Why the Distinction Between Quant and Qual is Obsolete

NGMR IIEX Quant Qual

NGMR at IIEX – NGMR is About Challenging The Status Quo With Text Analytics or Whatever Your Passion Is

Writing today to remind fellow Next Gen Market Researchers that one of my favorite market research events, and the one that perhaps more so than any other event out there celebrates Innovation, is coming up just next month. I thought this new video does a rather good job showcasing some of the things I’ve come to appreciate about the event.

Greenbooks’ IIEX (Insights Innovation Exchange) focus on innovation and breaking from the status quo is after all very close to the principles on which Next Gen Market Research (NGMR) was formed.

While writing today’s post I reached out to IIEX’s founder Lenny Murphy to ask him why IIeX was started and where he sees it going:

IIeX was built to do 2 things: connect innovators with possible partners (clients, investors or JVs) and to give the insights industry a forum to explore the future. In 5 years it’s grown to be one of the largest MR events in the world and a special gathering of the visionaries, change agents, influencers, and industry trend setters who are creating the future right before our eyes. We’ve also been the home of many “firsts” in events in our industry and continue to be the place where things happen before they do anywhere else. All of those things are huge honors, and we will keep on working hard to be worthy of our unique status in our industry!

To me Innovation is about change, but also resistance to change. In all things market research, there is a certain inertia at work, and the thinking of “if it aint broke don’t fix it”. This thinking can dangerous if you want to retain your sport and certainly if you want to move ahead. I believe it’s up to us a market research professionals to challenge ourselves, our colleagues and companies to evaluate new ways of doing things and apply those that work.

While there will be innovators in various areas of marketing research from behavioral economics to neuro science, as most of you know data and text mining software is my unique specialty and passion. Therefore, I’ll be at IIEX to champion change in this area.  In fact, this year I want to challenge ALL researchers, both “Quantitative” and “Qualitative” to start thinking differently.

I think the time for the terms ‘Quant’ and ‘Qual’ have long since come and gone, there is less and less reason to partition marketing research based on these terms today. If you think about it, the terms have little to do with data size, but rather with the type of data and whether it’s Unstructured/Text data or Structured/Numeric data. The fact is that today, thanks to text analytics software, this differentiation is already completely irrelevant, though size/amount of data arguably still is.

Last year I ran a study among market researchers about their opinions and usage of customer comment data, and an embarrassing number of researchers admitted to avoiding unstructured comment data because they didn’t know how to analyze it.

So, among my goals at the event will be to challenge Qualitative researchers to think about options for larger data and to do more statistical analysis on comment data, and to challenge Quant researchers to pay proper attention to unstructured data which we have found time and time again predict actual behavior better than any number of “quant” Likert scale variables.

If you’re planning on attending I’d love to see you either the round table discussion I’ll be hosting on Text Analytics on the 12th, or for my talk at 3:00pm on June 13th in the QRCA Track.

I’ll be doing a special talk on Tapping The Power of A Single Comment Question which I hope will challenge Quant and Qual Researchers alike to think differently data and to realize, today it’s really just all about one kind of data, the right data. Even large quantities of text data in different languages can now be analyzed very quickly and easily, and with richer insights, by a single English speaking analyst.

The Text Analytics roundtable discussion Noon-2:00pm on June 12th will be aa chance for anyone to join the conversation with questions or experiences regarding working with unstructured or mixed data.

I really hope to see you at IIEX as well, and hear about what innovative changes you are advocating for. If you’d like to attend feel free to use my speaker code ODINTEXT20 (20% discount).

Naturally, if you can’t make it, I’m always happy to answer questions or to chat here on the blog, in NGMR LinkedIn group or via Twitter.


TomHCAnderson Next Gen Marketing Research

About Tom H. C. Anderson

Tom H. C. Anderson is the founder and managing partner of OdinText, a venture-backed firm based in Stamford, CT whose patented SAS platform is used by Fortune 500 companies like Disney, Coca-Cola and Shell Oil to mine insights from complex, unstructured and mixed data. A recognized authority and pioneer in the field of text analytics with more than two decades of experience in market research, Anderson is the recipient of numerous awards for innovation from industry associations such as CASRO, ESOMAR and the ARF. He was named one of the “Four under 40” market research leaders by the American Marketing Association in 2010. He is also founder and moderator of Next Gen Market Research (NGMR), a professional networking group for consumer insights practitioners, as well as the editor of the NGMR blog. He tweets under the handle @tomhcanderson.


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9 Comments on "Why the Distinction Between Quant and Qual is Obsolete"

  1. In typical Tom Anderson fashion…the headline is provocative but the premise is actually sane. There is a lot of blurring of the lines, and technology such as Odin Text makes it more compelling. If you’re going to IIex then this promises to be a good session

  2. Tom, will your presentation be tapped for those of us who can’t attend?



  3. Dr. Stu Greenberg | May 24, 2017 at 2:45 pm | Reply

    Hmm – a provocative post. However, I still think that the ideas of “Qual” and “Quant” have merit. Of course, within any framework, there is room for innovation and optimization.

  4. If we get past surveys and into coded field work observations then how do you perceive that as a contribution to small data sets? I get the everything is data mindset when you feed it into text analysis but some of the ethnographic insight efforts resist text analysis as a fruitful means of delivering answers. They really have to stand on their own as an overlay of the data sets, no?

  5. Hi Tom, I’m with you about tapping the power of one question. We are working with a mobile platform doing video answers that get transcribed quickly allowing us to simply put in track marks and make our summary video. This can be done with any size sample – so it’s not qual or quant. Thanks for you continued work on pushing the research envelope.

  6. @Greg I’ll be in touch. Thinking of maybe doing a webinar after the event if its interest

    • Toni Blumeris | May 25, 2017 at 11:30 am | Reply

      Please – a webinar would be great for those of us on the tip of Africa unable to attend 🙂

  7. @Alain, Text analytics can capture the explicit as well as tacit and conceptual including emotions and semiotics. It can be used on answers or questions or discussion, or descriptions of asking, transcriptions from video, and works great with machine translation

    • Toni Blumeris | May 25, 2017 at 11:32 am | Reply

      Still an area unexplored and not understood I have to admit, as a traditional qualie. I truly don’t understand how artificial intelligence can pick up the subtle unspoken, subconscious clues inherent to context … and which may provoke an insight from merely one outlier comment … but open to all learning! So yes please a webinar!:) Thanks Tom

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