By Christian Kugel
I was chatting with a fellow researcher recently about the state of the industry. Our discussion touched on some of the usual topics – the increasing importance of analytics, the short supply of truly talented people with the right level of experience, and common disconnects between clients and research agencies. At one point, she said something very telling: “The issue is this – I’m supposed to be the methodology expert, and deliver research results accurately and on time, but my job doesn’t end there.” She then elaborated on that comment by describing how in order to have real impact within her organisation, she often needed to wear different hats – sometimes a product developer’s hat, and at other times a sales person’s hat.
I’m sure that feeling resonates with many of us attending this year’s ESOMAR Congress. Over the past several years, the industry has agonised over all the changes we continually face – notably, the pressure for better/faster/cheaper, the rise of big data, and bridging the gap between research and data science. All of those dynamics are certainly true, and they’re also legitimate reasons for anxiety. But I challenge you to name an industry that isn’t facing similar, foundational issues. The reality is that in today’s climate, all industries are confronted with massive disruption and change.
The difference for us, it seems, centers on what my colleague articulates. In addition to being the research experts, who know how to ferret out a consumer insight through rigorous methodology design and data analysis, we are also often expected to simultaneously perform other tasks. Depending on the project, we need to be some combination of storytellers, marketers, product developers, consumer advocates, consultants, and data scientists – while still delivering better/faster/cheaper results. This is what makes our challenge particularly unique and especially difficult.
So, in those moments where the stars align and we get it right, there’s only one thing to say: “Wow!” Think about that last time you saw a piece of work and had that “Wow!” reaction. The kind of work that makes you envious, that makes you wish you had a hand in it. The kind of work that has real, meaningful impact. The kind of work that in hindsight is so incredibly obvious, but took a magical combination of skills and perspectives to generate.
This year at Congress, I invite you to join me for a few days to celebrate and learn from the work that makes us think “#wow.” As you can see, the agenda is packed with an impressive collection, covering different industries, regions and techniques, but they all have one thing in common – the wow factor. I hope that you will enjoy the event, that you will be inspired by the work, and that you’ll take something tangible away from the experience. In fact, I’m willing to bet that due to the sheer diversity of topics and speakers, you will use something tangible you see at Congress within the next two years.
The programme was built to feature an array of how new (and old) challenges were solved, a glimpse into the possibilities of the future, and notable cases of real business impact. Examples include:
- An innovative means for ethnographic research using a food truck
- Agile research techniques aligning to product development cycles
- Stories from challenged emerging markets: Rwanda, Somalia, and Cambodia
- A look at how people spend one of their more precious resources: their time
While presentations is incredibly diverse, the slate of keynote speeches will hopefully cause you to say “Wow!” and challenge you to think differently:
- The result when math and psychology are combined
- Re-imagining market research from a premier business school
- Leadership lessons from a jazz band legend, and
- The unprecedented potential of virtual reality
I am especially excited that New Orleans is the setting for this year’s Congress. It is not only a city rich in history and culture, but also one whose citizens have recently rebuilt in the face of tremendous adversity. For me, the city and its people are pure inspiration. And, it wouldn’t be a proper Congress without an infusion of local culture; this year is no different. We will experience the unique cuisine of New Orleans, its famous jazz music, and even get a taste of Mardi Gras during the awards dinner and ceremony.
Lastly, to acknowledge their tremendous effort in organising Congress and curating its content, I would like to thank the members of the Programme Committee and the professionals at ESOMAR.
Christian Kugel, Programme Committee Chair ESOMAR Congress and VP, Consumer Analytics & Research, AOL, USA
To join the Congress, please visit www.esomar.org/congress – note that the standard registration deadline is 26 August
By Anouk Willems
Time to reflect on the impact of consumer insights
Hello, summertime! For many of us, this is the time of the year when things slow down. Projects are put on hold, colleagues go on holiday, and if meetings can be postponed – they are! I think summer is a great time to reflect on the projects we have done, the rich consumer insights we found, and what the impact has been on the business. To get you started, here are 3 questions to think about:
Did you find rich new consumer insights this past year?
Did you share them extensively with your organization too?
Did your efforts trigger meaningful actions?
If the answer is 3 times ‘yes’, you probably had a very successful year! In most cases however, the last question is often the hardest part and more difficult to manage. Why? Well, after writing detailed market research reports, presenting the consumer insights and organizing ideation sessions, people tend to forget about the consumer insight. The insights are locked away in a PowerPoint report, and we move on to the next project. By doing so, the risk is that we lose sight of our insights, as market researcher Kris Cornelis explains:
“We come up with new insights and then it turns out they were already known. They re-invented the wheel, because only a few people knew.”
Kris Cornelis, Marketing Research at Wolters Kluwer Belgium
Hosting one workshop to generate ideas and translate actions is just not enough. In order to trigger meaningful actions across teams, it’s important to bring insights to life through interaction in a structural way. We do this by giving them a role in (further) shaping the insights. This way, an insight is ever evolving and kept fresh over time. The ultimate goal is that it becomes part of people’s work routines. Or as Florence from Danone describes it:
“Insights should be like a sunrise. A daily habit that brightens your day and gives you direction.”
Florence Pauriac, Strategy & Insights Manager at Danone Dairy
How to start with insight activation
Sounds great, right?! Unfortunately, there is no magic ‘insight activation’ button to push to make this a reality. So, how do we engage employees to collaborate with us and our consumer insights on a more frequent basis? And where do we begin? Let’s take the classical market research study to identify the first opportunities for insight activation.
