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FEATURE6 October 2017

Transformation through insight

Charities FMCG Features Finance Healthcare Innovations Leisure & Arts Retail Technology UK

Driving Transformation Through Insight is a new event in the MRS calendar of one-day conferences. But, based on yesterday’s line-up, Ray Poynter wants it to be a permanent fixture.

Curated and chaired by Marc Brenner, this conference provided a laser-like focus on how clients and agencies can – and should – work together to create impact and transformation.

During the day we were treated to seven client/supplier co-presentations that highlighted different routes to success. These presentations were complemented by two panel sessions: one focusing on what clients need to do to achieve innovation; the second taking the agency perspective.

In the opening presentation, Andrea Thompson from PepsiCo and Sarah Palmer from Big Green Door showed how their collaboration had challenged preconceptions about the juice market. As a result of the transformation driven by the research, PepsiCo has created a new range of juice/fruit drinks that will be launched in January 2018, under the Tropicana brand name. The research used semiotics and cultural analysis to conduct a macro-level study, before deep diving into the details of getting the execution right.

From drinks we moved to fashion as Tim Quinlan and Fran Pearce shared their passion for SuperDry. Tim and Fran, along with Alison Bainbridge of ABA Research, showed how they had developed research approaches that went beyond the barrier of the post-rationalisations.

When asked why they prefer SuperDry products, buyers tend to talk about rational characteristics, such as quality and protecting against the weather. By researching the emotional – adopting a Feel, Act, Post-rationalise model –  SuperDry found that the two pillars that underpin their brand are desire and belonging. The research also showed how the nature of that ‘belonging’ had moved on from the point where having a massive SuperDry label was a plus, to the more subtle branding of today.

The next focus was a service industry – gyms and gym membership. Fitness First’s Ali Powell and Caroline Bates from Chime Insight & Engagement Group shared their segmentation of gym members, which allowed different parts of the business to better tailor their offering to their customers, with the aim of increasing lifetime value.

Gym users have varied motives for using the gyms and have different needs. The segmentation focused on issues such as the level of support people wanted and the amount of inspiration they would benefit from. One of the outputs was a training video that helped front-line staff recognise the difference between, for example, somebody unsure about whether they even belonged there and somebody who was confident, focused and who did not want to be interrupted.

The context of the conference then changed gear as Michael Mainwaring from Jungheinrich and Guy Washer from Sapio Research took us into the world of B2B forklift truck sales and rentals. Although the context was different, many of the messages remained the same.

The client and agency worked together to create a re-imagining of what was possible, seeking to breakdown silo thinking, and created a new vision for moving forward. In this example, the use of a decision-thinking approach complemented the engineering-strong style of Jungheinrich, matching the style of evidence from the research to the style of thinking of the company. This matching of evidence style and business culture was a recurring theme throughout the day.

The morning was rounded off by looking at another service industry – airlines. Caroline Smiley from Delta Air Lines and Fiona Blades from MESH Experience explained how they had worked together to create a single number to help Delta Air Lines understand how customers experienced the brand.

Blades provided one of the key quotes of the day, recounting that “agencies do not supply ROI, ROI is achieved through collaboration”. She also shared a really useful pair of questions she asks marketers: can you draw a pie chart of where you spend money (and the answer is usually yes); can you draw a pie chart of where people experience your brand (and the answer is usually no)?

This was another example of matching the style of evidence (lots of metrics collected from customers) to the culture of the brand (KPIs, attribution modelling and a single number that could then be expanded for more information).

Moving away from the commercial world John Kearon showed how Cancer Research UK is working with System 1 Research to improve the impact and effectiveness of its TV advertising. Kearon presented data that showed that compared with commercial brands, most charity advertising performs badly, focusing too much on the rational and not engaging the emotional.

He repeated his mantra of "show don't tell, music not voice-over", saying it is true for the third-sector too. The session finished with Kearon showing some less than effective Cancer Research UK advertising and the new ad, made to the new format, which had generated a better test score, and more importantly had increased total donations by 4%.

The final presentation brought the conference back to the topic of segmentation as eBay’s Mark Loder and Engage Research’s Deb Sleep talked about the personas they had created and how they had integrated these with other (existing) segmentations and transactional data, to deliver results for the business.

Two key benefits of the new segmentation are that eBay is sending fewer emails and getting the same net result, and it is able to spot people who might be becoming less engaged with using eBay, earlier – allowing retention strategies to be applied more promptly.

Tim Phillips chaired both panel sessions and he manages to make the process of getting people to reveal more than they had, perhaps, intended, look effortless (indeed almost accidental).

In the first session, the keynote panel of Jan Gooding, global inclusion director at Aviva and current president of the MRS and Professor Patrick (Paddy) Barwise looked at what clients can do to drive innovation. Barwise highlighted two key fallacies –  the belief that Pioneers are better than Followers, and that Breakthrough is better than Incremental Improvement, showing that the reverse is more often true.

Gooding talked about how diversity is essential to innovation at Aviva, to ensure they access a wider range of talent and thinking. This led to her key point – "you/I are not the customer". The financially savvy people who run Aviva are not the same as its customers. Just like Fitness First, it needs to understand the different motivations customers have, and, as shown by Cancer Research, Super Dry, and Pepsico earlier in the day, emotion is key.

The final panel brought together Fiona Blades, John Kearon, and Sarah Palmer. They shared their different strategies for establishing partnerships with clients, the need to turn down projects if the agency/client fit was not going to be right, and provided a ringing endorsement of working with young researchers.

This conference was a major success for the attendees, because of the format (focusing on client/agency partnerships), highlighting cases where change had been created and demonstrated, and through the careful preparation of Marc Brenner and the MRS team.

Ray Poynter is founder and chair of NewMR

1 Comment

2 months ago  |  1 like

Great write up Ray - many thanks - and kudos to Marc and the MRS team and the other terrific speakers for ensuring such a successful conference.

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