Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Future Trend: Merging the Artistic and the Conceptual

Day one of the Future of Consumer Intelligence showed increasing signs of a trend in market research that I am extremely happy about. I love technology, and while this is a technology-focused conference, this trend is not about technology. It's about the artistic and conceptual advancement of our industry. In particular, the melding of these two elements.

For years it has been a well-accepted value for our data to stand on its own. We have not embraced the creative and artistic standards of the very materials we test. Our presentations have, for the most part, been almost academic in their esthetic. We subject the world's best creative materials to a set of grueling tests and brutally expose the slightest flaw, but we often present our findings with hardly any artistic standards. This is a generalization, and there are notable exceptions to this rule, but for the most part it holds true.

Our concepts have been the focus of our creativity. Most of our brain power focused on data collection and analysis, and evolving new methods to more accurately understand the elusive mind of the consumer. We developed powerful tools such as segmentation and market mix modeling to help us do that. Our concepts evolved and shed increasing light on the enigmatic world of purchase behavior. New tools such as neuroscience and mobile technology greatly enhanced our learnings.

We have now reached a point of inflection where the data inputs to our conceptual tools are simply too vast and complex to be presented with just words and numbers. The insights just can't be conveyed properly using only the semantic processing systems in our brains. Unless we use images, graphics, video, and multi-media forms of presentation, the insights will not spring to life. Using only words and numbers to convey market research is like trying to convey the majesty of the Taj Mahal with a crayon drawing. It just won't communicate the concept.

Several presenters have brought the artistic together with the conceptual. Ross Crooks of Column Five media showed us his firm's infographics chops. Infographics are a great example of the merging of the artistic and the conceptual. Duleesha Kulasooriya of Deloitte Center for the Edge was the first of several big data presentations that hammer home the fact that big data is not just big, it's nearly incomprehensible. While we have always talked about big trends at our conferences, we have not had to deal with such a staggering array of data sources, types, platforms, and geographical locations.

Big data equals big insights only if the mind can fully grasp the concepts. Humans evolved to grasp complex concepts holistically, with both the semantic and the visual processing areas of our brains engaged. We will see more and more of this trend develop as we find new ways to marry the artistic and the conceptual in our work.

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