By Crispin Beale
Halloween is a time of year often associated with ghosts, ghouls, and all things creepy. However, the holiday also has a fun side, where kids dress up in their favorite costumes seeking candy as they declare ‘trick or treat!’ In previous years I have focused on the former element of the holidays, asking research and insight professionals about what fears and trepidations they have with market research. I thought it would be a nice change of pace to approach some of the foremost insight industry experts to learn about their favorite research tricks and treats this time.
Here are some research tricks and treats from leading insight experts worldwide.
Seyi Adeoye, Chief Executive Officer, Pierrine Consulting, Nigeria
“Two tips from me - I send emails within 24 hours of meetings with clients, to recap agreed action points or direction. This has proven useful in managing expectations and avoiding ‘sticky situations.’ Another is calling every client weekly to discuss ongoing work or to understand burning business issues. This has helped in keeping client relationships warm and in getting referrals.”
Alex Hunt, CEO Behaviorally, United States
“Perhaps essential versus useful, but I’d say one trick is consistently and relentlessly committing to breaking out of the double bind of market research. Innovation, improvement, and change can be hard for any professional in any industry. But perhaps a double bind exists for insights professionals. After all, we’ve built an industry out of accurately predicting human behavior via sound research methods. In contrast, many of us have built careers and our personal brands by offering stakeholders both sensible and correct answers about why people respond and behave the way they do.
“To innovate, improve and grow means to naturally challenge the historical status quo - either directly or indirectly - and break the double bind that too often has limited the speed of change in market research. So, to innovate, improve, and grow faster than the competition, commit to consistently and relentlessly challenging the double bind we researchers can fall into!”
Justine Clements, Consumer Insights & Innovation, Samsung Electronics, Australia
“I started as a researcher, hopefully, an insightful one, often considered a font of knowledge about the consumer, but my real ‘trick’ is the ability to affect change. We all have such a deep understanding of consumers that we can and should go beyond delivering insights or recommendations and driving organisational change. We should aim to build stories that are retold, spreading knowledge that influences future activity and applies insights to solve business problems and, by doing so, truly transform the customer’s experience.”
Stephan Gans, SVP & Chief Insights and Analytics Officer, PepsiCo, United States
“Keep feeding your curiosity. I find that with all my day-to-day ‘busy-ness’ combined with the focus on Insights capabilities that comes with my role as Consumer Insights leader at PepsiCo, I run the risk of losing touch with my insatiable curiosity about why people (including myself!) do what they do.
“Obviously, this is what consumer insights are all about, and thankfully it is at the core of why I like what I do for a living so much. Yet I need to make sure that I make conscious efforts to keep feeding my own curiosity because if I don’t, I lose touch not only with the people we are working for (the people that buy our products) but also with the main source of my own inspiration. I find that travel helps. Breaking my routines, and connecting with new and familiar people from all over the world enables me to get new ideas, inspiration, and sometimes even insights. I am SO happy that we are able to travel again!”
Annie Petit, Chief Research Officer, North America, E2E Research. Canada
“My favourite trick is rejecting tried and “true” questionnaire templates and data norms in favour of current, friendly questions and answers. While there are certainly cases where retaining templated questions is the best choice, there are many cases where it’s unnecessary, resulting in boring, annoying, and creepy experiences for participants. Your treat for creating a more enchanting and realistic participant experience is that you stop propagating disengagement and wrong data. Don’t be scared to bury decaying questions and build new norms that are actually meaningful and accurate.”
Ben Page, Chief Executive Officer, Ipsos, France
“My trick or treat? Remembering Twyman’s law - ‘if it’s interesting, it’s usually wrong’ - so if liberals are suddenly keen on gun ownership or single men plan to buy lots of diapers/nappies - check the analysis, coding, weighting or sampling, etc. In general, try and triangulate anything that seems surprisingly interesting!”
Amy Cashman, Executive Managing Director, Kantar, United Kingdom & Ireland
“My top trick would be to remain curious about how businesses grow. It helps you with your clients in terms of rooting insights in ways that can make them more commercially successful. It also matters for your own organisation, as if you understand what makes it grow, you can establish where to focus your energies for maximum return, personally and professionally.”
