Electric cars, digital attention spans, and the history of meal time are featured in this week’s round up.


What would happen if the general consumer market suddenly made an attempt to buy items just once?

A car – just once. A bicycle – just once. Clothing and shoes – just once. How would this effect marketing and bottom lines for businesses? Below are a few interesting articles that helped me think about these ideas, all from varying perspectives: as the consumer, as the maker and as the entrepreneur.


— Taj Reid on Points of Interest


Big Ideas—New Website

So, I haven’t been posting for a while, but there’s a good reason for this. I’ve been working on a new website and business plan for Plannerzone, the consumer insights practice I work for.

If you’re a planner, strategist, marketer, creative, troubadour, etc. Please check out our site. I hope you enjoy!

"Euromonitor, a research firm, predicts that the world will add 48m new solo residents by 2020, a jump of 20%. This means that singletons will be the fastest-growing household group in most parts of the world (see chart). The trend is most marked in the rich West, where it has been apparent for some time. Half of America’s adults, for instance, are unmarried, up from 22% in 1950. And nearly 15% live by themselves, up from 4%. But singles are multiplying in emerging economies too—and are changing consumption patterns. In Brazil annual sales of ready-made meals—much favoured by lone-rangers—have more than doubled in the last five years, to $1.2bn; sales of soups have tripled."

Singletons: The attraction of solitude | The Economist



One of the things we all know about advertising, PR, and marketing, is that people don’t make rational decisions. They think they do — people like to tell themselves they made a decision based upon price or quality, and people will post-rationalize and self-talk their way into totally…

Some ideas on adopting more accurate decision models in consumer research.

Recently, among a number of leading policy and economic think tanks, research has been pointing to the fact that irrationality can often be code for “incompatible with the observer’s view point.”

Taking an objective (or rather, dispassionate) view that the world conforms to a classical economic model, one composed of rational actors behaving in their best interest, may prevent the development of deeper levels of empathy and understanding between people (which is out business, after all).

Maybe “irrational” is just a way to avoid the hard work of developing a deeper understanding of another person’s perspective.


Inventing New Products (and stuff)

Writing begets writing, so I’m getting back on the Tumblr train.

I posted this on Quora and thought it would fit here as well. Some thoughts on new ways to structure market research:

Applying Product and Service Design Methodologies

Qualitative applications

Marketing tends to rely on its own tool kit.

There are valuable concepts from product and service development that can be used to enhance traditional methodologies. In particular I’m thinking of some techniques described in Creativity in Product Innovation.

Like all business books there is some filler that you can do without. The section on advertising is especially tiresome. But the first principles under which the authors operate are insightful:

  1. They put forward that in some cases a truly brilliant, novel product concept can’t be culled from market information. Consumer need (market information) diffuses through societies just like innovations and ideas do; think of it like a diffusion of awareness.
  2. Therefore, competitors with similar market capabilities will draw upon the same pool of market information, driving them to build competitive advantage elsewhere (e.g, development team, time to market, cost leadership).
  3. Put another way, it’s statistically unlikely to get “ahead of the curve” in product development because the incidence of consumers with a truly novel unmet need is exceedingly low, at least until awareness of this need diffuses into the larger market.
  4. Building upon this, the authors provide evidence that there is a common taxonomy of innovative products that can be used as a template for creative product development; the configuration of the product itself is used as a source of market information since innovative products (e.g, iTunes, ATM, Railroad) can be seen as a snapshot of the market information from a given point in time.

In effect, they provide an argument—and subsequently a set of tools—that we may deal with the product itself, through analyzing its attributes and environment, as a source market information that can be used to develop new, unsought products. The product is treated as a sort of media that communicates market need.

As a market researcher this points to ways to apply qualitative and quantitative research techniques to identify the product attributes most relevant to the market, and then use various methods (morphological analysis, service delivery mapping) to find new ways to configure a product.

Other fun service design concepts (all qualitative—cause that’s my jam):
  • Having respondents suggest ways to make a product or service channel worse (identifies strong points)
  • Projective and role playing to explore service delivery. This can include developing narratives of an idealized service design, or storyboarding a service channel with consumers and drawing in “what if” points where the service could pivot.
  • Wikis and other crowd sourcing tools

A small idea …

Turing machines are theoretical computers used to solve problems in mathematics, formal logic, and computer science. They form the basis of the modern concept of a computer, one with rewritable memory and programs. And as you’ll see below, they can be made from many things, especially very small things.

Inline image 1

image via Wolfram Math

This is a Turing machine constructed using something nerds lovingly refer to as an “elementary cellular automaton,” meaning that it is a discrete model of interacting cells with “on” and “off” states.

The model shown above, known as Rule 110, is said to be “Turing complete,” it is capable—in theory—of modeling the behavior of a Turing machine and running any calculation or computer program.

Is it amazing that these little blocks can run any calculation or computer program? Is it elegant that we can do so much with so little? Does the similarity between simple computers and simple organisms point to something larger? How can you tell?

If you ever run out of storage space in the cloud, remember: there’s always rule 110.

"It may seem crazy for an ad man to assert that we really don’t “persuade” anybody to do anything. I believe, however, that pitches are won — and people are willing to follow you — not because you’ve twisted someone’s arm, but because people see that you understand them, that you’ve applied the time and the sensitivity to do so, and that you possess a special gift that can help them reach their heart’s desire. And that, my friends, is priceless."

Win the Pitch: Tips from Mastercard’s “Priceless” Pitchman - Kevin Allen - Harvard Business Review