Congress Countdown: WOW! Let's Get Inspired

By Christian Kugel

I was chatting with a fellow researcher recently about the state of the industry. Our discussion touched on some of the usual topics – the increasing importance of analytics, the short supply of truly talented people with the right level of experience, and common disconnects between clients and research agencies. At one point, she said something very telling: “The issue is this – I’m supposed to be the methodology expert, and deliver research results accurately and on time, but my job doesn’t end there.” She then elaborated on that comment by describing how in order to have real impact within her organisation, she often needed to wear different hats – sometimes a product developer’s hat, and at other times a sales person’s hat.

I’m sure that feeling resonates with many of us attending this year’s ESOMAR Congress. Over the past several years, the industry has agonised over all the changes we continually face – notably, the pressure for better/faster/cheaper, the rise of big data, and bridging the gap between research and data science. All of those dynamics are certainly true, and they’re also legitimate reasons for anxiety. But I challenge you to name an industry that isn’t facing similar, foundational issues. The reality is that in today’s climate, all industries are confronted with massive disruption and change.

The difference for us, it seems, centers on what my colleague articulates. In addition to being the research experts, who know how to ferret out a consumer insight through rigorous methodology design and data analysis, we are also often expected to simultaneously perform other tasks. Depending on the project, we need to be some combination of storytellers, marketers, product developers, consumer advocates, consultants, and data scientists – while still delivering better/faster/cheaper results. This is what makes our challenge particularly unique and especially difficult.

So, in those moments where the stars align and we get it right, there’s only one thing to say: “Wow!” Think about that last time you saw a piece of work and had that “Wow!” reaction. The kind of work that makes you envious, that makes you wish you had a hand in it. The kind of work that has real, meaningful impact. The kind of work that in hindsight is so incredibly obvious, but took a magical combination of skills and perspectives to generate.

This year at Congress, I invite you to join me for a few days to celebrate and learn from the work that makes us think “#wow.” As you can see, the agenda is packed with an impressive collection, covering different industries, regions and techniques, but they all have one thing in common – the wow factor. I hope that you will enjoy the event, that you will be inspired by the work, and that you’ll take something tangible away from the experience. In fact, I’m willing to bet that due to the sheer diversity of topics and speakers, you will use something tangible you see at Congress within the next two years.

The programme was built to feature an array of how new (and old) challenges were solved, a glimpse into the possibilities of the future, and notable cases of real business impact. Examples include:

  • An innovative means for ethnographic research using a food truck
  • Agile research techniques aligning to product development cycles
  • Stories from challenged emerging markets: Rwanda, Somalia, and Cambodia
  • A look at how people spend one of their more precious resources: their time

While presentations is incredibly diverse, the slate of keynote speeches will hopefully cause you to say “Wow!” and challenge you to think differently:

  • The result when math and psychology are combined
  • Re-imagining market research from a premier business school
  • Leadership lessons from a jazz band legend, and
  • The unprecedented potential of virtual reality

I am especially excited that New Orleans is the setting for this year’s Congress. It is not only a city rich in history and culture, but also one whose citizens have recently rebuilt in the face of tremendous adversity. For me, the city and its people are pure inspiration. And, it wouldn’t be a proper Congress without an infusion of local culture; this year is no different. We will experience the unique cuisine of New Orleans, its famous jazz music, and even get a taste of Mardi Gras during the awards dinner and ceremony.

Lastly, to acknowledge their tremendous effort in organising Congress and curating its content, I would like to thank the members of the Programme Committee and the professionals at ESOMAR.

Christian Kugel, Programme Committee Chair ESOMAR Congress and VP, Consumer Analytics & Research, AOL, USA        


To join the Congress, please visit – note that the standard registration deadline is 26 August