Prague – a bit of a fairy tale city – and a perfect place for the second ESOMAR CEE Research Forum, where we are seeking to find the truths behind what makes the region tick. Market research in the Central and Eastern European countries is booming and this event highlights the rich knowledge sharing from within the region, and from the outside, that is driving this regional move to success.

Opened by Tatiana Barakshina, the first ESOMAR Council Member from Russia, the 100+ delegates were warmly welcomed to the forum. Noting that Bulgaria was leading growth in the region, followed by Ukraine, she also stated that outsourcing has provided a solid base of research for these countries. Potential abound.

Tereza Simeckova of SIMAR, the Czech Market Research Association, then led delegates through a presentation of Prague and the cultural and architectural aspects that make the city so amazing, also providing some local statistics on the Czech Republic (second largest research market in the region with a broadly positive trend for turnover for the last 10 years.) Great plug to keep in mind when taking a holistic approach to setting up research in the region – and particularly in the Czech Republic.

“Only the most naive of questions are truly serious” quoted Barakshina, from Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being,   noting that in our quest for knowledge we must not forget the excitement of discovery.

While we may be overwhelmed by the need for scientific evidence and rules and regulations on local, regional and international levels, in addition to working with limited resources and within company boundaries, we cannot forget about self-expression and creativity. She urged the forum attendees and the research world at large to be less serious, to open their minds, to branch out, to be creative and be playful – to regain energy.

Thomas Lauko – Opening Keynote
With a background in media and digital planning, Tomas Lauko discussed the future of the Chief Marketing Officer  in the CEE region – a balance between art and science.

While jobs in analytics and data are growing – following the trend for big data- what does it bring us? We must be brave – we must talk to the CMO and bring them real value, while facing the challenges brought to us by a 24/7 connected consumer. We no longer work in a linear process – consumers can enter at any stage. …. Our work must reflect that.

He noted that while internet penetration  fairly good in the region – broadband penetration is low and people are not used to using it for things other than games. Hmmm… gamification anyone?

When looking at communication – the “always on” model should be the thinking – social media and search marketing should be ongoing… to properly supplement communications and to reach the “always on” consumer.  The future CMO must know this…

CMOs are struggling to understand the media and data  explosion – agencies, media agencies, social media, pricing, and more – this is the area where help is needed most.  So what does this really mean for us – for researchers who add to this growing pile of knowledge?

Time (including an avg. 43 month tenure), internal resources and systems are the biggest factors limiting CMOS   –  so getting down to business and taking out the fluff will be key. Show your value by showing how you can add “time-friendly” ROI.

There is a basic need is to make smarter decisions – holistic points of view – and Lauko believes that marketing attribution will illuminate the full scope  of how prospects and customers engage with a brand – across all channels  – from top of the funnel to conversion. He notes this is the biggest question in media agencies now and this will indeed affect our industry as well.

The future CMO will need to be braver and willing to grasp new opportunities.  They will need to escape the status quo and he believes we have four great opportunities to grab their attention and help them along their way.

Opportunities for grabbing the attention of the CMO

  • Always on micromeaures of exact audience or brand patterns
  • Readiness to explore
  • Milestone driven approach – clear expectations and short term value
  • Set up the relationship properly
  • Are you ready for this?

Brand Power, Premium and Potential  – How and why it is different and the same in CEE
Peter Walshe, former actor (Dr. Who? anyone) and now researcher from BrandZ Millward Brown began his presentation sitting in the crowd versus standing on the stage – storytelling at its best.

He began by asking “What do eyebrows, violin and invisible fish have in common for driving brand success?”

A recent Cadbury ad featuring only eyebrows – was used to grab attention; Joshua Bell busking with his Stradivarius in the subway was about context and framing the experience. He had 1000 people pass him by, 32 put money on the hat and only 5 stop to listen to him.  He had just sold out a concert weeks before at $100 per ticket, thus providing a key example of a brands set up setting the expectation of the experience and thereby adding considerable value.

