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Stay in the loop with company updates and insights from our talented team.

Update – Respecting Your Participants: Ethical Considerations in Focus Groups

focus group / market research / research design / featured / blog / qualitative
Focus groups, unlike some other forms of research, can feel quite informal. In fact, some of the best groups can look more like a table of friends chatting than a formal data collection effort. However, researchers always need to remember that focus groups (as well as one-on-one interviews and other qualitative methods) are research, and the same ethical requirements apply. If you’re working with a governmental agency or a university, you may need to have your project reviewed by an Institutional Review Board (IRB) or by the federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB). But even when your focus group effort does require these formal reviews, it is still important for researchers to remember their ethical responsibility to their participants. The most fundamental ethical behavior... more
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Electronic Voting Improvements for Military Members Living Overseas

voting / data security / blog / elections / research
I recently wrote about how basic policy improvements can improve the voting process for all Americans living overseas. In December 2016, the Overseas Voting Initiative (OVI), a collaboration between the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) and The Council of State Governments, released a set of recommendations focused on using technology to improve the voting process for Americans abroad. The product of significant research, two notable recommendations focus on:
  • Using Department of Defense Common Access Cards (CACs) for signing documents digitally;
  • Duplicating damaged or unreadable ballots;
Policies Leading To Change These recommendations reflect the new reality of elections in the United States – especially for American overseas voters. Two major policy changes have driven the need for these recommendations. First, in... more
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Fors Marsh Group (FMG) Awarded Contract for 2016 Election Administration and Voting Survey

featured / news / blog / in the news
Aug. 16, 2016 — The U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) has awarded Fors Marsh Group (FMG), LLC, a contract to conduct the 2016 Election Administration and Voting Survey (EAVS). FMG will administer, compile data and report on this biennial survey, working with each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the territories of American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and U.S. Virgin Islands. Additionally, FMG will prepare the 2016 EAC Election Administration and Voting Survey Comprehensive Report. This report will explore many facets of the electoral process and voting technology. It will include sections on voter registration and recommendations related to the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 and to the voting participation of uniformed services members, their families and overseas citizens. "FMG... more
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FMG Moves Up AMA Gold Top 50 List to No. 44; Exceeds 20% Growth in 2015

featured / news / blog / tobacco / risk communication
ARLINGTON, VA, June 21, 2016 – The American Marketing Association (AMA) named Fors Marsh Group, LLC (FMG)—a Washington, DC-area, research and consulting firm—as a top 50 market research firm in the 2016 AMA Gold Top 50 Report. This is the second year FMG made the list. Due to FMG’s 23% growth in 2015, the firm moved up six spots to No. 44. "Since we opened our doors in 2002, our focus has been to be a partner to our clients as they seek to make smart decisions through applied research," said Dr. Sean Marsh, chief executive officer of FMG. "Fifteen years later, our focus hasn’t changed; our growth has been made possible by an exceptionally qualified and passionate staff and loyal clients who understand the... more
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FMG Research Supports Launch of New #RealCostofSmokeless Campaign to Educate Rural Youth on the Dangers of Smokeless Tobacco

featured / news / blog / tobacco / risk communication
ARLINGTON, VA – May 5 2016– At the 8th National Summit on Smokeless and Spit Tobacco, Fors Marsh Group (FMG) was on hand to support the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) expansion of its award-winning “The Real Cost” campaign. The expanded campaign, created by FDA in collaboration with Sensis Agency, will educate rural, white male teenagers about the negative health consequences associated with smokeless tobacco use. For the first time, nationally-televised messages on the dangers of smokeless tobacco use—including nicotine addiction, gum disease, tooth loss, and multiple kinds of cancer—are being highlighted through the placement of advertisements in 35 U.S. markets specifically selected to reach the campaign’s target audience. There is also a targeted digital component of the campaign that will reach youth in... more
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E-cigarettes, Teens and Advertising: A Troubling Combination

featured / blog / tobacco / risk communication
Although Zika has been capturing much of the recent media attention, for those in public health there has been another issue gaining attention and inspiring debate—electronic cigarettes or e-cigarettes. In a nutshell, e-cigarette use has risen while traditional cigarette smoking rates have declined—according to the CDC 12.6% of adults have at least tried an e-cigarette once. Usage increases when you look at current and recent former smokers, which is critical as e-cigarettes have been marketing as both a smoking cessation tool and a healthier alternative to conventional cigarettes. We’ve been keeping an eye on the impact the rise in e-cigarettes has and the implications for tobacco use initiation prevention and cessation, particularly for youth. Though the use of conventional cigarettes among youth has been... more
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The Role of Feedback in Goal-Setting and Employee Evaluation

featured / blog / performance reviews / career development / organizational performance
Fors Marsh Group Goal Setting Process Now that we’ve defined goals and discussed both where they come from and how they link to performance evaluations, I’d like to spend most of this second post discussing the middle part of the goal-setting cycle (namely feedback and revision). There’s a lot of discussion surrounding “how to give feedback” that is, frankly, not relevant to the questions at hand in this blog post. Instead, we’ll focus on the role of feedback play in goal setting and performance appraisal. Let’s tackle each of these independently. Feedback and Goal-Setting If you remember, we’ve defined goals as measurable behavioral plans that bridge a gap between an employee’s current and desired... more
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The Goal-Setting Cycle – When SMART Just Isn’t Enough

