MRX Profile: Q&A with SSI’s Bob Fawson

By the Editors

Bob Fawson is Chief Product Officer at SSI. Prior to SSI, he served as Chief Access, Supply and Engagement Officer at Opinionology, which later joined with Survey Sampling International to form SSI. While at Opinionology, Fawson expanded the company’s portfolio of online sampling methods and improved methods for managing online panel inventories.

 Q (The Editors): What is best thing about being the Chief Product Officer at SSI?

A: (Bob Fawson): I have the great opportunity to interact with so many capable people on many interesting projects. This involves working across functions and across the globe. I also get to spend a lot of time thinking about and working on what’s coming next.

Q: What positive changes have you seen over the years in the MR industry?

A: The level of sophistication and transparency within MR have increased. I think there’s been an increasing recognition that market researchers and insights professionals have to work faster, produce more relevant results, and not conclude that “more research is needed.” There’s been a real trend toward actionable, faster data.

Q: What sort of research should we be doing (at SSI and elsewhere)?

 A: There’s not a simple answer for this question. Researchers should become more familiar with the data being used to systematically target digital advertising and measure the effectiveness of that advertising. We should understand data that is gathered from sensors in our mobile devices and through other technologies.  The wealth of data that now exists to aid our understanding of consumers, markets and marketing effectiveness is tremendous.

This explosion in the availability of data is really a challenge and opportunity. It gives us the power to deliver insights that are more fit for purpose and fit for budget. This requires more understanding of the business context surrounding a research project, not only understanding the methodology.

It’s an exciting time to be a researcher because there’s so much opportunity to learn and so many ways to impact a business beyond traditional methods.

Q: What do you like to do when you’re off the clock?

A: I am a telemark skier and a mountain biker.  I spend most of my off-the-clock time arranging and enjoying adventures with my family.

Q: What role would you play in a group of 20 people in a post-apocalyptic scenario?

A: If you’ve seen the most recent Mad Max movie, I’ll be the guy with the guitar.

Q: How do you think market research will evolve over the next 40 years?

A: I personally think the pace of change will increase.

  • We’re going to move from asking people questions toward observing people’s behavior. It’s a far more accurate way of measuring.
  • Privacy legislation, and public concern for privacy, will make obtaining the permission from research participants more important. Much of the measurement our customers will want will be contingent on the permission of an individual.
  • Increasing availability of data combined with advances in data storage and computing power will be self-perpetuating. More complex predictive models will demand more data!

SSI is positioned very well as a company that does collect permission. This permission allows us to collect unique, accurate, granular 1st party data to answer very difficult questions.

Fun facts about Bob:

  • I grew a beard when I was eighteen years old, and since then I have only shaved it three times. My oldest daughter cried when she saw me without it.
  • I grew up travelling with my Dad. One fantastic memory was riding in a bullet-proof land cruiser through Chechnya during a month we spent in Southern Russia. It’s an incredible place.
  • I married a bio-chemist who taught me everything I know about math and statistics; opening the opportunity for a career in market research!

Known for his expertise across diverse topics, Fawson is a frequent speaker at market research events. He first joined Opinionology to manage its online client service and project management teams. Fawson earned a Masters degree in Political Science and a Masters degree in Applied Economics from Utah State University.