Lastly Brazilian invisible fish – a store lagging in visitors used this stunt of posting a sign stating “beware the Brazilian invisible fish” and drew attention to the store by stimulating curiosity.

Lessons to be learned….Grab attention, frame the experience and stimulate curiosity for real brand power and potential.

According to Walshe, meaningful brands (positive thoughts on the brand whether it meets emotional and rational needs) generate one-third more sales that those that are not seen as meaningful.Is this the same or different in the CEE countries? Turns out there is a small difference. Even though less meaningful brands still score well in terms of sales in CEE countries, CEE brands are driven more by differentiation than in the rest of the world.  This is similar to developing markets as well.

Meaningful, different and salient products make the most successful brands. Trust in a brand is also key here and in the CEE region brands are less trusted (20%) versus in the rest of the world (25%).

Key points to remember:

– Brand relationships are built in experience of the brand both within and outside of CEE

– Trust is earned from behaviour throughout the organisation (top to bottom) and establishes a relationship with your consumer

– Being meaningfully different is essential for success – Don’t try to appeal to all.

– Don’t worry about polarising – stick to your character; don’t try to be all to everyone.

– It is basically the same in CEE, so don’t change things too much.

The G-local Shopper – Different markets, commons needs
As researchers we need to think about the shopper and not just the brand, notes Danielle Pinnington of Shoppercentric in the UK.  Shoppers are pivotal to our consumption experience and they generate sales and need to be understood now more than ever before.  For CMOs what happens in store is as important f as to what happens after. Below the line is now truly connecting to above the line.

When looking across global regions – the principles of shopping may be the same but local application is crucial.

Some key things to keep in mind for CEE shoppers (as well as for other regions) are:

– If shoppers can’t find it, they can’t buy it. While it seems so simple, this fact is surprisingly this a huge issue for a shopper and their associated experience.

– Visibility in-store is critical. Shoppers have blinkers and if they don’t see it, then you will lose them.

– Visibility is also relative – so researchers and stores should work together to make sure understanding of shopper context is taken into account. How does a shopper see a brand and does it fit within the context they were expecting?

– Marginalised product positions can in turn marginalise a shopper. A great example was placement of hair replacement shampoo in the medicine aisle. “I’m bald, not ill” was a great quote from Danielle’s findings.

Finally, while choice in the recent economic downtown might be key, too much can be overwhelming.  Advise clients on how to make choice easier for shoppers to deal with.

The Advantage of Inconsistency – Increasing insights accuracy thanks to data discrepancy
Katarzyna Zalewska of AmRest provided an intriguing client perspective on research that is given to her, as a client, and how it impacts on the decision makers she reports to.

Regardless of market crises and other reasons not to grow, this is not an excuse for us. We must still provide better consumer insights and ask ourselves is this REALLY the best consumer research I can give a client?  As a client, Zalewska notes that her role is to challenge research data and you, as a researcher,  must help her to get past her doubts.

Unexpected data or data that was in contradiction of her expectations, inspired her to turn data discrepancy into real business insights. But the question is, as a client, should this be her role or ours?

MR is ordered to solve a business problem – to help clients grow, make more money and encourage spending. If data was consistent – there would be no problem. However, Zalweska pointed out  “Life starts being complicated when research results are inconsistent  i.e. different studies give different numbers; inconsistent recommendations between research reports; low coherence between sales and research results; false positive and false negative.”

She is stuck between two paths – eliminating all inconsistent data but risking that she takes out relevant information and/or leaves in a “foggy” detail. Or, that she presents a full picture with inconsistent facts and causes confusion with senior managers.

So, how can you make it easier for her and other clients?

Methodology – use standardised research protocols; comparing relationship between data when possible and compare conclusions and not numbers.

Market change – Real market revolutions aren’t too common so no need to change all findings to take this on. Life goes on and make sure you are not adjusting your data for a “blip” in time.

Finally, don’t be arrogant enough to assume that that only a customer’s recommendation can truly predict what will happen. Consumer attitudes help but people aren’t always rational. Sometimes customers speak, feel and do different things.  This is not a holy grail.

