Monday, September 26, 2016

Carol Cunningham and Oliver Hayward: Disrupting Market Research Through Innovation

The Next Gen Market Research Award recognizes companies and individuals that have demonstrated outstanding leadership as change agents and made significant contributions to harnessing disruptive innovation to drive research industry progress. In 2015, NGMR teamed up with Women in Research (WIRe) to encourage their members to submit nominations. What happened was unprecedented - not only were there a huge number of submissions, but over 58% of them ended up being from women. Two winners of this highly competitive race were interviewed by The Research Insighter - you can see the full interview here. Each gives their strategy and motivation for doing what they do every day. Not only is their work completely innovative, it is also apparent that they do what they do out of a passion for their customers and even for the greater good.

Carol Cunningham VP of Consumer Insights and Business Strategy, BET

Carol Cunningham, Vice President of Consumer Insights and Business Strategy for Black Entertainment Television (BET) won the prestigious Individual Achievement Award. Cunningham's work exemplifies "insight" as she applies a combination of sophisticated data and analytics skills, over 20 years of practical experience and sociological expertise about our current society to her strategies.

Carol Cunningham: "I think a lot of what I am doing at BET is about stealth innovation. Really focusing on being a change agent. I am probably one of the unique people who sits at the intersection between big data and also insights, I do a little bit of both.

My primary goal is to make sure that I give dimension to the African American consumer, change perceptions and sometimes stereotypes. We do it through a variety of different things, we have a lot of quantitative research studies that we do. Everything is to find out and probe and figure out who these consumers are, why they’re important, why they’re impactful, for any business to embrace. At the end of it we’re really trying to help people understand them a little bit more intimately.”

When asked what the greatest challenge Cunningham had in her role, her answer was surprising. (It isn't bringing the right data together to tell the story which seems to be the number one problem most market researchers face.)

Carol Cunningham: "I think one of the biggest challenges we have is that we have to constantly go in and educate people about who this consumer segment is, what they represent, how they can actually keep your business in the black if you really focus on embracing them. A lot of what I end up doing is helping people see them beyond what they know. So we will do studies on the color of beauty because one of the things that we know is that African Americans really do have their fingers on the pulse of what’s hot, what’s next and what matters. And they really are cultural catalysts and we need to have people understand that more."

Oliver Hayward, partner at Global brand consulting agency Hall & Partners received the NGMR award for Innovative Research Deployment. If you haven't heard of Hayward's innovative work and you're a market researcher  - well you may have just had all your prayers answered. While it has become a highly valued skill set to be able to actually figure out what data to put together in this "new world" of market research, Hayward is a few steps ahead of the rest. What Hayward is developing is a way for you to not only not have to dive into hundreds of spreadsheets, but you don't even have to do the powerpoint anymore (which Hayward half-jokingly asserts no one reads anyway.) Here's Hayward to more articulately describe what The Hub will do for the market research industry.

Oliver Hayward: “I look after a platform called The Hub; it’s a digital tool for helping our clients and researchers. It helps our clients who are drowning in data. We believe there’s a lot of value to be gained from “small data” the data you already have within your organization. Our mission is to help our clients manage that data, spend less time chasing data and more time on extracting the valuable layer of insight.

I am excited about the notion of storytelling. A lot of tools do a very good job of helping people get to the story but don’t do a good job of helping them tell that story. Our main focus for next year is around journalism, helping people within the platform publish well written engaging short copy stories that can engage people across the business. We know in reality people don’t open big powerpoint reports, and one of the challenges our clients have is getting their stakeholders to look at the data, let alone use it." So basically what Hayward is developing is a complete report you can give to stakeholders that will both show and explain the market research data, in story form. You can keep an eye out for this to come to fruition here.

What these two innovators have shown is not only an expertise in their field, but a drive to push the limits of what market research is and can do for business.  Want to learn about more disruptors in market research? 2016 NGMR winners will be announced at TMRE this October!

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