by Crispin Beale
When most people think of St. Patrick’s Day they associate it with good fortune or luck, with a focus on finding that proverbial pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. In this same spirit, I decided to reach out to thirteen leaders in research and insights to get their perspectives on the various dimensions of their profession that they feel deliver good fortune to their research. I chose the number 13 which means 'assured growth' or 'definitely vibrant' in Chinese and is consequently considered very lucky. Still, regardless of this perception of luck in China, the number 13 is often met with real fear outside of Asia - another reason why an international lens on subjects is always so important to contextualise our understandings!
My question for them was simple - with the evolving role of market research and the expanding importance of customer intelligence, what methods, tools, approaches or aspects of research do you feel fortunate to have to understand your markets and drive success for your company? However, the answers are as diverse as the individuals giving them.
Kristin Luck, President, ESOMAR (United States)
“I’m like the cat with 200 lives so how I use data, and the types of data, has evolved significantly over the years. Much of the research I conduct now (as an advisor and investment banker) is desk research; looking at trends in the marketing tech and services sector, conducting competitive analysis, market sizing exercises, or determining company valuations. My primary data sources are Capital IQ, GF Data, Outsell and (of course) every ESOMAR report! My background in research has served me well as it means I’m constantly on the hunt to uncover new data sources that help me paint a more accurate picture of the markets I work in and allow me to highlight potential opportunities that give my clients an edge over their competitors.”
Tony Costella, Director of Global CMI, Heineken International B.V. (Netherlands)
“With rating sites and apps (such as Untappd, BeerAdvocate etc.) there is a wealth of data on how consumers rate and appreciate thousands of beers and see new emerging trends. With Google trends we can understand what ingredients and consumer needs are trending in adjacent categories and could be the next big thing in beverages. And all of this incredibly rich data is available for free at our fingertips, ‘just’ needing a little analysis. The young researcher who started out in this business >20 years ago couldn’t have dreamt of having this amount of data to play with.”
Caroline Frankum, Global CEO, Kantar Profiles Division (United Kingdom)
“In these times of unprecedented change and discernment, it’s never been more important to stay close to customers and earn their trust by keeping in direct, regular contact with them. Which is why I feel so fortunate to have the permission to share the time and data of millions of individuals across the globe via our exclusive LifePoints access panels here in Kantar Profiles. The trusted relationship we’ve built with our LifePoints members over the years enables us to be more innovative and representative when it comes to sourcing trusted first party data at global scale, without compromising on local relevance to better reflect the diverse world we serve, and help our clients drive more sustainable, meaningful brand equity.”
Alex Hunt, Chief Executive Officer, Behaviorally (United States)
“Two answers: artificial intelligence technology such as image recognition that allows Behaviorally to provide guidance to brands and manufacturers in real-time, at the speed needed by today’s business decision-makers, while simultaneously reflecting both the scale of purchase options consumers have available to them at today’s digital shelf and leveraging the more than 50 years of market leading database learning Behaviorally has collected on packaging built for the physical shelf. Truly we now live in the future of consumer insights! Second, there are some phenomenally smart people working in the insights sector, and proud to say lots of them working at Behaviorally, all with an unmatched expertise in applying behavioral science to define and diagnose shopper behavior. It’s by matching technology with talented people we’re best able to support our clients' growth agendas.”
Pravin Shekar, Kreator-in-Chief, Krea (India)
“When all else fails, I can still rely on pen and paper and a calculator to get things done in research. The basics always matter. Everything else is built on it. When you know the why, the how becomes easier. It doesn’t quite work the same backwards! As Richard Thornton recently quoted when I interviewed him: “Customer Intelligence is the new currency,” and it is more and more going to the individual, than the aggregate. Micro marketing and micro research is in and that is what is going to drive the future.”
Annie Pettit, Chief Research Officer for North America, E2E Research (Canada)
“The research community has struggled a long time with decreasing participant engagement, response rates, and data quality. I’m grateful our team has worked together to build a robust and varied collection of question widgets that convert ordinary radio-button and check-box questions into playful formats that encourage attention, questionnaire completion, and joy. Using fun question formats has helped us to better connect with our research participants so that they feel heard, appreciated, and open to sharing their real perceptions about buyers, brands, and businesses. Better engagement means better data which, in turn, means our clients are happy with their data and enjoy increased success! It’s a win-win-win situation!”
