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Monday, 1 March 2010

Women like Gillard for PM - Sun Herald / Taverner poll

A Taverner poll published in the Sun Herald on the weekend reveals slipping support for Labor overall, with both sides now running neck and neck on a two-party-preferred basis. The poll follows a disastrous couple of weeks for Mr Rudd...

Sun Herald / Taverner Poll

posted by Tom Mitchell-Taverner

Friday, 5 February 2010

They’re loud and they’re proud – And they have cash to burn

Some years ago I was closely involved in managing the annual Australia SCAN survey and before that the Australian Social Monitor. These both paid close attention to the differences in values, attitudes, and behaviour between the cohorts of mature Australians, Baby Boomers and various post-boomer segments. I was also involved in the less frequent Youth Monitor and Youth Scan surveys.

One result was frequent invitations to address marketing conferences run by commercial conference companies. Every year I spoke about Baby Boomers at least two or three times, and whenever the Youth survey was held, would be invited to address seminars on marketing to the younger cohorts.

Perhaps once a year I would be invited to address a seminar on the Mature Market.
A point I made to every seminar was the demographic projections about the rapid increase in the numbers of people aged 55+, and the relative lack of growth or even contraction that was predicted for the younger age groups. I also mentioned the high spending power of the Mature Market.

This was of course very well received by the small audiences at the Mature Market seminars (usually under 30), and shrugged off by most of the very large audiences (often 200-300) at the Baby Boomer and Youth market events.

It was obvious that there was a much larger investment in marketing to younger groups than to those aged 55+. Yet the spending power of those aged under 18 is much less than the considerably more numerous and rapidly increasing population aged 55+; while younger people might spend a much larger proportion of their incomes, they simply do not have anything like the accumulated financial resources of Mature consumers.

As I looked around the sessions, one possible cause of this lack of interest was clearly evident: the age of the audiences. Product and brand managers tended to be under 35, with many in their 20s. While teenagers and even children aspire to be like those somewhat older than themselves, I suspect my audiences often identified with those younger than themselves – unless they were at the Mature Market seminars. Marketing to younger groups was seen as fast moving, exciting, and needing continual effort to stay in touch with a rapidly changing target. The 55+ market was seen as not dynamic, was not thought to spend much, and to not spend in many of the categories that attracted major marketing budgets, such as confectionery or luxury goods. All of this is arguably quite wrong.

The demographic tidal wave is now washing through the upper end of the population, with Baby Boomers becoming activist, vocal retirees and pre-retirees. Those in the 55-65 age range have increasing spending power and everyone who has looked at the life styles of Baby Boomers is convinced they will not go quietly into their mature years. Whilst it is not uniformly true that the older age ranges are all “loud and proud” this will become more true as Baby Boomers age into the mature range – and the total segment is growing fast, has money to spend, and is still being ignored by many marketers. I would urge marketers to pay attention to the realities of this expanding, asset rich and often cash rich market that will be growing much faster than any other age segment in the next ten years. Or are marketers themselves still from the younger end of the population that just does not “get it”, and has little empathy for, or interest in, what might appeal in this population segment?

And that raises an issue for market researchers: do we wait to be asked to do research about the rapidly growing and financially powerful market segments aged 55+, or should we be trumpeting the message to marketers that they neglect these markets (and those 55+ are many segments, not all the same) at peril to their profits and shareholder returns?

Dr Don Porritt

Senior Research Director

posted by Tom Mitchell-Taverner

Thursday, 17 December 2009

The 7 deadly sins of DIY market research

It may seem tempting in these cost conscious times to bring projects back in house, to preserve cash flow as much as possible. On the face of it, it’s appealing. Market research is sometimes included in the list of projects that can be in-sourced. Precious marketing dollars can be allocated elsewhere, used to keep staff, or simply not spent. After all, how hard can it be? Most marketers probably remember their market research 101from university days. There are so many tools available to people on the web, automated survey builders and on-line polling software is springing up everywhere.

