To MROC Or Not To MROC -- That's The Question

I was offline for two days this week, and during that time a lively debate had started on the term MROC (market research online community) and the definition of what an MROC is.

Jeffrey Henning from Vovici wrote a blog post in which he presented a segmentation that positions different types of communities in a matrix graphic, based on open versus closed and long term versus short term.

In our opinion, this is actually a useful segmentation of different types of online qualitative research techniques that could be categorized as different ways of doing social MR. However, each of these examples is on different parts of the spectrum of what a community is. From a research standpoint, community bonds strengthen as engagement from the research participants and commitment from the researcher increase. As a result, I’d put online focus groups and bulletin boards at the low end of the spectrum and MROCs at the very high end (when done right).

That’s as far as I’ll go in a blog entry on defining what a community is. Even "official" definitions of community offer a lot of latitude and reveal that that there are larger debates on this term that go beyond MR.

As for the debate on whether the term MROC is actually an accurate term: The applications for social technologies in MR will continue to evolve over time, and new definitions and research methods will emerge as result. But currently "MROC" seems to work well for most of our clients, and we think it still defines a way of doing research that’s different from other online qualitative methods. Instead of the debating semantics, we believe it’s more important that the discussion focus on how MR can own market research online communities and other forms of social market research internally -- instead of within discreet marketing departments.

We’re interested to see what others in the space have to say on this hot topic.


Thanks for the comments,

Thanks for the comments, Tamara. I agree that the segmentation as I had it doesn't emphasize the strength of community -- I think by reversing the axis for open/closed this can accomplish this:

Thinking of a community spectrum, I would say OLFGs create almost no sense of community, but I think longer-lived BBFGs can have as a strong a sense of community as classic MROCs, especially since they are smaller and more intimate.

Of the six types of qualitative research that I outline, which does Forrester consider to be MROCs?


Tamara, I have 2 concerns with the label "MROCs". The primary one is that most clients in the space have changed their titles: they have moved from "Director of Market Research" to "Director of Consumer Insights". There is a reason for this, which is that their organizations are not that interested in research for research's sake. Thus, why label something innovative with an old moniker? (It's almost as bad as spending a lot of time on the qual/quant debate, which is also "old.") Secondly, I have many clients that say MROC sounds like The Flintstones. :-)

Above and beyond that, I agree that we should not be spending a lot of time debating the semantics related to different types of communities. Let's just be sure that we don't call it a community unless the members can build relationships with each other!

Here's to talking about impact and effectiveness.

What's in an MROC?

Jeffrey and Diane, thank you for your comments on this discussion about MROCs.

Overall, we believe that communities require more care and feeding than a short term online focus group or bulletin board with limited activities and discussion, although many of the types of qualitative research methods mentioned in Jeffrey's segmentation can be used as a tool within the community framework. The idea voting communities are in our opinion more likely to be open communities where the people are still connected to each other by a common interest in the product/company/topic -- like Dell's IdeaStorm or National Instruments' public idea community.

With regards to the naming, whenever an abbreviation has managed to get such a sentiment going, and even has made it into a cartoon ( there's something to be said for sticking to it - I think it has earned its place (at least for now).

As a FYI: Tamara is out on maternity leave until end of September, but my team is looking forward to continue the discussion, now or at some of the MR events later this year.

MROC - What's In a Name?

Throwing in my two cents on the topic, I simply don't care for the acronym "MROC".

Back in the day, I used to work in the telecoms field and the MROC term always reminded me of "RBOC" (Regional Bell Operating Company) and other tedious techie names.

It is neither sexy nor descriptive.

Clearing the Air

I wanted to comment here because something that I created was taken out of context and striped of its intended satirical humour. The aforementioned graphic (what Reineke referred to as a cartoon) was created as a MEME entry playing on the words of Diane Hessan, “I have many clients that say MROC sounds like The Flintstones. :-)”. My goal with this image was to gently poke fun at the acronym MROC which I prefer not to use. MROC describes a process in contrast to Insight which describes an outcome. I feel that the latter has a much greater impact.

If you would like to see this MEME entry with a full understanding of its purpose it exists here:

Out of context

Thank you Terri for clarifying. I'd only seen a link to the graphic from a tweet from Tom Anderson, hence my misunderstanding. I realized it was meant to be satirical, and my comment was meant to be lighthearted. For me MROC is not set in stone, but for now it serves its purpose: making sure that market research gets onto the online community train.

Addressing the whole MROC naming debate, the more we can get away from a debate on semantics, the better. Calling the research community an Insights community broadens it potential to a wider audience internally than just MR, but runs the risk of tuning down the influence of MR as an insight generator even more, and distancing market research online communities from their true purpose.

So, MROC might not fully cover the potential of online communities, in my opinion it’s more important that the discussion focuses around how MR can (start to) own online communities internally than how it’s named.


MROCs offer so much more

I am of the opinion by calling them MROCs we are closing ourselves off to the benefits an entire organization can gain from these private communities. Often MR reports are only reviewed by a few internal stakeholders. Communities are all about engagement with the customer. I feel by using the term Insight Community: customer service, delivery, operations, and even accounting departments are more open to listen to how their customers not only use, but how they think and feel about their brand, product, or services. The reports generated from these types of communities can be a tremendous value to an organization and should be circulated.

Insights from Research Communities

Thanks Jim for your comment.
Nobody involved in this discussion will argue with you about the value communities can bring to both the market research department as well as the organization. The challenge I see is that many of the communities organizations have at this point aren't run by market research but by other roles within the marketing organization. These communities generate a lot of insight, are often used for testing purposes (e.g. marketing material) but this process isn't part of the research portfolio.

From the Forrester report ‘Use Online Communities For Strategic Insight’, targeted at helping CMO’s understand the benefits of communities I quote the following:

Forrester believes that marketing leaders must step in and establish communities as a dynamic asset to their brand teams. Why? More than three-quarters of CMOs say they're ultimately responsible for market research within their organizations. Yet most marketers tell us they only engage with their communities when they have a specific question to answer. We believe that CMO's need to get their research team to focus on what's important in a sea of open-ended responses: insights that matter to the marketing plans. Research communities will redefine marketing planning, making agency relationships more complicated.

Research communities serve within organizations another purpose than many of the existing online marketing communities, and having a distinct naming helps that process in my opinion.