featured / blog / performance reviews / career development / organizational performance
"Regardless of the system used, in the vast majority of cases, all of the parties involved are unhappy with the appraisal process" - DeNisi & Sonesh (2011) I’m not sure there’s another sentence of any article that’s stuck with me more than the one above. DeNisi and Sonesh go on to describe that, they believe, this is because nothing productive ever comes out of the review process. Perhaps this is because it took us as I/O Psychologists until the early 1990s to realize that performance improvement should be the ultimate goal of the evaluation process.1 This notion – that performance appraisals exist not only to measure but also to improve employees’ performance – represented a fundamental shift in a field that was previously... more
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Data and Elections

featured / blog / in the news / voting
There has been quite a bit of media coverage this week about the long lines that occurred at the polls in Maricopa County, Arizona during the recent primary elections. The questions raised include whether the lines were caused by having too few voting locations and confusion over new voter identification requirements. However, the bigger issue was likely a lack of staffing at the polling locations and lack of care in selecting where to locate the polls. In our book Evaluating Elections: A Handbook of Methods and Standards, Michael Alvarez, Lonna Atkeson, and I discuss how simple data analysis can help local election offices avoid making simple election mistakes. A simple review of the historical data for Maricopa County suggests that having... more
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Fors Marsh Group Makes Inc. 500|5000 List for Third Consecutive Year

featured / news / blog / in the news
Arlington, Va., September 2, 2015 – Inc. Magazine ranked Fors Marsh Group No. 4,285 on its 34th annual Inc. 500|5000, an exclusive ranking of the nation's fastest-growing private companies. This is the third consecutive year Fors Marsh Group (FMG) made the list. Inc 5000 Fors Marsh Group The 34th annual Inc. 5000 list takes a comprehensive look at America’s independent entrepreneurs. Companies such as Yelp, Pandora, Timberland, Dell, Domino’s Pizza, LinkedIn, Zillow, and many other well-known names previously gained early exposure as members of the Inc. 5000. Compiled from percentage revenue growth over a three-year period, the 2015 list represents the most competitive group of privately-owned companies in Inc. 5000 history. As... more
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Thriving in Times of Tremendous Company Growth - Focus on Teamwork

organizational performance / organizational health / fmg culture / featured / blog

Fors Marsh Group just made the Inc 5000 list for the third year in a row. We are surrounded by a number of other companies throughout the country experiencing tremendous growth - especially in regard to the number of employees they are hiring. So far in 2015, FMG has seen a huge surge in growth - with over 32 new hires since January 1, and another 10 expected before 2016. While extremely exciting, companies facing this much growth should realize that now is the time to put a strong emphasis on teamwork, a topic we all know something about, but many of us might not practice effectively. Growth Teamwork Fors Marsh Group In the past... more

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Why Scientists and Communicators Can't Just Co-Exist, We Need to Co-Create: Takeaways from NCHCMM

behavioral research / conferences / featured / blog / health research

Last week, our Communication Research team attended the National Conference on Health Communication, Marketing, and Media in Atlanta, GA. As speakers reminded us that we were there "to move the needle," I was reminded of Captain Planet. Hey, the mind works in mysterious ways. My biggest takeaway from the conference was more an observation. A path forward. A commitment to combining powers. More specifically, the conference brought together communicators and researchers - all working toward common goals and bringing something unique to the table that alone isn't nearly as powerful - but often the two seemed to be two sides to the same coin, never meeting. I heard communicators. I heard scientists. I heard communicators playing the role of scientists and... more

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So You Have to Moderate a Focus Group - Five Things to Know Before Your First Group

qualitative / focus group / featured / blog

When a good moderator leads a focus group, it can look effortless. However, building rapport with respondents, managing the flow of the discussion, and probing respondents to get beyond surface-level responses are skills that require both training and experience. That’s why we recommend, whenever possible, having a professional moderator conduct your focus groups. But projects don’t always go according to plan, and you may end up in a situation where you have to moderate, whether you’re ready or not. If you’ve been thrown into the moderating deep end, focusing on these five key things can help your groups go smoothly.

  1. Be as familiar as possible with the materials and the research goals.
    When you’re in the room with your participants, you... more
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Fors Marsh Group Recognized in AMA Gold Top 50 Report

featured / market research / news / blog
ARLINGTON, VA – June 24, 2014 – The American Marketing Association (AMA), named Fors Marsh Group LLC (FMG), a DC-area research and consulting firm, as a top 50 market research firm in its 2015 AMA Gold Top 50 Report, formerly the Honomichl Top 50 Report. This is the first time Fors Marsh Group debuts on the list, ranking at #50 overall for revenue out of the 192 U.S.-based, for-profit market research companies considered for the report. AMA Gold “Like many in the marketing research industry, we look forward to reading the Top 50 report each year,” said Dr. Sean Marsh, Partner and CEO of FMG. “We expect to see the biggest... more
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Frequent Survey Responders on Online Panels

featured / survey research / blog
FMG regularly conducts online surveys as a means of data collection. We recognize that like all survey modes, online surveys have their limitations, in many cases due to how the online panel provider procures its sample of respondents. Online survey One potential problem is that online panel members differ in their propensities to participate in surveys: some respondents take numerous surveys every week or month, while others take few or none. This phenomenon of "frequent survey responders" (Coen, Lorch, & Piekarski, 2005) concerns survey methodologists because the act of taking numerous surveys may have an impact on the way respondents answer the survey questions. Along these lines, the survey research community has voiced two concerns about respondents who... more
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Fors Marsh Group Announces Multiple-Year Contracts

