The following article was posted by Jeffrey Henning on the Vovici blog (www.blog.vovici.com). It is an excellent summary of Ned Winsborouogh’s presentation at the MRA’s First Outlook Conference regarding General Mills’ experience with online qualitative and its subsequent “mandate to move as much of our qualitative research online as possible.” Especially interesting are General Mills findings and how they are adjusting heir online qualitative based on experience. General Mills is a QualBoard 3.0 user and has found it to be extremely successful for them.
General Mills Moving Qualitative Research Online
Ned Winsborough, manager of consumer networks at General Mills, presented “Accelerating
Innovation with Social Networks” at the MRA First Outlook Conference. “We have a mandate at
General Mills to move as much of our qualitative research online as possible in the coming months and years. We have been experimenting with this for a year, but we created our consumer networks team this summer and are now scaling it.” (Consumer networks is the term that General Mills uses for MROCs.)
General Mills has done 22 community projects since last spring. Why online communities? “Online consumer communities meet the needs of consumers, brand teams and agencies with busy lives. They allow you to innovate with consumers better, faster, and cheaper.” With communities, General Mills is able to engage in iterative building of concepts: “We listen, we build; we listen, we tweak. This can be done very quickly, with a lot of flexibility to the method.” Community research allows for faster speed to market. For one project, General Mills did six months of work in six weeks. Compared to other qualitative methods, communities are less expensive. “There is a fixed cost for setting up the communities, which can be very significant, but the incremental cost of doing extra weeks, extra moderation, is very low.”
Ned has heard everything from “traditional research is dead” to skepticism about the value of online community research. “The truth is in the middle,” he said. “It has a place, and we need to approach it like any other new technology. What questions can it answer? What objectives can it meet? What objectives can’t it meet? Where can it fit in an array of methods? It certainly doesn’t obsolete core quantitative methods but it has powerful potential to transform qualitative research as we know it.”