Roland Abold, VP Sales & Commercial Excellence, GfK Consumer Panel & Media Measurement (Germany)
“A critical success factor for today’s consumer insights business is the combination of different sources of information paired with the right tools to extract the signal from the noise. No longer do we have to ask endless and very broad questionnaires to consumers but can rely on a solid base of observational data - either passively measured or via the integration of zero, first or third party data sources. The remaining bits of information (e.g. on attitudes and perceptions) can be added via smart and targeted surveys to truly understand the “why” behind todays’ changing consumer behaviour. Together with our advanced capabilities in data science and AI-based tooling & platforms, we can now deliver the right insights to our clients much faster and more conveniently than ever before. So we (as members of the insights community) can feel very fortunate to have all these possibilities at hand and use them effectively to generate understanding and guidance for important business decisions.”
Stephan Gans, SVP & Chief Insights & Analytics Officer, PepsiCo (United States)
“I feel very fortunate for the technology partnerships that my team has forged with some amazing companies that enable us to leverage PepsiCo’s global scale for advantaged understanding of what drives consumer decision making in our markets across the world. Today, for example, every time we test an ad on our global Ada platform, the whole of PepsiCo gets smarter, instead of just the local team that happens to be testing the ad.”
Sinead Jefferies, Chair Designate, Market Research Society (France)
“Being Irish, I'm fortunate to have the luck of the Irish every day in my work!! But beyond that, I feel so fortunate over the last two years to have continued to have the ability to connect directly with customers, despite everything that has happened. I love the power and reliability of quant, but there are so many situations when a qualitative deep dive approach is exactly what's needed. I know that online doesn't have the same benefits as in person qual - but it does have a lot of positives, and even some advantages. So for me I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to understand how to pivot to use online qual in way more situations than I would have done previously. From in-depth B2B interviews with, in many cases, a more human connection than speaking to someone in their workplace, through to people living in very disadvantaged situations being able to participate in an online community and feel their views were valued and listened to. With so much of what we have 'had' to do to adapt in the last two years, I hope we learn from the benefits, embrace the positives of what's been new and different, and use that to move forward with more than we had before.”
Danny Russell, Owner, Danny Russell Consulting (United Kingdom)
“Observation (whether that be via video, ethnography or customer closeness events) helps close the “say-do gap” (the inevitable difference that all consumers, including myself, exhibit between what we say we have done/do/will do and what we ACTUALLY do) so this has to be fundamental to driving true understanding and, therefore, company success. The forced change in behaviour since Covid emerged has highlighted the benefit of all online methods – especially in online qualitative where the reach, depth and inclusivity should mean that it remains a mainstay of the insight tool box. Finally, as always, the importance of storytelling – like driving, no one will ever admit to being a bad driver (in the same way as no one admits they’re not great at storytelling) but we all know that this is a black spot of our sector. We can come up with the greatest insight ever known, but if we don’t have the internal stakeholder connections, the emotional intelligence and the ability to tell a story, then that insight won’t impact the success of the company.”
Arundati Dandapani, Insight250 Judge & Founder, Generation1.ca (Canada)
“The age-old tool of human-centred data-driven storytelling is likely the most important one driving market understanding and success for industry professionals in these fast-paced and turbulent times. Collaboration (that fuels partnerships) begins with a story, a quest for truth or a true understanding of human motivations, values and culture, the bedrock of all things insights and growth-related. Measuring non-conscious behaviour with relation to self-reported behaviour creates a valuable context that is mission-critical to successful business and social impact. Many layers of cultural, behavioural and geopolitical context that protect the complex truths of consumers, citizens and societies, as privacy regulations and technology evolves, make me feel fortunate and hopeful for human-centred research tools and methods. These integrated cross-contextual approaches build trust, credibility and leverage a community and marketplace of best-in class methods right from sampling and research design, through to data collection, analysis and the interpretation of data stories to clients and the public. All this, within a strong ethical framework that supports high levels of cultural, relational and inter-disciplinary competence.”
Ben Page, Chief Executive Officer, Ipsos (United Kingdom)
“Choosing from a vast variety of tools, techniques and capabilities is a bit of a tough one - but I will pick ethnography, digital or otherwise - because of its power to reveal people’s underlying motivations and humanise big data!”
Mark Langsfeld, Chief Executive Officer, mTab (United States)
“The Insight250 continues to bring the research and insights community closer together as professionals worldwide share their expertise, ideas and perspectives. A closer community further elevates the industry itself. We’re looking to do something very similar on the content front in the future, so stay tuned.”
Thank you everyone for taking part in this global review of what we’re lucky to have in our industry. It is always great to get perspectives from around the globe and challenge ourselves to ensure we use a diverse and inclusive lens to view our world. To those who celebrate, have a lucky St. Patrick’s Day (Lá Fhéile Pádraig sona duit!) and to everyone, “Good Luck” in the year ahead.
Author: Crispin Beale
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.