Marketing "Puffery" 

I don't need to tell you that 2016 was a most eventful year.  The one phrase that popped into my head, which I learned as an undergrad, was marketing "puffery."  For those unaware, puffery is a legal term that allows for companies to exaggerate the claims they make about their products or services.  The theory is that "no reasonable person" could believe these claims.  An example of puffery would be something like "World's Best Coffee."

It seems like puffery is taking on a whole new meaning, and it's getting tougher to determine the line between puffery and flat out inaccurate information-in other words, "reasonable people" are having a hard time distinguishing what is accurate.  No doubt, social media has exacerbated this issue, as various claims go unchecked, and the competition for being first with information allows for rumors to be passed off as fact. 

The number of credible organizations that "tell it like it is" is dwindling as well. Companies, news outlets, political parties, sports teams, celebrities-you name the group, are all spinning information.  Whatever side of the aisle on which you sit, it makes it near impossible to ferret out the truth anymore.
Like everywhere else, puffery exists in the energy efficiency space.  As our industry has matured, we have found it important to tout vast amounts of energy savings, numerous jobs created, and significant carbon reductions, among other things.  For the most part, our claims are true, but lately, it seems to be getting more tempting for some to exaggerate things a bit. 

At Opinion Dynamics, we believe that providing accurate and defensible information is integral to the future success of energy efficiency.  While it seems great to provide our clients with high free-ridership numbers and 100% claimed savings all the time, if it isn't accurate, then it is only a matter of time before stakeholders figure that out.

Our industry includes some of the hardest working, most well-intentioned people-I'd put us up against any industry in that regard.  I hope we all can continue to maintain our integrity and thoughtfulness in these changing times.  I know Opinion Dynamics-"the World's Best Energy Evaluation Firm"-will!

Brad Kates, CEO

Lindsay Demers
Tell Us How You Feel! 
Improving Consumer Research Using Eye Tracking
Lindsay Demers, Ph.D., Project Manager

As market research leaders, Opinion Dynamics has been pioneering new approaches to research in energy efficiency.  Eye tracking is one method that our clients can take advantage of to gain a unique perspective on how customers perceive and interact with their outreach materials.
Used for decades in the social sciences, eye tracking is a data collection method that allows researchers to gather data that show what areas of a screen people look at the most, what typical eye movement patterns are, and how long people are spending reading particular sentences or paragraphs. Through this method, we have a new avenue through which we can assess the effectiveness of marketing collateral, home energy reports, and utility bills, just to name a few.
Eye tracking is exceptionally powerful because it allows researchers to observe participant behavior and gather real-time feedback.  For example, if we are evaluating the effectiveness of a website at conveying a particular message, we can observe whether a participant is fixating for an extended length of time on a particular paragraph and, in real-time, ask them why. Is the text too small?  Is the writing n ot cle ar?  
We can also supple ment eye tracking sessions with surveys, which allows us to correlate eye movements with participants' perceptions of the materials they viewed and their short- and long-term me mory of those materials. By combining eye tracking with more traditional survey work, we provide clients with a holistic and in-depth view of how participants perceive marketing materials, while addressing some of the sources of bias that come along with traditional survey work (e.g., social desirability, cognitive bias).

As market researchers,  we  are ofte n tasked with determining the effectiveness of a marketing campaign. One way to do this with eye tracking is by presenting custo mers with marketing collateral (web-based ads, on-bill messaging) and see how much time they spend fixating on key information about the campaign. By doing this, we can provide a more formative assessment of effectiveness (e.g., when presented with this collateral where are customers most likely to look? Is the key text place in an ideal location on the website?) that, when combined with traditional survey data on customer awareness and recall, will provide clients with a 360-degree evaluation of their marketing campaign.
Eye tracking is one of the newer tools in the market research toolbox. And, as market research leaders, it is important that we move with the tide of social science in order to provide our clients with results that are holistic, rigorous, and cutting-edge. To this end, under the leadership of Dr. Ellen Steiner and myself, Opinion Dynamics is working to incorporate eye tracking into our ongoing evaluations. If you would like to hear more about eye tracking (or other physiological measures), please contact me at  and keep an eye out for future newsletter articles on this topic.   

Sharyn Barata Elected to Board of the California Industry Council

Congratulations to Sr. Vice Presid ent Sharyn B arata on  her election to the California Energy Efficiency Industry Council's ( ) board of directors The c o un cil provides a voice for a diverse group of professionals working to  ensur e energy efficiency is a vital part of Californi a's e conomy.

Ms. Barata has over 25 years of experience in the energy research an d eval uat ion industry and is considered one of the nation's foremost process and m arket assessment eva lua tors.  She is al so  a key contributor to the California evaluation landscape.

No stranger to  supportin g n on-profits  and serving as a key industry influen cer, sh e provides  service to  most of our industry's  professional organizations.  She is currently th e president-elect for the Intern atio nal Energy Program Evaluation Conference (IEPEC), serves as a board member for the Peak Load Management Alliance (PLMA), and is a  contributing advisor to  the Behavior,  Energy and Climate Ch ange (BECC) conference.
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