Key themes for data and insights from the MRMW (Market Research in a Mobile World) Conference...and beyond.
This is the world we live in: ever-increasing complexity with an ever-increasing drive for speed. There has been an exponential increase in the types and sources of data, and decision-making is becoming more nuanced.
Derek Franks, Global Director of Insights for EA, talked about Gregory Treverton's concept of puzzles versus mysteries, explaining that a puzzle has one clear right answer and is solved by collecting more data. Mysteries, on the other hand, can be hard to know if you've really solved, and they usually require making sense of the data you already have. We live in a world of mysteries!
Things are changing at CPG behemoth Procter & Gamble as well. Julie Setser, VP of Innovation Capability, talked about how they look at data and insights as a "body of evidence" now versus the historic approach of one magic number (e.g. a purchase intent score).
Consumer demand is driving faster innovation cycles, particularly in categories like technology, beauty, and fashion, and arguably across every consumer category to some extent. And in today's hyper-connected, social media savvy world, brands can't afford to miss an opportunity to react to customer feedback, both amplifying bright spots and fire-fighting when needed.
From a data and insights perspective, AI (artificial intelligence) and machine learning can automate time-intensive tasks and processes. AI chatbots can conduct adaptive surveys and even qualitative probing. Machine learning tools, like text analytics and sentiment analysis, can help keep a pulse on consumer reviews, brand posts, and other customer (dis)satisfaction data.
For product development and innovation, many are embracing agile research approaches. Inspired by concepts like Lean Startup and Google's Design Sprints, this new breed of research is done in a compressed time period and is highly iterative. Instead of waiting for a near-final product and one big 'validation' test, agile research prioritizes the killer issues and tackles them in chunks, using an MVP (minimum viable product) approach or rough prototypes.
In college, I took a course called "Finance for Non-Finance Majors" (I think the department head lost out on his preferred "Finance for Dummies" title). It's a good principle though--we aren't all going to be accountants or marketers or designers, but it can be useful as a small business owner, solopreneur, or anyone who collaborates with these functions to have a working knowledge of some of the principles and tools of other disciplines.
For me, working in consumer research and insights, graphic design is a key complementary discipline. I firmly believe that market research needs great graphic design like a cupcake needs frosting. Great design pulls in your audience, helps you clearly communicate the story and makes the content more engaging.
To that end, I often do work with professional graphic designers to help take my decks and reports to the next level. But I don’t always have the time or the budget to do that or frankly, sometimes I just need a deliverable that’s “good enough”. Over the years as an independent insights consultant, I’ve discovered a handful of resources that can make marketing my own business and creating proposals and reports for others more beautiful, more interesting and just overall, more professional-looking.
Something I’ve picked up from working with actual designers is that a few, well-placed icons in a consistent style and color palette can really add that final level
of polish to a report or other deliverable. I use The Noun Project and find it valuable enough to have actually ponied up for a paid subscription (very
reasonable at $40/year currently).
Sometimes icons are purely decorative, but they can work harder too. For example, if you use specific icons consistently throughout a report to represent particular consumer groups, those icons can stand in for text in complicated chart or graphics to make them easily readable.
There is a lot of terrible stock photography out there. To avoid it, you basically have two choices. One, you can pay for a subscription to a high-quality stock image service like Adobe Stock or Shutterstock. That may be a good option if you need lots of images for commercial use, but it’s not cheap.
Alternately, if you just need images occasionally and they don’t have to be super-specific, there are a few great, free stock photo sources. Two that I frequently use are: Unsplash, which has a beautiful, searchable website, and Death to Stock which sends free unique photos out in themed packs via email. Be sure to credit the creators appropriately (each site has their own guidelines).
Here’s what I know about special fonts: not using them can make materials look generic, but using them inappropriately makes you look like a complete idiot. I prefer to risk erring on the generic side, especially since I’m typically dealing with client-facing deliverables (vs. creative marketing output). That said, if you’re feeling brave, you can find lots of free and unique fonts on Dafont.
Just remember that if you’re using a non-standard font, there’s a good chance it won’t look the same on someone else’s computer in a document (unless they have also downloaded the same font). When it doubt, send the document as a PDF to preserve fonts.
Here’s an area I would love to grow my own design expertise—creating infographics! There’s a reason information presented in this format gets shared so much online—if done right, it’s a fun and engaging way to communicate data.
