What do Amsterdam, 1000 researchers, plastic cows and magic tricks have in common?
The ESOMAR Congress 2011, brought back to Amsterdam, 64 years after the first ever Congress was hosted here.
This Congress in many ways unlike any that we have done before and because of this, we wanted to create a way for those who could not join us here to get feel for what is going on … This blog will be a window into what was said, presented, discussed and experienced here and will be written by ESOMAR as well as two young researchers and bloggers for RW Connect, Elias Veras and Betty Adamou.
Opened by Ged Parton, of Synovate, the 2011 Congress welcomed the Mayor of Amsterdam, Eberhard van der Laan who connected the host city with the innovation and creativity of the research industry.
Noting that Amsterdam has over the years developed from the strong creative and entrepreneurial communities within it, Mayor van der Laan linked the city’s standing as a model and inspiration for redevelopment – to the conference theme of market research reloading and creating impact.
Quoting Spinoza – the Mayor demonstrated how after 350 years, this city was still a beacon for acceptance and curiosity an open-minded city.
“It is in fact the creative city. We talk about innovation day after day and we should be grateful for you being here … we need to be in contact and connected to the citizens. We need guidance… we need insights … we need you …”
Mayor Eberhard was followed by ESOMAR Dutch Representative, Jochum Steinstra, who did a brilliant job of taking the delegates from the city view to the country view – highlighting the role of Holland in the world and the contributions it has given to society – including the microscope, creation of shares for trading and the introduction of innovation into all walks of life and business. Running through the four themes of the Dutch personality – pragmatic, egalitarian, tolerance and innovative – Jochum demonstrated that the ideas cultivated and generated from Holland could contribute to and benefit the market research industry.
Dieter Korczak, ESOMAR President then provided a more global perspective walking the delegates through the current state of the global industry – noting that after two years of economic trouble, the industry has rebounded impacting the world to the tune of 31 billion Euro. Markets have rebounded and yes, again the future looks bright.
Before introducing the keynote, Ged explained the this Congress was designed to highlight the positive impact of research and noted that we are in an industry that is critiqued for being too academic… this conference nails the point that on a daily basis we meet with clients, have client relationships and drive decisions. We can’t rely on assertion to show we have value – have to demonstrate.
Keynote Prof. Richard Wiseman then stole the show with an entertaining and eye-opening keynote address on the impact of perception and how it affects how we think and what we see reality as being.
Using applied psychology, he really engaged the crowd with numerous examples of how perceptions can trip us up…….even when we know it is an illusion we often still see it as normal.
Some key takeaways for researchers:
- Although you think you are seeing everything in a picture the first time – you arent’ because the eyes focus on small amount of any picture at ay given time i.e. on what is important to you and not necessarily the big picture… Keep this in mind with respondents…
- People think they are accurate and as research has shown that is not the case – Exploring the Milgram experiment (i.e. giving an electric shock to person in another room; each time giving a higher and higher shock.. 1% said they would not give high shocks but in reality 65% actually did. The lesson: It is hard to predict behaviour when you don’t understand how the actual situation will be… in general people are bad at predicting how others would actually behave…
- Using honesty experiments… i.e. can you spot the lie versus the truth in an interview, it was shown that in general people are terrible lie detectors… with only 50% generally able to tell a lie from a truth… As Wiseman joked… I guess this explains why some marriages last so long!
The morning closed with a great concept: 60 –second company presentations, with speakers getting one-minute, with a large clock counting down the time, to sell what their company can do. The crowd loved it and even with just one minute to talk – they wowed the crowd! Guess it goes to show, then sometimes less is more…. Maybe we should start presenting to clients like this… what do you think?
Click below to read more …
Morning Parallel 1 - Impactful Business
Ram Krishamurthy started with his presentation “From a snapshot to a movie”, perhaps uncontroversial, with the statement that we should keep our eyes on the money. Businesses need to look to the future. A lot of research looks at consumer behaviours as snapshots of the past, much like a family photo album. Attitudes can tell us more and combing both you can turn that snapshot into a movie. It’s not about predicting the future, but developing a point of view of the future of where you want your brand to be.
Up next in the Impactful business thread was a presentation with some local flavour. Heineken along with TNS and Human Mind & Brain had some questions over the ability of existing tools in Qual to really capture the emotions and unconscious thinking of the consumer. Citing a case study in which one of Heinekens most successful advertising campaigns was initially not supported by concept results. By combining traditional qual techniques with EEG, SC and ET provided a far more encompassing view of consumer emotions. So even when the rational consumer mind may feel negatively about the reflection of themselves in an advert, their unconscious mind connects far more. Some interesting insights from the team. But insights that have yet to be pitched and accepted by creatives themselves, which might be an even harder task.
Morning Parallel 2 - Impactful Research - Betty Adamou
Tom Wilms (Royal Grolsch NV) , the session chair, did forewarn us that the presentation coming up would be full of music and videos (by two scientists) but I don’t think anyone anticipated thunderous classical music that would hone in the message ‘everything we do is to reproduce our genes’. If the two speakers are indeed scientists, I can understand the premise much more!
