Tim Longhurst's Blog

Entries Tagged as 'Understanding people'

Are we a generation of sell-outs?

July 25th, 2005 · No Comments

In 1999, America’s Business Week magazine published this about “Generation Y”:

[Born] between 1979 and 1994… [they are] 60 million strong, more than three times the size of Generation X, they’re the biggest thing to hit the American scene since the 72 million baby boomers.”

Today, Melbourne’s The Age newspaper quoted Richard Neville on the same group:

“The iPod generation hold the key to the future…”

At first, the thought of being part of the iPod generation seemed ridiculous. What’s going on here? Can an entire generation be identified by our worship of an electronic gadget? It seemed to cheesy. Surely baby-boomer Neville had stumbled: there must be a greater glue bonding my generation than a portable music player? Perhaps something a little more noble, something a little less self-serving?

There probably is, but I think we’ll have to earn it.

Think of the iPod: it’s constructed using a cocktail of toxic chemicals, but not many owners would even be aware of that. There are more advanced, less expensive rival music players, but still some consumers pay a premium for the iPod because of its advertising-driven status. With a button, the iPod seperates owners from their community.

Uninformed, materialistic, disconnected. Yep, I guess a few of my peers are tuned-out iPod owners, but iPod Generation goes too far: when I look at my gen-Y friends, I see another picture.

We are informed. We know that information on the world and our place in it doesn’t come home-delivered on TV. Our understanding of the world also comes from the mp3’s, blogs, conversations with friends, family and strangers. We watch 7/9/10 news running dog-on-surfboard stories, and wonder when the billion-people-on-less-than-$1-a day stories are going to seem more important to the Baby Boomer news directors.

We’re not materialistic. Yes, we like to look nice and yes, we do like the idea of living in a house. But many of my friends have taken jobs
We can become known as the iDeal generation. Informed, values driven, connected.

This is a vision where we may not all have portable music players: we might not be defined by our possessions, but we might find ourselves a world worth living in.

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Category: Understanding people

Work out where you stand with a Political Compass

May 10th, 2005 · No Comments

politicalcompass.jpgWhat are your politics? Are you more ‘right wing’ than Margaret Thatcher? More ‘left’ than Gandhi?

Some people believe that ‘left’ and ‘right’ are words that should be left right out of political discussion. They are outdated terms, it has been argued, that have little use. So what next? Some political thinkers are advocating what they call a Political Compass, in which people’s political perspectives are neatly ‘nominalized’ and charted on an axis.

How the Political Compass works: After answering a six page questionnaire, your political perspective is summed up in two numbers and plotted on a graph. An attempt is then made to show where various prominent political leaders fit on that same graph.

Give yourself a political label here:
Political Compass

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Category: Understanding people

Predicting future consumer behaviour

March 29th, 2005 · 2 Comments

uts.jpgJordan Louviere spoke to a near-capacity Guthrie Theatre on the topic of modelling future consumer behaviour.

Louviere provided his perspective on why management decisions and choices based on ‘gut feelings’ don’t work. He then went on to introduce a sophisticated alternative – a research method developed in Australia in the early ‘80s and now used around the world: “Information Acceleration.”

“Gut feelings” don’t work – Here’s some proof

Humans are terrible at anticipating outcomes. Examples provided included:

  • Somewhere between 10-30% of new business ideas fail in the first year.
  • Thousands of dot-coms failed in the ‘90s.
  • There is no available evidence of humans consistently beating stock markets or predicting interest rates or economic growth.

The thousands of predictions made daily in the media are rarely measured to track the rate of inaccuracy, but it is suggested that this would be incredibly high.

It was hypothesised that we like to “know” that somebody is in charge, and that they know what they’re doing. (Although this is rarely, if ever the case.)

According to research quoted, “human managers don’t know their customers and politicians often make (inaccurate) assumptions about their constituents.”

A decision maker’s ‘Availability Bias’ may be a significant reason why “gut feelings” don’t work.

Two great examples of availability bias are:

  1. A successful executive who attended Yale is likely to remember
    fellow alums he encounters in his business circle and his social
    life. But his success places him in a narrow professional and
    social stratum. Because of his special, circumscribed range of
    experiences he is likely to overestimate the relative proportion of
    successful Yale graduates (because he meets them all) and to
    underestimate the proportion of unsuccessful Yale graduates (because he
    never meets them). [Range of experience can trigger the availability
  2. Unemployed executives are likely to overestimate unemployment
    among executives, whereas employed executives are likely to
    underestimate unemployment among executives. For each executive,
    employment estimates are biased by the vivid salience of their own
    personal situation. [Vivid salience can trigger the availability bias.]

In attempting to predict future consumer behaviour, Louviere suggests we need to step beyond our own assumptions about the world; how choices are made; or the benefits of a product.

According to Louviere, Information Acceleration is far more accurate than widely utilized pre-market product research.

The problem of pre-market consumer research is that consumers (reasonably) find it difficult to predict the future context in which their consumption choices will be made.

Information Acceleration attempts to create an environment that mimics the context in which future consumption choices will be made:

The testing environment researchers create is manipulated subtly for each participant. For example, product advertisements participants see in the research environment may vary. This allows researchers to, for example, identify whether the spokesperson for the product should be male or female, old or young. It also allows product features to be added or removed, to measure the impact such adjustments would make to product desirability.

Data collected in this testing environment can be manipulated to identify what markets would be most likely to purchase the product, and at what price.

Currently, Information Acceleration is used by a number of organisations; Louviere quoted Telstra, the Australian Defence Force and the National Australia Bank in his anecdotal list of organizations that have benefited from this system.

Louviere also mentioned that his modelling for the Spirit of Tasmania’s Sydney-Devonport service was measured to be only 1% off.

Interestingly, recent research using Information Acceleration indicates that Australians are prepared to pay “a small amount more” for products that are socially responsible.

More information: Event Website , PowerPoint Document on Bias [editor’s note: unfortunately this resource is no longer available online and we have therefore removed the link]

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Category: Understanding people