Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Lessons Learned from The Market Research Event, Part 1

Why Researchers Must Invest In Adaptability

By Marc Dresner, IIR

With The Market Research Event 2013 a few weeks behind us and the Thanksgiving holiday approaching here in the States, this seemed a good time to offer some food for thought from this year’s conference.

For those who were unable to attend, TMRE 2013 in Nashville October 21-23 was loaded with more content than anyone could possibly consume in three short days—world-class keynotes, workshops, nine concurrent tracks…

Between my session notes, off-the-record discussions with friends in the industry and my on-camera interviews for TMRE’s annual series, The Research Insighter (stay tuned!) I’ve had plenty to stew on.

I just can’t escape an obvious theme that you’ve all heard over and over but which nonetheless bears repeating: Change.

I was initially reluctant to address it here, because the topic frequently elicits a roll of the eyes, but hear me out.

I’m not talking about the hyped kind of change.

You'll find no preachy rant, no breathless call to action, no hyperbolic lament about the industry’s fate here.

It’s just a quiet truth you can take to the bank: Constant change at a rapidly accelerating pace is upon us.

No news there, right? Stay with me.

I guess I’m writing about it because when I add up everything I heard at TMRE this year, there’s a nuance, a contour to “change” that feels somehow different. Not more urgent, but maybe a little more tangible? Like, “Huh. This stuff all the futurists and assorted gurus have been talking about for years is actually coming to pass.”

The seed was planted during a private luncheon for research clients I attended at TMRE hosted by youth and family research firm Smarty Pants, whose founder and president, Wynne Tyree, informed us that among teens “Facebook is dead.”

I wasn’t shocked by this revelation. My mother—a grandmother of two—is an avid Facebook user. Nuf said.

Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat—that’s where the action is now. But only for now. I’ve a hunch that Snapchat’s CEO may rue the day he turned down Facebook’s $3 billion offer, because made-to-last is contracting fast.

Futurist Jared Weiner of Weiner, Edrich, Brown in his TMRE keynote dubbed the phenomenon “templosion”—the implosion of really big things into short bursts of time.

“Big companies used to take a long time to build; today they’re born and they die in record time,” said Weiner, who punctuated his point with a boneyard of brands.

And not to pick on Facebook, but it exemplifies this trend. Not even 10 years old and already its innovation strategy now appears to be the same as that of any venerable corporation today: acquire. Snapchat isn’t its first foray; Facebook bought Instagram last year.

So what does this have to do with research?

Well, first of all, it's clear that whether you're a research provider or a client-sider, you don’t want to get hung up on a platform, because it may not matter tomorrow.

What if, say, your bailiwick is ratings? Now there's a scary proposition.


Nielsen in October launched Twitter TV ratings, but Twitter is seven years old! That’s like #ancient!!!

And now that Twitter has IPO’d, it's a safe bet the folks in charge there will soon adopt the same innovation strategy as their peers at Facebook.

Bottom line: I trust we're all prepared to move quickly when Twitter falls from favor, because the people at Twitter are most likely already planning for that inevitability.

So I would humbly suggest that researchers maintain nimble investment strategies.
In an environment of flux, flexibility and speed are important. And let's face it, neither attribute comes particularly naturally to research. I still remember all the flak Gordon Black took over his weighting schemes in Harris Interactive's early days.

How you, as a research company or a client-sider, plan to allocate your time and money in order to keep up with the pace of change is becoming an increasingly tricky equation.

We need to be prepared to make some quick compromises in order not to fall behind.

Please check back tomorrow for part two. We'll look at Malcolm Gladwell’s inverted U and why it may matter to researchers who want to invest in adaptability.

Thanks for reading!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR 
Marc Dresner is IIR USA’s sr. editor and special communication project lead. He is the former executive editor of Research Business Report, a confidential newsletter for the marketing research and consumer insights industry. He may be reached at mdresner@iirusa.com. Follow him @mdrezz.

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