Interview: Cigdem Penn

Category: Our News  |  Comments: 0 comment  |  16 October 2017

Çiğdem Penn – I am against cookie cut research!

 Dr. Fatma Kamiloğlu

Çiğdem Penn is an important and valuable name in the research sector. She has an  a never-fading curiosity and a super sharp mind. 

Since  1999, she has been following her curious mind to different corners of the world, conducting very interesting research all along. She has undertaken numerous national and international projects in the industry and has worked with public and private sectors alike. She has received a brilliant academic record   and a first class education. After Notre Dame de Sion, she graduated from Boğaziçi University, Department of Psychology and studied Economics and Political Sciences at The London School of Economics.  After working in international consultancy and research companies, she  took the plunge and set-up Xsights Research and Consultancy Company in London in 2004, at an early age, with an entrepreneurial spirit. She established the Company's Istanbul office in 2010, while the research industry was gaining a new momentum. Now she is planning to open a new brachn  in DC, the United States. Particularly, thanks to its  consumerl panel   and huge amounts of   international experience her company Xsights has become one of the most eye-catching  companies in the industry.. With the devoted research-lover Çiğdem Penn, here we talked about what we know the best - that is research. 

What are the areas that the communication industry neglect while conducting research? Can we say that existing marketing investments in Turkey and brand positioning strategies are no longer carried out without research? Have we reached to that point yet?

  Yes , I believe  we have achieved to convey the importance of research to the magazines and communication professionals. For example, corporate reputation studies are becoming more frequent. More brand-based works have begun to be done. Advertisers who say ‘I don't like research’ now think twice before they utter these words.  But  we have not been able to  implement the research culture in small and medium sized enterprises. This has a very big impact into our industry. Our industry remains very small.

There is a traditional approach like ‘I already know the answer’. However, at the latest Researchers Summit, to participants who were all researchers, we asked simple estimation questions. We saw that even researchers  were not able to proceed exactly by guessing.

What if I say, the reliability of marketing research and election polls!

In general, the research industry is adversely affected by election polls. This is not just in Turkey; it is the same all over the world. But we should not forget one thing. The essence of the research is based on the size of the sample. In. Accuracy of your research depends on the size of your sample. If you can work on large samples, then obviously your margin of error is automatically reduced.  At Xsights we only  report  on the facts out of this margin of error in . So, if a result does not make a statistically significant difference, we do not report it. Because it can be misleading.

Can’t we really make our own models here? While the world is globalizing at such a rate, why not use global models in Turkey, as long as they are applied well? 

Actually, I'm against using models/ cookie cut research Because we are talking about such a world that, when I enter a website, I can see different colors than you, for example. We are moving towards a place where all messages, advertisements, products are custom made, personalized, and worked accordingly. When the world is moving to an opposite direction, trying to fit our models to the unique problem of our clients is something that I do not like much as a researcher. On the other hand, of course we also need shortcuts, shared experiences, and utilize some successful practices.

Does it mean that you apply a new model for each customer?

We cut and tailor-make our research according to every customer. For example, there is a model that measures conservatism abroad. But when I apply that model in Turkey, it does not work. You have to  change its structure significantly. The approach turns to be very different.

Researches are shifting from big data to small data. Previously, persuading to a qualitative study was very hard. Since they yielded small data, marketers usually did not know how to use this small data. They were always sticking to big data. How is the trend nowadays?

I always say big data, Is very important but  if you do not know how to map that big data, how to read and where to cut and shape  it  you won’ t get any use out of it. . In fact, if you look at the wrong places, they can be very detrimental. Therefore, to be able to analyze the big data, certain insights are required. And those are hidden in some other data which is not readily present in the data at hand. Those two need to be combined.

What exactly are your shares in terms of capital and locality? There are many foreign partnerships in the industry whom are taking the big share. Can we say this is unfair competition?

We were established with 100% domestic capital. There is no such thing as unfair competition. If you start to think  competition is unfair, there is no end to it. Competition is competition. It's like this in the whole world. Of course, the market is very unbalanced. Much of the unfairness is due to the small size of the market. If the market would have been bigger, maybe it would not stand out like a sore thumb so much. The market is already small, and most of the global companies are getting it. Global brands are buying their research from global sources. .

Your central office is in Istanbul, Sultanahmet district. You have an office in the UK. And there is a new setup in DC. What's going on in DC?

There are many potential customers there for us, and we have a lot of work that we would like to do together with the UN, and international NGOs. In the meantime, we're conducting more social research in the region..

 What do you promise me when I come to Xsights as a customer and what you do? What makes you different?

We provide customers with a totally different customer experience. We have a more holistic approach to our clients. Our clients come to us with a specific problem or a project. We have a chance to evaluate these as a whole. We are a very dynamic research company. Together with our experienced researchers, we offer intelligent solutions.  And it would be safe to say we have a global outlook. We are a research company that thinks, creates and leads.

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