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FEATURE1 April 2010

The client brief: Federico Trovato

Federico Trovato, vice president of consumer market intelligence at Philips Consumer Lifestyle, shares his perspective on research.

When was the last time a piece of research made you happy?
I’m pretty happy using online communities. I find the outcome actionable and insightful and I’m pretty satisfied with the proximity that it generates with consumers. You immediately have an international qualitative perspective to a problem, which you don’t necessarily get from focus group research. Having a community of 500 people from which to select participants to contribute to an idea, that’s pretty valuable. We are in the process of converting more from traditional qual to larger-scale use of the community. These people are recruited because they want to interact with the Philips brand, but at least we know what the bias is, unlike in a focus group where you know there is a bias but you have to try to work out what it is.

“Agencies need to understand the strategic perspective of findings beyond a single project. When we get to that point we have a much better relationship with the agency”

How do you make sure research has an impact in your organisation?
We have a series of partners that we operate with so that we can database our results on the various areas of testing. This way you can benchmark better, particularly when you’re talking about new types of initiatives, and it enables you to give more actionability to the research. The research gets into the boardroom and engages people on an emotional level.

Agencies need to understand the strategic perspective of findings beyond a single project. When we get to that point we have a much better relationship with the agency. We try to work with preferred partners so they can consolidate their knowledge on Philips, which means there’s consistency in the methodology and they can extract more value. If you chose different partners every time you’d have to do it all yourself and you don’t have time.

How well are providers keeping up with changing challenges in research?
To different degrees. Some do it better than others. Some agencies are still stuck to the old methodologies – focus groups and quantitative stuff. They dress up the services in a sexier way but in fact they don’t go beyond the old ways of trying to understand consumer behaviour. Some younger agencies grasp that better and some of the older lions have adapted. It’s mixed.

How do you judge whether you’ve got your money’s worth from your research?
From the amount of decisions and actions that are taken from it, and also from how long the research can live. Is it something that gets shelved at the end of the project or can you refer to it in the future?

What’s the key to a successful client-agency relationship?
Mutual business understanding. The agency needs to have an holistic overview of the client business to understand the impact of what the research is going to do to the business, but the client also needs to understand the methodology and the limitations the agency has, so the relationship is fair.

What makes a good research presentation?
Fewer slides, higher-quality information. It’s also the engagement that the presenter and the materials can generate – tailoring it to the audience. You can put in a few gimmicks to spice it up but it’s also about having the relevant slides only. Management doesn’t have time any more to sit through 100 slides of just numbers. You need to give them the story in the first five or six and the rest is for reference.

Has the recession affected your use of research?
We decided to buy even more market data to understand better the market dynamics, given the crisis, and we invested even more to better qualify and strengthen our activities. We started doing less innovation, but testing it more.

What are the big trends that will affect research in future?
The dynamics that are happening in social media and the connections consumers are developing among themselves are becoming more and more important, and I think agencies need to adapt to that dynamic. Consumers are pressed for time and bombarded by messages so if you want to get the truth you need to be much crisper in the way you ask the questions. Anther major dynamic is researching without asking questions. This is observational research: ethnography, netnography, in-home visits, shopping behavioural observations. It has become even more relevant to close the gap between what consumers say and what they do.

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