How do companies create tasty ideas? Who is the holistic consumer? What does a curious organization look like? How do you find your peanut butter? The 2015 TMRE not only made everyone hungry, but provided a springboard for creative thinking, organization re-invention, and innovative learning through the new lens of technology. With over 1,300 insights and research professionals in attendance and 150+ speakers, the conference featured presentations from both the supplier and client side such as Coca-Cola, Unilever, Heineken, Kimberly-Clark, and bestselling authors Dan Ariely, Seth Godin, and Jonah Berger. With a conference theme of “Revolution,” the three day event inspired suppliers and clients alike to turn traditional marketing research on its head. Here are some of the most interesting sound bites you don’t want to miss.
MARKETING RESEARCH AT A CROSSROADS; RE-INVENTION OR IRRELEVANCE
Hilary Manson urged attendees to “call it like it is; big data is just data and that data needs to be backed with something relatable for people to react to.” Insights are far from dead, in fact, marketing research companies need to focus heavily on the “insight business” rather than the research business. Marketing research faces a crossroads today of needing to re-invent itself through collaboration, innovation, and creativity, or else risk being irrelevant. While brands continue to adapt in a world where consumers interact directly with them, researchers also need to evolve into a world where they constantly interact with the data they receive. According to some, there is little benefit to becoming faster and more efficient at doing the wrong things; instead, they recommend that researchers need to be able to drive benefits through optimizing the business impact for their clients. Gone are the days where a survey was the “single source of truth.” Instead, passive data is considered by some as important today as direct questioning.
There’s B2B marketing and B2C marketing, but truly all marketing is B2P; no matter who the client or consumer is, there is always a person behind it. So how do companies make sure those people are listening to the ideas, research, and recommendations they have? By telling a story and making them feel special. We’re often reminded that word of mouth is trustworthy and credible, and that the overwhelming majority of “new business” comes from “existing business,” but what may not be as familiar is the idea of being in business solely to make the consumers or clients look good. Much was said about companies, researchers, and brands needing to make their end person feel smart, special, or in-the-know. People need to feel like insiders in order to build emotional connections to brands; and when people care about something, they share it. Similarly, emotions and connections are built through the power of storytelling; bonding the person to the information being relayed in a memorable way.
RETAILER TOUCHPOINTS & ENGAGEMENT
According to Seth Godin, “average” is a dangerous word. Average is for the masses in a world where we increasingly want to market to, and be marketed to as, unique individuals. While the bell curve used to act as a guiding light to targeting the peak number of “average” consumers, that curve is slowly melting into a straight line as different people want and need to be treated differently. Focusing solely on the “normal” consumer or “normal” way of doing things is out, as marketers and researchers alike need to consider essential factors such as environment, small details, and the holistic consumer in their decisions. There was talk about “choice architecture,” the theory that “decisions are affected not just by us, but the environment we are in.” Not only does that environment matter, but it has the ability to change mindsets of clients and consumers. By becoming “choice architects,” a theory or idea can be built on with the details that matter to the consumers’ unique environment, behaviors, and emotional needs. The holistic consumer needs to be examined in a way that is genuine and transparent because they look to align themselves with companies that are committed to their own values and distinctive needs.
Some claimed that demographics as we know them are dead or, at the very least, less useful; between urbanization, cheap digital experimentation, and the perceived “global brain,” people are building their own identities these days, and the recommendation is for companies and brands to view them for their chosen identity, not the assumed identity.
TRENDS ARE MORE THAN TECHNOLOGY
There’s a reason society has replaced the term “trend” with “trending”; trends are both emerging and dying at an equally fast paced rate. When we think of trends the mind usually jumps to technology trends, but we shouldn’t limit innovation and trends to the newest advance in the tech world. Instead, and even more challenging, we should think of innovation and trends as finding new ways to relate to or to simplify basic human needs. Consumers themselves are not changing as fast as their expectations. However, some believe that this “expectation economy” provides an opportunity for innovation in areas where we might have thought only technological advances could play before. Every company has the opportunity to be innovative if they ask themselves, “What are the basic attitudes, behaviors, and expectations of our consumers? How can we delight and make a difference in their lives based on those basic human needs?”
MILLENNIALS AND GEN-Z ARE MAKING US RE-THINK HOW WE WORK
Although the Millennial and Gen-Z generations have been topics of discussion for years, their attitudes, behaviors, and expectations will continue to change the way companies market to, research, and interact with them. The average Gen-Z consumer (born between 1998 – present day) has an average of five screens that they use frequently compared to an average of two screens Millennials use. The Gen-Z generation is comprised of true “digital natives,” and they have a lot of requirements; they expect full access to information at the tips of their fingers, a multi-sensory experience, and technology that is integrated with their lives. Speakers talked about the fact that not only does technology need to be integrated, but companies and brands alike are expected to be open and real with the Millennial and Gen-Z generations; the question is no longer “how do we market to them?” but, “how can we start a dialogue with them?” One size does not fit all, and customization is the key for these generations. These savvy curators are growing up with applications such as Spotify, Instagram, and Pinterest; truly building their own curated version of the world they live in. As these generations grow to becoming the new majority, brands will increasingly need to enable control and customization for their consumers.
YOUR COMPANY IS YOUR GUIDING LIGHT
It’s easy for a startup company to evaluate who they are; they start with a purpose, a goal, or a product, and build their identity around it. But what about those companies that have been around forever? There was discussion around the idea that older, more established companies also need to figure out who they are, down to the emotional level, and it’s the employees that make that happen. “Who are we?” isn’t just a question that marketers hope resonates a glowing response with their clients or consumers, but it’s a question that should frequently be revisited among companies internally. The recommendation was a request for transparency, cohesiveness, and alignment as a starting point with employees if companies ever hope to project those values externally. A company’s history should act as a springboard into the future, not a platform or road map of what should be done. Corporate vision should first and foremost be integrated and established internally; after all, engaged employees guide the customer experience, which leads to loyal customers and clients.
INNOVATION AND OVERCOMING THE FEAR OF FAILURE
“Raise your right hand as high as you can…now raise it higher.” Seth Godin proved to the crowd at TMRE that everyone holds a little bit back. However, in order to innovate and separate from the masses, we need to be all in. Per Godin, the ugly twin of change is tension and the enemy of fear is creativity, but breaking through these tensions in order to embrace change is what sparks innovation; it is always going to feel like it’s “too soon” to do something. It is a common misconception that people are born with creative “gifts,” when in reality creativity is not a gift at all, but rather a skill than can be learned. A culture where failure is not an option is an immediate drain of collaboration, trust, and imagination. Godin recommended that as a brand, a company, or as an entire industry, we need to leap into the void and start investing in the possibility of failure; creativity and innovation will closely follow.