By Crispin Beale, CEO of Insight250 & Senior Advisor, mTab; Group President, Behaviorally
As we look to wrap up 2023, it’s a time when many reflect on the year coming to a close and what they are thankful for. However, many of these reflections happen around meals with family and friends. Given this, I thought it would be fitting and fun to go to insight experts again to get their opinions on what our industry should be feeding on. So, I asked:
"The heart of the Thanksgiving holiday is food. In your view, in terms of technology, methodology, philosophy, strategy, tactics, or innovation, what should the insights industry be feasting on this coming year to advance the importance of its role?"
So, here’s a special seasonal “gift” in the form of a bumper review from a mouth-watering array of over 30 market research professionals and insight experts, from all around the globe, on what our profession should be focused on and feasting on in terms of innovation and advancements this coming year. Enjoy!
Colleen Fahey Rush, EVP & Chief Research Officer, Paramount, USA
“Researchers have to consider themselves as more than just researchers. We’re partners, consultants, translators and strategists. We have the insights and capabilities to help drive decision making that goes beyond the “what?” and the “why” to the “so what?” and “what’s next?” – and that forward looking perspective is what will truly differentiate researchers from a back room operation to a valued seat at the table for partners and stakeholders alike.”
Michal Miller Levi, Senior Director Market Research and Insights, Fiverr, Israel
“We’ve seen this evolution emerge from our quantitative and qualitative research. We see that most businesses combine AI tools and human professionals' power to make truly innovative and effective work. I encourage all research professionals to embrace new technologies to make our work more effective and ultimately take our roles to the next level.”
Stephan Gans, SVP Chief Insights and Analytics Officer, PepsiCo, USA
“Studying people’s relationship with food closely over the past year, in particular, has shown how much we missed during COVID when in-person research wasn’t possible. Both for this and other topics, let's not forget that the classical ethnographic methodologies are still an essential part of an Insights toolkit. They provide the thick data complement to the big data-driven approaches for a rounded view of people’s lives and how they relate to our categories”
Ben Page, Chief Executive, IPSOS, France
“Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on what we should be grateful for – I’m just grateful for the amazing people in our industry – people who are fundamentally curious and interested in what makes humans human. It’s that, rather than money, that motivates the vast majority of people in our industry. We make products, services and policies better – and the morals are way better than investment banking!”
Urpi Torrado, CEO Datum Internacional, Peru
“The heart of the insights industry is people, that has never changed. Any innovation should be a means to expand knowledge and our understanding of how people think, feel, and behave. In this sense, the best way to showcase the value of our role is to enlighten the way so that decisions are human-based. New technologies, methodologies, and solutions are just guests in this celebration.”
Kristin Luck, Founder, ScaleHouse, WiRe, Growgetter, Ex-Officio President, ESOMAR, USA
“I believe the data, insights and analytics sector is at a point where it has an unparalleled opportunity to take advantage of AI-driven data innovation. I’m not recommending we go full glutton, as is the tradition around Thanksgiving (and as we often do as an industry), but I do think the use cases around synthetic data and virtual audiences is going to give traditional data providers (and as a result, data buyers) a run for their money. Although I avoid bellying up to the “all-you-can-eat” bar when it comes to emerging methods, as an industry, we would be remiss if we didn’t at least sample (pun intended) these solutions to determine if there are opportunities to improve on the data quality issues that have plagued our sector for well over a decade. Synthetic data may be the newest side dish, for now, but if I had to place my bets on the innovation most likely to increase confidence in the role of market research in 2024 and playing a starring role in the years to come, this would be it.”
Dr. Roland Abold, Managing Director, Infratest dimap, Germany
“Generative AI, machine learning and data science have been heavily promoted and discussed in the research community during this year. In many ways, this is the icing on the cake, that could set solutions apart from competition and create new opportunities for the industry. However, we will need to re-emphasize the importance of the basic ingredients for the cake batter, which is data quality and accuracy. And we also need to talk about the appetite of cake eaters for data literacy and data viz competences. The combination of good data, informed users and great new innovative technologies is the recipe for success for the future of market and social research!”
Jem Fawcus, Group CEO Firefish, UK
“Thanksgiving is all about people coming together, celebrating core human values of friendship and family, telling stories, and reconnecting, even more critical in polarised times. Good research and insight are essential for understanding human values; hearing from and understanding diverse audiences is vital for connection. The year ahead is an exciting time for our industry; as used smartly, AI can improve and deepen our ability to deliver quality human insight at the pace and price to make it useful and access and listen to broader, more diverse audiences. Poorly used, AI can also do a load of bad stuff, but in this time of gratitude, I’m focused on the good.”
