FEATURE1 April 2011

Ups and downs – Tim Knight

Remember the big picture – but forget the Big Society, says Tim Knight, chief commercial officer at Nunwood.

The best advice I’ve had is…
focus on what you’re good at. For most of us mere mortals, this will be a limited number of things. Recognise what you’re weak at and surround yourself with inspirational people who do it much better.

Great business results require more than just knowing your stuff. Rather, the most successful client projects rest on the shoulders of a first-rate team, with a tapestry of interlocking skills and ideas. This team should be crafted to not only execute projects, but also support businesses, as appropriate, through to outcome and return.
In research, it’s very easy to forget this: the industry is a breeding ground for brilliant technical individuals, but sometimes criticised for its limited ability to see the big picture.

…and the worst advice I’ve had is
that children are easy compared to the day job – if you’ve pulled a few all-nighters on presentations, then raising infants is a doddle. This is a massive, ungodly lie.

A campaign that grabbed me recently is…
Wieden + Kennedy’s Old Spice Guy campaign. The use of filmed mini-adverts in response to tweets allowed them to engage with the audience in a way never seen before on
this scale.

The campaign as a whole captured where advertising can go on so many levels: integrated, social, adaptable, hilarious and capable of creating new consumers for a mature brand.

Unfortunately, all the market research in the world won’t make your campaign as fun and sexy as this one. But, if your insights are shared and discussed in the right way, with the right people, using the right tools, they can ignite those sparks of inspiration that generate brilliant results.

…and a campaign that needed more research was
David Cameron’s Big Society campaign. An amazingly contrived piece of electioneering masquerading as political thinking, bereft of purpose, meaning or real insight. The missed potential for immersive ethnography here was a crying shame. Imagine how much better society would be if Osborne, Clegg, Cameron et al were packed off for six months to live on a council estate in one of Britain’s most deprived areas. Not only would this research revolutionise social policy, it would make for cracking reality TV.

Cameron has since topped the Big Society with his happiness index, a bizarre effort to evaluate modern, digital Britain through the lens of 1850s utilitarian philosophy coupled with 1950s research techniques.

One thing this industry could use more of is…
inspiring thinking about how our ‘inspiring thinking’ can be translated into profits.

Market researchers are legendarily bad at marketing their research. Great strategy is only as good as how it’s used. We collectively need to give much more attention to how our work can be ‘activated’.

…and one thing this industry could use less of is
method-addicted researchers who view ‘adding value’ as staging endless debates about Net Promoter Score or some other detail of research practice. It’s a good debate to have, but have it, then move swiftly on.

Discussions in the industry can sometimes seem like architects working on Gaudi’s cathedral who can’t make up their minds whether the plans should be laid out in centimetres or inches.

One thing I hope to do is…?
go into space.

…and one thing I wish I?hadn’t done is
to be born with a terrible fear of heights.

If I hadn’t become a researcher…
I’d have fallen into something louder and less reputable. Like advertising. Or politics.

…and on the other hand if I hadn’t become a researcher
I wouldn’t have got the broad, unrestricted perspective that research gives you on brands, organisations and people – you don’t get that anywhere else in business.

There’s no reason why the CEOs of the Fortune Global 500 of the 2020s can’t come from the ranks of today’s insight specialists.