1. To negate concerns over sampling accuracy, representativeness and objectivity, Taco Bell recruitment still uses the same rigorous screener it would for any other typical qualitative research and so for instance out of 753 people who screened in a recent blind survey only 285 qualified. The pool is then wittled down to 25 nationally balanced respondents to take part in a private 4 week panel moderated by an experienced moderators who works as consultants, not as employees of Taco Bell. In terms of objectivity, I see no difference from hiring any other outside moderator when you consider that most brands have trusted moderators that they work with over and over again. Research teams in the large brands develop relationships with these moderators precisely because they know these moderators have the experience with the consumers of their brands and thus know when new insights are being sparked, keeping perspectives on concept, positioning and market evaluations framed in reality. In today’s tight economy and shrinking research budgets, being able to think outside the box is definitely THE way to keep the insights flowing and current.

  2. Good insights and explanation of the process Taco Bell uses and the efforts they make to ensure quality. I think this type of research will grow quickly in acceptability because it is fast and relatively inexpensive. Often, research objectives are not focused on deep, psychological motivators but often on communication issues that can be discerned fairly easily and have broad applicability.

    Your comments about the similarity between in-house moderators and research teams who develop strong relationships with outside moderators is a good one that we should consider more often. Research consultants tend to downplay their potential bias when they have a long-term clients to keep but use the same argument to argue against in-house moderators. It does seem to be a bit of a double standard.

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