featured / market research / news / blog
Arlington, Virginia - December 18, 2014 -Fors Marsh Group LLC (FMG), a DC-area research and consulting firm, has been awarded a number of contracts in both the public and private sectors. As part of these new contracts, FMG will conduct behavioral research, program evaluation, and user experience studies for new and existing clients. New clients include the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS), Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE), Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC), Citizens Bank, and and Anthem (formerly known as WellPoint). Recent Federal Contract awards include:
  • Internal Revenue Service (IRS)- Awarded new 5-year blanket purchase agreement (BPA) to conduct experimental economics research on... more
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The Focus Group Road Show - Staying Sane Away From Home

focus group / market research / research design / featured / blog / qualitative
A focus group project doesn’t necessarily involve travel—FMG certainly conducts a lot of focus groups here in our Arlington, VA office, and remote and online methods are being used more and more as the technological options expand. But when the goal of a project is to collect qualitative data from a diverse population of respondents, chances are this involves a moderator packing a suitcase and heading out on the road. Fors Marsh Group Travel Blog Post In the past few years of traveling the country to moderate groups, I've developed a few rules and want to share some tips to ensure your work goes smoothly and that you stay healthy - physically and mentally.

Working on the Road

... more
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Respecting Your Participants - Ethical Considerations in Focus Groups

focus group / market research / research design / featured / blog / qualitative
Focus groups, unlike some other forms of research, can feel quite informal. In fact, some of the best groups can look more like a table of friends chatting than a formal data collection effort. However, researchers always need to remember that focus groups (as well as one-on-one interviews and other qualitative methods) are research, and the same ethical requirements apply. If you’re working with a governmental agency or a university, you may need to have your project reviewed by an Institutional Review Board (IRB) or by the federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB). But even when your focus group effort does require these formal reviews, it is still important for researchers to remember their ethical responsibility to their participants. The most fundamental ethical behavior... more
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Growing Up in an Obesogenic World

featured / health research / public health / behavioral research / advertising research / blog
September is Childhood Obesity Awareness Month and as such there has been a lot of press lately about what to do about the obesity epidemic. In fact I recently saw an ad for the documentary, Fed Up, which alleges the obesity epidemic all boils down to the consumption of sugar and provides insight on the role that the food industry and our own government plays in the epidemic. I haven’t seen the documentary yet, but as a social and behavioral scientist, it got me thinking about the synergy between policy intervention and personal efforts to lose weight, and the importance of recognizing the limits of individual agency, especially for children. While obesity rates in the United States have soared among all age groups in the... more
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How To Make Your Data Get Along – Data Harmonization

featured / survey research / quantitative / blog
A good researcher seeks multiple sources of data to answer a research question. These data may be results from clinical trials, financial transactions, or even survey data. Often, these do not all stem from a single source, and possess small or large differences in research methods. How does one make sense of these disparate pieces of information and bring them together for better research? In an effort to integrate disparate data and provide better analyses, researchers often rely on a process called data harmonization. What is data harmonization and why is it important?

Data harmonization is the process by which data from heterogeneous sources are combined into a unified, cohesive data product. It is inherently a research activity and success depends on an understanding of... more

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Focus Group of One - Nationals On-field Experience Provides Unique Perspective on Smokeless Tobacco

featured / health research / public health / tobacco / behavioral research / advertising research / blog
Don’t talk about work. This was the only advice my husband gave me before I headed down to the field to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at the Nationals game Monday night against the Braves (holy smokes, did that really happen?). He knew it’d be hard to resist. I’ve posted a time or two (or five) about smokeless tobacco in Major League Baseball for instance, click here. It’s the perfect storm for me. Health, behavior change, baseball. So many of my passions intersecting. Nationals Baseball Enter Steven Souza (International League MVP and Rookie of the Year, no big deal), who will catch for me. He opens with the classic DC... more
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CVS Quits for Good

featured / health research / public health / behavioral research / advertising research / blog
CVS is telling consumers to keep walking if they’re looking to get a nicotine fix with a new pack of cigarettes or a can of dip. CVS announced in February that they would stop selling all tobacco products by October 1, 2014 as part of a larger initiative to focus on health and well-being. Yesterday, CVS unveiled their full initiative and announced that their tobacco products sale ban was effective that day, September 3—almost a month ahead of schedule. CVS Quits for Good As highlighted in the 2014 Surgeon General’s Report, over 20 million American deaths have been attributed to smoking since the 1964 Surgeon General’s Report (which first reported the impact of smoking on health).... more
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Focus Group Best Practices: Writing Protocols

qualitative / focus group / blog

At the center of every qualitative project is the protocol, sometimes also called the moderator's guide, the discussion guide, or the script. This document establishes the structure of the group or interview, details the specific questions you will ask participants, and ultimately determines the kind of data you will be able to collect. It is also the guide that everyone working on the project will be using as they make their decisions-your clients will base their approval on the protocol content, the IRB will review it, and the moderator or interviewer will use it to guide the data collection process. The protocol is key to the success of your project, and keeping a few things in mind as you're writing it will help ensure... more

