It’s ESOMAR’s 67th annual Congress, this year held in Nice, France. This year we look at “what inspires” and our event team have been working hard to provide the industry with some of the best and most inspiring content within and outside the industry. To cover the event and ensure those that couldn’t make it could get the feel of the conference, we sent our intrepid reporters Annie Pettit and Anna Peters to give their view of one of the biggest research conferences in the industry calendar. Here are their highlights of the 3rd and final day.
Stay inspired: How we can keep young researchers inspired by blending our discipline with other industries
Inspiration has been the overarching theme of ESOMAR 2014, and to show case this congress has blended many different disciplines. The intersection between the rigor of traditional methodologies, the ambition of tech start-ups, and the impact of management consultancies; it has all been here and it has all been presented as what keeps the industry inspiring.
Indeed, the necessity for market research to continually blend skills from parallel disciplines doesn’t escape Niels Schillewaert, ESOMAR’s programme committee chair, who says: “we are competing with advertising agencies and management consultancies.”
As an organisation it is clear to see that ESOMAR takes these competitors seriously; congress has a long tradition of investing in young researchers – from the young researcher of the year award which has been running since 2009, through to the network of ESOMAR students who have spent congress ensuring a smooth logistical operation.
The ESOMAR team clearly also believe that ‘inspiration’ will come from the next generation – and as such as a large section of the conference has been dedicated towards future talent. We were even treated to a session which compared seasoned professional Andrey Evtenko (Nestle) and fresh-faced Jeremy Pace (Nestle) and explored what keeps them coming to work. This emphasis on the next generation has been refreshing; we’ve seen these Market Research ‘Kids’ have taken to the stage and – with vision and clarity – shaken up some long-held assumptions. And it has clearly hit a chord with the various experienced researchers present – the idea of reverse mentoring (where both younger and more experienced researchers benefit from learning from each other) has come up time and time again.
Yet despite all this emphasis on young talent and new start-ups I have noticed a lack of researchers under 30 at the event.
This might be because mid-level researchers aren’t given the opportunity to attend conferences like this. On this subject, Niels challenges agencies to “bring them [the younger researchers] in as early as possible…allow them to go to conferences, and be inspired and be free to do what they want to do.”
Connecting with the global research community and other parallel industries such as tech, art and consultancy, might be just what agencies need to do in order to keep their mid-level super-stars inspired by the industry. But an alternative explanation for the lack of under 30 attendance might be that mid-level superstars are leaving the industry for competitive sectors. Quite simply they are not around to attend.
I entered into the conference with a clear view that this was the case and that the industry needed to do much more to inspire to under 30 super-stars who are getting itchy feet. But speaking with Niels my conviction was challenged. His perspective is that yes, we must continue to stimulate young researchers and provide them with the career variety that they want. But we must also not stop ambitious young people from leaving the industry before the age of 30. Because, in 15 years’ time, it will be these talented young people who are the marketing directors, the innovators, and business leaders fuelling the Market Research industry – for they will never forget their background in Market Research.
Which means that those of us who choose to remain in the industry will have the pleasure of working with client partners who have been inspired to take what they learnt from Market Research, and blend it with a new discipline to create something different. With that in mind, my theme of day 3 at ESOMAR 2014 has been the blending of disciplines .
Adding all three of my themes together, I leave the conference with a new mantra: for insight to fundamentally change organisations, we must embrace different methodologies by blending Market Research with alternative disciplines.
Choose Your Innovation
What do people who participate in our beloved research projects hate the most? They hate being screened out. They hate spending 5, 10, and even 15 minutes spilling their guts only to be told that their demographic and product use characteristics aren’t important to us. But for brands that want to innovate, the people you would normally screen out just might be the people you really want to talk to.
Marion Debruyne, from the Vlerick Business School in Belgium, spoke about the many ways we hold ourselves back from innovating. Oftentimes, our idea of innovation involves focusing and building on our core competencies. But in the end, all we end up doing is building more and better of the same. Is that innovation? We are so fearful of cannibalizing our own brands that we ignore our most innovative ideas. We concentrate so closely on a few competitive companies doing the exact same work that we end up ignoring all the peripheral companies ready to kick our foundation out from under us.
What do we need to do to innovate? We need to pay attention to the companies that aren’t doing the same work we’re doing, we need to risk cannibalising our own brands, we need to cast fear aside and take the big risks.
When it comes to innovation, neuroscience is top of mind for me. Our industry focuses so much on asking questions via surveys and focus groups that we forget people often don’t have access to why they do things. People can say which colour or fabric they prefer, but they really can’t say why they like them. And while neuroscience may not be able to explain the why, it certainly can pick out details that we like or dislike even when we don’t realize we’ve even paid attention to those details.
In a talk by Fatima El-khatib and Wim Hamaekers from haystack International, and Ronny Pauwels, Toyota Motor Europe, we learned that Toyota now includes neuroscience techniques as part of every Car Clinic. They still conduct traditional qualitative and quantitative work, but they’ve expanded into EEG (electroencephalograms) and GSR (Galvanic Skin Response) research methods . These techniques allowed them to identify which features of the prototype vehicles, like the details on the wheels, the fabric, and the hood ornaments, that people liked and disliked. It was particularly interesting to hear that some of those features received completely different ratings on the traditional research techniques. But neuroscience isn’t the holy grail of marketing research. Toyota has realized that multi-mode techniques are the holy grail.
To round out the day, we spent a bit of time reflecting on ourselves instead of our careers – why do you still go to work? Andrey Evtenko and Jeremy Pace from Nestlé talked about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (though it wasn’t the updated version which includes WIFI and batteries as the base) and explained how researchers focus on the Self-Actualization and Self-Esteem levels at the top of the hierarchy. As part of the Self-Actualization level, researchers seek out the intellectual challenge, the opportunity to be a deep knowledge expert, and the creativity that our career offers us. And, at the Self-Esteem level, we seek out confidence, achievement, respect, and the need to be unique individuals. These intrinsic motivators mean that we as individuals are in control of our happiness and our career. If we think back to the very first keynote of the conference, Debra Searle encouraged us to choose our attitude. As you begin each day, choose innovation, choose achievement, and choose to be a deep knowledge expert. I know I have actively chosen to be a knowledge expert and this will help me to continue that behaviour.
The day ended with the presentation of several awards in categories such as research effectiveness, best paper, and best presentation. You can find a list of all the winners here, including the winners of the Excellence Award for the Best Paper of 2013/2014 which were Kartik Pashupati, Melanie Courtright, Roddy Knowles, and myself! It was a complete shock, a lovely honour, and the perfect way to end such a wonderful conference.
Anna Peters is a freelance researcher based in London
Annie Pettit is Vice President of Research Standards, Research Now
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