Liubov Ruchinskaya, Global Consumer Insights Director Care, Electrolux Group, Switzerland
“At the heart of the Thanksgiving holiday is our love for food, and similarly, in the insights industry, we should feast on the richness of data and the power of its integration and analysis. Just like a Thanksgiving feast, where different dishes come together to create a satisfying meal, the integration of data from various sources allows us to gain a deeper understanding of consumer behavior and preferences. As we gather around the big table during Thanksgiving, fostering collaboration within the industry becomes essential. Sharing knowledge and best practices not only strengthens our own expertise but also elevates the importance of our role in the insights industry.”
Mariela Mociulsky, CEO trendsity.com, Argentina
“In harmony with the Thanksgiving festivities, a profound reflection emerges on the interplay between this celebration and the discipline of market research. Much like in Thanksgiving where diverse elements converge to craft a unique experience, the insights and data industry undergoes a meticulous analysis that intricately weaves together various methodologies and sources of information. These elements, akin to the ingredients of a banquet (data, observations, conversations, online communities, among others), are crucial for crafting conclusions that steer toward effective strategies. Following the culinary analogy, researchers take on the role of chefs, precisely selecting components to achieve the "alchemy" of insights, a strategically valuable dish. Just as a chef pays attention to every detail in preparing an exquisite meal, researchers diligently work to blend information precisely and revealingly. In this sense, market research resembles the meticulous preparation of a unique recipe. Just as Thanksgiving celebrates abundance, in the realm of market research, the richness of knowledge that propels strategic decisions and innovation is celebrated.
In conclusion, in this season of reflection and gratitude, market research stands as a feast of strategic information, where each piece of data and observation contributes to the creation of a rich and comprehensive landscape inspiring informed decision-making and driving towards innovation.”
Caroline Frankum, Global Chief Executive Officer, Profiles Division, Kantar, UK
“AI is clearly opening up new ways of working, researching, and discovering the world and, when used as a purpose for good, will help businesses shape brand strategy in ways that make it easier than ever for customers to find the most personally relevant products, services, and experiences. However, similar to how good quality stuffing can make a Thanksgiving turkey taste great, ensuring AI is fed with quality data from real people who are actually who they say they are at every stage of the AI journey will be essential to ensuring it builds customer relationships in the most meaningful ways.”
Laura Ruvalcaba, CEO, Brain Research, Mexico
"A key need state of food is healthy nutrition. We are not in shape, and as an industry, we must nourish ourselves to strengthen, build muscle, and have sharp vision. A good food pairing is technology and thinking expertise together, as they enhance insights. Good researchers must nourish themselves and/or have technology specialists (AI+ML, for example) on hand to digest it with our thinking and empower our body and mind."
Litthya Baez, US Portfolio Lead, Consumer & Shopper Insights, Haleon, US
“The insights industry “craves” leaders that are seen as strategic partners or consultants: people who step up and look at the big picture behind the questions the teams are asking; people that can provide perspective based on what we have learned before chasing more answers; people that can curate knowledge and have a seat at the table. This is even more relevant now that DIY and predictive AI are playing a role in the basics of research. We need more Insights Strategist and fewer project leaders!”
Seyi Adeoye, CEO, Pierrine Consulting, Nigeria
“The recent upsurge in new research technologies and platforms, shifts in thinking around methodologies and the increasing need for data ‘lake’ approach as against a data ‘silo’ one within client organizations, means insight practitioners have to rethink the type of skill set required to future-proof partnerships with clients. Clients are increasingly looking for insight ‘consiglieri’, who can guide and partner with them as their roles within their organizations morph in response to business realities, availability of new insight tools and future market considerations.”
Sir Martin Sorrell, Founder & Executive Chairman, S4 Capital plc, UK
“First-party data and the signals from the platforms.”
Alex Hunt, CEO Behaviorally, USA
“Cliche at this point of 2023, but AI should be the appetizer, entree, and dessert. But for insights as an industry to digest the potential and opportunity this technology presents, we’ve got to feast on bringing new skills and operating models into our businesses and teams.”
Patricia Grisolle Fontana, Directora Corporativa de Inteligencia de Mercados, Yanbal, Peru
“As we gather at the table of insights, let's indulge in a strategic feast, savoring the innovative blend of technology and human-centric methodologies. By elevating the voice of the consumer through advanced data analysis, we can carve out a more profound understanding, making strategy the main course in advancing the insights industry's vital role.”
Mark Langsfeld, Chair, Insight250 and CEO, mTab, US
“The coming year presents an opportunity to feast on the integration of disparate data sources, utilizing AI to gain an in-depth yet simplified understanding of customers and competitors. The "dream" of achieving this has long been a topic of discussion; however, innovative leaders are now adopting these technological advancements across various industries. It is time for those seeking insights to embrace this evolution and deliver unprecedented levels of understanding.”