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Fors Marsh Group Makes Inc. Magazine’s 5000 List for Second Year

featured / news / blog / in the news
Arlington, Va., September 2, 2014 – Inc. Magazine ranked Fors Marsh Group No. 3,881 on its 33rd annual Inc. 500|5000, an exclusive ranking of the nation's fastest-growing private companies. The list represents the most comprehensive look at the most important segment of the economy— America’s independent entrepreneurs. Companies such as Yelp, Pandora, and Zillow gained early exposure as members of the Inc. 500|5000. Fors Marsh Group has the distinction of being ranked on the Inc. 5000 list for the past two years. “We are honored to be recognized for a second consecutive year as one of the fastest-growing U.S.-based companies by the Inc. 500|5000 list, and see it as validation of all the hard work by our team and the value our... more
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Into the hot zone of Hotlanta - What Ebola at Emory can teach us about risk perceptions

featured / health research / public health / behavioral research / conferences / blog
Our team spent the past few days at the CDC National Conference on Health Communication, Marketing and Media in Atlanta - and no, we did not catch Ebola. Many people asked me if I was worried about going to Atlanta. Based on the news coverage, I’m not surprised. But perspectives from medical experts suggested there really wasn't a risk at all (in fact, thankfully, both patients were released from the hospital this week). What gives? What gives is a common challenge in risk communication - a discrepancy between expert and layperson perceptions of risk. More specifically, lay person evaluations of risks are often predicted by affective and subjective components of risk whereas experts tend to evaluate risks (at least within their personal field of... more
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An Introduction to Bayesian Data Analysis for UX Applications

featured / usability / ux / quantitative / blog
Quantitative methods are an essential part of user experience (UX) research. They allow researchers to provide accurate estimates of user performance in terms of errors and response time. However, because of the constraints of traditional statistical approaches, the small sample sizes and high variability of most UX studies preclude meaningful inferences in most situations. In this post I will present Bayesian Data Analysis as a viable alternative and one well suited to address challenges and settings common to UX researchers.

Belief versus ‘the long run’

Traditional, frequentist approaches refer to long run frequency, or how likely an event would occur over N number of replications. To illustrate this, imagine flipping a coin. If the coin is fair, after flipping it 20 times you should get... more
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Smokey Bear Turns 70; Gets Us Fired Up About Public Health Branding

featured / health research / public health / behavioral research / advertising research / blog
Happy (early) birthday to an American icon! Smokey Bear was created on August 9, 1944 through a partnership between the Ad Council, the U.S. Forest Service, and the National Association of State Foresters. Though his tagline has evolved a bit from the original “Smokey says, Care will prevent 9 out 10 forest fires,” the underlying call to action has remained constant – and Smokey’s message is still going strong in what is the longest running public service campaign in U.S. history. http://blogs.lt.vt.edu/daramg3144/files/2014/04/FIRST-SMOKEY-FOR-BUSINESS-CARD.jpg His now recognizable catch phrase – “Only you can prevent forest fires” – speaks to a common tactic in this sort of campaign. Get people to believe individual action is important and impactful. Like the... more
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Focus Group Best Practices: Homework

qualitative / focus group / blog

Typically, a qualitative research interview or focus group consists of strictly the data that is collected from your participants during a focus group or interview. But you can also ask participants to complete a “homework” assignment before they even get to the group. Homework assignments can be assets to your project, because they can help you:

  • Collect additional data without taking up time during the group or session itself.
  • Gets your participants engaged with the topic matter before they get to the group. As a result, you may be able to jump more quickly into the main discussion once the actual group or interview starts.
  • Weed out participants that won’t be engaged, or tip you off to who might be... more
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Another Big Move by Big Tobacco: More E-cigarettes Go Nationwide

blog / tobacco / social marketing / health research / featured
If you’ve been following our blog, you may have read several blog posts over the past few months on electronic cigarettes (more commonly known as e-cigarettes). These e-cigarettes are in the middle of a long-standing debate between tobacco companies and public health advocates. Do these e-cigarettes offer a less dangerous alternative to using combustible cigarettes or is there insufficient evidence to state these as a tool to help smokers quit? Or are they another way to get nonsmokers addicted to nicotine? To add fuel to the debate, a subsidiary of Reynolds American announced June 23 that it will start distributing its Vuse e-cigarettes nationwide. NuMark, a subsidiary of Altria, also plans to distribute MarkTen, its e-cigarette brand, nationwide by the end of 2014.... more
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What’s in a Name? Highlights from 23rd Social Marketing (Not Media!) Conference

featured / conferences / social marketing / blog
Something I love about social marketing is that it frames difficult challenges in a manner that encourages optimism, energy, and action. One challenge that seems to generate more frustration than optimism though is the common mix-up of social marketing with social media (or social media marketing). In fact, last week’s 23rd Social Marketing Conference was kicked off with a tongue-in-cheek disclaimer: if you’re here to learn about social media, you’ll be disappointed (Get out. Just kidding. But, seriously). Despite the angst over the confusion, social marketing does use social media as a tool. Which got me curious – what were social marketers abuzz about on social media during the conference last week? Twitter Topics at USFmore
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Usability in the Urban Environment: Street Parking Signs

arlington dc / user experience / usability / blog
How often have you been in a city, as a resident or a visitor, and come across something that seemed so insanely complicated that it boggled your mind? “Why on earth did they do this this way? They should have just [enter brilliant alternative idea here].” Usability in the Urban Environment is designed to be a monthly blog series that seeks to apply basic usability standards to issues that residents and visitors grapple with daily when interacting with an urban environment. First on the agenda: Washington, DC’s parking signs. DC Parking Signs Look at the image to the right and ask yourself if you could answer the following pertinent questions relatively quickly from this signpost: a) Can... more
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Coverage of Tony Gwynn’s Death Likely to Affect Perceptions of Smokeless Tobacco Risk – But in what Direction?

