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QRCA 2017 Conference Recap

Posted by Anne Hooper

Wed, Mar 01, 2017

powerofperspective-image.jpgA couple weeks ago I took a hiatus from the Boston winter and flew to sunny Los Angeles for the Qualitative Research Consultants Association (QRCA) Annual Conference: The Power of Perspective. For any qualitative researcher interested in learning and connecting with the qual community, this conference is a must

For three intense days, my fellow “quallies” and I were immersed in the latest industry methods, tools, and techniques.  I’m always impressed with QRCA and this year’s theme “The Power of Perspective” didn’t disappoint.  In fact, it was one of best conferences I’ve been to in years!  I came home feeling renewed, refreshed, and reenergized with plenty of new tools for my qualitative toolbox.

While I learned a lot during those three days, a few things really stood out to me. Some of my learnings will make me a better practitioner while others went as far as making me cry.  (Yep, you read that right.  I cried.  But I swear I didn’t make that ugly cry face!). 

So here are some of my most memorable takeaways from QRCA 2017:

Theater and qualitative research are more alike than different. Theater is storytelling—stories that reflect our society, help us empathize with others, bring to life historical figures and moments, and have the power to change our perspectives. This is similar to what we do in qualitative research. We are storytellers, truth-seekers, and opinion shapers. We strive to connect with others in a meaningful way, to tell their stories, and to ultimately affect change.

Just as the protagonist is vital to a theater performance, the participant (our “protagonist”) is vital to the market research story. For our story to be successful we must fully understand them—who they are, what they want, and their situation.

Technology continues to shape qual. As new technology transforms society, it’s also reshaping the way qualitative researchers collect and analyze data. In one session, speaker Pam Goldfarb Liss spoke about the impact of new technology—for example, using virtual reality like video screens and specially outfitted wearables to let participants interact with a fabricated environment. Qual researchers are also using facial recognition software, augmented reality (i.e., virtual shop-alongs and package testing), and artificial intelligence in their work. With new technology emerging almost daily, it’s important to continue to think of ways it can help improve our work for the benefit of our participants and clients.  

Listening is powerful. Benjamin Mathes, founder of Urban Confessional*, the LA-born free listening project, lead an interactive session on listening. Urban Confessional is grounded in the belief that people just need someone to talk to and recruits volunteers to stand in public spaces and offer to lend an ear to anyone who wants to unload something.

Armed with a simple cardboard sign reading “Free Listening,” a few quallies and I hit the streets of LA to give Urban Confessional a try. Was I scared? A bit. Excited? Totally. Ready? Not at all… but what an experience! What I learned not only applies to life, but there is a direct connection to what makes for an effective qualitative researcher:

  • What others hear is more important than what we say
  • True listening is allowing someone to be completely themselves in our presence
  • Respecting silence can be really tough, but it’s important

My QRCA experience culminated in a session lead by John Boettner, Chief Enchantment Officer at Teen Press Inc. John, along with two teen journalists, spoke about the beauty and challenges of humanity and how they apply to the work that we do.

Whether you’re a qualitative researcher or not, you’ll be moved by Teen Press, maybe even to tears. Here are my key takeaways that will stay with me forever: 

  • When someone is telling their truths, things can go where you never expected them to. Embrace it and let it happen.
  • Listen to people with sincerity and a genuine desire to connect with them—when you do this, something special happens
  • Other peoples’ perspectives and stories better help us understand each other as human beings. We need to do this now more than ever.
  • Everyone has a story to share and sometimes just wants to be listened to. Be an active listener for them.
  • Embrace awkwardness, especially silence. You might learn a thing or two from it.

I could go on and on about the great things I learned at QRCA 2017, but you’d be here a while. This is just the tip of the iceberg of a conference full of tips, tricks, tools, and special moments.

I’m putting all the valuable insight I learned at QRCA to practice and am already excited for next year’s conference. See you in Phoenix for QRCA 2018!

 As CMB’s Qualitative Research Director and mom of a 15 year old daughter, Anne is thankful for teachers like John Boettner and the millions of other teachers out there that make a difference in our kids lives’ every day.  And BTW:  she’s finally stopped crying and is officially back to work.

 *Disclaimer: If you aren’t familiar with Urban Confessional, I highly recommend checking it out because it’s relevant to all of us human beings.

 

Topics: qualitative research, conference recap

How to get the most ROI from TMRE 2016

Posted by Julie Kurd

Wed, Oct 05, 2016

Knect365’s (formerly IIR) TMRE conference is the diva of the insights conference world—from October 17th to the 20thyou can expect thousands of attendees, six tracks running simultaneously, and terrific keynote speakers like Freakonomic’s Stephen Dubner. All of this adds up to a significantly higher price tag, so let’s talk about how you’re going to communicate conference ROI to your CMO. 

