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Frontier Labs: An Investigation of the OWS Protesters’ Deep Motivating Values

The Frontier Lab’s Breakthrough Study Proves Occupy Wall Street Short-Selling America

Site Editor – Tuesday, December 13, 2011

CHICAGO – The Frontier Lab released today the results of a 3-month-long study of Occupy Wall Street (OWS) protesters in New York City and Chicago. “Short-Selling America,” the Means-Ends Value Chain report of the OWS participants’ deep motivating values provides richer intelligence for social scientists, commentators, and civic leaders who seek a deeper understanding of this emerging segment of political activists.

“After reading, watching, and listening to so many thought leaders expound on the mission, motives, and manners of this group, we saw an opportunity for science to make sense of a movement catching everyone’s attention,” said Anne Sorock, partner and research director of The Frontier Lab. “The study reveals two segments, “Communitarians” and “Professionals,” with distinct value sets, and categorically refutes the notion that Occupy protesters share the deep values of Americans who seek financial security and are fed up with crony capitalism.”

Key insights from the report:

  • The Communitarians’ deep values set includes Community, Purpose, and Security
  • The Professionals’ deep values set includes Prestige, Validation, and Control
  • The promise and responsibility of ‘The American Dream’ do not overlap with either deep values set
  • The most viable segment for conversion to other political movements are the Communitarians, because a sense of Community, Purpose, and Security can be more easily replicated

“While their signs and rhetoric might decry crony capitalism and bank bailouts, their values reveal self-centered and fear-based motivations. When understood at the deep values level, the similarities drawn between everyday Americans’ desire for fiscal responsibility and Occupy’s signage appear superficial and hollow. Anyone who would market American freedom to this disinterested and differently motivated audience fails to realize that Occupy wins when America loses. They are going short on America,” concluded Sorock.

The Short-Selling America report demonstrates that the OWS protesters’ values form a new way of understanding the movement beyond the traditional Left-Right dimension. The Frontier Lab is using this understanding to map the Occupy segments and other segments across the political landscape to reveal the frontier lines in the battle for America.

The Frontier Lab is a non-partisan 501 (c) 3 not-for-profit organization that conducts marketing research and provides strategic marketing counsel to leaders and organizations promoting freedom. Inspired by Frederick Jackson Turner’s “Frontier Thesis” of 1893, the lab’s mission is to define a new and sustainable American frontier based on the values majorities of Americans share. The Frontier Lab team’s pioneering approach applies Means Ends Value Chain market research used by the most cutting-edge private sector organizations to the civic space in order to advance republican democracy. To read the complete “Short-Selling America” report and to learn more about The Frontier Lab, please visit www.thefrontierlab.org.

Direct Link to the Report.

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23 comments

  1. ottnott

    Heh. Right wingers conduct a whopping “fifteen in-depth interviews with the most passionate subjects, each lasting up to sixty minutes” and come to their pre-written conclusion.

    Wood, given that you are so critical of science as practiced by hundreds of climate-research scientists, why would you give any credence to conclusions drawn by a biased group and based on a miniscule and unrepresentative (“most passionate”) sample?

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    • Woodshedder

      Ottnot, nice try. I love the loaded language (right winger, whopping, pre-written). Well done. Fact is, you made all that up, as you have absolutely no evidence whatsoever to make those accusations. They are baseless.

      Why don’t we just look at the methodology? I think most will agree that it was not “miniscule, biased, and unrepresentative,” as you have described it.

      In fact, it would be more instructive for you to demonstrate how their methodology was not an appropriate approach, or not matched with the research. That would be much harder than simply tossing out adjectives to disqualify the research simply because you did not like the outcome, and I’m assuming that is why you didn’t.

      METHODOLOGY
      When you ask someone why they use a particular brand of toothpaste, they might say “because I like the flavor,” “it was on sale,” or “I don’t know, I’ve always used it.” These are ATTRIBUTES—the first level of digging deep into why a person decides to buy a product.

      It’s easy to craft an advertising campaign based on these attributes, or to market one brand of toothpaste on having an even “mintier” flavor than the next, but if you do so you are missing a crucial element of understanding consumer behavior—and crafting an impactful marketing campaign. A company will sell more toothpaste if it appeals to their customers’ confidence, than if they advertise mint flavor.