But the world of in house research is fraught with problems, unless your organistion employs formally trained market research professionals. Not only might your dream of dollars saved turn into a nightmare of hidden costs and missed deadlines, there is a very real chance that lack of experience and flawed methodologies could see your company making multi-million dollar decisions based on data that is...well, plain wrong! It’s a very risky strategy.

Here are the 7 deadly sins of DIY market research. You have been warned!

1. The first deadly sin is bias. Clearly, if you commission and carry out your own research there is a high chance that your own views, theories, desires and even your own "political axe to grind", will find their way into your project, via biased question selection and design.

2. Sample. Linked to the first deadly sin of bias, lack of knowledge of sampling techniques can lead to a seriously biased sample, skewing results and leading to woefully inaccurate data sets.

3. Lack of current knowledge. Market research is a continually evolving science and we learn new and better ways of doing things all the time. Missing out on this insight leaves your competitors who continue to use a high quality research firm several steps ahead of you.

4. Time away from your "real" job. The latest project might be a welcome distraction from your team’s core duties, but do you really want your team taking their eye off the ball? Let’s face it they were hired for a reason; better they stick to what they know if you want to maximise the effectiveness of your marketing.

5. "Tack-on" research: "Don’t worry, I’ll just add a few research questions to our direct marketing material", or worse still; "Don’t bother with that customer satisfaction project, I’ll just ask our sales reps to ask their customers if they are happy". Need we say more?

6. Completing interviews. Often in the initial flush of enthusiasm completing surveys does not appear to be an issue. However the law of diminishing returns dictates that completing quotas gets harder and harder, especially if you have designed a long interview. There is a real chance that timelines for the project will blow out or worst of all the project will simply fail to get completed, wasting a great deal of time, money and lost opportunity.

7. DIY design and analysis just doesn’t cut it. Sophisticated, advanced qualitative and quantitative questionnaire design and analysis, done by experts, often using expensive and complex software, allows for far greater insight.

Outsourcing your market research requirements makes sense both in financial terms and data accuracy and quality.

By Michael Trigwell, National Research Director

posted by Tom Mitchell-Taverner

Monday, 30 November 2009

Are you living in a "fool’s paradise"?

All marketers need to know how their offers are appealing to customers, and many use customer satisfaction surveys to get their answers. But the uncomfortable truth is that these surveys often fail to provide actionable data, don’t change much even when market share is dropping and customer defections are rife, and can easily hide rather than reveal the problems that need swift corrective action – so much so that some experts recommend that satisfaction is not the most useful aspect of customer experience to measure (Reichheld, 2003). Measuring recommendation is another approach that may give a better prediction of loyalty – but it does not tell you how to increase loyalty or gain stronger recommendation. None of these approaches give you consistent insight into what problems customers might have with your product or service.

Most now realise they need to benchmark against major competitors, and gain data from potential customers, even from "rusted on" adherents of competitors.

Many already go beyond measuring satisfaction and measure loyalty (share of wallet for that market), purchase intentions and advocacy.

Some replace a performance index based on satisfaction scores with the Net Promoter Score – despite the evidence that there is no "one best number" to sum up customer response to their offer.

And yet, most still have the same problem they started with. All this measurement can help, but does not seem to solve the marketer’s twin problems – to know how their offers are appealing to customers and the wider market in comparison with competitors, and to find ways to improve their competitive position.

Replacing satisfaction surveys with systems to capture and analyse customer complaints is one approach to obtaining much more actionable data. However, this provides no benchmark data about competitor performance. Transforming satisfaction surveys to capture complaints, or product and service failures, and including competitor customers in the samples can give much more actionable data.

Adding items to capture delights – experiences with the product or service that exceed what a customer believes can reasonably be expected – can be even more revealing.

Experience surveys work best when they ask about how often specified things go wrong, how serious the impact was, and obtain at least one "story" about a problem the respondent has experienced, with an account of what happened. Adding a story about outstanding performance can add further actionable insight.

One lesson from studies that have used this approach is that having a single problem often has little impact on satisfaction, even if the outcome was unsatisfactory. Having had two problems has a bit more effect.

