Millennials in Research: Behind the Scenes Edition

Meet 5 Millennials in Market Research who have helped shape the ESOMAR Congress 2016 Presentation Program.

They share your passion for Aha! Moments, consumer understanding and data discovery. And the way the Pokémon Go Craze simultaneously amazes and annoys you.

Caroline, Devika, Jason, Katia and Till are Explorers, Thought Leaders and Creators. They also all happen to be born after 1986.

I’ve had the opportunity to catch up with them on topics spanning their favorite apps and festivals, their ESOMAR submissions and their vision for the future of our industry. Enjoy the read and be sure to check out their ESOMAR Congress 2016 sessions (in NOLA or from the comfort of your screens – dates and times outlined below)!

1/ Market Research in 2026

Giulia: Let’s talk about the Future of Market Research. Imagine it’s 2026. What does that landscape look like, compared to today?

Caroline: Tech startups will be using wearable technology to measure actual emotional response in real time. Plus the standard KPIs because they will never truly (and shouldn’t) die.

Jason: There will be a shift in how we measure attitudes towards certain key benefits of a brand or category: from long lists of statements tested quantitatively, to using images and short snappy wording. Deeper insight will be coming from qualitative work.

Katia: MRX will be about smart data integration – where the only thing that we will still end up asking consumers is the why.


Till: We’ll be fully immersed in an environment that allows us researchers to constantly draw the information most relevant to any given ad-hoc research question. Concepts will be evaluated by generating data in an experimental setting (behavior tracking). Data will be interpreted against a broader tracking ecosystem of other relevant data (KPIs). I hope the PowerPoint and Excel era will come to an end in order to give experiments and real work with data more room to flourish.

Did the future of MRX just get “Moore’s Lawyered”?

These visions portray an industry that is not only leaping, but leapfrogging forward, heavily driven by ever-accelerating technology capabilities. Concepts like full automation, virtual reality and symbiotic relationships between human senses and electronic circuits come to mind. Which triggers a spontaneous question: how will we make sense of so much immersive data? Will this make us even more “Data rich and Insight poor”?

From TMI to TMY

Not according to our Millennial Researchers. To temper the threat of drowning in too much information, their visions include additional solutions, like standard KPIs or qualitative work. In essence, we’re looking at a future where the WHATs will be automated, and our job will be to make sense of them and uncover the WHYs.

 2/ ESOMAR: start, stop, continue

Giulia: What can ESOMAR start/stop/keep doing to remain/become future proof or consistently be future-generation friendly?

Caroline: Innovation has been a big buzz word for a while now, but I think it is especially important in research – to remain relevant to clients, leadership, and the people we are contacting for sample. A Shark Tank-esque competition for new and innovative research techniques could be a cool way to get innovative ideas flowing (and heard about).


Jason: I guess an easy answer is to continue supporting mobile research. I also agree with the view that attention spans are getting shorter, and therefore chunking of surveys is probably the future (i.e. get Person A to answer Section 1, get Person B to answer Section 2, etc., and then fill in the gaps based on answers from similar types of people).

“Stimulate the conversation on how to turn the industry away from becoming a dinosaur.”

Katia: ESOMAR should keep on giving the stage to Millennials with bold ideas – also from outside our industry. Bring young researchers together more, stimulate the conversation on how to turn the industry away from becoming a dinosaur. I also see an opportunity to stop using the traditional white paper formats – they are often lengthy and could benefit from a snappier, more visually engaging look and feel. This will help especially when presenting points of view and case studies.

Till: ESOMAR should start a crowd funding platform for good ideas and business opportunities by startups who might change the way we do market research. You know, ESOMAR as a VC (Venture Capitalist) or business angel. That’d be something that could help the organization stand out and above all others. And of course… that’s also the future.

Are blurring industry lines a threat to ESOMAR? Or an opportunity?

