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International Journal of Market Research (IJMR)

The home of serious research thinking


For over 50 years The International Journal of Market Research (IJMR) has showcased thought-leadership.

It has published some of the most influential thinking and continues to set an intellectual and practical benchmark for the best in rigorous research. It's the world's primary source of cutting-edge thinking and ideas about market and social research. All articles are reviewed by an Editorial Advisory Board comprising some of the most respected names in research worldwide. The IJMR provides a vibrant forum for practitioners, academics and others to share and discuss all aspects of research: applications, methodologies and new technologies.

The IJMR is published six times a year for MRS by WARC.

MRS members can request full copies of any IJMR paper by emailing

Inside Volume 54, Issue 6, 2012

A smarter way to select respondents for surveys

George Terhanian, (Toluna U.S.A.)

  • As the author describes in this paper, the methods used for selecting samples in online research have attracted much criticism, especially from advocates of probability methods who argue that this is the only method providing a representative sample of a given population. In addition, samples used in online research may be multi-soured, and as the ARF and AAPOR discovered, findings cannot easily be replicated across different panels. The author also cites the differing attitudes of leading international media groups’ attitudes towards using online methods. The need to focus on accuracy in online research is underlined by the fact it now accounts for 50% of all survey expenditure in the USA ($1.8bn) and 13% across Europe, and the role that cost plays in the choice of data collection method. However, as the author points out, Kish identified many years ago that the emphasis in many published studies was on analysis (95%) rather than research design (2%) – a fact still true today in many submissions desk-rejected by IJMR. The author describes the development of sampling methods in online research, and summarises the results to date in improving reliability, which he believes have not gone far enough. Terhanian introduces the potential for using ‘parallel surveys’ to compare and combine data, first described over 60 years ago, and the use of propensity scores to predict whether or not a particular individual is likely to fit the profile of a target population (a method widely used in the credit scoring and direct mail industries for decades). The author calls the method ‘Propensity Score Select’ and describes the eight step process necessary for implementation. The method was evaluated through parallel surveys covering four main topics conducted using four different sampling methods, with interviews conducted by ‘phone (one survey) and online (three surveys) – described in detail in the paper. The results indicate that this method is beneficial in improving accuracy and representativeness, and the author concludes with a call for more validation of the method and a discussion of other ways in which this method could be applied in addressing challenges faced by researchers today, such as the decline in land-line ‘phone ownership.

Imaging creative workshops as a qualitative research tool

Martyn Richards (Martyn Richards Research Ltd)

Following on from the papers we’ve published in recent issues by Nairn and Clarke (IJMR Vol. 54 Issue 2 ) and Baxter (IJMR Vol. 54 Issue 4 ) on ethical issues when researching children, and those on qualitative methods by Langmaid (Vol.54 Issue 3), Barnham (Vol. 54 Issue 4), Branthwaite & Patterson (Vol.54 Issue 5), the two topics are brought together in this paper by Richards who describes the development and use of creative workshops in qualitative research in helping uncover the emotional factors underpinning children’s behaviour. Richards discusses the challenges in identifying emotional factors behind human behaviour and the need to adopt creative methods, often borrowed from other fields such as therapy. The author describes the increasing application of story-telling in market research, but argues that this is often applied at analysis and reporting stages to communicate key messages from the findings, rather than as a data collection method – what Richards calls ‘story-making’. The author also argues that children easily relate to this methodology as stories form an intrinsic aspect of their social and psychological development. Richards, with a background in theatre and qualitative research, describes how he has blended techniques from therapy and drama in developing creative workshops piloted with after-school drama clubs. He emphasises that participants are recruited to take part in drama and art work, rather than the format being focus groups with ‘exercises bolted on’ but, as Richards describes, it has parallels with projective techniques. In particular, Richards uses Guided Visualisation as a key technique, with the ‘problem’, as in therapy applications, being replaced by the ‘brand’. The author discusses the analytical methods necessary to ensure that the content are fully and appropriately interpreted. Richards also discusses how the inherent ethical issues within the methodology are addressed, especially as the sessions are filmed, with edited versions shown to the client. The author concludes with a discussion on the potential for adopting the methods described with older respondents in an age where ‘performing’, such as in reality TV shows, has become more widely accepted as adult behaviour. A version of this paper was presented at the MRS Conference in March 2012.

Strangers in strange lands: hypermarkets and Chinese culture misalignment

Clyde A Warden (National Chung Hsing University, Taiwan), James Stanworth (National Changhua University of Education, Taiwan) and Stephen Chi-Taun Huang (National Kaohsiung First U. of Science & Technology, Taiwan)