Having three or more problems has a quite disproportionate effect. This seems to exceed a general human threshold for dissatisfaction and action. However, the action is often to change supplier rather than to complain.

Another lesson is that outstanding service often hides quality problems. When stories about outstanding service are analysed, they often involve staff making heroic efforts to recover from a failure of the product or the service system. Staff might even have violated rules and gone outside the prescribed system to meet a customer’s requirement. This can produce a very satisfied customer and can explain why some customers who have had even quite severe problems can be very satisfied. However, it can hide the need to change the system so the need for heroic recovery action does not arise in the first place.

Taverner have been working with proven methods for obtaining stories about problems and delights, methods that work even in an online survey, and work well in a CATI survey with well trained interviewers. The type of probing that is often thought to be impossible without highly skilled executive interviewers can in fact be written into CATI and even online survey scripts.

So, to summarise, go beyond measuring satisfaction by designing your customer experience questionnaire to include:

1) A checklist measure of service and product problems.
2) How problems have turned out.
3) Verbatim accounts of problems and what was the response.
4) Verbatim accounts of outstanding service or product experience.
5) Measures of overall satisfaction, loyalty, purchase intentions and recommendation.

posted by Tom Mitchell-Taverner

Monday, 9 November 2009

Are you sure you still know your customer?

The article below was written by Philip Mitchell-Taverner, Managing Director Taverner Research, and is the first thought leadership piece in an ongoing series of articles, stories and general industry information pieces.

So much has been written about the Global Financial Crisis it can be overwhelming and, if you are not careful, confusing. At times like these, carefully selecting reputable organisations, publications and authors to inform you is a smart survival strategy. I hope you see Taverner Research as one of these reputable organisations that can guide you as we emerge from one of the most turbulent eras of recent times.

This is never truer than when the green shoots of recovery first appear. Have we really hit bottom? Perhaps there will be a late frost that will endanger those delicate new shoots. There is little doubt that there will be more “bad news” days, the stock market will continue to yo-yo as investors take profit as the market rallies. Such events unnerve the market and unsettle those who are planning for the recovery.

A big question that I am asked by many of our clients and one we constantly debate internally, is when is the right time to start reinvesting in market research? No doubt budgets have been slashed, especially by those global corporations based in the USA and Europe is little better. With business confidence only slowly returning, one might expect a cautious approach to reinvesting in market research.

However such a cautious approach creates a serious problem for organisations. There is little doubt that your customers will have been significantly altered by the Global Financial Crisis. Maybe they have lost their job, perhaps their pension plan has been decimated. If they are under 35 years old, they have just experienced their first recession since entering the workforce, what has this done to their spending habits and patterns and their approach to risk? How have their spending profile and priorities changed. Has their brand loyalty held up? How have attitudes to work and their employers changed? The list goes on. These are serious and crucial questions. Can you really afford your competition to find out before you?

It has been well documented that some of the biggest fortunes have been made in the worst recessions and it is equally true that those organisations that adapt to the brave, new, post GFC world, will be the first to prosper and win crucial market share. Those organisations that invest now will be those that create competitive advantage, an advantage that once created, may last for many years to come.

Give us a call or drop me a line to discuss your point of view. Perhaps together we can solve these pressing issues.

posted by Tom Mitchell-Taverner

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Taste of Hollywood in the heart of the CBD

Our own Debbie Owolabi recently found herself giving a PowerPoint presentation with a difference. Not the usual Healthcare presentation she generally creates for clients, this slideshow was titled "From Surry Hills to Hollywood" and included acting tips learnt at the Actor’s College of Theatre & Television (ACTT).

Debbie’s creative passions started early; she had an interest in acting as a young child and later excelled in drama at school. However her parents didn’t think it was a realistic career ambition and she went into sciences, eventually gaining a degree in Pharmacology. Debbie admits, "I guess I’ve always regretted not exploring my creative, dramatic side. So I joined ACTT to see if I have any talent for acting and if I would still enjoy it…also I thought it would help me in my job; give me confidence presenting to clients and talking in meetings."