Of course, from whatever profession you come from, I would assume you see the world (paramountly) from that point of view. If you’re an artist, the world is about creativity and has helped changed the world from marketing to politics. If you’re a sociologist everything you do is the result of your socialisation, background, class and ethnicity. Marie-Anne and Jan Guus, of AIMgen Lab feel that everything we do is to reproduce our genes. But none of these things are wrong, they are all right. We, and everything we do is the result of all these things, physical, emotional, sociological, psychological…the list goes on. Therefore, if all I do, every second of everyday, from the food I order in a restaurant to the reason I bought my pink blazer from Oasis (which kind of looks like last year’s Stella McCartney number) is to have babies, then why don’t I consciously think of this at the point of consuming? Perhaps we, as evolved intelligent human beings, find the thought that ‘everything we do is to reproduce’ too boring, and therefore we fulfil our lives with ideologies wehther religious or branded. It made me wonder if you can apply this reasoning to absolutely everything we purchase. Of course, Marie-Anne and Jan Guus spoke about the competitive element i.e. women are in competition with other women and men in competition with other men. So perhaps, on this premise, when I decided to buy my sisters children ‘Songs from the Nightgarden’ CD instead of a toy vacuum cleaner, this is because I think it will help me reproduce? No, that doesn’t sound right does it? Ok, what about when I order the tortellini instead of the Lasagne at Pizza Express? No…that doesn’t work either. Ok, how about when I buy a SONY VAIO laptop instead of the (much more expensive) Mac? Nope…not really.
Marie-Anne and Jan Guus did tell us some truths though: That we are drowning in data but starving for insights. From a research perspective though I do think some companies are making waves in giving us ‘real insights’. The also said: “We have an avalanche of theories and methods around us” (to help us understand why we do things from Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to Jung, Adler and Freud). They also said we consume to impress: “Since mental values are not visible, we are making them visible by using artificial attributes.” Yes, bingo, but how and when and why does this connect to the theory that we do everything we do “because we want to reproduce”. I almost wanted to see some kind of flow chart that filled in the missing blank between these two points:
What does the question mark stand for? What is the process between the two points?
Also, they said that “The consumer has the same old brain in a modern skull”. I’m not sure how literally they wanted the audience to take this but my feelings were the exact opposite. That actually, I think we have a very evolved and ‘new’ brain inside a skull that has evolved much slower over thousands of years. Our brains are tuned to understand semiotics, branding and other connotations more intuitively and intrinsically than ever before, hence why marketing has become increasingly intelligent and maybe even a bit ‘sly’ (think in-game advertising) to keep up with us. This brain however, is still in the same old skull.
They went on to say ‘motivational mechanisms are millions of years old’. Which ones did they mean though? The motivational mechanisms that answer to hunger, love, anxiety, anger, hate, protection and loyalty I would only assume are hugely different to the motivational mechanisms that want us to fulfil brand ideologies and why I bought my pink blazer in the first place.
Morning Parallel 2 - Impactful Business - Elias Veris
On having impact as researchers.
Lucy Davidson of Keen as Mustard opens her interactive presentation with one simple question:
How many of you think communications in market research should change?
By a show of red (disagree) and green (agree) cards, the scenery in the audience looked like a meadow, with one red rose somewhere in the back. So we all agree, and quite frankly I hope agreement comes with a sense of urgency too. It’s about time we act.
The process of building an impactful story, according to lucy, goes something like this:
Data — Filter — Visualize – Story.
So it’s about looking and interpreting the data, filtering (deleting) stuff you don’t need, visualizing your data in a compelling way and building a story that connects the dots. Immediately the question pops up (and I too have sinned to this):
How many of us researchers have stopped after filtering?
Too many, that’s how many. We might understand a lot, but understanding does not equal communicating. And communication can be damn hard. Luckily, Lucy is willing to share some of her communications knowledge with us. The three main takeaways?
- Know your audience. Presenting for the guys at Honda is not the same as presenting for the people at Audi. A good story resonates with the audience, gives them a feeling of recognition and is communicated in a way that fits with their style.
- Stick to the story you are bringing. Avoid ambiguity, delete everything that does not add to the story or tells another one. Confusion is your enemy!
- In order to get to the first two steps, think about treating your communication process as a real one, including a creative brief and communication professionals.
All good and well, but why should we invest the time and money in this in the first place?
Roger Banks and Barbara Langer of eBay and Incite Marketing respectively, enlighten us. According to them, 2/3rds of research buyers agree on the fact that we don’t spend enough time delivering meaning and impact. Management consultants and ad agencies are much better at being impactful, and most of the time, that is because they synthesize and summarize in a better way. As one client put it in a testimonial:
4 slides are better than 80. I can’t remember more than 4 slides anyway.
To get to 4 slides, they describe a journalistic process that might actually guide me in my next presentation:
- Write down/tell the governing thought that you want to get across to your audience
- Make the key thoughts that support your governing thought explicit
- Have data underneath that supports the key thoughts
On this last point, don’t show data because you collected it; show it because it supports your conclusion.
As a research industry, we are pretty damn aware of our boring image and our bad storytelling skills. Some of us do a good job, very little do excellent jobs. In the end, it’s not that difficult actually. It’s about synthesising until you have a core message, tweaking it for your audience and being consistent in telling it. And have your data to back it up. To back it up. Not for anything else.