Julien Dupic of H,T,P, Concept kicked of the proceedings by highlighting just how small the world has become. ‘We are living in a time where travel and means of communication have never been easier and more fluid. Vienna is one of the best places to feel this convergence of cultures: it was and is at the heart of Europe – within a few hundred kilometres, wonderful cities with an incredible cultural heritage like Salzburg, Prague, Zagreb, Warsaw or Leipzig are all within our reach’. But this can have a drawback: the tendency to flatten the cultural differences and to dismiss them as small incidents that won’t weigh much compared to the globalisation of habits and cultures.

Julien emphasised the dangers of this ethnocentric perspective when working  with clients from large global companies and global brands: the belief that, yes, all the coffee drinkers in the world have the same needs and that all babies in the world fill in their diapers in the same way, a wee-wee is a wee-wee in Dakar, Kuala Lumpur or Amsterdam. This would mean that global brands can be successful everywhere as they provide a solution for the same fundamental needs – all we have to do is adapt the wording of a concept or the visual execution on the packaging.

The job of qualitative researchers becomes most interesting and convincing when researchers can go below this surface and provide an authentic understanding of our respondents motivations, representations and perceptions, when we identify fundamental cultural differences in a context of cultural uniformisation.

The presentations from this morning are great examples of this accuracy and precision brought by qualitative studies and will open our eyes on cultural details and provide us with an in-depth understanding of cultural specifics.

Cultural differences and consumption patterns
Diana Derval,  best known for her work in human perception and behaviour.  As the author of “The Right Sensory Mix”, she appropriately sent the delegates on a sensory journey through an interactive presentation on physiology, culture and purchasing patterns. Several examples showed the predictive power of sensory perception and how marketers can use it to address properly various local consumption patterns.

‘Culture doesn’t exist, it basically is the result of the mainstream physiology – for example taste or sensitivity, touch perception,” she explained. We often assume everybody feels the same but this turns out to not be the case. Touch perception and sensitivity to cold or hot are different in various cultures or countries for that matter.

A great example she gave was a segmentation done on touch perception in Sweden.  After creating a sensory  map of the country – it was found that the populace consisted on those who are very sensitive to touch (super vibritors) and those who are not (non-vibrators). Super vibrators were found to be 50 times more sensitive than non-vibrators, however as a country it was found that the Swedes are quite resistant to pain compared to other lands – maybe because of the extreme cold.

All for one and one for all
As touched on by the guys from InSites yesterday, sustainability and ecological business practices are starting to mean more to new consumers. Nicole Hanisch of the Rheingold institute and Yvonne Masopust presentation looked the communication of sustainability. In particular researching and aligning the different perspectives that consumers and businesses have, while at the same time ensuring the message is perceived as transparent and achievable.

What they found was that companies are pressured to behave ethical and sustainable but the consumers are not exactly sure what sustainability is.  With a focus on communication they created a cost effective multiple-client study, that not just big multinational clients but companies with tiny budgets could also benefit from.

Insight’s third space
Next up was Leanne Tomasevic of Truth presenting a case study with Julie Curphey of Pfizer in the women’s health sector. This presentation highlighted a study which integrated the idea of cultural analysis, showing the long and short term impact it has on brands in the all-important landscape of Women’s Health.

By creating culture and semiotic analysis group discussions across Europe, Truth were able to obtain a clear outcome for Pfizer with an integrated consumer and cultural approach.

Culture is the “third space” of research and by analysing this space, Truth has shown that we can better understand what a brand needs to reference. Truth have done some very interesting work recently that focuses on slow moving and long standing cultural values in conjunction with the more visible and faster moving ‘small’ culture of fads and fashions.

Cultural study is becoming more and more important when it comes to framing consumer decisions and allows for better predictions of consumer markets because of the slow moving nature of the values that underpin society. It also allows businesses to do more than just target a market but change a market.

Giving a mature brand new shine in Latin America
BrainJuicer’s Imke Schuller along with Christiane Quaas of Boehringer Ingelheim Consumer Healthcare, explored how to differentiate the reposition of a multivitamin brand in Latin America by using BrainJuicer’s well known “me to we” concept understand the key drivers for those in the region to take multivitamins.

By examining category perception, reasons for usage, time and frequency of multivitamin intake in Latin America  they were able to help Boehringer Ingelheim target the Latin America market and to give them key differentiating factors from other markets and consumers.

Pick ‘n’ Mix in the Qualitative Hot House
Sandrine McClure, Head of Insight and Development at equal in France hosted an interactive group discussion on the toughest challenges in Qualitative research. Over the past month we had been collecting input from the industry to be discussed at the conference in an effort to incubate and cultivate solutions together.  The room was split into 16 groups and all given a challenge to address. After lunch we all got together to present solutions to the rest of the delegates.

Some of the key discussion points to come out of the session were:

  • Challenge clients, develop dialogue, show you are a strategic thinker even at briefing stage
  • Persuade clients to have a kick-off team meeting, get them to share their knowledge and clarify their objectives
  • Post-research workshop to help all kinds of clients understand the research and work with the results for their part of the business
  • Define and label ourselves in a different way e.g.  expert consumers
  • Bring a fresh perspective, a new approach that will surprise the client and keep the relationship with the client “alive”
  • Provide the client with more than just results, provide solutions. These solutions should be tangible, something the client can take in with their senses
  • Connecting with the client helps them connect with the results in an impactful way

Outside In
As many of us know, effective internal communication is fundamental to how a successful brand operates. Consumers’ experience of brands is multi-faceted, stretching across multiple platforms and fully immersed in the brand experience, so all teams within a large organisation must be on the same page. Global organisations must hold a continuous two-way dialogue between global and local teams to ensure overall strategy alignment and execution. This was the challenge facing Nokia, where huge amounts of information needed to be shared across, not only multi-disciplinary teams but between the global team and local markets.

Partnering with Sparkler in the UK Nokia aimed to use external communication models to enhance their internal communications. They developed the GAMEplanner, a standalone tool used by internal marketers , based on the principles of effective external communications.

10 principles for success

  • Get Attention
  • Be relevant to your audience
  • Be memorable
  • Create a campaign device
  • Avoid corporate cliché
  • The medium is the message
  • Blend broadcast, narrowcast and social
  • Embrace Mavens
  • Give gifts
  • Take risks

The Sparkler design team have gone on to help many global brands increase the engagement of their internal communications, a part of daily business life which sometimes relies too heavily on powerpoint and lacking intranet projects. The advantages are obvious, and as business moves forward I can certainly see more and more companies adopting these principles.

Don’t Play with Food!
Cheese strings at an MR conference?   Well, it seems there is always a an element of surprise at an ESOMAR event and the closing presentation – “Don’t Play with Food” by Helen King and Dorte Tollner gave the delegates a real insight into just how much fun breaking taboos can be.

The introduction of cheese sticks to German children was a real challenge for the researchers – as playing with food is seen as a real cultural no-no.  Although string cheese was the leading cheese snack in the UK as of 2009 – they didn’t enter in the German market until 2011.

The researchers found several hurdles – not just winning over children, but also winning over the mums who in the end were going to purchase the product. It was about matching fun food and natural goodness.  They worked with mums and kids through enthusiasm and co-creation sessions as well as home placement and mum encounters.  What they found was that paying attention to cultural surroundings/differences (non-cookie cutter model), embracing the input of moms and looking at what children find important as well – cheese strings could indeed succeed in this atypical market.

By playing “enthusiasm agents” and not just sitting back (as researchers often do) they connected with their core targets – children and mums – and helped their client make a taboo cool while bringing a new and healthy alternative to  the German snack market.