By Edward Appleton

Time flies – it’s ESOMAR Global Qualitative Conference time again, this year in my adopted home town of Berlin.

Kicking off next Sunday, the agenda is topical: The Business Value of Intelligent Stories. Over 200 quallies from 40+ countries have signed up for this 20th ESOMAR Qualitative Conference – a “birthday edition” in their words.

A closer look at the agenda ( suggests that overall it’s relevant for a broad range of business folk, not just quallies:

  • Illuminates how data fusion and integration can work in practice – weaving qual together with different data streams to form a rounded narrative for greater business impact
  • Looks at how innovation and brand processes work when truly driven by robust, resonant qual insights
  • Identifies how contemporary qual – online, offline, in-home, out-of-home – can help deliver customer stories powerfully and help connect diverse organizations with their audiences far better. Charities for example. Or tax authorities in Holland….

So an up-front call to action – hopefully you’re still reading: spread the word, share the link above….. also check out ESOMAR’s live TV streaming ( – it’s free, something ESOMAR deserves great kudos for.

The organizers have also chosen to juxtapose the Qualitative Conference with a new event on Big Data ( – also in Berlin, same venue, immediately after, also 2 days long.

Is this trying to suggest something, I wonder ;)? Potential new business bedfellows?

Back to the Qual Event – it’s a stimulating agenda, here are some of the sessions I’m particularly looking forward too:

  • Starting with “casting”: recruitment quality is an ongoing MR challenge – why not apply a Behavioral Economics lens for a different perspective? Saros Research’s Maya Middlemass explores the impact of cognitive biases and heuristics prior to fieldwork commencing!
  • UK outfit C Space and Walgreen Boots Alliance are talking on how they used storytelling techniques borrowed from crime dramas, movies and theater for better insight practices
  • Twitter team up with Flamingo, exploring how digital communication rules and formats, in this case the 140 letter restriction, change the way we communicate and even think. Language and culture in their words….
  • Happy Thinking People (flag here – I’m biased) is presenting a case study with online retailer Zalando on how qualitative research helped this big data company change its approach to branding and communication

Better audience understanding is a rich theme throughout the 2 days, with 7 papers focusing on various aspects of how qual helped clients get even closer to their audiences:

  • Folk from The Sound Research in Canada and UK highlight how understanding the fringes of a target group – “the people strategy forgets” – help illuminate the mainstream. That one falls into the category of “paper I wish I had written…. “ 😉
  • Resonance China are talking about how the phone app WeChat has impacted on user psychology, creating what they call a unique Chinese digital subjectivity, a WeChat behavioral mindset. Surely a must-listen for anyone doing research in one of the world’s emerging superpower
  • Dutch-based outfit Beautiful Lives share a case looking at the challenges of carrying out research amongst participants who have a mental disability. In their own words: “how do you avoid myopia and biases in customer care in a situation where your customers are not able to express their needs, as they have severe mental disabilities, such as down syndrome?”

There’s also an interesting-sounding session on “bestsellers on a small budget”:

  • Romanian-based agency MAPPERS are talking about a familiar area – mining existing data for new insights – but using narrative psychology techniques to do that. Google here I come…..;)
  • Point Blank International and Kao Corporation are sharing a case study on how they established insights as the departure point for all marketing and innovation activities, avoiding what they refer to as the Sisyphus syndrome. Not sure why this is under the section “on a small budget”…all the more reason to find out

That’s it from my personal “must-listen carefully” list – there’s lots more, no disrespect to those not mentioned here, so do check out the agenda.

I’m looking forward to it immensely, and will be sharing my impressions after the Event. So watch this space.

Edward Appleton, Happy Thinking People