Paul Baines, Professor of Political Marketing, University of Leicester, UK
“The insights industry should be feasting on the potential gains it can achieve by harnessing the present, near present, and future technologies. Properly incorporated, AI has much to offer. No self-respecting organization should design its knowledge management system without access to it to harness insights from social media to automate the analysis of other real-time data and to make sense of historical data. But as with all insights, human judgment remains paramount to harnessing. Beyond that, harnessing AR/VR in our industry’s work will be exciting, especially from a neuromarketing research perspective, and whilst quantum computing is available now, its potential to solve complex calculations and for incredible accuracy is likely to make the insights industry more powerful and relevant if properly applied.”
Annie Pettit, PhD CAIP FCRIC, Canada
“Over the centuries, hundreds of occupations became obsolete (where are the town criers and herb strewers?), and hundreds of previously unimaginable occupations became necessary (thank you, neurosurgeons and airline pilots). Rather than fearing that AI will steal jobs and leave us unemployed, our community needs to embrace the philosophy that AI and innovative technologies will make our industry stronger and better. It will reduce errors, increase precision, speed up timelines, and encourage public trust. A positive mindset and opening to change and growth will ensure the analytics and insights industry remains vital.”
Alexander Edwards, President, Strategic Vision, USA
“As we near the Holiday Feast season, Insights Researchers should focus on how they can create a feast for the consumer's hearts. You can set the table with the right mix of attributes and benefits that create Love in the hearts of current and potential customers. Knowing that combination lets you share with your product and communication teams the insights they need to successfully design and message your brand’s strongest story to build loyalty, advocacy, and conquest. When you create a feast of experiences your customers say they Love, you’ve built the right emotional connections and can use that to build future strategy.”
Dan Foreman, Advisor, Zappi, UK
“The future of the insights industry is a regal affair, akin to unwrapping a Fortnum & Mason hamper fit for royalty, filled with opulent treasures. Just as Fortnum & Mason's hampers have graced the tables of kings and queens, the insights industry holds knowledge and wisdom worthy of the highest esteem. Market trends and consumer behavior are the jewels in our crown, and each insight is a gem to adorn our royal path to success. So, let us don our finest regalia, raise a golden chalice, and bask in the grandeur of insights, making the future a majestic coronation of discovery and prosperity, where every revelation is a royal decree.”
Finn Raben, Founder, Amplifi, Netherlands
"All business guidance - whether sourced from primary research, desk research, an insights dashboard, analytics or an A.I.-based platform - is only as good as the source data being used.
This Thanksgiving, we should give thanks for our unequalled legacy in ensuring data quality and guaranteeing data provenance, and we should be feasting on our unrivalled data expertise - which is the "oil" that makes the "machine" (learning!) hum.....
Ed Keller, Executive Director, Market Research Institute International (MRII), USA
“As the insights space evolves rapidly, “feasting on the fundamentals” can help us realize market research's full potential and value and drive innovation. Insights professionals should begin by building a solid foundation in market research’s core body of knowledge, especially as more newcomers enter the field. The path to human understanding has many layers; the proper education and training can help make the journey collaborative and deliver better business results. Not only that, our research shows that individuals with the highest career satisfaction often attribute their contentment to the presence of opportunities for continuous learning, which significantly contributes to overall job satisfaction.”
Nick Baker, Chief Research Officer, Savanta, UK
“A spectre is haunting the insights industry - the spectre of AI. It's something to be embraced, not feared. But something to be employed with care, not abandon. The integration and embedding of AI solutions for efficiency, effectiveness, and/ or impact are critical to the retained relevance of businesses in our industry and the key to unlocking our ability to continue and grow our role in talking to power - corporate, government or otherwise. Evolve or die.”
Mark Ursell, CEO, QuMind, UK
“Some of the biggest challenges in the last few years are the ability for Insight professionals in brands globally to deliver more with less. Demand for insight is always high during challenging times as brands compete to survive and grow, and being close to changing customer needs is at the core of this. Insight teams are often small, and budgets are often frozen or cut, but demand from internal stakeholders remains high. Therefore, technology is key to this, and increasingly AI is coming up with the answers. Innovative ways to gather quality insight and deliver it to decision-makers in an engaging way will be the key for 2024 and beyond.”
Priscilla Mckinney, CEO, Little Bird Marketing, USA
“What I love about Thanksgiving is the togetherness. What is essential to advance the importance of our industry is that we come to the proverbial table more often to get together meaningfully. This is amazing in person, but not always possible. I encourage everyone this season to make the most of a virtual meeting. Take the time for a 15-20 minute virtual coffee. Meet up without a particular agenda. Invite someone you don't know well to a short meet and greet. Carve out time to talk about tech and have an open conversation where you're thinking out loud with a colleague to get their perspective and share yours. When we let go of the myopic use of meetings and invite other voices, we broaden our perspectives and ultimately increase the value of what we all offer to our team, clients, and the economy.”
