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OPINION25 June 2018

20 years of insight

Opinion Trends UK

Earlier this month, Join the Dots celebrated 20 years of business and its chairman, Leslie Butterfield, reflected on the changes that have taken place in the sector during that time.

How the world has changed since 1998. In that year: Britney Spears was no.1 with ‘Hit me baby one more time’; the second Harry Potter book Chamber of Secrets was published; David Beckham got red-carded in England’s World Cup game against Argentina; and Bill Clinton denied having sex with Monica Lewinsky.

And on a more serious note Microsoft became the biggest company in the world; Google was founded; BMW bought Rolls Royce (unthinkable at the time); China’s GDP was on a par with Denmark; and Europe agreed on a single currency: the euro.

Closer to home the marketing world was all about marcomms (some would say it still is); segmentation and positioning were still cool new ideas; the internet hardly existed, and insight departments were still called research departments.

Today much of that has changed. And in the future it will change even faster. Think about this: last month I was with the chairman of a truly giant Chinese multinational. We were talking about consumer brands, and how they might evolve over the next five years, and he said to me: “In five years time, whatever your brand, only two things will matter: data and emotion”.  

Thinking about that after the meeting, I found his words beautifully simple, probably accurate, but also highly challenging.

So let me ask you: what kind of business do you think you’ll want to be in in five years: the data business or the emotion business?

For me the answer is both. But to be in both means being comfortable with both, and happy making connections between the two: linking insights from data, with insights about emotions.

That much is obvious. But I think it will also require research companies like ours to go a step further.

So here’s my punt for the next 20 years: I think the best research companies will need to move on again, as I’ve said, towards connecting data and emotion. But they will also need to move up: from insight to understanding. Let me explain.

Insights by their very nature can be quick and bright and exciting. But they also run the risk of a kind of ‘firework’ quality: momentary sparkle and illumination, followed by a prolonged fizzling out/

Too many don’t create change, or don’t even reach the market.

What I think we will move towards is recognising the power and value of connected insights. Connected over time, connected across audiences, connected between brands. Connections that are built through the continuity of our relationships with our clients and their customers, and through the cumulative knowledge and experience of our people.

When these connections are made, when the thinking is really joined up, that’s when we and our clients will get true understanding: cumulative, deep, connected and enduring.

A level of understanding that will be more rewarding for all of us, both professionally and commercially. 

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