      Through a process of insights-derivation, The Frontier Lab is able to apply this product marketing approach to trends and topics in American culture. In the case of the toothpaste, a marketing researcher might determine that the consequence of mint-flavored toothpaste is fresh breath. And, after further investigation, that fresh breath instills confidence in social situations. The difference between the customer’s preference for mint and what that means about his confidence is monumental in understanding the customer. The result is one mental map of a toothpaste brand champion, with values that allow a marketer to understand exactly what is going through one target-segment’s minds.

      The Frontier Lab applied this process, successfully employed many times over in commercial applications, to the Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Chicago protesters. Through a series of fifteen in-depth interviews with the most passionate subjects, each lasting up to sixty minutes, researchers mapped the connections participants had with the protests. As Gutman found in his research, by understanding the value associations high-intensity consumers make with products, you can translate these insights to other, less involved, customers. Research subjects, by necessity of this scientific approach, were chosen based on their extremely high level of intensity in supporting the Occupy protests and were spread across varying geographical protests in order to ensure the validity of the results.

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      • Taco

        It is rare to see the word “communitarian” outside of UN documentation. This is a well-funded and pervasive movement with no media coverage whatsoever, so you know it must be important.

        15 subjects is not enough. I would know, since I work in the field of statistical analysis. Even marketing analysts will use several rooms full of people to determine interest in products, prior to creation.

        However, “communitarian” I believe is spot-on and this alone makes the analysis worth reading.

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        • Woodshedder

          Taco, it wasn’t 15 subjects. That was Ottnot purposefully distracting from the issue. He is the one who said 15 subjects. The methodology in no place says it was only 15 subjects.

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          • ottnott

            ottnott said “a sample size of 15”.

            It doesn’t matter if each interview was one person or a group – the sample size was 15. When you conduct a group interview, you don’t get valid data from each individual in the group, even if you poll each individual during the interview session. The answers that people give are heavily influenced by what other people in the group say or do.

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  2. drummerboy

    ha, dudes, the pioneer spirit has long left the station,and the ows’rs are the orphans that thought they were going for a ride to. this generation is purposefully getting screwed,to the point that they are being used as the useful idiot right under their noses. hey frontier labs,how many professional people were really there?

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    • Woodshedder

      Drummer, you are using the wrong meaning of “professional.” What they mean is professional protestor, like Lisa Fithian, Van Jones, or Ayers.

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  3. ottnott

    Wood, if you don’t recognize that:

    –a sample size of 15 is miniscule
    –“most passionate” (that’s the description given by the Frontier Lab) is an admission that the sample is not representative
    –a board consisting of a former GOP congressman who also is a banker), the publisher of National Review, an author who has appeared multiple times on the Glenn Beck show, and one real scientist is right wing
    –that a report author who was a managing editor for Regnery Press, who contributes to the Big Government web site, who was a former staffer for a GOP senator, etc. is right wing

    …then you are beyond the reach of reality, logic, and the scientific method.

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  4. Scavenger

    Occupiers are thieves.

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  5. Woodshedder

    Ottnot, I think you may have honestly just mis-read the methodology.

    Here it is, again:

    “Through a series of fifteen in-depth interviews with the most passionate subjects, each lasting up to sixty minutes, researchers mapped the connections participants had with the protests.”

    Get it? It doesn’t say 15 subjects/samples. It says fifteen interviews up to 60 minutes in length. We could assume some subjects were interviewed for up to 15 hours, but we don’t know how many subjects there were.

    Beyond that, I’m not sure you understand the methodology they are applying. Applying the Means Ends Value Chain means that_they_want passionate subjects. From an advertising point of view, to which this methodology is typically applied, do you want a customer/client/sample who is passionate about a product, or not? If you are advertising toothpaste, do you want to use people who could care less about a brand or are passionate about it when developing marketing?

    As for “right wing”, unless every Democratic congressman and woman is “left wing,” unless every contributor to Think Progress is “left wing,” and unless every person who goes on MSNBC is “left wing,” your adjective is baseless and just designed to smear.

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  6. ottnott

    Wood:
    Group interviews are not scientific.