Nikki Lavoie, EVP, Innovation & Strategy, Savanta Invest, France
“Just as a Thanksgiving feast requires careful preparation, insight professionals must meticulously consider the ingredients of AI, blending knowledge and ethics to create a recipe for success in our industry. To savor the true potential of AI, we must ensure the right balance of data, transparency, and responsibility, letting us relish in the transformative power of technology while maintaining control over its impact.”
Danny Russell, Owner, DRC, UK
“Thanksgiving was originally a day of giving thanks for the blessings of the harvest - within the insights sector, our “harvest” should be driving CHANGE from a position of our superior knowledge. In terms of advancing the importance of our role, we have to take a far more commercial stance to ensure that the insights produced are ACTIONED rather than read, filtered, and (potentially) ignored. With (source: IPA Bellwether Report and ESOMAR) declining resources and budgets, increasing workload, and increasing complexity, we are losing salience at a time when (source: Institute of Customer Services) customer satisfaction is at its lowest level since 2015. Our goal HAS to be to represent the customer in company decision-making better.”
Justine Clements Consumer Insights Manager, Samsung, Australia
“In 2024, we will continue to reap the benefits of ongoing developments in AI and its ability to automate some of the least sexy work in market research. AI can comb through more data more efficiently (improving the result just by the sheer volume of data analysed) and serve up patterns we can then interrogate through a qualitative or cultural lens.”
Keith Rinzler, Founder, 1Q, USA
“I think the insights industry should be feasting on respondent engagement and gorging itself on data quality!
“There are two truths and only two truths in consumer research, “Is the respondent who you think they are?” and “Are they answering honestly?”. That’s it.
“So, while there's always talk of innovation with reporting, survey capabilities, fraud prevention measures, etc., none of that matters if respondents are just breezing through surveys and activities just to be paid and not taking the time to provide thoughtful responses. (assuming the responses are coming from real humans). When respondents are compensated fairly, however, and their time is respected through a user-friendly experience and practices like avoiding repetitive demographic questions, for example, their response data is more truthful, much richer, and therefore, infinitely more useful.
“It's time to realize that there’s no industry without the consumers, and if we genuinely want data quality, while it may start with Truth #1, it ends with Truth #2. Instead of treating consumers like a zero-value commodity, we need to treat them like they are the most important asset in our industry, which they are!”
Adam Palenicek, Senior Global Human Insights Director, The Coca-Cola Company, UK
“I believe the industry should focus on unlocking technology (Machine Learning/AI) to supercharge pre- and in-market innovation insights, especially in predictive analytics where new and historical data are used to forecast human behaviour, and trends and accurately predict innovation launch success. In addition, the post-launch success of innovations can be vastly benefited by real-time data provision, enabling brands to respond quickly to changes in consumer behaviour, identify issues, and implement evidence-based solutions quickly.”
Jane Frost, CBE, MRS, UK
“At first I was going to say people like the Thanksgiving Festival itself. Then I read your brief, and amended that to leadership .
Circumstances change, methodologies come and go and technology mutates almost daily. It is people that differentiate and they need leaders. Leaders who have the professional skills and an ethical core , who can communicate , who care. It is leaders who get noticed , bring teams together to make a difference and navigate these swift changing waters we currently find ourselves in. Leaders give us a voice . Real leaders understand the need to create diverse eco systems to allow their teams to adapt and flourish .
Leaders are rare and there are not enough of them .. frankly we are not investing in identifying, training and nurturing them . Without them the sector will not be speaking loudly enough to be heard. “
Thank you everyone for your fascinating perspectives - lots to reflect and digest! Clearly the insights industry has a smorgasbord of technologies, methodologies, philosophies, strategies, tactics, and innovations at its hands in the coming year. The trick is to choose your course and portions wisely so that we don’t consume more than we can effectively handle.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Crispin Beale - Chief Executive, Insight250, Senior Strategic Advisor, mTab; Group President, Behaviorally
Crispin Beale is a marketing, data, and customer experience expert. Crispin spent over a decade on the Executive Management Board of Chime Communications as CEO of leading brands such as Opinion Leader, Brand Democracy, Facts International, and Watermelon. Before this, Crispin held senior marketing and insight roles at BT, Royal Mail Group, and Dixons. Crispin originally qualified as a chartered accountant and moved into management consultancy with Coopers & Lybrand (PwC). Crispin has been a Fellow, Board Director (and Chairman) of the MRS for nearly 20 years and UK ESOMAR Representative for over 10 years. Crispin is currently a Senior Strategic Advisor at mTab as well as Group President at Behaviorally.