I try not to take notes at conferences. That’s because I find that I rarely look back at them. And when I do, they make little sense as they are generally snatches of information, witty quotes without attribution and nonsense such as this year’s winner: “I feel like an infant.” I have no idea why I wrote that down. I usually try to write down my own ideas, inspired by the presentations, so that I have a useful array of output for my time spent.
Nice try. Now that two weeks has passed since the IIR’s The Market Research Event, I scanned the little notebook they gave me that proved irresistible during the event and here are a few final noteworthy snippets of stuff I wrote down about presentations. Along with some points out of context that could be humorous if you know me well.
First, the presentation by Amy Burgdorf, Director of Market Research and Insights for Carhartt was wonderful because it immersed the attendees in a culture they clearly have no basis for understanding at all: People who work with their hands. Let’s face it, the most work I did with my hands this week was picking last week’s manicure from my nails. But back to Amy. Her key point was how immersion with real people on-the-job was invaluable to helping create a brand based in authenticity that is now emerging in popularity as a “lifestyle brand.” When asked if they would focus more on the majority of their customers who were clearly not working construction or farms, she said they wouldn’t stray from their blue collar roots for opportunistic sales. Go Amy!! This was followed by a lovely, unbridled question from the audience that I can’t remember but demonstrated a total lack of awareness of the brand and inattention to the presentation. It was the laugh of the day but Burgdorf handled it well, saving as much face as possible for the person asking. Well done.
I also had the pleasure to see Eric Lum, Vice President Strategic Marketing for Columbia Records/Sony Music present his views on music as “the currency of attention” for television advertising. This was fascinating to me as I pondered what our currency of attention should be for market research surveys or engagements with consumers. How do we incentivize respondents to participate and stick with us. All you have to do is play a cool indie song and I’ll watch your ad… more than once. It does work. So, what's next for us?
What’s our next step as an industry? I don’t know but if you believe keynote Bob Johansen, Fellow at the Institute for the Future, it’s probably something to do with games and information floating in the air right in front of you. A fascinating talk but you know what they say about futurists. They can say anything they want because the future never really comes. And for every trend there is a countertrend they forgot to mention. I imagine a future where the air around me is filled with digital garbage much like my smart phone is now. Sorting through this is the business opportunity of the future. But that’s not a sexy keynote, so Nevermind (thanks Nirvana).
I heard that David Boyle, Senior Vice President of Consumer Insight for EMI gave an incredible speech to an audience of a dozen. I was sorry to hear about the low turnout and particularly sorry to have missed it because I heard it was so good. I also missed William Leach from Brainjuicer, a Pepsico Alum because people were smashed into the room and spilling out into the hallway. Both of these are worth perusing on the IIR’s website if you get a chance.
I dropped in on Mark Brooks, Vice President Consumer and Market Intelligence, with L’Oreal as he described “L’Oreality.” This is an interesting concept because every company creates its own reality from the myths of the past and beliefs of the current organization. He discussed internal competitiveness that demanded “resiliency” as the key attribute for success and that the conflict, rather than avoided was fostered because “the greatest things happen through conflict.” That’s not for everyone, particularly not for your average market researcher. This tells me that you have to be pretty exceptional to rise at L’Oreal and this was underscored by one of his final comments. “A lot of people didn’t make it in this transformation (to a new way of doing business),” he said with a soft smile, “but that was completely up to them.” Bravo, Mark!
Dani Vanzant, Manager Customer Experience Programs and Satisfaction for Southwest Airlines, demonstrated how you could squeeze one measure so hard it actually came to life. I’m talking about NPS (net promoter score) which became a darling of the survey world about a decade ago and has struggled to remain relevant in a sea of new, complex ideas. Dani built a compelling case for the relevance of NPS by partnering with sharp software to make it “easy, accessible, actionable and flexible” – in other words, relevant, in every slice and even sliver of her organization. She also uses continuous system user surveys to make the system “agile” – under continuous revision, so NPS can not only measure but also motivate and transform an organization. Powerful stuff.
It was fun to see Sandra Kelly from 3M in the front row for Ryan Lein, Director of Category Management and Consumer Insight for Hanes Brands presentation on DIY. That’s because Sandra has been on the cutting edge of internalizing DIY for insights for the past 5 years. She shocked the IIR audience in San Francisco a few years back by showing price per study that were about one zero short of the average bid. Ryan took that saber and drive it through the heart of qualitative by suggesting that small, iterative surveys could replace much of the typical qualitative we do today in preparation for final qualifying quantitative measurement of new ideas. This coupled with his ideas around DIY and Insight Led Selling made for a fresh and compelling discussion. From the company who gave us the tagless t-shirt, we do expect big things and Ryan delivered.
Finally, I wrapped up my immersion in The Market Research Event with Michelle Adams, Marketing Brainology Inc, and also a Pepsico Alum, presenting a study from POPAI. Michelle is an incredible speaker who engaged the audience while revealing emotional drivers behind the shopping experience. In her own words, “It all boils down to choice but it’s not always conscious.” In fact, her data builds a pretty compelling case that it’s rarely conscious when we make choices at the shelf. That made me wonder about other choices, like deciding who to marry and raise children with… how conscious is that choice? If you believe the Old Spice bottle, not very, because they’re saying if our Dads didn’t wear it we wouldn’t be here. While Michelle showed video of a shopper wearing neuroscience headgear and eye tracking goggles while shopping a shelf, I wondered if I could talk women into doing this at a bar and peruse men. What areas of the brain would alight? While they were looking at what? And what would the objects of scrutiny be thinking about these women and their accessories? What if the shampoo bottles were looking back at you, what would they say? I suppose my mind did wander a bit but she always brought me back to the content with questions from the audience, promising Denny’s gift cards for good answers. And she got a few.
You’ll notice I’ve not mentioned most of the keynotes. These were well-attended and high quality as you’d expect. What is often overlooked are the stellar breakouts. With 3 days, 9 tracks each day and more than 50 presentations, it’s not possible to absorb everything this event has to offer. Maybe in the future, the information will all float in front of me and I’ll use my emotions to choose which data to watch and absorb. But for now, I’ll just come again next year and hunt up the good stuff for myself. Hope to see you there.