How to eat an elephant – metaphorically speaking of course… 1

By Wim Hamaekers

In 2025, all new cars sold will be electrical vehicles and by 2030, 95% of people won’t own a private car. Bold predictions you would think seeing as 2030 is only 12 years away…but actually, they are based on insights coming out of data carefully analysed by Tony Selba. The S-curve in innovation showing the adaptation process to a new technology is getting steeper, resulting in a tipping point coming faster, getting innovations mainstream quicker.  And, whilst I’m writing this piece on August 2nd I just read an article about the Tesla Model 3 crushing the sales of its main competitors in the mid luxury segment – BMW, Mercedes by 30% -50% in July ’18, with Tesla selling 16,000 cars in the US in that month alone (source Statista based on Zachary Stahan).  So, Tony could be right I guess. If you have some time, look for Tony Selba’s keynote speech on youtube, it’s worthwhile.

So, you may think why this introductory story about electrical vehicles? What does that have to do with ESOMAR Congress. Well, first of all when data is used to predict the future and help companies understand innovation processes better and move faster, it shows that our industry is in the pole position to take this role.  Secondly, and maybe even more importantly, what I learned in Tony Selba’s speech is that the adaptation S-curve of innovations is getting steeper, the disruptive changes our industry is going through will come much faster and gets mainstream quicker. Time to start walking the talk and stop talking. Reflecting on Congress 2017 a great celebration edition of 70 years of ESOMAR that was exactly the message: when we have to stay relevant we have to move NOW.  And that’s so true.  If in 2030, 95% people won’t own a car and transportation will be done by self-driving cars, what will our industry look like? Will our industry still be relevant…?

The challenges our industry is facing are huge: disruptive technologies, new players in the market, fast and cheap research, DIY research, exploding available data, the pressure on budgets at client side, automation & robotising, the speed of innovations demanding faster insights.  Looking at it, could feel like ‘how to eat an elephant’.  And of course, there is only one way to eat an elephant, slice by slice. Get things done! As Elaine Rodrigo from the Congress programme committee mentioned in one of our sessions “There’s never been such a great time to be in data, research and insights”.  So many slices to ‘eat’, so many different methodologies, data sources, technologies, ways of creating impact in organisations to use.  And even if automation & AI will get more and more part of our daily life, it needs brilliant smart people to humanize the data and convert them into real insights that help businesses grow. And brilliance is the Congress theme not accidently chosen.  Brilliance is the fuel that will make our industry move on.  And just use your brilliance in everything you do, a small mind shift, a brilliant idea of injecting a new technology, an agile approach rather than your traditional thinking, the use of massive available data in a clever way. Eat the elephant slice by slice but get things done!

Exciting times indeed, but we have to consider that disruption is needed within our industry to stay relevant.  Isn’t that what we constantly do when doing research: detecting the tensions at consumers’ side and translating them into opportunities for innovations, communication and brand performance.  What is the tension at client side and agency side?  Use your brilliance to translate these tensions into opportunities.

How to face the main challenge for brands; the S-curve in innovation getting faster and to grow business, brands have to move fast, where traditional innovation funnels are long with a lot of steps and gates to be taken before a launch is possible.  Heavy processes consequently demanding a lot of time and means (in people and budget).  How can agencies help clients grow faster and more effectively?  And aren’t the main challenges at agency side to asses which methodology, new technology to use, how to get engaging and relevant respondents, leaving traditional approaches behind or transform them without losing the needed quality to get real valuable insights and reasonable cost, cheaper and faster with more impact? Not to talk about how to be sure that the available insights and data will create the right impact?

We need to use our brilliance, be smart and look at the challenges in a positive way and be brave to change the mindset and experiment the new and let go of the old.  We have to embrace these exciting times and start eating the elephant.

  • Don’t let comparability, a consistent way of measuring, sampling over time be a hurdle to try new methods, technologies.  Don’t protect the history but think forward…
  • Let agencies be your real partner, nurturing your business with knowledge and experience and value them as real consultants
  • Make data and insights accessible for all decision makers and be a curator of insights based on correct and qualitative data in all its aspects
  • Be sure you have a competitive advantage: get data out of its silos and draw relevant insights because data is available for everybody.  But connecting the dots not.
  • If the paradigm is faster, better and cheaper, we should act upon and have to use our brilliance in to optimize processes, use technology in a smart way and think in agile processes to accomplish it.

In this spirit, the programme committee has carefully selected a collection of papers which give a brilliant fresh view on our industry or just a hint of brilliance, changing or injecting something new and smart into the traditional, giving insights a better entrance in the organisation using creativity.  It will be an inspiring data research and insights event. Bigger. Bolder. Braver. With your brilliance at the forefront, where creativity, innovation and insights collide.

Discover three tracks of cutting edge content from business leaders, innovators and industry disrupters daring to go one step further in the name of insights. Did they fail? Did they take the ordinary and make it extraordinary? Did they discover what you’ve been searching for all this time? One thing is for sure, your insights won’t be the same again.

I already want to thank the programme committee for all their efforts: Elaine Rodrigro, Julie Kollman, Till Winkler, Anne Strauss, Maria Alvarado and last but not least Reed Cundiff. The energy, brilliant ideas, deep discussion and in special, the amount of time they dedicated in their busy lives to commit to Congress in order to make it a fantastic edition, which I’m sure it will be.  It was a pleasure to have you all in the committee.  And I’m sure all the delegates will enjoy to fullest this brilliant edition.  Enjoy!


Wim Hamaekers is the programme chair for the 2018 Congress and Managing Partner at Haystack International, Belgium.


Register to attend ESOMAR Congress 2018, held in Berlin, 23-26 September 2018. To ensure you register at the best rate, book before 31 August to save!