Esomar Congress 2012 blog
Things are going to change in the next 18 years, that’s for sure. Imagining what will be different in the world of market research was the subject of David Smith’s presentation this morning on the final day of the Esomar Congress in Atlanta.
His session – and his thoughts on the future – were developed in conversation with Elisabetta Osta of Barclays Retail Bank in the UK.
Smith started off by introducing us to the fictional Katy who, in 2030, has just been awarded the prize of CEO of the Year at an unnamed industry bash. She is forward-looking, passionate about technology, loves change and empathises with customers. More importantly, she has changed the role of consumer insight within her company.
To find out how, we need to flashback to 2012. Katy meets Ted, her firm’s market research manager, who is looking sad at the Christmas party. Ted explains to Katy that in his recent big project there was no “classic survey” to go alongside the piles of data gathered from social media monitoring. To cheer him up, she talks him through her view on how the role of research should change.
Katy says researchers need to become “insight entrepreneurs” and “panorama analysts”, who can see the big picture through a wide angle lens. They need to use “data-rich thinking” and be experts in presenting their findings visually. By the time of the 2016 Esomar Congress, Katy has already caused a stir by opening the world’s first “multi-media customer experience room”.
Having worked with Watson, IBM’s supercomputer, Katy dedicates 2017 to building her own super-intelligent research robot, Ada, designed to have more of an emotional connection with consumers than Watson, which is handy because by 2028 the gaps between the “haves and have nots” has become bigger then ever. Brands need to be able to converse with both groups to survive, and the CEO needs to lead the efforts – with technology providing support.
It’s always interesting to hear what your clients think of you. So it was no surprise to see the auditorium filled to capacity for the pre-lunch panel session hosted by Communispace at Esomar’s Annual Congress yesterday, featuring marketing chiefs from some major brands offering their take on what’s great about research and what still needs work.
The panel was:
- Barry Calpino, VP of breakthrough innovation, Kraft Foods
- Wendy Clark, SVP of integrated marketing communications and capabilities, The Coca-Cola Company
- Rilla Delorier, EVP, chief marketing and client experience officer, SunTrust Banks
- John Wallis, CMO and global head of marketing and brand strategy, Hyatt Hotels
On the big data revolution…
WC: We are flush with data. It’s not about keeping that separate but making that research available to every part of the business. Big data is massive. Our most important relationship outside of marketing is with IT. This will be a huge part of our business in the next few years.
RD: With all the data available, the real challenge ahead of us is how we get that to make sense to all brand stakeholders and at the same time comply with the data protection laws we are bound to.
On research reports…
RD: Research is about dialogue with the industry. It’s not about bundles of PowerPoint slide decks and long reports to read and interpret. I hate PowerPoint. What I really need is for a quick snapshot of what the research found, but this should really go deeper than just the basics. The insight we want is feelings, life impacts, roles we can play out in our messaging and how to maintain brand advocacy.
BC: I agree. I don’t need a large presentation to understand what insight tells me. The best researchers both inside and outside of my company are the ones that bring the best balance to the table by being strong at supplying evidence for the whole organisation. We want to disagree with our partners. It’s a good thing to have disagreements and be able to have a beer to resolve these afterwards. It builds confidence that we are getting the best business case for our brand.
On what they cherish about research…
BC: I cherish having partners who understand the assets our brand values the most and what can help the brand relate to customers more. I cherish the research partners who invest their energy and emotion in our business.
On how research needs to flow through the entire company…
JW: We’re at a critical point now where everything we do as a company needs to make a difference to the people who use it. Insights for us need to be communicated across all of the company and be used by every consumer touchpoint to make a positive difference. Getting buy-in from other teams in your company means you are doing your research job well because they recognise the value of it.
WC: The days of controlling messages are over, you have to work with your customers. Having said that, I am not going to hand my proxy to them. We are simply working with them all the way and focusing on the concept of storytelling. Emotion drives compelling breakthroughs and that’s what we want to deliver as brands. Lady Gaga is our competition on Facebook. We’re emulating her and her “superfan” approach in our social media strategies.