featured / health research / tobacco / behavioral research / advertising research / blog
Hall of Fame baseball player Tony Gwynn died much too young Monday at the age of 54, succumbing to salivary gland cancer. Gwynn had used smokeless tobacco during his 20-year career with the Padres, and his passing has people talking about the dangers of smokeless tobacco and its tie to our nation’s pastime. How the conversation is framed, however, will determine if this will be an opportunity seized or missed for prevention/cessation efforts. http://online.wsj.com/articles/tony-gwynns-death-has-mets-thinking-about-smokeless-tobacco-1402968225 Players know the risks, but they choose to use smokeless tobacco anyway. At least that’s the line they’re giving reporters. We face this challenge with our work with youth as well. It is essential for the communicator to realize that there’s a difference between... more
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Usability testing your signs and designs: The Washington Nationals logo takes a bow from DC road signs

arlington dc / usability / user experience / blog
While driving the beltway last year, you may have noticed road signs with the Washington Nationals’ Curly W (see photo). On first impression, this seems like a great idea. The symbol would presumably aid in recognition while the highway was congested with hurried fans trying to make that first pitch. However, while the ‘Curly W’ logo blankets the ballpark and Nationals merchandise, it can’t be found on any road signs. So what happened to all those Curly W’s?! Nationals Logo on Road Sign In a Washington Post article from February, Dan Steinberg investigated this and uncovered some interested findings. The D.C. Department of Transportation (DDOT), conducted a survey with ballpark attendees to determine... more
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Creating Usable Personas

client work / usability / user experience / blog
UX practitioners use many tools to evaluate websites and apps. Utilizing a variety of tools is what UX research is all about! Give a UXer a webpage and voila! In no time they can evaluate a webpage with any number of their tools. When the evaluation is complete, the end product is a detailed list about what works well and what does not work well from the end user’s perspective. Common UX evaluation tools include usability heuristics, eye tracking, think aloud protocols, personas, and focus groups. Normally, UX research is focused on the use of these tools to evaluate other products. What happens then when you don’t need to fix a broken website and you actually need to fix one of the tools you... more
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Focus Group Best Practices: Conducting Groups with Children and Young Adults

qualitative / focus group / featured / blog

If you’re looking for advice on conducting focus groups, you will find no shortage of information, suggestions, and strategies. However, most of the information out there assumes that your focus group participants will be adults. Doing qualitative research with children and young adults is a very different experience. For one thing, your research will typically involve much more careful scrutiny by your IRB or other oversight groups, as you’ll need to make sure that your study topic and questions are safe and appropriate for minors. But even once all the necessary approvals have been received, you will also likely need to use some different moderating techniques than you would with adults. Here are four things that we’ve learned to keep in mind when leading... more

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World No Tobacco Day: The higher the tax, the less death and disease

tobacco / social marketing / behavioral research / current events / blog
On May 31, the World Health Organization (WHO) and partners around the world will celebrate World No Tobacco Day. This year’s theme is to raise taxes on tobacco. According to WHO, research shows that higher taxes are especially effective in reducing tobacco use among lower-income groups and in preventing young people from starting to smoke. Increasing excise taxes on tobacco is considered to be the most cost effective tobacco control measure. The World Health Report 2010 indicated that a 50% increase in tobacco excise taxes would generate a little more than $1.4 billion in additional funds in 22 low-income countries. Hi Megan We already see the positive impact of high tobacco taxes in the United States.... more
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Is College Really Worth It?

career development / featured / in the news / blog
This past Tuesday, David Leonhardt of The New York Times addressed a common question confronting many American households, “Is College Worth It?” His conclusion, “Yes, college is worth it, and it’s not even close.” In his report, he cites new analysis from the Economic Policy Institute in Washington that reports that Americans with four-year college degrees made 98 percent more an hour on average in 2013 than people without a degree and that this disparity far outweighs the increasingly high costs of college. But, as Ben Casselman of FiveThirtyEight.com puts it “just because people who graduate from college are better off, doesn’t necessarily mean that going to college is a... more
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Focus Group Best Practices: Icebreakers

qualitative / focus group / blog

No matter what content or structure you have planned for your focus group research project, the first thing a moderator needs to do in any group is to get the participants talking. When people walk into a focus group they generally don’t know anyone, and may not even know what the discussion will be about. Those first few minutes of the discussion can set the tone for the whole group, so it is critical to start off with an icebreaker that makes your respondents feel comfortable and willing to participate.