    Seeking “the most passionate” might be fine for product marketing, but not for producing data that has any scientific value.

    It is you declaring that “right wing” is a smear. I’m calling it a clear source of bias, given the subject matter of the report.

    I have substantial exposure to both social science research and consumer marketing research (I used to work with the people who developed VALS, if you care to Google it), and I understand the difference between the two.

    Social science surveys are done with very rigid protocols: a fixed set of questions; fixed wording; one-on-one questioning; random ordering of questions; random selection of survey respondents; etc. That methodology allows one to apply the information drawn from the sample to the overall population.

    The interview time is not relevant in a scientific survey. Frontier’s mention of the time indicates that it was not using fixed questions and wording. If, as you say, Frontier may have conducted group interview sessions, that would further invalidate the data for scientific research. You’ve already accepted that the sample was not randomly selected.

    As a result, Frontier has not used “science to make sense of a movement catching everyone’s attention” and cannot claim any scientific basis for extending conclusions about the sample to the OWS population as a whole.

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    • Woodshedder

      Ottnot, according to you, and you only. Your appeal to your expertise is a logical fallacy.

      And I did not say, anywhere, that Frontier conducted group interview sessions.

      According to your “expertise” you will find all research invalid when the results do not support your world-view, hopes, and expectations. In fact, had this report made conclusions that you support, you would be trumpeting it across the land.

      The fact of the matter is you have no idea how they conducted the research, but you will reach for a conclusion about the validity anyway, because that is how you operate.

      Had you wanted to offer a reasonable, non-biased interpretation of this study, you would have simply stated that you cannot trust the conclusions until you see how the research was conducted.

      You did not, and that speaks volumes.

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    • Woodshedder

      By the way, there are numerous scholarly articles out there that support that means end value chain research is predictive and that it does accurately identify values of the sampled group. Take a look for yourself.

      http://scholar.google.com/scholar?q=means+end+value+chain&hl=en&btnG=Search&as_sdt=1%2C47&as_sdtp=on

      You might ask yourself, Ottnot, why would marketers use this type of research if the conclusions were not going to be applicable to a larger audience? Would be a waste, no?

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    • Woodshedder

      Ottnot, it is very odd that everything you’ve listed as the valid way to conduct this research is incorrect. In fact, not only is it incorrect, but it_is_exactly_opposite of the proper way to conduct Means End Value Chain research.

      For someone who implies that he is an expert, I’m wondering how you got it so wrong. It is almost like you were knowingly being deceptive. Perhaps you can answer for yourself so I can better understand what motivated you to write something that you should have known was false.

      From: http://www.nova.edu/ssss/QR/QR11-4/veludo.pdf

      “This article aims at analyzing laddering as a technique of qualitative research, emphasizing the procedures for data collection, analysis and interpretation, and its main limitations as well. “Laddering refers to an in-depth, one-on-one interviewing technique used to develop an understanding of how consumers translate the attributes of products into meaningful associations with respect to self, following means-end theory” (Reynolds & Gutman, 1988, p. 12). The critical literature review shows that laddering is useful in studies on human behavior, especially those related to the Means-End Chain (MEC) model. For a successful application, highly trained interviewers, homogeneous groups of respondents, and the Laddermap should be taken into consideration.”

      Now Ottnot, read the research regarding the limitations of laddering and perhaps you might be able to make a cogent argument against the validity of the results from Frontier. But before you do that, please explain your erroneous assertions about how the research should have been conducted.

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      • ottnott

        Wood:

        To reach scientifically valid conclusions about a population based on a small sample of that population, you must use random selection to get your sample.

        Using a subjective criteria (“most passionate”) to cull out a subset of the group pretty much guarantees that your results will not be representative of the group as a whole.

        Using a miniscule sample size means that the width of your confidence band around your results will be so large as to make the results almost meaningless.

        I’m sorry that you don’t understand that, and I hope you didn’t put out too much effort to Google, cut, and paste.

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        • Woodshedder

          Ott, you continue to ignore that you were completely, 100% incorrect in your assertions. In fact, you continue to push false information, knowingly.

          You have set up a strawman, and then compounded that fallacy with an appeal to your authority.