There seems to be tension between what was and what will be. Business model revolutions in other industries seem to be trickling into the Research reality. We’ve developed the habit of expecting new players to emerge from the most unexpected places.

Rather than considering this a threat to ESOMAR, our team of Millennial researchers sees it as an opportunity to learn, open up and respond to new kinds of stimuli. Just like our favorite brands learn from us and grow with us, so should our industry – and ESOMAR has full permission to helm it.

 3/ Market Research across Generations

Giulia: A GenX-er, a Baby Boomer and a Millennial working at the same research agency walk into a bar… What are they ordering? Laughing about or looking forward to? Talking about that bothers them?

 Caroline: The Millennial is too busy looking at their phone at first – then they get a craft beer on tap. The bartender overlooks the GenX-er, and the Boomer gets a glass of wine. They’re all looking forward to family moments (Millennial’s friend is getting married to Boomer’s daughter, Gen-Xer has third baby on the way). What bothers them? Pokémon Go across the board.

Devika: I think they’re all worried about different things – the Boomer about becoming insignificant, the Gen-Xer about not settling down and the Millennial about not finding greatness and their own calling.

Jason: I still think that what bothers them unites them: today, probably politics across the board.


Katia: They’d all drink Belgian beer of course – so that’s another thing that brings them together! When it comes to arguments, I’m sorry for feeding the stereotypes here, but I do think Boomers would focus on how rigorous analysis and traditional proven methods are not appreciated enough anymore, while Millennials would be talking about how recruitment and research methods are not in line with today’s reality. And that they’re causing our very own global warming of Panels. And that it’s time for disruptive thinking.

At ESOMAR NOLA, I’d love to put the two people with most and least research experience next to one another to hear their thoughts on our industry: evaluating the past and looking at the future.

“The Boomer is laughing at the Millennial: ‘You guys cannot have everything. Settle down a bit.”

Till: The Baby Boomer is ordering a Whiskey or Gin and Tonic. The GenX-er orders a Beck’s Beer. He’s retro like that. The Millennial doesn’t really know what to order at first so she takes a few minutes to study the menu. She’s torn between a craft beer, the Club-Mate and the new bio coke. She eventually asks the waiter to pick one, because it’s what Kahneman told us to do.

Next, the Boomer is laughing at the Millennial: “You guys cannot have everything. Settle down a bit”. The Millennial tries to convince the Baby Boomer that enough isn’t enough and people can change the world. The GenX-er kind of isn’t participating in the conversation. It seems as if he’s more interested in his second round of beer.

It bothers the others that the Millennial seems to lead the way with new progressive ideas and ways to live and think. And it bothers the Millennial that too many people from both generations are in positions where they decide and make changes based upon their personal beliefs, that are mostly NON-Millennial.

Giulia: Since we’re on the topic – tell me about the last time you heard someone talk/read something about Millennials. Like the first blog post in my Research X Millennials content series (wink wink).

Caroline: Literally every single day. And I don’t mean the figurative definition of literally! Earlier this week I went to a meeting hosted by Delta’s CMO and one of the topics was – you guessed it – Millennials. Someone posed a question asking if we are doing enough to target the Millennial generation.

The answer to that question is a whole different can of worms, but I found his response refreshing. Without getting into the details of what we are/are not doing, he acknowledged that the bulk of leadership at Delta are not Millennials – rather, their kids are. They can try to understand them, but will always be an outsider looking in. While I myself am a Millennial, the majority of people I work are not – including the ones fielding research and writing reports on Millennials. I think recognizing that there will be a disconnect between leadership and an audience segment is the first step to bridging that gap.

 Devika: I’d love to share this article that had a great impact on me – it made me better understand myself and why I feel pressured. The article, I feel, accurately addresses the pressures of Millennials – the idea that we can achieve greatness and our need to find it (our calling). However, I don’t agree with the bit where it assumes all Millennials are lazy and looking for shortcuts. I have only seen otherwise.


