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An Interview With Tom Anderson On The NGMR Disruptive Innovation Awards

With TMRE just around the corner, I caught up with Tom H.C. Anderson about the NGMR Disruptive Innovation Award and other miscellaneous topics.


The Market Research Event is less than 2 weeks away, marking what is generally the close of the conference season. As usual the event promises to be BIG: more speakers, more tracks, more attendees, and of course, the Next Generation Market Research Disruptive Innovation Award. In it’s 3rd year now the NGMR Award is certainly one of the highlights of TMRE.

With that in mind, I thought it would be interesting to have an interview with the founder of NGMR himself, Tom H.C. Anderson about what to expect for this iteration of the Award, as well as his thoughts on a few other topics near and dear to both of our hearts (and hopefully yours as well!).  We conducted this via email last week. Enjoy!

LFM: Hey Tom, thanks for making the time to chat; it’s always good to catch up with you. So, you’ve got a big event coming up: the 3rd Annual NGMR Disruptive Innovation Award session at TMRE. Tell us about the award and what can we expect this year?  

THCA: We received several great nominations this year again, about 30 firms and several worthy individuals were represented. It’s always a challenge for the NGMR board of advisors to select winners among so many deserving candidates. But just three awards will be given out one in each of the following categories:

  • Thought Leadership
  • Research Concept Deployment
  • Individual

They will be featured on the NGMR as well as on the TMRE blog explaining why they were selected. There will also be a panel discussion with the winners at the TMRE in Orlando FL. I’m looking forward to an interesting discussion about innovation and the future of market research and hope there will be plenty of audience participation.

LFM: Managing these things can always be a bit of a challenge; what have you learned from the process and how do you think you’ll change things in the future?

THCA: Well you’re right, thankfully NGMR has a really great board of seven advisors who help read and decide on the awards. This year in particular I’d like to thank board members Jan Fager, Managing Director of the Swedish Marketing Federation, Mike Gadd, President of Gadd Research and Tom De Ruyck President of BAQMaR who really were all very helpful in keeping us on schedule. Giving each of the many good nominations we receive the thought they deserve can be challenging time wise.

We’ve been talking about asking the NGMR membership to select the winner in the future by voting in a survey. However we’re also concerned that winners should not be selected just based on popularity or because their nominations come from a large firm with several NGMR members who could vote for themselves. So we’re thinking maybe next year we may make it a two stage process where there is both voting as well as an expert panel evaluation.

LFM: When reviewing the submissions, was there anything that jumped out at you or surprised you?

THCA: I think this year we got a pretty broad participation both in terms of client, supplier and individual nominations. What I would like to see more of perhaps is academic participation, though we did get some of that as well last year.

This year I was also impressed by the broadness in types of methodologies and technologies represented. It seemed almost everything was represented from various survey integration and biometrics to text analytics. We also had representation from online tracking which is an area I’m personally very interested in.

There’s always some difference of opinion among the advisory panel in terms of what is most interesting. Most of us tend to agree on what we find most interesting, and score nominations somewhat similarly with the exception of some of the newer techniques coming from smaller companies or from firms which we might consider ‘non-traditional’ providers. This is always a challenge. To some degree though part of good innovation does include market acceptance. So I hope some of the early innovators which weren’t selected will submit again next year.

As it’s hard enough to select just three winners among this bunch, we typically don’t like to single out and distinguish any other nominations beyond the winners. But this year I think perhaps we may make an exception or two.

LFM: The panel discussion of winners sounds interesting; what will you be covering and what impact do you hope it will generate for TMRE attendees?

THCA: Good question.

I’ve asked the NGMR community for feedback on what they like in a panel ( While we’ll probably touch on what the winners have been up to, I think attendees will probably have sat through lots of presentations by then, so I’d like to perhaps discuss with them, as well as the audience, how innovation in research can become more actionable and how it can best be implemented.

LFM: Let’s shift gears for a minute. I’ve noticed a branding shift for you lately, with a greater emphasis on OdinText vs. Anderson Analytics. What’s up with OdinText and where do you see your company evolving?

THCA: As you know, from the outset in 2005 Anderson Analytics has always been focused on leveraging text analytics in research. Our clients have driven much of my thinking in regards to our software OdinText which was initially used to analyze thousands of comments from longitudinal survey research. While market research will always be near and dear to my heart, we now have clients in Customer Service using OdinText to analyze hundreds of thousands to millions of customer data points from call center logs and emails, and yes even social media.

I’m trying to understand the use cases where our unique approach to text analytics can best be leveraged. Accordingly, we’re focused on development and together with clients better understanding the ROI of text analytics. I would love market researchers to play a bigger role in the analysis of big data, so I think one of the benefits of OdinText is as a means to get access to other data silos such as Customer Service where I believe market researchers can definitely add value.