BC: It’s about tapping into the emotions of fans to create new and compelling ways of increasing brand advocacy. When consumers feel they are working with you to enhance their relationship with the brand, they will reward you.
On accepting mistakes…
WC: I endorse the flawsome model – being awesome with flaws. It makes you more human.
On the blurring lines between planners, management consultants and researchers…
RD: It’s more efficient to use researchers to do the research than management consultants, but we often need the in-depth pie charts that the consultants really specialise in from a business point of view.
WC: Planners are already storytellers, they’ve skimmed the treetops. Researchers aren’t necessarily delivering style over substance.
On how research should grow…
WC: The approach the industry should take can be summarised as ‘think big, start small, then scale appropriately’, or else the danger is you might scale the wrong thing.
RD: What we need now is for research to go beyond just responding to what’s been asked and come back with more.
Selling your soul, as Faust found out, is generally an unwise and painful thing to do. But, as a small MR agency, does selling to a bigger rival have to mean “losing your soul”? The question was posed by Communispace’s Diane Hessan in a panel debate on best practises in merger strategies at the Esomar Congress in Atlanta.
“It’s a bit of a red herring,” said GfK’s Debbie Pruent – which has, in the past year, bought Bridgehead International and Knowledge Networks. “Hopefully there is a cultural fit [between the companies being brought together]. I think the larger companies have a process and a lot more money to spend on things like integration.” And importantly, she said, the firm would “never” axe the team at the small agency that had been responsible for dealing with client accounts.
Pruent did concede that there is “an opportunity for hiccups at the beginning” of any integration process – but largely, she said, being acquired brings benefits to smaller companies. “They want scale and the ability to go global,” she said.
“Sometimes a company keeps growing and [the original founders] cannot manage it anymore, so they sell up,” explained Ipsos’s Carlos Harding. This then frees those founders to start something new if they choose. “In this industry,” Harding said, “the cost of entry is quite low. Anybody with an entrepreneurial spirit and client management skills can start a company. It’s easy to do.”
SSI’s Kees de Jong agreed with Pruent that there is plenty of opportunity to make mistakes at the outset of a merger. Most importantly, he warned: “Nobody cares about your vision for the future until they know whether their job is safe.”
Going for growth was the main theme of this morning’s Esomar Annual Congress in Atlanta. For a topic that makes board directors sweat in testing times, it’s perhaps wise that these business-oriented presentations should follow a “feel good” start to the day with Gospel choirs singing hymns (and Kool & the Gang’s ‘Celebration’ for added gusto).
But once the music was over, followed by a short “world premiere” of research hailing Barack Obama as the world’s favourite to win the forthcoming US Presidential election - it was time to get serious again and identify the tools that could help fuel growth in challenging economic times.
Fred John, senior business leader at MasterCard International, kicked things off by remarking to the crowd that “growth is synonymous to progress, and research should be a key part of this”. But he cautioned: “Applying approaches that work in the West to developing countries doesn’t always work and you should approach these areas differently.”
An energy boost
So given that it is the BRIC economies (Brazil, Russia, India, China) that offer the most promise for growth right now, how should firms be researching these markets? PepsiCo was on hand to give their perspective, based on how its efforts to transform Gatorade from an energy drink into a sports nutrition umbrella brand spawning many different variants.
Ana Alvarez, consumer strategy and insight director at PepsiCo Beverages, said that despite a lack of research innovation in Latin America, Brazil’s mass takeup of social media and mobiles made it the perfect testing ground for reviewing the Gatorade brand strategy and applying the insights internationally to pursue market growth.
“Brazil is the second biggest market on Facebook and there are more mobiles used there than the actual population of the country - the opportunity for research is huge, even with people from low-income backgrounds. The problem is that market research lacks innovation in Brazil right now, there is a dearth of it, so the challenge becomes how can you relate to audiences in savvy ways that understand the local culture and can be credibly explored internationally afterwards.”
