Everything is connected (moreso than usual)

There have been lots of interesting political analyses coming out of the recent election, and since we are rabidly non-partisan at Corona we haven’t spent much time covering them (other than the all important donuts and coffee polls).

But this amazing analysis of how Obama’s victory was created by the sea level and sedimentaton pattern of the late Cretaceous Period (85 Million years ago!) just blew my mind.

It started, as most good things do, with some maps.  The sublime Strange Maps blog posted maps by biologist Allen Gathman showing a general correlation between those areas of the South that in 1860 produced cotton (black dots) and those areas of the South that voted for Obama in 2008 (blue shaded counties).

Then Christian Neal McNeil, at his blog The Vigourous North, produced a tour de force followup, linking 2008 to 85 million B.C. (seriously–go read the post.  It is splendiferous, and I’m only going to give it a quick gloss here).

In the late Cretaceous, most of Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, and costal Carolina were underwater (85 million B.C. is on the right, 115 million B.C. is on the left).  These shallow seas were full of marine life, which lived, and died, and drifted to the sea floor, creatiging lush soil deposits in the shallows of these transient seas.  That soil was well suited for cotton cultivation, which relied on slavery, leadign to ares of the south where African Americans outnumbered Caucasians.  And this demographic pattern has continued in many of these areas to the present day, contributing to the socio-demographic conditions that created the South’s particular vote pattern.

So in a way, the results of this election have been a looooooooooooooooong time coming.

It reminds me of a mini-episode of James Burke’s TV Show Connections, where historical facts careen against each other creating reality from the gestalt.  I always get a  rush of creative energy reading something like this!  What other amazing correlations have you come across?

Just released – “Generous Colorado: Why Donors Give”

Corona is pleased to share some recent research conducted on behalf of the Colorado Nonprofit Association. Corona has been a long time partner with the Colorado Nonprofit Association and yesterday morning marked the official release of two reports on individual giving in Colorado (Corona researched and assisted with writing the report, “Generous Colorado: Why Donors Give”).

A few interesting findings, included:

  • Nearly all Coloradans surveyed believe nonprofits play a major role in making our communities better places to live.  Furthermore, most Coloradans believe that all businesses should support charitable causes.
  • The top three reasons people select the charities they support are as follows: they believe the organization is trustworthy (98 percent), they believe the organization is well-managed and effective (96 percent), and they believe the organization supports a cause they believe in (96 percent).
  • Other than their spouse or significant other, few residents consult others when making their decisions about charitable giving. Forty-three percent consult a spouse or significant other;  another 38 percent don’t consult with anyone.
  • The typical volunteer provides upwards of 20 hours per month to their cause(s).
  • Forty-six percent said they would give less due to the current economy.
  • The most common means of contact that compels a person to donate (time or money) is being asked to do so by a person they know.

Click here for the full report.

Award winning client makes us proud

Clínica Tepeyac, a Denver-based nonprofit that provides health care and preventive health services, won the El Pomar Award of Excellence in the area of self-sufficiency last week. This award, by one of Colorado’s private foundations, recognizes nonprofits and community leaders in 11 different categories. The process is competitive and the award much sought after as a symbol of excellence.

I’ve been providing strategy consulting services to Clínica since 2001 with a focused effort since 2007 through the Rose Community Foundation’s BOOST Initiative. We’ve worked hard to complete a thorough self-assessment and a really strong strategic business plan. I’m very proud of the work we have done together. It begins with a fundamentally strong organization that focuses on meeting an important community need. Clínica is clear about its mission, core values and distinctive competence. It has a track record of solid growth exemplified by significant increases year over year in the number of patients served. Clínica has a committed group of staff, volunteers, board members, partners and funders. (To see an example of one of Corona assessments, click here (pdf).)

As David Lack, Executive Director, noted “I believe this award is an affirmation that we have an important mission and that we stay focused on it.”  The award includes $15,000 in unrestricted funding.

Keep up the great work!! I can’t wait to see what 2009 brings.

