind of benefits for the corporate world?

    These are the questions underlying the topic of the month dealt with in our article in Market Research News.

    I was interviewed on this occasion by Thierry Semblat (*)

    Thierry Semblat: Is it really a given that marketing will be able to move ahead significantly thanks to recent scientific developments?

    François Abiven: Yes. Scientists have progressed in areas of knowledge that should have a far-reaching impact on marketing. One of the most important of these fields, to me, concerns our knowledge of human behaviour, which is linked to neuroscience and a better understanding of how the brain works. The findings of Damasio, whom we've been talking about for some years, have shed important light on the automatic behavioural system, the subconscious, and the role our emotions play in the choices we make and in the decision-making process. That certainly makes us take another look at how we conduct marketing campaigns and surveys.

    What's so extraordinarily new about this research? The discovery of the subconscious is not actually a new development....

    What's new is precisely what we've learned about how we make decisions. Before these discoveries, we thought of the human being as being able to dissect and analyze his or her available options in a thoughtful, rational way, and to make decisions on that basis. But now we realize that in most cases the decision is much more "automatic", unconscious: the brain searches our memory to help us make decisions, going through circuits very rapidly, and the conscious mind comes in later to justify and rationalise the decision we've already made. These mechanisms are widely accepted today, no one can seriously deny them.

    What does that imply for marketing surveys?

    It makes us think twice before we base our approach exclusively on what consumers say. When we look at survey protocols that give the consumer two options for deciding which packaging design is the most effective, it's obvious now that we get answers that are completely rationalised, therefore skewed.

    But these are two different things, one being placing the consumer in the position of an expert (for example, to decide which package is most effective), and on the other hand, recording the consumer's perceptions…

    That's true. But what's clearly discredited now are these overly long questionnaires that ask consumers to express themselves on how they perceive various items, to finally ask which product they'd buy. That's doesn't really fit in with the consumer's reality. Most often, the consumer is not in control of his or her choice. Of course, we've known about the limits of declarative knowledge for a long time: that's why we use projection techniques in qualitative studies. It's a well-integrated first level that is still wholly relevant. But we have to go farther, and rethink the protocols for quantitative studies to take account of the spontaneous, emotional factor.

    What sorts of techniques are taking us in that direction? 

    Carrying it out to the cutting edge, we can talk about MRI techniques that can show us what portions of consumers' brains are activated by different stimuli they are presented with. We know, for instance, that Coca Cola and Pepsi Cola don't stimulate the same parts of the brain! It's an interesting approach, but we still don't know if we're pushing the right buttons. A simpler angle could be electro-encephalograms, which are being more widely used, in the UK in particular. They also give interesting results, but here too we're getting data that we can't exploit directly. And fairly recently I discovered a panel, in the USA, made up of consumers who accepted to be  hooked up to electro-dermal intensity measurement devices, which record the conductivity of the skin. This measures emotional impact. All these techniques are intended to measure that impact, going well beyond the method based on declarative statements. But there's still the question of how to interpret it.

    It's clear what the keystone is: the limits of rationality. We use techniques to measure what is not rational, what stems from the emotions. But what you're saying is that the difficulty common to all these techniques is that we don't know yet how to use them effectively.

    We need to progress in two areas here. The first is industrialising the processes for these types of studies, and we're moving ahead quickly in this field, making much less expensive and intrusive tools and equipment. The other key is indeed interpretation, defining the standards, and framing the knowledge acquired. But we're moving ahead!

    Are there any other techniques?

    Of course. Particularly eye-tracking systems, which we use at Repères to measure emotional impact. More specifically, we measure the degree of emotional excitement by looking at pupil dilation, seeing how intently the respondent eyes the stimulus, the blink rate, and so on. We are now also able to structure a scorecard for the respondent's reaction.

    This works well, and it's easy to set up. But the limit here is that we know how to measure a certain degree of emotional excitement, but we don't know if it's positive or negative...this means that we have to combine these methods with open questions. But the technique we're developing today, that we're very interested in, is facial recognition.

    So let's talk about that!

    The idea is to incorporate non-verbal and emotional responses by recording and analysing consumers' facial expressions and gestures. And there, we can clearly determine the valence, whether the emotion is positive or negative. We know how to determine whether the person is expressing joy, fear, surprise, or something else. The basic emotions are well apprehended, codified and validated universally. Naturally, we go back to the work of Paul Ekman, the American researcher who's been studying facial expressions since the 1970s, revealing an entire language of expression. And this is innate to all humans; even persons born blind use the same facial expressions as those who don't have that disability to deal with. We've done several experiments on those bases with foods, and more recently with a sniff test in cosmetics, or in concepts.  The results are really very interesting. We've expanded Paul Ekman's classification of basic emotions to include non verbal descriptive language specifically adapted to our test protocols. We've been able to verify significantly finer discriminations between objects tested. Now we are in the phase of standardising the measurements and codifying these expressions to fit them into survey processes.

