The Insights Revolution: Questioning Everything

IAB Canada’s Research Committee invited Andrew Grenville (Chief Revenue Officer at Maru/Matchbox) to discuss the current state of today’s research practices, and what we were left with was a greater understanding into ‘why’ there is an urgent need to change what we once knew.

Read on to better understand ‘why’ people take surveys, what we’re doing wrong and some considerations to keep in mind when thinking about, let alone creating surveys.

Why do people participate in survey’s?

Mr. Grenville began by explaining that consumers participate in surveys to contribute their views to society as trusted advisors; they want their voices to be heard. They do not participate for monetary reasons and would rather know that they contributed to an outcome.

What are we doing wrong?

After spending upwards of five minutes filling out basic demographic information, people often learn that they have been disqualified. Not only does this cause a disruptive experience, there is concern that (due to how widespread an experience this is) these negative encounters will actually impede the ability to recruit sufficient sample sizes in the future! The time to course correct is now.

Worse, the people who actually do qualify for surveys can face unpleasant experiences when asked to complete complex, lengthy questionnaire grids with 10-point scales, that merely record the strength of their patience. The impact that excessive, complex surveys have, can result in bad data – not to mention bad experiences.


The research industry has been cautioned to “stop treating respondents like a commodity and start treating them like people”.

One crucial way to achieve this is to create feedback/contribution loops that notify participants how their input made a difference to subsequent corporate marketing decisions (refer to section above as to ‘why’ people take survey’s).

Additionally, as an industry, we need to stop asking complicated questions and start asking questions people can answer. An example was used whereby a video showed people’s facial expressions when filling out a long grid. These expressions were ones of: disgust, contempt and, above all, boredom.


Mr. Grenville reminded us to: “Stop trying to learn everything at once and start being agile and iterative”.

Surveys that run too long lead to a high dropout rate, resulting in fewer completed surveys that then put sample size at risk. Only ask questions that are relevant at the time of interest, returning to sample with additional questions, that build on past insights, when needed.