Sunday, May 24, 2009

Cheskin Research

My former employer, Microsoft, made extensive use of research to understand how to market to each information technology segment. The intent of such research was to help Microsoft establish more powerful social capital than its competitors. Social capital is existing, defined relationships that make transactions easy to accomplish (see Buchanan, 2002, 201-204). Cheskin Research was one of the companies that Microsoft used (see the Cheskin Web site).

Expertise and Methods
Cheskin is what McDaniel and Gates (2008, p 8) would call an applied research firm, one that helps companies better understand the market. Their specialty is multicultural markets in the US, which have grown faster than any other US consumer market. Cheskin applies a proven research process to help firms gain the insight they need into this area of explosive growth.

Cheskin also notes that the "general market" is showing increasing signs of reaching a tipping point on diversity - having powerful ethnic characteristics that will soon invalidate "general market" strategies. McDaniel and Gates (p. 9) observe that companies use firms like Cheskin to do programmatic research to understand “market segmentation, opportunity analysis, or consumer attitude and product usage studies” (see Cheskin on Opportunity).

Their clearly defined research process is very similar to the marketing research process described in the McDaniel and Gates text.

  • The first step is to envision or frame the objectives of the research (see Envision)
  • Next, explore to understand consumer needs, segment characteristics, and trends for both competition and the market (see Explore)

  • Third, create or evaluate the concepts born from the exploration. (see Create) This means that they additionally do Selective research (see McDaniel and Gates, 2008, p 9)

  • An important next step is to craft a well-told story. (see Inspire) McDaniel and Gates (p. 52) say that “this is a key step” because research “must convince management the results are credible.…”

  • Finally comes the solid innovation and differentiation for Cheskin, - for a fee they will also act as consumer advocates after the research phase has completed to assure consistency of management action with market need. They call this the Express service (see Express).

Adequacy of Web site
As you can see by the material at the end of the above links, the Cheskin Web site does a good job describing and promoting their services. Furthermore, their site has blogs and podcasts (see Cheskin Blog) and various articles of interest (for example their article on the ROI of Diversity). I also appreciate that their search function has both a directory as well as free text search (see Search). I can go to a topic area and look at only the subject of interest, avoiding the usual irrelevance of many returned results from free text.

How to Improve Web Site
That said, I don’t think they have the perfect site. It is incomplete. As an example, I searched their directory to find if Cheskin used panels and how they handled panel effects. I clicked on Methods and Techniques and the following was presented:

I used their free test search with no better result. Using Yahoo, I was able to find that Cheskin does conduct panels (see Living Room Panel). Dennis (2001, p 1) reports that research firms may create professional panelists who respond differently than the rest of us, the panel effect.

Another issue with the Web site is that it does not organize around customer profiles, but rather it is organized around Cheskin and its functions. In contrast stands the WVU Web site (see WVU Web) that does have customer profiles as well as functions. Each profile tab has content organized according to the interest and comfort level of the profile. University of Maryland is the same (see UM Web). Among others, Lisa Sanders (2007, p 1) advises Website designers to use the concept of “personas” when creating a site. Personas are ”archetypical characters [who] represent specific consumer segments.”


Buchanan, Mark (2002). Nexus: Small Worlds and the Groundbreaking Theory of Networks. Norton.

Dennis, J Michael (2001). Are Internet panels creating professional respondents? Marketing Research.

McDaniels, C and R Gates (2008). Marketing Research Essentials. John Wiley.

Sanders, Lisa (4/9/2007). Major marketers get wise to the power of assigning personas. Advertising Age, 00018899 Vol. 78, Issue 15. Retrieved from EBSCOHOST on May 23, 2009

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