          The fact is that you have no idea whatsoever how to conduct a study using means end value chain methodology.

          And it was no google cut and paste. I linked to the research and design article which Frontier used to design the study.

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          • ottnott

            Jeebus, Wood. Do you even read what you cut and paste?

            Laddering is done with one-one-one interviews, so, if you are asserting that Frontier used that method you are asserting that they interviewed no more than 15 individuals – something you earlier dismissed:
            “That was Ottnot purposefully distracting from the issue. He is the one who said 15 subjects. The methodology in no place says it was only 15 subjects.”

            The nova.edu paper also notes that laddering should be done for homogeneous groups – meaning that it might (in the right hands) properly be used to draw some conclusions about OWS participants who were like the “most passionate” subset selected in some manner by Frontier. It would be improper to use the results of the work to draw conclusions about the overall population of OWS participants.

            So, your fantastic paper would agree that it would be wrong to extend the findings from the “most passionate” subset to OWS in general and it leaves the problem of inadequate sample size in place.

            No matter how deep you dig, it will come up crap with this Frontier “research”. Crawl out from under the outhouse and try starting a hole in a new spot.

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          • TJWP

            Sorry, no. You cannot draw any sort of meaningful inference about a population from a sample size of 15, except by sheer fluke. Additionally there are many problems with data gathered during interviews as it is particularly susceptible to endogeniety bias (as researchers possibly structure questions in a way that presuppose their desired outcomes) and also have much higher rates of measurement errors as people are all too willing to lie about the answers.

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  7. Highlander

    I went to the Frontier Lab web site and clicked on the About link.

    I may not be getting a full understanding (not all of it is crystal clear as it reads somewhat euphemistically), but it sure seems like this group has a Republican/Libertarian slant in their worldview.

    It would be interesting to see how they assess the Tea Party using the methodology being debated.

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  8. Mr. Cain Thaler

    I definitely agree with them, but I hate statistics when applied to social STUDIES. We need to stop pretending that studying ourselves is some sort of useful science. It’s squishy math at best, and produces obnoxious scumbag anthropologists at worst.

    I don’t personally need a study to look at an OWS protester and tell them they’re deluded hypocrites. The stabbed cops and vandalized shop owners will back me up.

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    • fake amish

      agreed. dont need a study just common sense.

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    • TJWP

      By your logic the cops are deluded thugs too then, as the occupy protestors with pepper sprayed/tear gassed faces and bashed in skulls can attest too.

      In any case, what I originally wanted to say is you can apply statistics to anything, provided you can translate your observations to cardinal not just ordinal data. In a lot of senses the market is an aggregation of human emotion, which is why it can be so random.

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  9. Woodshedder

    Nice. Ottnot says there were 15 subjects. Despite the fact that the research methodology clearly states there were 15 INTERVIEWS DONE WITH EACH SUBJECT and not 15 subjects, the lie continues to be repeated. In fact, this is Ottnot’s purpose- to distract and confuse. State a lie, then repeat it until it sticks. Note he has not bothered to correct anyone who has repeated it, despite him knowing full well it is incorrect.

    Secondly, if you follow Ottnot’s comments, you will find that he has been EXACTLY WRONG the whole time when describing the methodology. It was only when I posted the actual research design article which we can assume Frontier used to design the study that Ottnot began to change his wording. Don’t forget, he is supposedly an expert. He wrote, “I have substantial exposure to both social science research and consumer marketing research (I used to work with the people who developed VALS, if you care to Google it), and I understand the difference between the two.” Yet clearly, he had no idea about the Means End Value Chain methodology. In his latest comment the implication is that maybe, just maybe, he was wrong and it is just slightly possible that the research is valid.

    Most importantly, Ottnot still does not know how many subjects were interviewed. Nor does he know the exact process used to interview. Despite not knowing all this, he can still determine the research is “invalid” because he is an expert. Forget the fact he was exactly wrong about how to execute Means End Value Chain research.

    Let’s review the adjectives Ottnot used in his first comment: “right-wing, biased, pre-wrtten, unrepresentative, miniscule.”

    Kill the messenger. Strawman. Appeal to the expert. Ottnot’s entire argument is based on logical fallacies.

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