We’re also talking to some agencies now that collect a lot of data to see if OdinText can help them. I really like the idea that we can now be helpful to research suppliers as well as end clients.

LFM: On a related note, with so much going on with your business, how is that impacting your work with NGMR, blogging, and social media in general?

THCA: It has had an impact. I don’t have as much time to blog etc. as I would like. I’ve grown quite tired of Twitter. I always viewed Twitter more as a PR tool, and don’t find it as personally rewarding/fun as other types of social media.

I believe Google+ could become more important in the future, but haven’t had too much time for that either. I do participate in discussions in the NGMR LinkedIn group fairly frequently as I think it’s a great way to stay in touch with folks in the market research community who believe professional research relationships are as important as I do.

I also do Facebook a little differently than I used to because I think it’s more fun and you can be yourself. Facebook for me is a less serious mix of keeping in touch with friends, expressing your sense of humor, political viewpoints and even occasionally business thoughts.

LFM: Well, since you and I are connected across all of those networks, I certainly can see the shift. Are there any other social networks or utilities that you are particularly interested in?

THCA: I keep my eyes open. I think we were the first to spot and report the demise of MySpace and rise of Facebook among Gen Y which quickly spread everywhere else. There is a first mover advantage inherent in spotting and leveraging a new network. But you can’t waste your time with every new thing that comes out. I haven’t seen anything particularly powerful/interesting lately.

However I did come across an app last week which I thought had implemented some basic text analytics in a fun way, Social Me (

LFM: Google announced the integration of automatic coding and sentiment analysis into their survey platform this week; do you think we’re going to see more integration efforts like that with other platforms, and is Odin Text a good candidate to be the partner for that?

THCA: I did see that and took a very quick look. As with the other offering from Google it looked very basic, their text expertise lies in search, and while there are probably some things that can be ported over I’m guessing it may be too basic for what researchers really need.

Google likes to throw lots of darts and see what if anything sticks. If you want to be serious you have to realize you can’t do everything well and still focus. Radian6 actually seems to be trying to focus within the area of SM, they are going out to other companies asking them to supply various parts of the process. I think they have a few different partners doing sentiment alone a few different ways. This might be overkill, but at least they realize they aren’t experts in text analytics, they’re experts in reselling social media data.

But to answer your questions, yes certainly there will be much more integration, and yes certainly there are opportunities for OdinText here. I’d be happy to talk to Google about implementing OdinText, but I’m not sure how seriously they’re taking this effort right now. It may well end up like LinkedIn’s brief experiment with market research which as you know we helped them with a bit. Then LinkedIn realized market research wasn’t a worthwhile revenue stream.

Anyway yes, I think there are many potential partners out there for us, including market research companies.



LFM: Is there anything else at this year’s TMRE that has you really excited? Any sessions you’ve already highlighted as “must attends”?

THCA: Well Guy Kawasaki is speaking. I’ve been a long time admirer/friend of his and got lots of my early advice RE social media especially Twitter from him. Interestingly he seems to prefer Google+ over Twitter now. Anyway, I’ll definitely be at that session.

I also really look forward to meeting members of the NGMR community in person at TMRE.

LFM: OK, last question. It’s almost Halloween, so in the spirit of the season, what do you think is the scariest thing happening in the industry today?  

THCA: That folks are forgetting that the client objectives are the key. Some are chasing new data, some are chasing new methodologies, others are chasing story telling and video ethnography, whatever glitters the most.

MARKETING RESEARCH is supposed to be a careful balance of two things. Our Objective/Focus should be Marketing (how to get stuff sold and make more $), and the way we should go about it is through Research (A scientific approach that can be duplicated). I think it’s scary how many seem off balance.

I think our job should be to help our clients understand a process or system and make it better. That’s a powerful ability.

LFM: Thanks Tom, it’s always a pleasure catching up. I can’t wait to hear about how the NGMR Awards go!

THCA: Same here Lenny. Look for more updates on NGMR soon.

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2 responses to “An Interview With Tom Anderson On The NGMR Disruptive Innovation Awards

  1. @Chris. Look forward to meeting you at TMRE.

    @Lenny if the data is garbage and/or is irrelevant for your brand, then no matter how much time is invested into the algorithm it still won’t be useful. Sure, you can put enough of an interesting story together to get a reporter to write yet another take on election polling, but it won’t be of any significance in terms of marketing ROI

    There are a few exceptions perhaps. But not in comparison to all the hype. There are definitely far more important data sources that text analytics should be leveraged on first.

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