The icebreaker is the first question that the moderator asks in the group and is usually part of participant introductions. It is often the only question that participants will feel they have to answer, since... more

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Answering a Big Question with a Small Sample: Estimating the Size of the Overseas Citizen Population

client work / market research / military research / research design / voting / blog
The Defense Department’s Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) is charged with ensuring that active duty military and U.S. citizens residing overseas have the opportunity to vote is U.S. elections. While the U.S. government keeps track of the size and location of active duty military, similar information is not available for overseas civilians. In an attempt to address this lack of information about this important population, FVAP tasked FMG with developing estimates of the size of the overseas civilian population by country. In this blog, I will briefly discuss the approach FMG used to develop these estimates as well as the results. It is FMG’s hope that general approach described here can provide guidance to researchers who face similar problems with respect to developing predictive models... more
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Totes Ma Goats: With invasive species month ending, goats join the cause.

client work / current events / social marketing / blog
USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) declared April as Invasive Plant Pest and Disease Awareness Month and asked that people join a fight they can’t win alone. In one Michigan county, APHIS will have some unlikely helpers too – goats! Starting next month, goats will graze on invasive species as part of a parks department pilot program. Though experts have deemed invasive species a serious risk, many laypeople don’t think invasive species are particularly dangerous or relevant (and thus don’t allocate many if any resources to learning about them or reducing them). A lack of public engagement and shared responsibility is problematic given a simple action or uninformed decision can wreak havoc on our environment. For example, a seemingly harmless souvenir... more
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Going out on the proverbial legal ledge: using social media for applicant screening

behavioral research / conferences / social media research / blog
The growth and acceptance of social media sites across generations has been well-documented. Given the popularity of Facebook and Twitter and the unfiltered type and amount of information that individuals post about themselves, it is not surprising that some businesses view social media as a quick and inexpensive way to learn additional information about and potentially screen applicants (1). While businesses are hoping to get an unfiltered picture of their applicants, they might also be getting information unrelated to the job that could lead to illegal employment decisions. That is, U.S. Federal law prohibits businesses from making employment decisions that discriminate against individuals of certain protected classes: race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information (2). Businesses... more
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Your Web-Based Survey Should be “Medium Rare”

behavioral research / user experience / blog
On Wednesday evening, I had dinner at Medium Rare , a fun, friendly, neighborhood restaurant in the Cleveland Park neighborhood of Washington DC, where “customers can just relax, and have a simple yet exceptional meal served to them.” This was my third time there, and each time I go, I am amazed by how busy it is. Honestly, it’s good but what’s so fantastic is the experience – there is a pre-fixed menu of artisan rustic bread, mixed green salad, and culotte steak and fries – the only thing you have to choose is the temperature of your steak. Even their wine and beer lists and the dessert menu are short. Everything is prepared well and consistent – something many people,... more
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The Most Wonderful Time of the Year - Conference Season

conferences / current events / usability / user experience / company events / blog
April is a really exciting month as it kicks off the start of the busy conference season and plenty of speaking engagements. My calendar seems pretty booked and I am excited to meet new people and talk about UX with others in the DC/NoVa area, and at conferences across the country. Here is a brief rundown of what’s to come – hope to see you at a few: Tuesday, April 8 - DC Web Women’s Code(Her) Workshop Series: I will be teaching about integrating usability testing methods in development. This should be eye-opening and encourage lots of conversation because many people do not even know that they can or should test their products even as early as during the coding stage. (David discussed this last... more
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The bigger victory: Nationals star discusses struggle to quit dip as National Public Health Week begins

behavioral research / health research / social marketing / youth / blog
The Nationals’ home opener may not have gone as planned, but yesterday they came through with the win and a stellar kickoff to another opening day – that of National Public Health Week (NPHW). Ian Desmond delivered the game-winning homer against the Braves, but the “bigger victory” he spoke of after the game was going the entire game without dip. Like many other tobacco users, Desmond began his habit as a teenager – underscoring the importance of prevention efforts (a key theme of this year’s NPHW). Nationals star Ian Desmond Through his description of his struggle to quit, Desmond highlighted several themes potentially key to the success of prevention efforts.
  1. Tradition. more
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Iterative Design: Three Prototyping Guidelines

usability / user experience / blog
Designing a website or mobile application from scratch is tough. Getting the creative juices flowing is no easy feat. When you do get lucky and think of something new, it can be hard to execute your plans as you had originally intended. Following through with lofty goals for your UI can seem impossible, especially when you take a look at the coding requirements. A seemingly endless mountain of code can dissuade someone from continuing the development of their web tools. Recent FMG research using iterative prototyping and usability testing can turn the mountain of code into a mole hill. FMG’s User Experience Lab recently worked on a series of usability studies using iterative prototypes. Prototypes are a very helpful tool to use during the design... more
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Focus Group Best Practices: Dry Run

focus group / market research / research design / featured / blog / qualitative
Getting ready to start a focus group project can be stressful. You probably have a huge list of data you need to collect, and not that many groups to do it in. If a line of questions doesn’t work, or an activity is a flop, you may not have time to make changes. One strategy that can help you make every group as useful as possible is to do a dry run. When we’re getting ready to start a focus group project, we ask people office to act as test participants, bring them together in a room, and use the moderator’s guide to conduct a mock group. This gives us opportunity to test the questions, try out activities, and establish how long things will take.... more
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YAHOO! helps you pick a winner: the Billion Dollar Bracket Challenge

current events / in the news / user experience / blog
College basketball fans can rejoice because March Madness is finally upon us. Cinderella stories and nonstop games for three weeks will keep even the most hardcore fans satiated. When the NCAA Tournament arrives, so too do the bracketology experts. This year, the stakes have been raised. Not only can you compete with your friends for bragging rights, you can also compete for a billion dollars of Warren Buffet’s money. When you submit your bracket, you might want to hold off on giving your boss your two weeks notice. If you know a little something about college basketball you might bump your odds of winning the bracket challenge up to one about in 128 billion, according to a recent Washington Post article. To say the... more
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She wore an itsy bitsy teeny weeny… E-Cigarettes ad bikini?

