"As more people moved online, we thought `couldn't we move half of these [methods] online as well?' " said Chris Clark, exec VP-director of planning and strategic development at Bates North America.
Bates has conducted more than 100 Consumer Link projects for clients including Wendy's International, Hyundai Motor America and Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp.'s Lucky Strike, as well as for its own new-business purposes.
The surveys, which often contain hyperlinks to ad copy, images or logos, are quickly able to reach beyond quantitative data to reveal consumers' more complex relationships with brands. For example, Bates recently ran a Consumer Link study to identify the personalities that consumers attribute to traditional, old economy brands vs. new technology brands.
For each of 12 brands listed-including Coca-Cola Co., Napster, Levi Strauss & Co. and America Online-participants determined what car that brand would drive if it were a person; also where it would vacation, what instrument it would play, what celebrity it would be like; and what kind of home it would own. The agency learned that consumers see some Internet brands as "smarter" than traditional brands, since participants said both Amazon.com and Microsoft Corp. were most like Albert Einstein.
In addition, indicators of conservative values, such as family cars and houses in the suburbs, were assigned to new technology brands, showing Bates that consumers now see some tech companies as mainstream brands. After fielding the first results, Bates, which conducted the study for its in-house research purposes, is considering watching how these relationships move over time.
Other agencies have in-house, proprietary Internet-based research units. For example, Saatchi & Saatchi's Kid Connection gathers opinions online from children ages 8 to 15. Similarly, Griffin Bacal's LiveWire accesses more than 3,500 families online for research purposes.