Jason: I found this Instagram post struck close to home. Millennials like that people view them as different. They like the fact they aren’t expected to get married until 30, and how it’s become cool to be a hippy who travels for the sake of travel instead of buckling down into a career for 40 years straight.


However, they still think it’s edgy to do this and show it off – edgy to be breaking the old paradigm. Your research suggests that Millennials are less trusting of others, and search for authenticity. I would say this lends itself to their exaggerated propensity for travel: they want to ‘stick it to the man’ who they don’t trust and who wants them to work in a suit for a living.

Your research also says they acknowledge and engage in a more dynamic and changing workplace. What is more dynamic then dipping in and out of work, in different countries, and travelling in between? I’m getting tired of seeing travel posts on my newsfeed about ditching materialism and spending money on experiences, all from newly-philosophical 20 somethings who have quit their first office job.

It’s no longer original/authentic to be a travel bug and go to Europe and say you prefer to go off the beaten path. Every path you take will be beaten now.

Millennials have tried so hard to break out of the traditional life-cycle mold that they have created a new mold they all fall into. One where being an interesting individual means to travel a lot, if only for the sake of it. I am one of these people.

 “I feel like there is a direct correlation between technology advances and society’s ability to wait patiently.”

 Caroline: I thought the impact in the workplace section of your “Research about Millennials” blog post was especially interesting, and was with the majority who voted that they (we) have had a significant impact.

While I agree with the concept of ‘experience hopping’ and the need for more leadership development, I think there is another factor shaping the Millennial workforce – patience (or a lack thereof). I feel like there is a direct correlation between technology advances and society’s ability to wait patiently.

In a world where we’re accustomed to immediate responses and lightning speed internet, it is no wonder that the desire to switch jobs is growing. We see people like Mark Zuckerberg reaching billionaire status by 30 and tech startups earning millions in their 20’s. A drive for success is a common thread across all generations – however it seems that the time expected to achieve success has been reduced – we want to be successful ASAP – and that means moving up in our careers at unprecedented levels.

A promotion a year seems completely reasonable, but that would mean that 5 years out of college we’d all be at the leadership level, and companies are pretty top-heavy already. The best way to move up in many cases is to switch jobs – even if the preferred track is at your current company. The desire to succeed (i.e. promotions & raises) wins out over the patience typically required to move up within a single organization. I don’t think it is driven by entitlement but rather a need to prove self-worth in a world where other people’s success stories are widely broadcast via social media for us to compare ourselves to.

The world is moving faster than ever, and it seems the need to keep up is a powerful driver of Millennial decisions in the workplace.

A co-worker/fellow Millennial significantly impacting the workplace *muscle emoji* #millennialsresearchingmillennials #millennialsinresearch

A co-worker/fellow Millennial significantly impacting the workplace *muscle emoji* #millennialsresearchingmillennials #millennialsinresearch

Till: Here’s an Instagram from my past to make a point. It’s about telling everybody that I’m so international, working in London for 2 days. Taking a picture of a coffee place (which is cool), a hand-written notebook (which shows my deep thoughts) and a smartphone which shows that I’m connected. All of that is topped off by using the perfect filter (color of the cup and the table top) which shows that I’m artsy and know design.

And that is my opinion about my own peers: Making a lot out of little. Giving meaning to everything. Trying to present myself as individualistically as possible.


4/ YOU in Market Research

Giulia: What is your biggest achievement or proudest moment when it comes to your team’s submission for the ESOMAR Congress?

Caroline: My first experience with ESOMAR was as an MMR (Master of Marketing Research) grad student at UGA (University of Georgia) – I remember being so impressed by the vendor booths and speakers so to actually be presenting is a big accomplishment in itself!

Devika: My big moment was having pulled off the study on which we based our paper – it was something new, completely absorbing and difficult to pull off – and completing it and getting the amazing results that we did was a big big high!

