By Elisa Cogo

January 21, 2016. It’s 9am and I am just about to enter the University of the Sacred Heart’s crypt in Milan, where I should meet the ESOMAR senior development consultant and where the conference about “Brand Innovation” will take place.

I am the new personal assistant of Labcom’s Founder and President, which explains why I have been asked to attend the event and assist in its running. I am also a first year student, with very little background in marketing and economics, who has only recently approached these disciplines recently deciding to enrol in a master’s degree programme in Corporate Communication and Marketing Management. As such, once finished with assisting, I arm myself with a notebook and a pen and I start listening greedily to the various speakers, thinking about my potential future employment, possibly hoping to occupy a creative, successful and important position like many of the participants attending the conference.

Following are some considerations based on my experience at the event.

Overall, I would say that the conference was a great occasion to combine business with fun, offering the chance to deepen my knowledge about the problems and opportunities brands have to deal with today. Also, the mix of theory and case studies made the whole two-and-a-half-hour conference interesting and attention catching.

Prior to this event I considered many aspects of market research from the other side of the coin – that of the customer. The much-hated ads and commercials, satisfaction surveys and website cookies from which we, as consumers, are constantly and seamlessly submerged in online and offline. I now know these are in fact “necessary evils” to be accepted, if we want our favourite brands – especially the lesser known ones – to survive Businesses aiming to fully understand and anticipate their target customer’s needs have to link, synthetize and analyse large amounts of data in order to innovate and differentiate their products, thus establishing a long-term customer-centric relationship based on reciprocal trust. In doing this, creating value for customers with customer’s help will generate business growth.

Secondly, the conference has brought to my attention a topic I never considered before: sensory marketing. The statement “We are not thinking machines, we are feeling machines that think” couldn’t be more truthful and I personally experience it almost every day. How many times is our attention captured by storytelling ads in which everybody can see, reflected for instance in a broadcasted video, their personal story? And how many times do we simply ignore more rational and less intuitive ads?

Furthermore, at the conference I was intrigued by the speech about olfactory signatures due to its almost intangible features but also because it appeals to emotions, which are renowned for being subjective and difficult to rationalize.

To conclude, I would say that the world of market research is approachable but complex, because of its interdisciplinary nature. Professionals of the field need to be open-minded and always up-to-date in a context that is constantly changing: rising global competition, the financial crisis’s influence on the market and the development of ICT and social media to name a few. Also, consumers are getting more and more demanding, to the point that firms, taking into account the notions of mindfulness and citizenship, should collaborate with them, encouraging their active engagement in the creation of a brand’s offering. From this perspective, only by acknowledging an interchangeability between brand and customers, marketing professionals will reach more of their firm’s goals.

By Elisa Cogo