advertising research / health research / social marketing / blog / youth
In past posts, I’ve discussed the frustrating genius that is Blu’s “take back your freedom” approach to some of its advertising. I’m less than impressed, however, with the sex sells tactics that dominate a second line of ads. But not (only) for the reasons you may think. Working on smokeless tobacco issues over the past year, I’ve become increasingly aware of the delicacy with which we must communicate about products that, while not harmless, may be less risky alternatives for current smokers. Blu E-Cig Bikini Ad The same harm-reduction tension dominates the e-cigarettes debate. Whether e-cigs are a cessation tool or a catalyst for new users to start a habit of smoking is hotly contested. Earlier... more
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Going for Olympic (Advertising) Gold

advertising research / in the news / behavioral research / current events / featured / blog
On the heels of the Super Bowl comes another win for advertising with the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. Whether people are setting their alarms to watch the events live or avoiding all spoilers until the primetime rebroadcasts, the Olympics are traditionally one of the most watched television events. The Olympics dominated the Nielsen top 10 rankings for the week of February 3rd, capturing the top 4 spots with the February 7th Opening Ceremony taking first place with 31.69 million viewers. The Sunday Prime Time, Saturday Prime Time, and Thursday Prime Time broadcasts completed the top 4 (1). With such viewership it is no wonder that NBC Universal announced in September 2013 that it had sold a record setting $800 million in advertising to a... more
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Is TV Advertising Always a Touchdown?

advertising research / behavioral research / current events / in the news / market research / featured / blog
With the Super Bowl this Sunday, the advertising world is abuzz with predictions on what to expect from the top spenders and advertisers. At least they can count on the fact that TV ads continue to be trusted, and probably will for some time. Newspapers and Magazines are still most trusted forms of advertising, with almost two-thirds (63% and 62%, respectively) of consumers trusting advertisements from those sources. Television is not far behind at 61% (1). TV ads are also cited as very influential, with 68% of consumers indicating that they always or sometimes take action on something after viewing a television ad. And despite the rise of digital ads, TV accounts for the largest amount of advertising dollars spent, with over $63 billion spent... more
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Better Data in Five Steps: UX Testing

eye tracking / research design / usability / user experience / blog
Last week, Jen wrote about resolutions for being a UX Champion. This week, I want to highlight five simple ways that UX research teams can improve the UX testing environment. Improving the testing environment in the following ways will ensure the validity of data and provide participants with a more pleasant experience. 1. Don’t interrupt. The UX data collection process often relies on concurrent think aloud protocol. In this method, researchers ask participants to think aloud and narrate everything they are doing (e.g., reading, searching for links, interpreting graphics). This method is valued by UX researchers because it allows us to hear things like initial impressions of design features and experiences using site search and navigation. Users’ comments are very powerful when inserted into... more
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UX Resolutions for 2014: Become a UX 'Champion'

conferences / market research / usability / user experience / blog
I attended UXCampDC on Jan 4, which was a new style of conference for me. There was no pre-planned schedule. I had no idea who I was going to hear speak (or if I would give a presentation) and what I was going to learn about. There was a board with time slots throughout the day, and people who were interested in speaking wrote their name and topic on a post-it note and posted it to a time slot. In the morning and after lunch, each speaker gave a 1-minute pitch about their talk so attendees had a little more information, and then we split up and went to the different talks. Some were planned – people had prepared slides and gave lecture-style talks... more
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E-Cigarette Companies Ring in the New Year with New Ads and New Tricks

advertising research / behavioral research / health research / blog / social marketing
E-cigarette companies had a booming year in sales and marketing in 2013 and they’re not stopping until someone (the FDA) makes them. I first reported on e-cigarettes back in early November, but little has changed to federally regulate them. Companies are still able to promote their products in all media outlets, social media included. However, some states and cities are establishing their own regulations. On December 19, New York City Council passed a bill that now bans e-cigarettes wherever smoking is also prohibited (1). This includes restaurants, bars, parks, and office buildings. Advocates of the bill said that e-cigarettes confused bartenders, waitresses, and other enforcers of the existing smoking ban (2). NY councilman James Gennaro, one of the lead sponsors of the ban, believes... more
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Social Marketing and Beyonce Singing the Same Tune? Not Quite.