Given the seemingly sizeable gulf between a corporate life and rolling around the floor in 'creative play', the choice may be seen as a brave move on Debbie’s part. "The first time I got my script and character for one performance (Betsheb from Louis Nowra’s The Golden Age) I was mortified. My character was loud, primitive, animalistic and had her own language. For a pharmaceutical market analyst this was quite a stretch.” But it didn’t take too long for Debbie’s to overcome her fears. "I think the reason I was given the role in the first place was to challenge me. When I did it it was a breakthrough for me; helping me to let go of my blocks."

The camaraderie, support and realisations Debbie had as a result of the course are still evident. "Accomplishing a three night run of our end of year play is probably one of the most significant achievements of my life. Putting on a show that the public would actually pay to see was awesome. It’s an experience I will never forget."

Now when Debbie arrives at work at Taverner she has a life-changing experience under her belt, along with tangible skills she can use in everyday professional situations. "I’m a much better presenter than I used to be. Whereas previously I would have been self-conscious and nervous during meetings with senior clients or colleagues, I now have the confidence to command a room when I need to, and to hold the floor in meetings."

And Debbie’s hottest acting tip for communicating with any audience? "It’s a matter of identifying and eliminating your blocks – the fears and old patterns that stop you realising your full potential."

More information on ACTT courses can be found at or by calling (02) 9213 4500. Debbie can be contacted at

posted by Tom Mitchell-Taverner

Monday, 1 June 2009

Anyone could do better - Taverner Poll

Taverner Research ran a Poll on Friday in association with The Sun Herald, to monitor NSW voter sentiment on the two main State Government parties and their leaders.

Pollster Philip Mitchell-Taverner noted that whilst there are still a couple of years to go in Labor running New South Wales, the party is experiencing very negative attitudes from voters. This is despite high hopes pinned by Labor administrators, on the recent appointment of Nathan Rees to replace Maurice Iemma as leader.

The findings from the Taverner Poll suggest strongly that voters are saying any opposition party could do a better job. This most likely infers that voters are in fact “hoping” such improvement would occur, as there is really nothing an opposition can do to prove it.

Voters are saying that the opposition, if in power, would do a better job on virtually anything – health, public transport, roads and even education. Nothing the government touches in New South Wales these days seems to attract any praise.

The poll had really good news for Barry O’Farrell, the opposition leader, with over half of all voters preferring him over Nathan Rees as their Premier. Only one in three prefer Rees. The boost for O’Farrell continues an upward trend in his popularity, though many might apply the “drovers dog” analogy (made famous by Paul Keating in a similar kind of context some 15 years ago).

As noted by Philip Mitchell-Taverner, “Labor in NSW has created a strongly and widely held perception that it is incapable of effectively managing the NSW economy. Voters now are of the strong opinion that an Opposition under O’Farrell is far more capable of providing the leadership they want and would be shoe-in to win. The only thing in Labors’ favour is that it still has two years in office to turn everything around."

Philip Mitchell-Taverner further noted that Rees remains safe at present as ..."despite low ratings for the Nathan Rees, he seems set to stay as leader, with none of the more obvious alternatives having strong support to displace him.”

One possible option available to the government lies in the coming State budget. Voters are crying out for more money to be directed at health – 61% say this is the biggest State Government funding priority at present. This finding comes at a time when the Taverner Poll also shows that almost 8 voters out of ten (78%) would prefer hospitals and health services to be managed by the Federal Government instead. This is a trend that the State Government should seriously address if it is to appeal more to the public in a way that will really resonate with voters.

Philip Mitchell-Taverner further noted that whilst there is a perception that the health system, in particular, might well be better administered federally, a majority of NSW voters are against abolishing State Governments.

posted by Tom Mitchell-Taverner

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Climate change press release - 15.03.09

More than eight in ten Australians believe that climate change is happening and that humans are at least partially responsible. An overwhelming nine in ten of these people want Australia to take a leading international role in tackling this issue. They say we should not wait for larger countries to spell out their policies first.