Before: Harvest the collective mind.
The activation can already start before you find the insights. For example, Telefonica invited stakeholders to complete a SWOT exercise and add their predictions about the research outcomes. By inviting key stakeholders from different teams to share their learnings first, you are able to identify knowledge gaps. This way, you make sure that the insights you will find afterwards are ‘new’ and relevant to your internal stakeholders.
During: Share live updates from the field.
Why wait with sharing inspiring stories you heard or saw during fieldwork? As part of the activation, share striking observations during fieldwork as a teaser for the final insight report. For example, pharmaceutical company UCB decided to post their 2-3 ‘aha’ moments during in home visits and focus groups to spark discussions before the final report was shared. In this case, they used the Insight Activation Studio, a platform to collaborate around insights, observations and ideas.
After: Create empathy to trigger relevant actions.
After identifying the (validated) insights, the next step in activation is to let people recognize them and add their own observations to the insights. By doing so, we are creating more empathy with consumer’s routines and frictions. Once you established empathy with consumer frictions and routines, it forms the perfect start for generating ideas to solve the business problem.
This is also how Danone approached insight activation. After they identified rich shopper insights, they realized it was actually much more relevant for a larger audience than just the shopper teams at Danone. So, they created 6 interactive ‘Walls’ to put the employee in the shoes of the shopper in 6 different scenarios. Such a Wall is an interactive platform where employees can enrich insights by sharing own observations and ideas. For example, the #YoLittleOnes Wall. Parents face a challenge of constantly not giving in when their young children join them for grocery shopping. When kids show good behavior in the store, parents often want to give them a treat. These young kids are often attracted by the colorful packaging of unhealthy snacks. Employees enriched this Wall by sharing their own personal stories, resulting in more consumer centricity outside of the market research team.
Turning insights into memes
To increase the impact of a rich consumer insight and maximize the chance of triggering meaningful actions, all employees across the organization should learn about consumers’ frictions and routines in order to share related observations and ideas and build on them. When such an insight is replicated by employees and augmented with their own observations and ideas, shared with various people across the organization and triggers action, the insight becomes a ‘meme’.
I believe that many insights today are still locked away in reports, but have the potential to become a meme. What will be your ‘memes’ the coming year? Will this be your ‘summer of insights’? And how will you activate your insights when summer is over?
Anouk Willems is Head of Insight Activation Studios at InSites Consulting
Anagha Patwardhan tells us how best to build relationships with ethnic minorities in Canada.
By Kevin Gray and Peter Fader
Marketing scientist Kevin Gray asks Wharton Professor Peter Fader some questions many marketers are asking themselves.
KG: Marketing has undergone some dramatic changes in the past ten years or so. What has changed that matters most to marketers?
PF: That’s a tricky question: if it’s really what does matter most to marketers, the answer is social media; if it’s what should matter most, the answer is better, cleaner, richer transaction data. The former is so sexy and intriguing and makes it much more interesting to be a marketer, but it really doesn’t matter as much as we think it does. The latter is boring but is so very important.
KG: Sometimes it’s easy to lose sight of important things that have remained pretty much the same. Are there important things that haven’t changed very much in the past decade?
PF: As just noted, most of the really important stuff hasn’t changed. People try things once or twice, occasionally buy/engage with them more regularly, and then drop out and move on to the next thing. Again, it sounds boring but that’s the way it’s always been, and the basic patterns are surprisingly similar. Yes, people have more options and more ways to buy/engage with that stuff, but consumers are basically as loyal (or not) as they’ve ever been.
KG: We hear a lot about Big Data, the Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence. How much impact are they actually having on marketing and marketing research? What about ten years from now?
PF: Most of that stuff is just hype, at least for now. Marketers need to walk (i.e., make smart use of simple data) before they can run with complex data. I’d like to believe that, ten years from now, they’ll be running, but I’m not overly optimistic.
KG: “Data, data everywhere, Nor any drop to drink” is one complaint I’ve heard from marketers on more than one occasion. “Big data, little information” is another. How can marketers prioritize? What sort of information should they be seeking and what sort of data should they focus on?
PF: Start with what matters most: understanding and forecasting basic transaction patterns. That was the core of basic marketing research 50 years ago, and should still be today. They extend from there in three ways: (1) dig deeper into the attitudinal underpinnings of that behaviour, (2) estimate the influences of marketing activities and other external factors, and (3) move outward from basic transaction patterns toward more advanced constructs such as retention and lifetime value. Then you can start to layer on the “nice to know” data structures such as social media and social network structures. But too many marketers are jumping right into the complex stuff, and that’s problematic.
KG: Lastly, what are the trends or new developments in marketing that marketing researchers should pay most attention to over the next few years?
PF: There are a lot of “shiny objects” coming into view when it comes to measuring/understanding customers. This includes beacons (for in-store movement), all sorts of IoT possibilities (as you noted), personal measurements (from fitness trackers), natural language processing, reading faces/emotions, and a zillion new ways to see social connections. Virtually all of them are in the “nice to know” category that I just mentioned. But the one that really intrigues me is neuroimaging. Right now, it’s way early to say anything definitive or practical (i.e., on a commercial scale) about it, but the possibilities are fascinating. This could be the one area of measurement, more than any other, that eventually outperforms observable behavioural data. Marketing researchers must embrace this domain and find ways to fully leverage it. Down the road, our ability to fully harness neurological activities will be the grandest way for “Big Data” to finally deliver on its promise.
KG: Thank you, Peter!