Keep your client in mind when sending over your sights – make them as clean as possible and make sure you don’t actually create extra work that can in the end skew your results and cause a product to fail. It’s not just about providing insights, but making sure that are relevant and not riddled with discrepancies.


Peter Kubanek, Session Chair, then introduced the Business Matters session – or as he aptly named it – the “Show me the money” session.

Discovering the New Path to Purchase
First up was UM Poland’s Dorota Reykowska and Tadeusz Zorawski’s presentation on Discovering the New Path to Purchase.

From the traditional purchase model, shopper research and consumer research were divided into two different areas. However, for UM, the new model of purchase decisions has begun with the zero moment of truth – developed in conjunction with Google – which recognises all the channels of influence used. The question to be asked then, is when are purchase decisions really made?

Through a multi-category and multi-shopper study they explored FMCG, Financial and Automotive categories to solve the questions of how shoppers today make choices and interact with so many brands and with other shoppers in the region.

What they found was a significant increase in sources used for making purchases decisions. Not too surprising considering the technologies available today. Digital sources were the main cause of the increase across categories.  They did note that high involvement categories have high digital influence due to consumers researching and needing more information.

Early decision makers are influenced by brand websites, search engines, friends and family and online reviews, whilst late decision makers are influenced by a store website, online info with a  mobile phone and text on a mobile phone.  Knowing where your category sits with regards to purchasing can help you pinpoint your space in the zero moment of truth.  In the end it’s about understanding what really influences their choices and what ties into their needs.

Pop Concert Experiences – Connecting with Consumer Experiences
Robert Zydel of Saatchi & Saatchi Think Tank, Poland and Tomasz Jedrkiewicz of T-Mobile, Poland took delegates on a journey through the evolution of thinking about the role of a brand and its communications.

The CEE region is an area that has seen rapid change in short periods of time and thus can adjust to change quickly because of this. While traditionally communications focused on “internal” or country-specific messaging, this is quickly changing to have a more outward look. “It’s about lifestyle and who we would like to be and not just who were are as a CEE country.”

With this in mind, global messages through pop culture have inspired hope and made connections with people within the region and allowed for a true measurement of emotional engagement of consumers. T-mobile’s promotion of Katy Perry filming her video “Firework” in Budapest inspired an emotional movement of hope, but only within certain demographics.  The same for a spontaneous Christmas concert by Mariah Carey in Krakow. There is no blanket solution.

When measuring emotional engagement in these areas, be sure to:

– Look at the social demography of the audience to determine how distance traveled can factor into attractiveness of an event. Time is money and this type of commitment should not be overlooked.

– Both ethnography and surveys are a must to measure emotional engagement to avoid misinterpretations and for a clearer picture.

– Use comparisons and benchmarks as there is still a need for some standardised sections to properly measure data. Key strategic conclusions can only be drawn from comparison of results.

Russian Kids and The West: So Far, So Close
Beliebers (yes, we actually just used that term) are global.  Girls in Russia cry over Justin Beiber songs, just like girls in the US, the  Netherlands, the UK, or Canada. But is this the same for all  “products” aimed at the Russian market? Are Russian kids similar or different to their counterparts in the West?  Turns out they are a bit of both.

Anna Demianova and Julia Yuzbasheva, showed how all things need not be global to reach Russian kids.  Target audiences may need to be adjusted  to make products successful.  Using client Danone as an example, successful yogurt branding for 10+ years in Europe differed very differently from Russia, where a younger market of 3-6 is best for the same product. But why?

Let kids be kids – is the mantra in the West. But in Russia, many generations have been geared to grow up quickly to get a footing in society – and to be ready for success. Feelings differ and Russian kids are more ready for competition, see male/female differences earlier on and aim for success at a younger age. They are more practical and thus the difference is in the heart. Empathy is key for reaching this market. A simple Western cultural cut and paste will not work.

While certain global trends may stay the same – kids diving into their own worlds with their own TV shows and personal devices –  when targeting Russian children it is best to work with the experts who understand the culture and not to assume that because they are very Western in many ways, that they fit all Western models.