When the views of climate change ‘sceptics’ (the 16% of people who accept that the climate is changing but who doubt that humans have caused it) are taken into account, a massive 83% of Australians still favour Australian leadership according to the poll.

These findings have just been released from Thermometer Survey, a commercial syndicated research based service which provides information to several state governments and large private and not‐for‐profit organisations in Australia. They come from the most recent wave of one of the largest surveys of community opinion on climate change to ever be released publicly, conducted in February and which confirmed results from an earlier baseline survey conducted last September.

The survey was administered among a representative sample of 1606 Australians in September 2008 and updated among 1510 in February 2009. Given the size of the samples, the result is estimated to be the same, plus or minus 2.5%, as if the entire Australian population were to be polled, and would be repeated nineteen times out of twenty. By showing that the September result was replicated in February gives the poll significant credibility.

Only two percent of Australians (just one in fifty) deny the climate is changing. More than eight in ten (81%) believe human activity is at least partially responsible for climate change while 14% say there is no connection between changes in the natural environment and human development. Among those Australians who do believe there is a connection, 90% in September and 91% in February encourage early action by Australia.

In light of the global financial crisis, a new question was added to the February survey to test Australians’ resolve to act on climate change in the face of deteriorating economic conditions. 59% reported that they believe Australia should not wait until the economy crisis passes before addressing climate change but that we should take action on both issues at once. Only about one in eight believe action on the economic crisis should take priority.

Respondents were asked in both September and February to name the three most serious issues facing Australia on an unprompted basis. In September, the environment topped the list, mentioned by 46%. The economy came second, mentioned by 33%. Five months later, the two issues had reversed positions. The economy shot ahead 36 points to capture 69% of mentions and the environment fell just five points to be mentioned by 41%.

Thermometer Surveys ( is the trading name for Think Taverner Pty Ltd, a partnership between Taverner Research and Think: Insight & Advice. Thermometer Survey is an ongoing tracking study of community opinion in relation to climate change and its detailed findings are available by subscription. Thermometer Surveys also undertakes custom projects for individual clients interested in the people side of climate change.

posted by Tom Mitchell-Taverner

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

New Healthcare Director - Sarah Dixey

Taverner is pleased to announce the appointment of Sarah Dixey as Research Director – Healthcare. Sarah joins us from Merck Sharp & Dohme (Australia) where she held the position of Senior Customer & Business Insights Partner. Sarah’s appointment boosts the capabilities and expertise of the established Healthcare team.

Sarah is a customer focused, energetic, resourceful market research and customer insights professional with Australiana and International experience, and has demonstrated success in delivering strategic and tactical insights to a range of clients. She has a sophisticated understanding of quantitative and qualitative research techniques and an ability to use this knowledge to solve complex business needs.

She has expertise in brand positioning, brand health, needs based segmentation, creative development research, new product development, advertising testing, customer loyalty and satisfaction and ethnographic research.

In addition to Healthcare, Sarah has experience in a wide range of B2C and B2B markets including finance, FMCG and telecommunications. She also has an MPhil Marketing (Cranfield, UK) and BSC (Hons) Applied Biology (UK) and her career has included roles of Research Manager at MBF and Commonwealth Bank, Account Director at TNS, and Senior Client Service Manager at Research International (NZ).

Welcome Sarah.

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posted by Tom Mitchell-Taverner

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Happy birthday your Majesty

In October, Managing Director Philip Mitchell-Taverner was interviewed by Tadahiko Yamaguchi, Consul for the Consulate-General of Japan in relation to his views on both State and Federal politics. The meeting took place following a successful Taverner Research poll published in the Herald Sun which accurately predicted the results of the the recent Ryde by-election for the seat vacated by John Watkins which saw a shift of 24% from ALP to Liberal.

In appreciation of his insight and recognition of his position as a respected pollster, Philip was invited to attend a gala reception at the residence of the Consul-General to celebrate the birthday of His Majesty the Emperor of Japan.

The reception was attended by the elite of Japanese community in Sydney. Speeches from local and international dignitaries touched on the history of Australian-Japanese relations dating back to 1870's.

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posted by Tom Mitchell-Taverner

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