But reading the acceptance mail from Congress and finding out that our paper had been selected was an even bigger achievement! And then, to top that, our paper got shortlisted as a finalist for the Best Paper Award – which was the biggest, most exciting and celebrated moment of this entire journey so far!

Jason: Simply being involved. I was the lead analyst in the research our submission is based on, and ‘unearthed’ the key findings. I was proud that I was asked by my very experienced colleagues to read over and tighten the analysis section of our submission.

Till: I’m presenting with my best friend. And we’ve been trying to improve the industry for years and now we get to present our ideas in New Orleans, in the USA. Get to share our thoughts. WOW.

Caroline Smiley Devika Johar Jason Morris Katia Pallini Till Winkler
Delta Airlines The Third Eye Millward Brown InSites Consulting SKOPOS
USA India UK Belgium Germany

Million-Dollar Snackables

Money Talks! – Driving investment
decisions with new experience metrics
and snackable outputs

The Power of Reflective Content –
A study of spare time and how
we spend it
Respondent Engagement –
Investing in “sticky-ness”
The Power is in the Mix –
How smart data integration
will reinvent the (survey) research industry
User Experience –
Testing in the Digital Age – How agile research
enables our industry not only to
stay relevant but to increase
our business impact

Wednesday, 09/21


Empire C & D

Tuesday, 09/20

11:20 – 11:35

Empire D

Monday, 09/19

17:20 – 17:40

Empire C

Monday, 09/19

17:00 – 17:20

Empire D

Wednesday, 09/21

09:35 – 09:55

Empire C & D

Curious to learn more? Check out the presentations at the 69th ESOMAR Congress in New Orleans!

So WHAT: Are we all just afflicted by a serious case of #keepingup?

Market Research is #keepingup with making sense of technology in a way that makes the race of our industry look like an obstacle course sprinkled with Data Rich/Insight Poor traps.

ESOMAR is #keepingup with the fast-moving reality of a changing business landscape, where research/start up worlds/crowdsourcing/big ideas that get big funding could be what propels all of us into the future – if we let it and learn from it.

Others are #keepingup with the Millennial generation. And Millennials? They are #keepingup with the hyped stereotypes (stereohypes?) of their own generation. Or with proving that they are not like the stereotypes. On a deeper level, Millennials are #keepingup with the many success stories surrounding them and appearing on their news feeds every day.

#keepingup might be tiresome and stressful – but it seems like a good way to overcome the inevitable Dunning-Kruger effect that drives generations away from one another.

To be a Millennial Researcher in this world means to live in a kind of hyper-reality, where we find ourselves under the research lens as much as behind it. This creates not only more (self-) consciousness, but also a vision of the future that is coming at us faster, in more colors and less pixelated than ever before.

Bonus: one app and two festivals

Till: I discovered Number26, which is really a banking company that offers a great app that allows me to control my spending, my savings and my overall money transfer process through an app. The app is so easy and with touch ID it makes transferring money to friends (e.g. for a shared dinner) so easy and it happens within seconds. Also it’s free and it’s a really big difference to the classic, old fashioned banks.

Jason: Went to Wireless in London mid-June. Was very fun experiencing how hyped up the crowd got for BBK (most popular Grime group in UK/London) as I am from New Zealand and listen to American hip hop mainly. I have been to a lot of festivals but their set was the craziest I’ve been too. Nearly got enveloped by ~10 mosh pits, thought I was going to pass out from heat at a few points, and was literally too dangerous to record any footage on my phone. Great times.

Katia: every year there is a big festival in Ghent, my hometown, where for 10 days there is music and concerts on the streets of the historic center. It is a yearly tradition for the locals and a must attend for those that are visiting!


Giulia Gasperi is known mostly for her faith in unicorns and love for fun facts. She speaks 5 languages and has resided in 9 countries across 4 continents. Today, as Research Director at InSites Consulting, she inspires top-tier brands all over the world and helps them unlock extraordinary insights from everyday consumer realities. Tomorrow, she hopes to become a ballerinastronaut.