I feel like an infant and other final thoughts from this year’s The Market Research Event

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.