Corona’s 500th Project

With the notice of a project win today, Corona Research has just won our 500th project!  We hit that mark in (only) 490 weeks of existence.  Yes, we’re number people.

In the spirit of the Thanksgiving holiday, we would like to thank our clients, partners, contractors, and even just friends of Corona for making us so successful.

Now time to celebrate with a weekend filled with gorging ourselves on turkey, washed down by – you guessed it – a Corona.

Obama plus the Internet = A new strategy for political engagement

President-elect Barack Obama’s campaign is garnering attention for engaging millions of Americans in the political process. Not only did his campaign reach new heights in terms of the amount of money raised, and the number of people involved and connected, it has reshaped the political industry. The October 2008 Harvard Business Review includes a thought-provoking article entitled “Shaping Strategy in a World of Constant Disruption” by John Hagel III, John Seely Brown, and Lang Davison.

According to the article, “We live in an era of profound and accelerating change.”It posits that the old days – the days of technological change embodied by the steam engine and telephone – were typically periods of disruption caused by the new technology, followed by periods of stabilization.Companies and entire industries had a chance to catch up during those stabilization periods, thereby minimizing the long-term benefits gained by the early entrants.

As we know, the digital age has meant the end of stabilization as we knew it.We now live in an ongoing period of disruption driven by technology.“Today’s new digital infrastructure … gives relatively small actions and investments an impact disproportionate to their size.”As such, it allows companies to formulate “shaping strategies” to reshape industries, rather than merely adapt to them.

It occurred to me after reading the article that this is exactly what the Obama campaign did these past two years.It used a technology-fueled strategy to gain a competitive advantage, shape an industry and achieve success.His campaign has set new expectations for communication with and engagement of consumers (read “voters”).

When you look at the size of his war chest (still growing via donations to pay for the transition) there’s no doubt the investment in web-based communication and fund raising capabilities paid for themselves many times over.

This industry shaper continues to use his e-communications to keep us apprised of his plans. It’ll be interesting to see what future political campaigns look like and how his presidency employs technology long-term.

Long surveys

I heard the following conversation a few nights ago while on the bus ride home between the bus driver and a passenger regarding a survey that RTD was administering to a few riders on each bus.

“That survey was like a book.”

“It even had chapters.”

“I think they get paid by the question.”

Of course they were referring to the rather long survey that the rider had just taken.  Granted, she was on a regional bus and was a relatively captive audience (I have no idea how they’re doing this on city buses), but she still appeared put off by the long survey.

Surveys do appear to be getting longer.   While there are many reasons for this, such as a greater need by businesses and organizations to get more information to base decisions on, and conducting complex analyses which need more data points, one key reason, in my opinion, is the expense of gaining cooperation.

Getting an individual to participate is one of the most costly parts of survey research.  As participation has fallen for most modes, researchers have had to make more phone calls for telephone surveys, mail more letters for mail surveys, and send more invites for online surveys.  As the number of contacts have increased – and often the incentives, too – so have the overall cost.  So, since it costs the most to get someone to participate, once you have them – I believe the thinking goes – you might as well ask more questions to get your money’s worth.

And therein lies the problem in my opinion.  Longer surveys turn people off (though in some instances a participant whom is highly interested in the topic may not mind) so next time they’re invited to participate, they’re less likely to do so.  Gaining participation is then harder, driving costs up further.  The process repeats.

While it is difficult – for both clients and us researchers – to limit the amount of questions we want to ask, we must appreciate a respondent’s time, even when they’re a captive audience.

Importance of market research in an economic downturn

The economy is on a downturn and, with businesses bracing for the effects, you’ve probably been hearing plenty of strategies for how to thrive during this tough period.  And the foundation for any good strategy is good information.

Market research is just as important, if not more important, during a tough economy.  When times are good there is plenty of room in the budget to try several strategies at once, but with tightening budgets (and availability of credit), businesses and organizations have to get things right the first time.  Moreover, this is an opportunity for companies and organizations to position themselves for the eventual rebound.