If I decide I simply must create my own infographic, the best option I’ve found is Venngage. They have a basic selection of free infographic templates that you can play around with online to create a custom version. If you love it, there are also paid subscriptions that give access to all the premium templates as well ($19/month for an individual). If you’re interested in data visualization more broadly, I also suggest you check out Viz-Fest, which is a (free) webinar series on the topic.
If you are working with stock photography (or your own), you’ll likely need photo editing software at some point. If you don’t have the need level or expertise for an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription (e.g. Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop, etc.), you can stay in the Adobe family with Photoshop Elements (one-time purchase), which is a more basic and user-friendly version of Photoshop.
There are a few good, free online photo editing sites as well. I recommend Fotor or Pixlr (the latter also has links on its homepage to free vector editor, fonts, and graphics sites). One of my most common image editing needs is just to reduce the file size of an image, particularly for use in email. The interface could use a little design help itself, but this free Image Optimizer site has always done the trick for me.
If you work in market research (or marketing or any related disciplines), I highly recommend that you find an awesome freelance graphic designer or design firm to partner with, if you don’t work for a company with those resources in-house. Working with designers and seeing their creations is probably the best way to build your own eye for design. And for everything else, I hope these design tools and resources can help fill the gaps!
The 2017 P&G Alumni Global Conference took place this month in Cincinnati, OH with the theme of “Catapult” (though sadly, no actual catapults were involved). It was a fast-paced few days with multiple special events to choose from in addition to the two-day central conference. StartUp Week, Brandtopia, BLINK, and many other events were also going on in Cincinnati that same week so the city was alive with entrepreneurial energy.
There was a range of compelling speakers and topics with particularly strong content on change and innovation. Here are three of the key themes from the conference that are broadly relevant (not just for P&G alumni!).
1. Not-so-new media
As Kirk Perry of Google shared, “reach is plentiful; attention is scarce.” Digital and mobile were key themes at the conference and Gary Vaynerchuk told us that traditional TV is the most overpriced media out there (except for Superbowl ads, which he feels are actually a good value). Mr. Vaynerchuk would have brands put all their media budgets against Facebook ads (especially long-form video) and digital influencers.
While he made some compelling points, I do think there is a fundamental difference between growing a new start-up from zero (the majority of his examples) and the challenge of sustaining and incrementally growing a behemoth existing brand. Digital should clearly represent a larger share of marketing spend than ever before, and for start-ups probably their entire spend, but I think TV still has a role to play for big brands, particularly among certain consumer targets.
2. Brands in service
Jonah Peretti, BuzzFeed, told us that brand loyalty is being redefined in the digital age to the brand being loyal to and serving its audience (versus the other way around). “Consumers have become gods”, Rishad Tobaccowala of Publicis Groupe stated boldly in his provocative talk. According to Mr. Tobaccowala, it’s outdated to say brands empower or enable people. Instead, brands need to meet and serve people where they are. Personally, I can’t tell you how many brand purpose statements I’ve read that include “we exist to empower consumers…” or “Brand X enables you to…” so I consider that a pretty revolutionary, and humbling, statement.
How can brands serve people? Providing experiences was a common theme. A few ideas from Mr. Perry included: providing magical experiences (simplify everything and provide utility), seamless assistance, and immersive experiences (using AR and VR). Andrew Swinand, Leo Burnett Group, also reminded us to always ask, “what human problem are you solving?” and shared some beautiful examples from Samsung, including ‘Safety Trucks’ with screens on the back to see around, a ‘Voices of Life’ app that helps premature babies feel close to mom, and the use of virtual reality to make live theater engaging for deaf people.
3. Culture is critical
When it comes to driving cultural change, Nigel Vaz, Publicis Sapient said the most important thing is just to start. Model and encourage the behaviors that will create the desired culture. Mr. Vaz suggested three steps to kick-starting cultural change: build common ground, organize to drive change, and embrace and embed change. A slightly different take on culture came from John Zeally, Accenture, who told us that within a company, you “need to have a culture of cultures, but a single set of values.”
Culture must be modeled from the top down, and in her talk entitled “Dare to Serve”, Cheryl Bachelder, former CEO of Popeye’s, challenged us to take the “best test” by asking, “are the people better off because of my leadership?” She encouraged humility and courage, and even love, as part of servant leadership. Bracken Darrell, Logitech, encouraged reducing hierarchy to enhance culture and productivity, saying, “the new model is partnerships. The flatter you can get your organization, the more you activate people.” Mr. Darrell also advocated for doing away with employee surveys, which got an enthusiastically positive response from the audience!
Sarah Faulkner, Owner Faulkner Insights