The fortunes of the UK’s leading food retailers are seldom out of the headlines. Whether it is local opposition to their planning applications; concerns about how they account for such a high proportion of consumer spend; the challenges faced by Tesco in re-establishing their position in the UK following poor performance in late 2011 which continued into the first half of 2012 when a 12% fall in profits was recorded, the first fall since 1994, with £1bn being invested in attempting to turnaround the UK business; the renaissance of Sainsbury or the inroads being made by low-cost entrants such as Aldi and Lidl. However, some western based companies have looked to widening their base through entry into other geographic markets, again experiencing mixed fortunes. This is the topic addressed by Warden et al – in particular, exploring how well western retailers relate to the culture and consumer needs in E. Asian markets. However as they point out, there are no easy answers, retailers having pulled out of E. Asian markets for a variety of reasons. The authors’ research is based on ethnographic methods applied over six years to deeply understand (‘grok’ in local language) three contrasting market orientations. In undertaking their research, the authors immersed themselves in local food culture: interviewing managers and consumers; being shoppers; cooking; working in the sector, in addition to applying more traditional ethnographic techniques such as observation, arguing the need for ‘embedded research’ to fully understand local culture in this context. The authors discuss the importance of understanding and embracing indigenous values and how psychic distance between cultures hinders understanding. They describe how moving into contexts different from where the retailer has been successful and a lack of self-awareness causes blind-spots. Based on their research the authors propose a conceptual model for market alignment. The paper includes links to video material drawn from the research programme to illustrate the cultural issues that retailers need to ‘grok’ for success. This paper follows on from others we’ve published in recent years arguing why western derived practice needs modifying when applied in emerging nations (e.g. Yan & She Vol.53 Issue2; Vu & Hoffman Vol.53 Issue1; Meng et al Vol.51 Issue 6).

‘Pick any’ measures contaminate brand image studies

Sara Dolnicar, John Rossiter and Bettina Grün (University of Wollongong, Australia)

  • Dolnicar et al explore the reasons why the ‘pick-any’ answer format (formally free-choice affirmative binary) has been found to be unreliable in measuring brand image. The authors contend that this method enables consumers to evade providing their true views, simply satisfying the task set by the researcher, reflected in evidence that this method has been shown to have a replicability level of only 50%. The authors believe this implies that ‘brand image association surveys are misleading to the point of being useless’, meaning that brand managers do not know which associations are only temporary, and which reflect the real attributes of a brand. Low stability also tends to undermine the theories of how advertising works based on building and sustaining brand associations. Dilnicar et al recommend using forced-choice binary measures, and use the ‘double positive association’ to compare this method with ‘pick-any’. The hypothesis tested in the research provided a three way comparison: the double positive stability will be greatest for the forced-choice binary measure, less for the unipolar 7 point measure (favoured by academics), and least for the ‘pick-any’ measure (favoured by practitioners). The authors used a commercial online research panel for selecting the sample, split into three groups to test the three different formats (shown in the paper), plus eight other common measures, and repeat interviews were conducted four weeks later. The paper includes full results from the experiment, demonstrating that the hypothesis was proven, and the authors describe the reasons for this outcome. The authors conclude by discussing the implications of their findings, and how they can be applied in brand image research.

One, few or many: an integrated framework for identifying the items in measurement scales

Naresh Malhotra, Soumya Mukhopadhyay, Xiaoyan Liu (Nanyang Technical University, Singapore), and Satyabhusan Dash (Indian Institute of Management, Lucknow)

  • In this paper by - based on one that won the Best Paper award at the IIM conference held in Nodia in January (See Editorial in IJMR Vol. 54 Issue 3 for more details) – the authors contend that there is little current in-depth guidance to help researchers develop appropriate and effective scales and they outline an integrated framework as a solution. The authors describe the reasons why scales need more attention and the resulting impact this can have on research quality. The paper contains an extensive review of literature in this field and the authors discuss the issues raised by past studies and what constitutes reliability, validity and the complexity posed when measuring inter-relationships. They also consider the practical issues that researchers face when developing scales in terms of cost, time, research objectives, the characteristics of the target population, respondent fatigue and refusals. The authors argue that existing frameworks do not provide a sufficiently comprehensive solution and propose a comprehensive integrated procedural framework, incorporating processes derived from other earlier frameworks, including one published in IJMR (Maklan & Klaus, IJMR Vol. 53 Issue 6), and other recommendations for improving scale development. The framework covers the full development process from conceptualisation; item generation and expert screening; pretesting and six phases in purification. The process can be applied to develop new scales or improve existing ones. In conclusion, the authors believe that their framework helps resolve the on-going debate on single versus multi-item scales and lead to improved quality in research projects.

Forum - More scales than a fish?

Spike Cramhorn (Ad+impact, Australia)

Whilst Malhotra et al in their paper in this issue present the case for a new comprehensive procedural framework for developing scales, the Forum article in this issue, provides guidance on developing effective measurement scales to provide internationally comparable results. Cramphorn has used the extensive database of attitudes to advertising and brands collected by Ad+impact since the early 1990s to explore the challenges involved in creating reliable international comparisons. In total, this multi-country archive contains 281,650 positive and 144,100 negative ratings. The author discusses the issues that can affect comparability, for example whether or not intensity of feeling, or extreme views, are expressed (also see Chrzan & Kemery, IJMR Vol. 54 Issue 2) uniformly across countries, and describes the methods developed to overcome these challenges. Cramphorn identifies three key factors that he believes most influence outcomes: culture, translation issues and calibration. The author illustrates the cultural issues by comparing the results for English language countries, showing an overall high level of consistency, with the variance found across Europe in countries with similar levels of economic status and how there is also a north/south divide in responses within that continent. Cramphorn advises a three step approach that begins with careful translation to maintain the meaning as closely as possible; test out the statements and ensure that responses cover the full scale; calibration. The author concludes by discussing whether it might be possible to create standardised international scales and wordings.

Event highlights

January 2018
Speaker 18

The Brexit Diaries: Engaging with the public in Brexit Britain18.01.18 | MRS, London EC1V 0JR

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MRS Operations Network23.01.18 | MRS, London EC1V 0JR

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Kids & Youth Insights25.01.18 | Etc.venues, London SE1 7PB

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