PepsiCo worked with the UK’s Mesh Planning to use these digital technologies as a way for reviewing and innovating Gatorade’s existing channel strategy, with a particular focus on experiential activities. A panel of 400 people with phones participated by pre-registering their views of the brand in an online survey, before using their devices to report when they had seen or heard of the brand while out and about (or on broadcast media). When they registered a sighting or an encounter, they would again be sent an online survey to explore their sentiments towards the brand at that moment. This included online diaries where participants could then add free text explaining the reasoning behind their expressed sentiments.
Fiona Blades, chief experience officer at Mesh Planning, said: “What emerged helped formulate the brand’s strategy in activating its transformation from being one drink to one master brand of many products. We were able to monitor touchpoints and review the spontaneous reactions. Surprisingly, experiential came out on top of broadcast and so we recommended that attention was paid most to this sort of activity.”
PepsiCo subsequently used these findings to formulate campaign priorities, placing social affirmation at the heart of the brand’s consumer approach. The approach worked. Alvarez says satisfaction metrics soared and sales also caught onto the halo effect as a result of the marketing switch. The “growth” opportunity was seized and is now being tested in Guatemala on another PepsiCo brand.
Globalisation has opened the doors for brands to expand beyond borders while social media technology has given consumers around the world the chance to talk to each other. But what sounds like a massive opportunity for market research could actually be the event that makes the industry extinct, said MasterCard’s senior business leader Fred John at the Esomar Congress yesterday.
MasterCard and Chrysalis Partners carried out a survey of CMOs asking how globalisation would affect the role of market research in the future, and the answer was an ominous “all bets are off”.
John said: “Marketers see social media problems as ‘mechanical’ ones that can be fixed by IT departments. CMOs see research as old, plodding and slow. And not cool enough to handle social media. There is a threat of us losing our place as the source of consumer information. We could be relegated to dealing with tactical or local issues – or become extinct.
“Our future is linked to the hub and spoke model,” said John. “As we become more spoke we are getting pushed out of the picture. We need a centralised marketing role; the action is going to be at headquarters, where the marketing department is.”
Making a “call to arms” to the industry, John said that researchers must “fight for our future, dispel the myths and prove that we have the skills to master social media and find the nuggets of information that CMOs and IT departments are not finding”.
Sherry Turkle is no luddite, but the Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor worries that technology is taking us to places we, as humans, don’t want to go.
We’d rather text than talk, she says - “We’re fearful of the give and take of conversation” - and we’ve developed a style of thinking about ourselves where “we don’t know our thoughts and feelings until we share them”.
“This way of being, when it plays out in work, poses significant challenges to collaboration, innovation, engagement and leadership,” she said in her opening keynote at Esomar’s Annual Congress in Atlanta today.
Turkle says we’re too busy communicating - via text, email and social media - to think and listen, and we’re too busy shutting down conversations that matter in order to meet the demands of digital communication.
“We live in a culture of distraction,” she said, pointing to the recent story of a 40-year-old women who fell off a pier while texting.
Several things in Turkle’s speech should sound alarm bells for market researchers. “We have created a communications culture that has decreased the time for us to sit and think undistracted,” she warned. Clearly, this has implications for the analysis stage of a research project, limiting the depth of insight researchers can get to.
And then there’s the pressure to do things quickly. Turkle says her research has shown that in order to get fast answers, organisations start to ask simpler questions. “We dumb down our communications even on the most important matters,” she says.
Beyond that are the implications for the way consumers use technology and how that affects a market researcher’s ability to get to know them.
“There are many different things people do online,” said Turkle, some of which are a form of self-presentation. “The FB profile is designed to project you in the best possible way. Online interactions are not the place for showing vulnerabilities. People don’t want to leave a digital trail of personal problems, failures and frustrations.”
But technology can have a disinhibiting effect, Turkle says. The fact that you are alone while emailing or Google-chatting, even though you are publishing what you are saying, can lead people to open up beyond what they might normally do in a social setting. In order to get to this point, though, you need to build relationships with individuals over time. Simply ask a stranger online to tell you about themselves, and they will present an idealised version of themselves, Turkle says.