advertising research / behavioral research / in the news / blog / current events / social marketing
Last week Beyoncé set the Internet abuzz when she released a surprise new album in what some have called a stroke of social marketing genius. A great example of a common mix-up between social media marketing and social marketing, Beyoncé’s album release isn’t social marketing as we think of it. However, we’ve been excited to see social marketing (i.e., the application of marketing principles and techniques to plan, implement and evaluate social change programs (1)) trending in 2013 as well. The appeal of social marketing lies in its utility in producing behavior change through a consumer oriented approach. More and more, evidence suggests there’s more to behavior change than a rational, well-thought-out argument. This is an idea that seems second nature for marketers of products... more
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Data is Not Inspirational to Everybody: The Importance of Communicating Research Effectively

market research / blog / research design
As market researchers, we love data and numbers. So it is difficult for us to comprehend that not everyone is a numbers person (wait, what?!? Some people don’t like math?). We’re hired for a reason: we have the expertise to conduct quality research and answer tough questions. But part of this job is making sure we answer these tough questions the right way—not just maintaining the proper methodology and rigor, but answering so that our client understands. Therefore, we’ve had to learn to adapt how we communicate our research findings to resonate with clients of varying levels of research understanding. We need to communicate complex ideas data-heavy ideas in a way anyone can understand—clear, visually, not technical-heavy, and not text-heavy. However, it is more than... more
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The Psychology and Advertising Behind Black Friday

advertising research / behavioral research / blog / in the news
Hi MeganI have a confession to make – I am the woman in this Target Black Friday commercial. The weeks leading up to Thanksgiving not only excite me because I know I get to spend time with my whole family, but it also means it’s the start of Holiday shopping – signified by Black Friday. After my family’s Thanksgiving feast, the women in my family, young and old, circle up with piles of ads and start discussing stores and deals. Over the years, 5 am alarms turned into 3 am alarms, which turned into shopping all-nighters. Nothing makes me happier than frolicking in the aisles of Target at 2 AM and grabbing the very last iHome that’s... more
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Making the Most of an Ethnography Study

advertising research / behavioral research / ethnography / blog / youth
"Who is your typical rural teen male?" As market researchers, we often field these types of questions from clients working on a campaign. We need to be able to provide a portrait of the target market so that the strategy and creative teams can create a message and execution that resonates with the intended audience. Otherwise, how would any ad prompt people to buy that latest Apple product or eat more fruits and vegetables? One recent question we were tasked with was ‘who is your typical rural teen male?’ which was part of an overall effort focusing on rural teen males for a public health campaign. So, who is your typical rural teen male? I have a confession: I have no idea about rural teen... more
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Importance of Career Development In Organizational Success

career development / blog
In celebration of National Career Development Association’s National Career Development Day, we wanted to mark the occasion with a blog post dedicated to the importance of career development and remind organizations to invest in more structured career development platforms for their employees. Hi Megan to a study conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2012), individuals hold an average of 11.3 jobs between the ages of 18 and 46 years old. While this may be surprising to older generations where it was common for someone to begin and end a career at the same company, many employees see job-hopping as the best opportunity for growth and material gain. Particularly in an environment where the economy has been blamed... more
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While the Cat is Away, The Mice Will Play: E-Cigarette Advertising Runs Free... For Now

advertising research / behavioral research / health research / blog / youth
Let’s play a quick game. Let’s imagine you see commercial with an attractive young celebrity on TV holding a cigarette, saying it’s a “perfect puff every time,” enticing you to purchase these so you can look as cool as him or her. Cue another scene, you’re at the race track and you see cigarette brand sponsorships plastered on the cars and drivers. What decade am I thinking of? The 1960s? ‘70s? Actually, no, I’m thinking of this decade, right now. But instead of the traditional cigarette or cigarette brand, it’s the e-cigarette (or electronic cigarette) – a new product that’s spreading like wildfire. An e-cigarette is a battery-powered device that looks like a traditional cigarette, but does not contain tobacco or produce tar and carbon... more
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Kicking the (Red) Can: Coke Comes Under Attack Amid Concerns About Obesity

advertising research / behavioral research / health research / blog
Show-stopping tagline of the week: Happiness doesn’t come in a red can. Obesity does. The “can” the ad refers to is Coke, and the ad (part of the Howard County Unsweetened campaign) asks people to choose healthier beverage options.(1) It moved me – kind of. I saw the ad. I hit print. I hit send. I grabbed the two people within earshot, and I shared. And…I proceeded to finish the Coke I was drinking. Then for three days I’ve thought about why. I was excited about this ad. It grabbed my attention. I’m still thinking about it. But, it wasn’t enough to make me give up my afternoon caffeine fix. The fact is it didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know. And my hunch... more
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Eye Tracking Your Mobile User Experience

eye tracking / research design / user experience / usability / blog
Mobile devices are transforming how we use technology. Pew Research Center reported in June, 2013 that 56% of all US adults own a smartphone (1), and that number is only expected to increase in the years to come. As a result of increased ownership, there has been a surge in usage of mobile versus desktop computers for exploring online everyday needs – from checking email and social media, to shopping, banking, document creation, and socializing. For example, Pew also reported that 32% of US adults now bank using their mobile phones (2). As a result, the usability of mobile platforms and applications is more important than ever as people rely on their handheld device. For the average mobile user, even after becoming comfortable using a... more
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Hope Springs Eternal For (Sorry, DC Sports Fans) Those Who Watch Underdog Narratives

advertising research / behavioral research / health research / blog
If you're looking for an excuse to veg out in front of the TV this weekend, we’ve got you covered. Your favorite guilty pleasure may have a positive impact on your well-being – if it has an underdog narrative. In a recent study (1) published in Media Psychology, people who watched underdog narratives (2) for five minutes a day, for five consecutive days, reported feeling more hopeful than those who watched comedies, nature scenes, or no videos – and their hopefulness remained elevated for up to three days after viewing the final narrative. Hi MeganHope has been linked with psychological and physical health, coping ability, and commitment to goals. And, the big “so what” for these results is... more
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