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NEWS15 March 2019

How insight can fuel responsive businesses

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UK – To help brands grow, the research sector needs to instigate a fundamental repositioning of its value, according to a panel of insight professionals from Google, Asda and Samsung, held at Impact 2019.

Long term declining profits and markets that are in a perpetual state of disruption means that organisations struggle to scan the horizon for opportunity and risk, according to the panel, which was chaired by Fran Cassidy, Cassidy Media Partnership.

"Companies need to continually scan the horizon for impact on their brand value," said Julie Kollman chief research officer at Kantar. She cited Kraft Heinz as an example of a company that didn’t respond appropriately to changes in the market, leading to February’s shock write down of the value of its Kraft and Oscar Mayer brands by $15.4bn. 

"In order to understand those changes and see them earlier and respond, companies must get better at using intelligence." Intelligence Capital™ is a new concept pioneered by Kantar and MRS that will help companies build that capability. 

Intelligence Capital, said Kollman includes knowledge collected by the organisation via systems and processes, and the capability to deploy and activate that knowledge. All this, at increased speed. 

"Five years ago, we used to talk about how research reduced risk. The world is changing so rapidly now that companies need to make better decisions more quickly – the time has come to move more quickly, not just reduce risk."

A joint MRS and Kantar report, due to be launched next week, posits that Intelligence Capital should be treated in the same way as an investment in physical or financial capital: "We need to start asking what value does my investment in intelligence need to generate?" said Kollman.

Harry Davies, head of marketing measurement and attribution, UK, Google said the dire need for evidence across management decision-making is further hampered by a lack of skills among those who now have access to much more information.

"The ability to make decisions has been democraticised but there are loads of people who don't have the skills to quantify the risk of bias." This is what market research has traditionally done, said Davies, and insight professionals need to help their organisation "move from experience-based management to evidence-based management."

This climate has already created an opportunity for insight to build a much stronger relationship with finance said Liz Lamb, senior director, data and insight, CRM, CX, Asda. However, said Lamb, "It can be quite nerve-racking handing over that knowledge and letting others generate the insights away from us. But you have to let go."

Philip Nellenbach, brand and customer experience insight director, Europe, Samsung recounted how his boss decribed him not as an insights manager but a ‘transformation manager'. Agencies, said Nellenbach, have a role in freeing up clients to do this crucial internal work. "For Intelligence Capital to work, agencies need to invest in the skills and technologies we need which will give us the chance to focus on organisational change."

This is an industry wide effort, agreed Kollman, and agencies can help move the conversation from insight being a cost to an investment. Part of that shift is clients and agencies signing up to a new lexicon, as outlined in the forthcoming report. "During consultation, our client group said ‘don't talk about the ROI of insight’ – it’s a dead end path. The point is this is an investment in driving growth – how much financial value can you create for the organisation?"

Being a part of early discussions is critical, said Lamb, rather than being hauled in to improve customer perceptions in a particular area: "We need to challenge and ask right from the beginning what behaviours change we're trying to create and quantify the value of that change."

Davies agreed that quantifying the value of the insight will also help internal discussion around where best to invest in people and skills – for example, in the insight function versus sales.

A first sign of success in this sector wide transition, said Davies, will be when executives across the business start thinking researchers – asking questions and formulating hypotheses, looking for the evidence and saying ‘can we test that?'

"Haven’t we been here before?" asked a member of the audience – trying to get insight a seat at the ‘top table'? The answer from the panel was an emphatic ‘no'. The last ten years has seen unprecedented change on so many levels that business need to adopt a new level of responsiveness, and Intelligence Capital gives them the fuel to do that. 

The joint MRS/Kantar report ‘The responsive business: Creating growth and value through intelligence capital’ will be launched on 21 March at the London Stock Exchange.

If you are interested in attending the event, email conference@mrs.org.uk. The report will be available to download free at mrs.org.uk/intelligencecapital

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