Revelations of a Young Researcher: Arriving at Congress 2015 8

Danielle Todd shares with us how she experienced ESOMAR Congress 2015 in Dublin as a young researcher. This is the first of a 3-piece blog series. 

Sunday morning on the Stansted Express, I found myself filled with a mixture of excitement and apprehension. Excitement because, as a young researcher, I have the privileged opportunity to attend my industry’s equivalent of Mecca. I can immerse myself in the latest thinking, connect with industry thought leaders, and draw upon collective decades of experience that will inevitably help shape and refine the way I work. Apprehension because I’m a nervous flyer and there was a 50/50 chance I wouldn’t get on the plane! But the pull of ESOMAR Congress, and prescription medication, helped ease me into that plane seat, and boy am I glad it did! As I entered the Convention Centre in Dublin on Sunday, my apprehension melted, leaving only curiosity, intrigue and reverence as I returned to my (sort of) homeland to enjoy the delights of ESOMAR Congress 2015.

Congress unofficially kicked off with a number of fascinating workshops on Sunday. This served as a reminder of our desire as a profession to constantly strive for betterment. We are eternal students of human behaviour! SSI hosted an interactive session based on optimising the mobile research experience not only for the respondent but in order to ensure data quality. For example, by simply transplanting the online survey experience on to mobile, we risk both these aspects, with questions not appearing properly, scales disappearing and text being misread during the survey experience. SSI warned us if respondents can’t find the correct answer, they give the closest answer they believe ‘will do’, and we don’t want to encourage that kind of survey taking! It was heart-warming to see, whenever audience participation was required in this sessions, no matter seniority or background, you could find tables full of experts from all the over the world debating the staples of our industry, such as survey design. To see researchers consistently willing to critically scrutinise how we work, and re-evaluate best practice, is encouraging and energising to a junior researcher.

Entering the main exhibition hall, you’re immediately impressed and awed by the sheer ingenuity of the exhibitors. Brightly coloured stalls are manned (and womanned) by smiling suppliers, keen to both press a drink into your hand and spark a conversation. Industry titans, such as Dan Foreman, Kristin Luck and Annie Petit mingle through the room, greeting old friends and equally happy to make new ones. The most striking thing for me is how earnestly people in market research enjoy each other’s company. The mood in the room is one of genuine happiness and anticipation of what’s to come. I for one am excited!

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ESOMAR Congress Day One

Congress officially opened by paying humble respects to the host country – and one of the greatest countries in the world, although I may be biased – with reminding us of Irish ingenuity and inventiveness. A nation known for their comradery, passion and work ethic, Dublin is indeed a particularly fitting location for a market research conference. Andy James, magician and Irish entertainer of the year, had the unenviable task of rousing a room full of market researchers, who may or may not be somewhat fuzzy from the night before. The theme of ‘revelations’, revealing things that are not yet realised, was the focus for this year. The range of speakers and topics touching upon literature, history, politics, economics and business showed us how what we do overlaps with so many areas of life. Susan HayesCulleton, The Positive Economist was the first keynote speaker who surprised us with the fact that Facebook is valued at almost $2 billion. That’s more than Disney! During the Fireside chat with Unilever’s Stan Sthanunathan and BV Pradeep, we learned that we check our smartphones 150 times a day. Why? We’re hungry for information. We’re hungry for data. As people, we want instant understanding of our world. Yet, we are told the world will never be this slow again. As researchers, we need to adapt, to upskill and to race even faster into understanding this ever-changing world. For Unilever, this means double the impact in half the time and cost. I wholeheartedly applaud their ethos that ‘done is better than perfect’.

Next we learnt of Three’s challenges in creating viral advertising, with John Kearon of Brainjuicer and Tom Malleschitz from Three. For Three, their Eureka moment in embracing their brand truth came from really understanding their customers and their love of sharing via the internet. And #danceponydance was born! For Three, it is about surrendering to feeling, and delivering on the emotional element of the advertising.

Christene McCauley from Added Value and Izzy Pugh of Diageo also uncovered some home truths to help understand how to make Diageo appeal to both men and women. As Diageo learnt, you don’t become a cultural icon if you ignore 50% of the world, and understanding how brands fit into people’s experiences helps brand live more authentically in people’s lives.

Another session that really stuck out for me was Kristin Hickey and Vangelis Skouras of kubi kalloo velations on the participant experience. Understanding and bettering the experience for those we research is always on the agenda for market researchers but seldom have we seen such sobering evidence as to just why it is so important. We know better engagement reduces dropout rates, and ensures better data quality, but what about honesty? 12% of respondents say they were less than 100% honest in their responses, 24% say they don’t always say the truth and 44% of people think that other people lie during research. Particularly concerning is that 19% said they lied to recruiters and 21% said recruiters asked them to lie! To drive the point home, two ‘professional respondents’ gate-crashed the stage to tell us that they didn’t feel like they’re lying. They take the decision themselves as to whether they should be involved in the research or not!

What can we do about this? Get participants more involved, more engaged and help them feel valued as part of the project. Once participants were more engaged, they spent twice as long on open-ended answers, providing more considered responses. So let’s show how fun our industry is! Demonstrate the passion in our work, engage participants and improve data quality in our projects.

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Danielle Todd is Senior Research Executive at Relish Research