ESOMAR UK June Event Roundup

By Jennifer Redfern

All the answers to all the questions that can ever be asked are already out there on social media, said BV Pradeep, Global Vice President, Consumer & Market Insight at Unilever, in his opening remarks at the ESOMAR UK Meet Up.

Over 60 ESOMAR members gathered at the event. BV’s statement highlights the vast changes that have impacted the market research industry in recent years. But, despite having information consistently at our fingertips due to advances in technology, and data collection becoming increasingly mistrusted due to data breaches from several big brands, market researchers are continuing to ask questions and continuing to find deep insights that make an impact. The presentations at last Tuesday’s ESOMAR UK Meet Up addressed these issues.

The broad theme of the evening was behavioural economics. However, the presentations also addressed the power of data and research for positive societal change and the emergence of new research methodologies that utilise the analysis of existing opinions through social media, combining humans and machines to gain the deepest insights.

Marie Stafford, European Director at J. Walter Thompson, explored how big data can be harvested for societal impact, an idea known as data philanthropy. With 47% of people claiming to have been personally involved in a data breach it’s no surprise that people are calling for stricter regulations and increased responsibility from organisations towards our private details. However, despite its pitfalls, data does have the power to provide humanitarian aid. Vodafone, for example, gave data on human mobility to the Ghanaian government to prevent the outbreak of disease, while UPS were able to use their parcel tracking technology in refugee camps to ensure fair and fast distribution of supplies, cutting supply time by 50%.

This theme of positive societal change coming about because of research and data was also addressed by Andrew Lea from BVA/BDRC. He explained how behavioral economics implements specific factors into a decision-making process that ‘nudges’ people into taking certain actions. Examples of this are implementing green footsteps towards bins to discourage littering (Copenhagen), using the spacing between white lines on the roads to reduce traffic accidents (Chicago) and only putting the instructions for tax returns online to encourage their completion online (France). Nudge theory can also be used by brands to help them position themselves as forces for change. For example, Ariel laundry powder encouraging consumers to wash their clothes at 20 degrees. These examples show how collecting data through ethnography to analyse decision making processes can help impact environmental and societal change.

The theme of using new methodologies to analyse existing data was introduced by both Itzel Meza Loeza, Senior Insight Manager at AkzoNobel and Lucas Galan, Head of Digital Forensics at Flamingo UK. They talked about a project with Dulux paint which aimed to understand paint in the context of life and to find out which occasions and moments in life inspire people to redecorate. To do this they used trained and refined natural language processing modelling of social media conversations to identify groups of important words and used an Instagram algorithm to predict above or below emotional engagement on posts on the #decorating feed. By looking from the outside-in, this approach emphasizes BV’s point that often the information we already need is already out there and encourages researchers to think more creatively about how they can find and analyse old data, rather than collecting it from scratch.

In the Q&A panel after the presentations, ESOMAR rep Lucy Davison from Keen as Mustard Marketing, asked the presenters if they think it’s still necessary to ask questions. Unsurprisingly, as market researchers the answer to this question was unanimously ‘yes’. However, the panelists suggested that with advancements in technology what we ask is now different, as well as the ways in which we ask. A lively discussion with the audience then ensued around the growing use of behavioural economics to ask indirect questions and observe, rather than interrogate, people.

As usual, Lightspeed provided great hospitality and conversations continued over refreshments.

Thanks to the ESOMAR UK Reps for providing another excellent and thought-provoking event.

By Jennifer Redfern, Keen as Mustard Marketing