Market research helps keep you informed off your markets so changes can be made quickly and the best strategies are pursued.  Specifically, market research can help you:

  • Identify changing needs and perceptions (what are your customers top needs in this economy?)
  • Identify your best customers (and just as importantly, who isn’t your customer)
  • Provide the best value to your customers (what services can you provide or bundle to give added value?)
  • Differentiate against your competitors (what are your competitors doing? how can you zag when they zig?)
  • Create messaging and identify selling points that will resonate with your audiences (once you know the above points, what is the best way to communicate your message?)
  • Measure marketing effectiveness (what campaigns are actually producing business?)
  • Reduce risk in rolling out new advertising and new products (what do your ads really communicate?  what tradeoffs are people willing to make with products in a category?)
In fact, as you may have been thinking, this list applies in good times too.  The need is just stronger now.

To give you an actual example of how market research has benefited our clients, Corona recently created a brief summary of a past project (with the client’s approval).  To see the full Sashco, Inc case study, please click here.

Even the bad companies can survive when the economy is strong, but only the great companies survive when the economy is faltering.  While we cannot control the economy, we can certainly control the future of our businesses.

Picture from http://commons.wikimedia.org

Coronal Flares

Its Friday, and we thought we’d share some fun, interesting, or just weird links that we’ve run across lately.

Brand Tags.  Cool site for word associations with brands.  Pretty revealing how people associate brands.  Try it out and check out the results.  Careful…it can suck you in.

Ning.  Create your own social network.  We saw this at a conference recently where they invited attendees to log on afterward to keep the questions and conversations going.

Groundswell. Cool utility from Forrester that allows you to build a basic technographic profile based on a few demographic variables.  The profile shows what proportion are in each of six overlapping levels of participation with social technologies.

SocialVibe.  A social media tool that pairs individual causes with sponsors.  Your cause benefits from donations and the sponsors benefit from additional exposure.

GPS Drawing.  We like mapping, but we haven’t done this – maybe on our next business trip.

Excel Rock Video.  We have to figure out how to make our data do this.

Whaleshark.  Great use of technology and conversations to exponentially increase the scope of research.

In-flight surveys


A good indication that a survey is poorly designed is when it confuses two people who create surveys for a living.Such was the case on a recent flight from Atlanta to San Diego.Beth Mulligan, a fellow analyst, was sitting next to me on the plane and she asked me to take a survey because she had problems taking it herself.The survey was on one of those fancy touch screen displays on the back of the headrests.I started by reading the first question, and once I picked my answer, I touched my selection.Nothing happened – or so it appeared.I touched my choice again.Nothing.After touching my choice about five times, I realized every time I touched the screen, the question at the top changed; I answered 5 questions the same way without realizing it.The survey was designed to go to the next question once an answer was selected – there was no prompt to move to the next question or a way to go back and change my answer.All of the answer choices were the same for each question, so there was not a visual cue that the question changed (besides the very top of the screen displaying a different question which I didn’t see during my repeated selection of my answer choice).I tried to go back and switch my responses, but there was no option to do this.

On top of filling out the survey incorrectly the first time, I tried to take the survey again, and I was able to! I could have spent the whole flight taking the survey hundreds of times, and if I didn’t have a magazine to read, I may have. I would only hope that the survey software is smart enough to know that someone at the same seat is filling it out multiple times.

I think the idea of including a survey on the headrest display has potential for discovering interesting insights into the mind of an airline passenger mid-flight.  After all, they are a true captive audience in the middle of experiencing the product or service (much better than asking them to recall their experiences later).  However, there should be several improvements on top of fixing the usability issues discussed above. First, respondents shouldn’t be able to take the survey multiple times.  Second, different surveys could be offered at different times of the flight, such as “How was your boarding experience?” or “Was the flight attendant courteous when serving the mid-flight snack?”  Finally, perhaps as an incentive for taking the survey, survey respondents could watch a movie or television on the screen for free (and avoid the annoying service charge they would normally have to pay).