We go nuts for surveys.

Especially the online kind, where anonymity rules [unless to win that one outta million prize by submitting your email].

We insert comments [never rude, of course].  Ask lots of questions in the “your opinions, please” box.  Give feedback on the type of conclusions we think the surveyer wants.  Ad infinitum.

That obsession (okay, we’re honest) led us to a recent conversation with a client who loves Halloween.  She noted her kids were probably too old to dress up … and “besides, they can’t wear masks.”


The community, or so goes the explanation, banned full-face coverage (à la Darth Vader) a while back, fearing that when people can’t tell who you are, unruly and uncivil behavior just might follow. 

Which, in our mind, might have been one of the prompts for the current popularity of apps like Secret and Whisper, sites such as Reddit.  All frame e-anonymity as a good thing, with only the reminder to “say something kind.” 

So our curious selves searched psych lit to discover what research could tell us.  Answers surprised us.  According to the professionals, identity masking can encourage participation, boost a certain type of creative thinking, and improve problem solving.  Yeah, and, of course, some risk taking.  Plus psychologists Marco Yzu and Brian Southwell argue that, no matter what the media of anonymity, most of us are still governed by good and basic human principles.

So the next time you craft a “no names revealed” survey  …


We’re tired, just plain tired, of our opinions being asked.

For the first, oh, dozen times or so, it’s ego-satisfying to learn someone wants to hear what we think.  And when the asker combines it with an incentive, boy, we’re so there.  Who wouldn’t want a free bagel or a dozen from Einstein, or the chance to win $$ in a retail splurge spree?  Or a coupla dozen thousand miles on an airline?

In the last year or two, we’ve stopped responding.  To be completely transparent, the incentives aren’t there anymore.   [We’re simply not interested in entering a drawing for another high-caloric treat when, really, the establishment just wants to get a fix on our personal data.  Now that’s another story.  For another blog.]

The real truth, though, is that today, every time we stop in a grocery store, shop online, or get something fixed, a survey’s awaiting.  And many don’t take “no” for an answer.  We’ve been bombarded online, then via robocalls and finally land lines, for instance, from car dealerships … ironic when we already told the salesperson we weren’t interested in a “special” service.  When that happens, we hang up, and not so politely say “no.”  In a different language. 

More than a few gurus have cautioned about survey fatigue, resulting in a lower response rate and weakening the value of the questionnaire.  Others talk about respecting our time, sending clear invitations, keeping it brief, and responding to our complaints.

Yet couldn’t another underlying cause of “please sir/madame, no more” be the type of survey selected?  Usually, researchers hit us in our technological homes, from emails and online requests to mobile and social media touchpoints.    It’s hard not to speed up survey responses when we’re faced with multiple choices to a question, checking, often blindly, whatever hits us at the moment.  Or whatever sounds good.

Here’s a novel thought:  Why not talk with us, either on the phone or in person, one to one or in a small group?  For those watching an hourly clock, it’s definitely more time-consuming and expensive – the actual process as well as the analysis and reporting.  But aren’t we worth it?


Now that the BIG elections are over, can we tell you how much we loathe-despise-detest pollsters?

We’ve learned how to zero out (to avoid the robo-dialers).  Found excuse after excuse to disqualify ourselves from responding to a live questioner. [Try “I gave at the office.”  It’ll flummox them every time.]  Squirmed and gave weird comments to the “other” answer in online surveys.

Yet, somehow, THEY know:  There’s a fellow feeling deep down of compliance, of understanding that it takes 10,000 calls to create a village of 1,000.  Besides, we do the same thing … inside.

So why the avoidance, the need to be, quite simply, contrary? 

It might be because we’re over-surveyed.  Have lost faith in the power and performance of polls.  Witnessed the conflict among numbers in national reports.  Or prefer, honestly, to engage in conversations with those around us, testing what we need to among the groups who know and work with us.  A focus group of friends, if you will.

Is it statistically significant?  Nope.

Can we ferret out real intentions in these dialogues?  Maybe yes.  Maybe no.

When we do want to get a snapshot in the moment of what people know, what they believe, and the actions they follow, this is our preferred route.  It’s like copytesting, probing opinions and communicating both ways.  Asking strangers, even inside corporations, about certain matters is like asking for a leap of faith; many – even if you’ve been referred by the senior-most executives – will either decline politely or go through the answers somewhat mechanically.  Sure, the humongous engagement surveys do get responses.  Sure, they’re anonymous, without attribution.  Yet, there’s no opportunity to exchange ideas and thoughts; that “other” bucket receives the venting from many … but it doesn’t answer back.

So when you ask us to sample our opinions, think again, please, about the “how.”  We’re counting on it.