3 Concepts from ARF RE: THINK

We recently attended the ARF RE:THINK conference in New York City. The conference was well programmed and there were some fantastic speakers. More than I had time to see, despite my desires to see them all.

Out of the ideas that are running through my head, the following three stand out as among the most important, insightful and simply interesting.

1. The Best Market Research Delivers Clarity. If there’s one theme at all of the marketing conferences we’ve attended this year, it’s that there’s a lot of chaos and confusion. And with “Big Data” continuing to stomp its big foot around the industry, the chaos is only growing.

This is a problem for an industry whose value is based on how well our clients adopt our ideas. The smartest minds in the industry are all saying the same thing – deliver clarity. Regardless of the methodology or the application, our most important task as market research professionals is to help our clients understand what it means.

This could be delivered through storytelling, infographics and interactive deliverables. But thinking clarity is only accomplished in the deliverable would be selling ourselves short. Clarity begins with the first question our clients ask of us all the way through the research design and interpretation of the results. Amid all the chaos, it’s our goal to find the truth, to find the question beneath the question and to make order of the chaos of data.

2. Don’t Be Afraid of the People That Love You Most. Whether you call them loyalists, super consumers, advocates, zealots or fanatics, these die-hard fans can and should be your greatest source of insight. The conference presented some examples of brands that feared – and even ran from – their loyalists thinking they weren’t doing it right – or they’re too small a population to be representative. On the contrary, the best ideas for drawing in your non-users will come from your super users. Your super users are most likely already innovating with your brand. They’ve seen its weaknesses and figured out how to overcome it. They may have even added value to your product in ways your team had never dreamed of. Turning to the consumers who love you most will not only make them feel valued, it will help your brand create more of them.

3. Don’t Just Listen to Your Consumers. Understand Them. Sadly, a lot of research is conducted for the sake of conducting research. The box is checked, the budget is spent, and the performance review is passed. This might be an exaggerated example but a large majority of research is conducted with very little attention paid to what consumers really mean. Instead, we listen closely to the sound bites that seem like low-hanging fruit, we perk up when we hear our brand mentioned, and we tune-in when the idea we want to recommend gets discussed in any way. What we lose is a deep understanding of what consumers are trying to tell us. They want to connect with their brands, they want to engage with the companies that manage them and they want to feel like they are supporting or partnering with a brand’s higher calling.

The risk with listening versus understanding is that we produce services, products and campaigns that we really wanted to see but aren’t what the consumers really wanted. In fact, we may have even produced what consumers said they wanted! However, if we don’t read between the lines and really understand them, it’s as good as building our marketing plans on guesses instead of insights.

During the conference, one of the panels opened up with this video that really brought it to life: CLICK TO VIEW VIDEO

What did you think of the conference? Share your thoughts in the comments or send us a note. Hopefully we’ll see you at the next one!


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