Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Brainjuicer: market research but only on respondents that "fit in"

I was invited by someone from company with a name that sounds like something out of a horror film, Brainjuicer, to join a market research study.

The study took place in what was supposed to be a "community environment", but very definitely was not. I guess I cannot go into specific detail of what was being researched for fear of being prosecuted.Suffice to say the web site I was forced to use was clunky and totally unsuitable for the free and easy interpersonal interactions that were supposedly one of the objectives of the study. Our instructions on what to do were supplied by Minion No. 1.

In addition to the interaction problems, our supposed "community" proved to be a highly toxic environment to anyone who did not fit the presuppositions of the moderator (Minion No. 2). People were encouraged to view themselves as negatively as possible, to wallow in feelings of hopelessness and despair. Statements reflecting confidence and optimism were ignored, but if a long upbeat posting had one tiny phrase that might reflect fleeting doubts or fears, the poster was immediately pushed to expand on this ad nauseam.

Minion 2 submitted a question to one of my posts. I provided a highly detailed (nearly 700 words) reply. She took umbrance at about 12 words in which I had challenged a phrase she used. I guess I can cite this as it does not refer directly to the subject of the study. She asked me whether a certain event had changed my "attitude to work", implying that it needed changing. I replied that this was the sort of speak used by bosses, managers and petty bureaucrats who do not value people with imagination and initiative, and thus, it was not terminology with which I wished to engage as a FREElance. She took this as a personal insult. Well, my dear Minion 2, as far as I am concerned it is your choice whether or not to engage in the issue I raise. If you are only capable of dealing with it as a personal insult, that is your problem not mine.

With respect to the major deficiencies on the site, I sent a message to Minion No. 1 outlining what I considered to be the deficits from a user point of view. Now, you would think she would be grateful to hear of problems/annoyances encountered by one of the community she was supposedly nurturing. Actually, such companies pay a lot of money for usability studies in this respect, and I was saving them a big fee by offering my comments for free.

Oh no. First of all, Minion 1 patronised me with a message implying I did not understand how to navigate the site, despite the fact my comments on usability made it perfectly clear that I did, When I requested her to stop patronising, she accused me in best School Mar'm style of having a "rude and inappropriate tone". She then expelled me from school the site.

LOL! I've now received a formal expulsion notice from the headmistress Minion 3, who actually gave her full name. I looked her up on the Net and have now realised that this survey is being run from the US, as further confirmed by the times at which communications from Minions 1 and 2 used to appear. This explains it all. US corporate culture is even more up itself than UK corporate culture, and I have also often heard it said  that the direct manner of speaking much favoured in the UK does not go down well over the pond. I despise corporate culture and always say exactly what I think, both of which traits presumably caused much distress to the sensitive souls of the minions.

So, clients of Brainjuicer, do not think that the results you receive are universally valid and fully representative of your target population group. Be aware that any respondent who strays from the norms of US corporate culture will be excluded (even if the survey targets people in another country), as will anyone who dares criticise the survey site.

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