Opportunities through disruptive times was the theme for the first day of the Insights Association’s first virtual conference – NEXT. Melanie Courtright, CEO of The Insights Association, set the stage by acknowledging that while insights professionals are facing uncertainty, worry, and confusion in these hard times; there are a lot of reasons to be optimistic. The role of insights has been elevated and we are rising to the occasion. The first day demonstrated the many new tools and skills we can leverage to ensure our companies become more consumer centric.

Michelle Gansle of Mars kicked the day off with Oh Shift! 5 Insights Strategies for our Evolving Economy to summarize the shifts in our industry, which have been greatly accelerated due to COVID-19: Insights are (back) at the heart of decision making; there’s an increased focused on foresight and human insight; there’s an acceleration of research technology; how we execute research is changing; and how we deliver impact is changing. She also shared 5 tangible and practical tactics researchers can embrace today:

  • Carpe Diem! Take advantage of this moment to create “the new normal” even if no one is asking.
  • Invest in foresight and human insights capability.
  • Invest as much into “how” as into “what” and try new tools and techniques, at least free ones like Miro and Mural.
  • Connect externally to leverage the experiences of colleagues in the research field.
  • Help your teams make progress faster; there is no time for the perfect “right” answer.

The team at Conifer Research, Sasha McCune and Evan Hanover, helped us to Level Up Your Remote Research by showing us how to shift in-person, in-context research to a virtual environment. They shared ways to build:

  • Engagement by avoiding “plug and play” techniques that can feel robotic to consumers and instead find ways to inspire and motivate consumers, so they have a higher sense of purpose in their contribution.   
  • Authenticity by communicating with consumers like friends, not authorities. Techniques include varying question types, gamifying the experience, sharing knowledge with them, and sending fun GIFs.
  • Creativity by using projective techniques like collages, mad libs, and emotional provocations.
  • Flexibility by using a range of activities.

Bianca Pryor and Jerilyn Boykin of BET provided a great case study for leveling up researchers’ influence and agility in their session, Inside Insights at BET Networks: The Census, Election & An Unexpected Pandemic. The team shared how they shifted their 7-stage, 9-month and often in-person research program to all virtual research.  Timelines and quality could not be sacrificed as their research supports an Empowerment Initiative to build voter and census engagement. In fact, they pointed to a growing demand for information as time passed.  The worked quickly to pivot their plans to understand how COVID-19 was changing attitudes and behaviors by:

  • Building a broader sample base.
  • Adding more comprehensive questions.
  • Providing weekly tracking.
  • Providing more robust reporting.
  • Leaning on their research partner, Qualtrics, for more support.

Isaac Rogers of 20/20 Research shared his thoughts on helping clients find new opportunities in Through the Looking Glass: How to Apply a Disruption Lens to Your Research Plan. His team recognized that clients were struggling to set up research studies to explore disruptive opportunities like “how can we become the next Lyft”? They found that understanding what disruption means to consumers and how it manifested in their lives was fertile ground for innovation. The team identified five ways companies have disrupted industries. They recommend clients apply one or two of these disruption types to their research study. The five disruption types or “lenses” are:

  • Serve the segment of one.
  • Eliminate friction.
  • Know the story.
  • Earn it every time.
  • Own the experience.

Marie Wolf at Unilever and Vivek Sharma at Brandscapes Worldwide introduced a new tool for early-stage concept testing in Dating Ideas for Success. The team at Unilever explored best practices for rapidly screening ideas to improve on the traditional concept liking format used in most surveys. The new tool was inspired by the Tinder dating app and leveraged behavioral economics, gamification, and implicit response. After two years of testing and development with Brandscapes and over 10,000 new ideas screened, they launched IdeaSwipe. Through the session they explained how and why IdeaSwipes works.

Alex Hall at Quantilope shared Ad Kings: Lessons in Effective Advertising During Crisis which represents best practices for advertisers launching campaigns that respond to the COVID-19 crisis. His team’s research found that 54% of consumers think brands have a responsibility to address COVID-19 in their campaigns, but 44% believe that campaigns have NOT been effective at dealing with COVID-19. They found that the most important sentiments for COVID-19 related campaigns are uplifting, inspirational, and comforting and the least are playful, promotional, or casual. They also shared the following “Do’s” for COVID-19 related campaigns:

  • Stick to a sympathetic tone.
  • Lead with support.
  • Avoid a promotional tone.

And “Don’ts” for campaigns:

  • Be too playful or humorous.
  • Focus solely on your products.
  • Expect your ad initiatives to impact sales.

Jignesh Shah of Rybbon focused on the value of digital incentives in his session Need for Speed: Digital Incentives Can Help You Adapt Quickly. He points to the challenges in achieving strong participation rates such as lack of inherent motivation and survey fatigue and the importance of reliably providing incentives to motivate consumers. He recommends using the right type of reward program – instant rewards, points-to-rewards and sweepstakes – and automating them via integration into the survey platform.

Not only was there great content, but the Insights Association team also did a great job building in the fun and social benefits of in-person conference attendance with:

  • A magic show courtesy of David Corsaro, professional magician, who Read Our Minds!
  • A breakout session.  
  • A virtual happy hour.

Day One of the NEXT conference proved Melanie’s point about insights professionals rising to the challenges we are facing today with innovations to help companies be more consumer centric.  

Hope you join us for days two and three!