    What are the main advantages of this type of study?

    One of marketing's big challenges is to reduce the number of failed new product launches, of which there are many today--some say as high as 90%. Of course it's very difficult to draw the line between the quality of the concept and the execution and implementation aspects. But the fact is that the predictive capacity of "traditional" approaches to marketing studies is insufficient. These new approaches should be better at predicting consumer behaviours.

    Another interesting aspect of these techniques is that they enable us to better select concepts and products, an area where the results based on declarative knowledge are most often fairly "flat". Whereas the advertiser's question is of course: which one of these products or concepts creates the most enthusiasm, which one has greater impact? 

    Does this completely undermine the usefulness of declarative knowledge? 

    Oh no! For me, they should be combined. In the trials we've conducted, matching declarative with non-declarative findings has revealed a great consistency. But the non verbal adds a certain depth, a contrast, which is indeed superior. Keeping the declarative approach is a supportive first step! But above all, the idea is the measurement, the real score, will come from the non verbal, whereas the explanation will come from declarative knowledge--particularly from open questions that enable us to pinpoint the consumer's spontaneous associations.

    Are there any other scientific advances that seem important to you?

    There has been some progress in economics, and in statistics.

    We are witnessing the development of a new branch of economics called "behavioural" economics, which is coming on strong and is now widely recognized since the Nobel Prize was awarded to Daniel Kahneman in 2002. This branch invalidates classic economic theory which sees man as "homo economicus", a rational being who always makes the most useful choices for himself. Behavioural economics demonstrates and explains that on the contrary, human beings often behave in a way that seems paradoxical and irrational. For example, the fact that for human beings, the aversion to loss will most often win out over the desire to win, which produces inertia. There's also another example, very useful from a marketing viewpoint, that we find in a very well done book by Dan Ariely: when you ask people to choose between product A and product B, then you add a third product which is a degraded version of product A, it makes the latter much more attractive.

    We haven't got very far yet in determining how to use that in marketing studies, but I'm convinced it will have impact. What is clear, however, is the usefulness of taking into account the effects of the context in which the decision is made (for instance, different offering scenarios). It makes you want to learn how to manage complex experimental schema.

    All this is closely related to the development of neuroscience…

    Yes, the bottom line is the idea that human beings are not simply rational beings. We have to take into account parameters from the subconscious, the emotional realms. At any rate, it signals the end of purely utilitarian visions of things.

    You spoke also about important progress in the field of statistics.

    Right. There have been some discoveries in the field of what we call power laws, and fractal laws. Benoit Mandelbrot is one of the foremost theoreticians, with very interesting applications in the financial field which are in turn expanded on in an exciting book by Nassim Nicholas Taleb: The Black Swan. The questioning of "normal distribution" is particularly interesting from a theoretical point of view. In other words, there are certain phenomena for which it is perfectly valid to think in terms of averages and typical differences, especially with regard to physical sizes (people's sizes, for example--where the notion of average size is meaningful). However, there is an entire area of existence, often linked to human activities, where those laws do not function (the idea of "average" doesn't have any particular meaning, for example, when speaking about individuals' incomes). 

    What this is basically saying is that reasoning theoretically on the basis of normal distribution us to underestimate the probability of extreme events coming into play.

    The dramatic consequences of this skewed reasoning were flagrant in the financial crisis of 2008. The great majority of financial risk projection models are unfortunately built around the assumption of normal distribution, which considerably underestimate the possibility of variations.

    What kind of application could this have in the field of marketing?

    It's still applied very little, but power laws are undoubtedly interesting in estimating future sales, for instance. They would also make it easier to deal with phenomena such as the "long tail", which is widely used in numerical economics (explaining that in final cumulative calculation, total demand for things in low demand is greater than demand for products in high demand). Here again, we are practically just beginning to incorporate these advances into marketing and into surveys, but they open many roads for our future progress.


    (*) This article is reproduced with the permission of MarketResearchNews. You can find by clicking on this site all contributions (in French) to this topic: Yves Krief (Sorgem), Jean Paul Frappa (Expert in data analysis), François Laurent (Adetem and ConsumerInsight), Bruno Poyet (IM! impact mémoire--"Memory Impact") and Eric Janvier (Numsight).