OPINION1 December 2011

Learning the lessons of 2011


Sitting down Sitting down to plan out this month’s issue, the team and I were faced with a choice: to reflect on the year just gone or look ahead to the coming 12 months. We chose the latter.

As an industry we are often accused of navel-gazing and, looked at unkindly, this year we indulged more than most. But with good reason. Economically speaking, the future is bleak, particularly for those of us based in the debt-laden western world.

We’ve heard a lot about austerity recently, but 2012 will offer us our first real taste of it. Governments talked a good game, warning of fiscal tightening while hoping that growth would return to salve the worst of the pain. It hasn’t and it won’t for a good while yet.

So it’s to the industry’s credit that it spent the best part of 2011 re-evaluating what it is here for, what it has to offer clients and what it could do better. At times like these, there’s no such thing as business as usual.

What did we learn after all the discussion? That surveys aren’t dying, but they need to be improved. That social media is a huge opportunity, but it’s not going to answer all questions. That there is more to mobile than hype, provided you play to its strengths (which isn’t long, boring questionnaires). Neuromarketing remains a curiosity – at least for now. Data can be exciting and inspiring, provided you figure out the right way to tell the story. And most uplifting of all – as we saw in last month’s issue – business growth is still possible with the right combination of talented staff and a commitment to innovation – plus a willingness to stake your reputation on telling your clients what you would do if you were in their shoes.

For our preview of the year, we asked 10 prominent researchers, agency and clientside, to take all that they have learnt over the past 12 months and to distill that down to just one word – a word they think will go on to define 2012.

You can read their contributions here, but here’s mine: change – uttered not in hope but in recognition that that is what will be required of all of us next year, to adapt, to grow, to survive. It may not be easy, but it is vital. And so is research. We’ve learnt that much.