Joaquim Bretcha, International Director & ESOMAR President ex Officio, Spain
“Get the what with observational data, deep dive into the why by interacting with people"
Finn Raben, Former Director General, ESOMAR, Holland
"When David Smith and I were first involved with understanding how brand-owners (clients) used their insights, he encapsulated much of the findings in the following statement, which I have referenced on countless occasions since:
‘Insights do not miraculously appear from, nor are miraculously found in data, but are created from a contextual understanding formed by strategic dialogue between the insight team(s) - who are all over the data - and senior management’
In other words, if you are not close to your client, and do not understand their business, insights will be difficult to generate."
Alain Mizrahi, Chief Executive Officer, Grupo RADAR, Uruguay
“Before discussing the objectives and, even more so, the methodology to be applied for a research project, I ask my client "what are the decisions you need to take?", or "what is the problem you need to solve?" This is the best way to avoid ending up with a report full of insights that may be very interesting but do not serve as a tool to relieve the client's pain.”
Zoe Ruffels, Global Head & Vice President, Insights, Mars Pet Care, United Kingdom
“My trick is to ensure that when you upskill your insights organisation, don’t forget to upskill your stakeholders too. As simple as ‘what is an insight?!’ – a foundational understanding and common language go a long way.”
Horst Feldhaeuser, Group Services Director, Infotools, New Zealand
“Crosstabs are a bit like candy at Halloween. Everybody wants them; they're given away liberally but aren't good for you!
“If you're using tables to communicate your findings, you're likely behind the eight ball. While ResTech is often seen as a 'trick,' it's really the 'treat' that unlocks the best of what makes us human: our curiosity.
“Integrated platforms that socialize consumer insights from multiple data sources utilize all the skills and strengths of insights teams, with the real sweetener being its ability to generate understanding that results in positive business actions. So, when it comes to 'trick or treat?' within insights, the choice is a no-brainer.”
Danny Russell, Strategic Advisor; Danny Russell Consulting, United Kingdom
“Treat: I was working with a client Insight team recently, and one of their biggest gripes was that “we have told them (their stakeholders) so many times, but they just don’t listen…..” Sound familiar?
“I suggested that they had listened but hadn’t heard; and that perhaps the message wasn’t MEMORABLE. We are all bombarded with messages daily but tend to only recall the most memorable. I gave them (and now you!) the following acronym:
S – Simplify: reduce the message down to its absolute minimum size/length/complexity
W – Word: try to encapsulate it in one word; or a short phrase
A – Analogy: an analogy that captures the imagination
P – Picture: visualization will help lock the message into the memory
“Next time you have an important message to deliver, try to SWAP and make it more memorable.”
Charlie Butler, Founder & Chief Executive Officer, Bounce Insights, Ireland
"My biggest piece of advice to anyone engaging in research is to always start with ‘why?’ – why are we doing research? What is the ultimate objective? What decision are we trying to make? What information gap do we have?
“Once you understand your ‘why’, with the right partner, you won’t lose focus. Good research starts with ‘why’, and ends with the right decision!"
Focusing on fundamentals and going back to basics are the roots of much of the advice these insight professionals point to. This is sound guidance, considering how complex markets have become and how savvy consumers are becoming. Focusing on the fundamental dimensions of research and the basics of what insights are telling us can go a long way to enhancing understanding to devise strategies to motivate customers and impact the business.
So, Halloween, like market research, has some scary elements, but there are also a lot of fun aspects that can deliver tremendous value.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Crispin Beale is a marketing, data and customer experience expert. Crispin spent over a decade on the Executive Management Board of Chime Communications as Group CEO of leading brands such as Opinion Leader, Brand Democracy, Facts International and Watermelon. Prior to 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 Board Director (and Chairman) of the MRS for c15 years and UK ESOMAR Representative for c10 years. As well as being CEO of Insight250, Crispin is currently Group President of Behaviorally with responsibility for the client and commercial teams globally and the Senior Strategic Advisor at mTab.