Brandtrust recently attended The Market Research Event (TMRE) conference held in Nashville, TN. We sent our largest contingency to date to learn, observe, and gather trends, insights and best practices that are shaping the future of an industry about which we care so much. The 2.5 days organized by TMRE were full to say the least. The challenge every 50 minutes was deciding which session to attend next.
But with the nearly dozen of us there, we managed to garner what we believe are the most important lessons from the session. The seminar speakers intended some of the lessons; others were inspired by our own observations. Either way, we walked away a bit more enlightened than when we came – and that’s always our measure of success. Check out our list below and let us know what you think or add your own in the comments.
1. Finding insights isn’t the problem. Getting an organization to act on them is.
A trend of topics we saw across the board, and one emphasized by Malcolm Gladwell’s keynote speech with his description of the Inverted U (look for another upcoming post on his whole presentation), was about socializing insights through an organization. There were a number of seminars and organizations providing ideas on how to present ideas from infographics to dashboards to building entire rooms that represent the consumer. As insights professionals, it can be a real insult to our pride, effort, sweat and tears when we provide what feels like insight gold to an organization that no longer seems to value gold. The best solutions to this challenge varied from straightforward to strategically difficult but well worth the investment. The solutions included:
a. Storytelling: The best insights become stories within the organization. But they don’t just become that on their own. Listening to speakers and talking with attendees revealed their greatest successes came when they built a story around an insight or an idea within their organization. Once the story is there – and especially if it’s a good story – the insight starts to stand on its own.
b. Thinking beyond the data: The other challenge facing market research professionals is separating the Interesting But Useless data from the Interesting And Useful data (IBU vs. IAU). This means not just collecting findings but thinking about the opportunity for the organization to act on those findings. This is part of what makes a true insight.
c. Becoming a critical part of the organization: Sadly, market research departments are brushed aside as a useful but sometimes unnecessary part of the brand or innovation teams. When budgets get tight, market research is often among the first departments impacted. However, the best brands are run by organizations that recognize the importance of insights in the life and value of a brand. Market research leaders in these organizations are sitting at the table where strategic decisions for the brand are being made and have a guiding voice at that table.
2. Everyone knows what an insight is. No one knows what an insight is.
One of the tasks we set out for ourselves when we attended TMRE was to gauge how well a group of market research professionals – the experts in the world of insights – could define an insight. The results are entertaining and revealing. Almost everyone knew what an insight was but found it difficult to accurately define it. What we, and everyone we interviewed about the topic, concluded is that sometimes you just feel an insight. You sense the insight. Sometimes the insight just hits you and you don’t realize it until you see it on the tip of your nose (and your mind).
3. “Your learning curve should be steeper than your action curve.”
Brandtrust® found a new hero in Jeff Cole of the USC Center for the Digital Future. His entire talk was fantastic. This gem he left us with hit right to the heart of our organization. In a world that is changing more quickly than ever before, something we thought we knew may no longer be accurate. Consider that nearly half of what a medical student learns today will be considered invalid in a few years. To keep up, we must keep learning before we act. And this makes the learning departments of every organization more and more important to the success of its brands.
4. Attunement. Buoyancy. Clarity.
Unsurprisingly, Daniel Pink led a great keynote on the first official day of the conference revolving around his new book To Sell is Human. The key ideas include taking the perspective of others or what we often refer to as empathy. Empathy, in our world, is one of the most important skills to develop as marketing and innovation professionals (not to mention as human beings in any relationship). Pink suggests this involves taking a willed interest in someone else. And, it’s about being optimistic and honest about what we don’t know. This deeper honesty transforms brand builders into problem finders and inspires us to realize knowledge gaps aren’t threats but opportunities. When we can work with our brands to find the deeper problems in them we can then map out a clear path to achieving innovation and advantage in the future.
5. We must become problem finders. Not just problem solvers.
Related to the learning curve point above, Pink also tells us that the most influential insight organizations will not be those that can solve problems but will be those that can spot problems before they begin to impact the brand. This makes our roles as market research professionals much more dynamic. As we gather data, identify findings and look for insights, we cannot only think about what we know now, but what don’t we know yet! This thirst and curiosity will keep the brands we serve one-step ahead of the next innovation, cultural shift and market change.
Creating this list was as difficult as deciding which sessions to attend. There were a number of ideas inspired beyond this list and we’re looking forward to applying them to our organization and to the brands we serve. What are you most looking forward to applying from the conference? Have you already started to do so? If so, we’d love to hear about it. Contact Brandtrust today!
See you at TMRE 2014 in Boca Raton, Florida!