Notable and Quotable: Top Box Thoughts from Quirks Chicago

by Jaswant Singh and Maggie Ledbetter

Last week, a group of Burkies traveled to the Windy City to attend Quirks Chicago. After two years of connecting via Teams and Zoom, the group returned home from the live event inspired and energized. We met new faces in the expo hall and caught up with clients over dinner. Our very own Cherri Prince shared the value of consumer co-creation, summoning the spirit of Steve Jobs during her session.

Here are a few insights and trends from our time at Quirks Chicago:

“Diversity is not about how we differ. It’s about embracing one another’s uniqueness” – Ola Joseph

Multicultural Research

As stewards of the consumer, it is critical that we bring the voice of the whole consumer to our work. And that includes designing research with racial and ethnic diversity in mind. Currently, 40% of US consumers are Black, Indigenous, and people of color, and by 2045 the majority will be.

The Insights Association shared best practices for asking race and ethnicity questions to more accurately represent consumers, while other presentations helped establish understanding and empathy for Black and Hispanic consumers. Not only is capturing the voices of all consumers the right thing to do, it’s imperative to the actionability of insights.

Frankie Lipinski and Sara Yang on behalf of the Insights Association Idea Council

“Generation Z – they clean up their own mess” – Max Brooks

Generation Z

Generation Z—defined as 10- to 25-year-olds—now make up 20% of the US population and represent nearly $40 billion in purchasing power. Getting to know these consumers and capturing their loyalty early is key to future business success.

Digital natives coming of age in tumultuous times, their habits differ significantly from other generations. They are concerned with climate change and expect businesses to be as well. They have a “do something about it” attitude, and sustainability efforts are critical to retain their business. But they look for actions, not just words: if a brand isn’t authentic, not only will Gen Z consumers stop shopping with them, they will speak out against them.

“I feel the need…the need for speed” – Maverick

Agile Research

Fast, less expensive, and more efficient research is the expectation these days. But, traditionally, agile methodologies often lacked a “human” component. AI and text analytics are filling this gap—giving marketers the ability to connect “quick and dirty” research with rich context from a multitude of sources including social intelligence.

However, to avoid reducing consumers to simple data points, brands should carefully weigh where speed is needed versus where depth is still required to truly understand the consumer.

“Your customer doesn’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” – Damon Richards

Closer to the Consumer

While big data and advanced analytics have value, sometimes nothing beats connecting with consumers “eyeball-to-eyeball.” From video open ends to contextualize large-scale quantitative data to communities to provide quick-turn answers to stakeholder questions, putting actual consumers—their words, images, and videos—front-and-center reminds us all why we do what we do.

Burke’s Cherri Prince shared some tools we leverage for not only learning what consumers want the future to hold, but (co-)creating it with them, live or online. And yes, we believe all consumers can be creative, if you give them the right training and tools. You can learn more about the tools she shared here: Consumer Connect and Hive!

“People don’t want a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter inch hole.” – Theodore Levitt

Jobs To Be Done (JTBD)

Jobs To Be Done—based on the popular theory that consumers “hire” products to help them accomplish functional, emotional, and social jobs—is making a resurgence. And it’s no wonder: it’s a great tool to create empathy for the consumer and to understand the multi-dimensional “whys” behind behaviors.

Johnsonville used JTBD workshops to fuel important innovations leading the brand into new snacking occasions, while Gatorade led interactive consumer workouts to help the team step into the (gym) shoes of consumers. But the relevance of JTBD doesn’t stop with food and beverage brands. It’s a favorite tool of ours for use across categories.

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” – George Bernard Shaw

Insights for Impact

Research is only as valuable as the action it inspires. And in today’s deluge of information, designing action-packed research and communicating it in a clear, compelling way are more important than ever before.

It begins by asking the right questions—based on actions the brand will take, not just what is interesting to know. But ensuring actionability doesn’t stop with design; insights teams must clearly communicate why specific insights matter and what the organization should do about them.

Doug Healy and Andrea Bingen from Gatorade shared practical tips for this, such as creating high-visual, easy-to-read storybooks and leveraging video to build empathy.

“If you teach a person how to fish.”

Democratization of Research

An emerging trend is the democratization of research, in which insights teams give colleagues the tools to get consumer feedback themselves. An evolution of the democratization of data—in which users have access to data via tools like dashboards—this trend expands the impact of research across organizations, getting decision makers closer to consumers themselves.

An example in action: employees across the organization are taught how to manage “quick and dirty” research—independent of the research team—such as micro-qualitative sessions for feedback on a specific topic. This trend is accelerating as over-stretched insights teams meet increased desire for consumer input across organizations.

Though this framework has many benefits, it requires intensive front-end investment to train non-researchers and requires that these colleagues want to play a role in conducting research.

“Ask for what you want and be prepared to get it” – Maya Angelou

Insights Talent in 2022

Alexandrea Davis of Subway

The Great Resignation, The Great Reflection, The Great Reprioritization—this recent trend has challenged employers as they compete to hire and keep motivated leaders in a tight talent pool.

One of the obvious, but seemingly scarce benefits that employees seek is increased flexibility. When looking for unicorn candidates, companies need to be flexible and embrace what is important to employees—work/life balance, social accountability, and diversity and inclusion efforts.

Alexandrea Davis of Subway highlighted other ways to drive insights team engagement: increased diversity and professional development. By celebrating diversity of all types (race, gender, thought, and more), teams bring their best selves to work. And by actively investing in employees’ learning, they remain engaged.

Honorable Mention:


Inflation is putting increasing pressure on consumers, especially those already underserved. But inflationary prices shouldn’t be the consumer’s problem alone. Empathizing with the consumer—across all income levels—is key to building loyalty during this period of price-sensitivity and beyond.

Companies can tackle this issue by showcasing the value consumers receive for the price while optimizing products and packaging to save the consumer money. For example, consider whether a product must be packaged in both a plastic bag inside a box.

Whether you attended Quirks Chicago or not, we hope we were able to catch you up on the latest trends in consumer insights. We’re already counting down the days until next year, and we hope to see you there!

Embracing her thirst for knowledge, Jaswant helps her clients explore and navigate business questions. With a background in research operations and her passion for storytelling, she is poised to help brands leverage actionable insights to move their business forward.  

Strategist. Storyteller. Problem Solver. Maggie has a passion for partnering with brands to design and execute learning plans that drive strategy and propel businesses forward.

As always, you can follow Burke, Inc. on our LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram pages.


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