TMRE-logo-RGB-f8eb4e44e97cd9a1288fe47eb11fd40e.png

Plan prior to the conference:

  • Write your elevator pitch: Whether you’re reserved or chatty, you’re going meet a lot of new people at TMRE, so take a minute to prepare your elevator speech:
    1. “My name is ___ and I work for ___, the makers of ___.”  If you work for Amazon, people understand that, but if you work for SC Johnson or Coca Cola, specify the product line.
    2. “In the coming year we’re focused on improving our ___, and for that we’re interested in ___.”  Here’s an example: “We just finished up a big journey study, which will help us drive the right messages to the right people at the right moments.” You can follow that up with something like: “In the coming year we’re going to do a lot of messaging optimization and concept testing to bring those moments into focus by segment.” That’s your hook, and your reason for the conversation you’re having.   
    3. Next comes your question. You’ve offered a bit about what you do, but who are you talking with?  If they are a peer or competitor, ask, “How about you?”  That’s it.  You need to bring this information back to your company.  If they are a supplier of research, ask, “How would you approach this if you were pitching to me?” 
  • Highlight the agenda: Figure out which sessions you want to attend. Tip:  I circle my agenda based on who will be speaking vs. the topic itself.  I want a mix of dot com, financial services, technology, healthcare, hospitality, and consumer goods, so I circle every brand that interests me and then I go back and take a look at the titles.  If I’m interested in mobile/geotagging more than dashboards (or vice versa), then I can narrow it down from there.
  • Block your calendar for the October 17-20 dates: Activate your out of office message and be sure to mention that you’re WORKING offsite all day.  At the price of any conference, it’s really a crime to be dialing in to staff meetings or writing emails in your hotel room.  Plan ahead…if you have a big deadline, consider moving it.  The Conference ROI of you missing the conference…it’s not pretty.

During the Conference:

  • Recap 3 of the sessions in writing so you can talk specifically about the cases during a future lunch and/or a staff meeting:  It is not enough to just go and listen to each session and then when you return to the office proclaim, “the conference was great.” You need to listen fiercely, with pen or tablet in hand, and write down who spoke, what they said and how it can be useful to your business. This is key, you need to find a way to weave in at least two of those three sessions into your future behaviors. TMRE should CHANGE the way you think, and the only way change happens is if you bring it on yourself. 
  • Make a few new acquaintances (and connect on LinkedIn): Because you need to keep actively learning in and across industries, use TMRE to expand your network. One of our clients recently told me, “I’m painfully introverted so I just go to the sessions.” But how are you going to remember that incredible speaker from ___ or that kind person from ___ unless you connect on LinkedIn?  It may seem awkward, but when it comes time to look for new methodologies, share best practices or recruit new hires, you’ll be happy you connected with a wider net of people.  Companies can get insular, so TMRE offers you the opportunity to interact with people you wouldn’t typically meet.
  • Bonus tip—take a photo of yourself with one of the famous authors and share it with your CMO: OK, you don’t NEED to do this, but you need to come up with one visual representation of you at work and broadening your horizons at the IIR TMRE. Best-selling authors including Stephen Dubner (Freakonomics, SuperFreakonomics), Zoe Chance (Better Influence) or Francis Glebas (The Animator’s Eye) will be there, so you can check out at least one of those books prior to the conference.  Or you can take a picture of the stage for one of your favorite sessions and share that.  A picture tells a great story!

Julie blogs for GreenBook, ResearchAccess, and CMB. She’s an inspired participant, amplifier, socializer, and spotter in the Twitter #mrx community. Talk research with her @julie1research.

Headed to TMRE? Stop by Booth 516 and say hello to Julie and the rest of the CMB team. And don't forget to catch CMB's Brant Cruz and Electronic Arts' (EA's) Jodie Antypas as they share how  EA leveraged insights to make a dramatic company turnaround: October 18th @11:15am.

 

Topics: Chadwick Martin Bailey, conference recap, Market research

CMB Conference Recap: MRA's Corporate Researchers Conference

Posted by Kathy Ofsthun

Fri, Sep 30, 2016

It’s been less than 48 hours after leaving the MRA’s Corporate Researchers Conference (CRC) 2016 in San Francisco and I’ve finally had a moment to reflect.   

Three topics dominated this year: Innovation, Emotion, and Qualitative and Hybrid methods.  If you created a word cloud from the sessions and keynotes, these words would pop, along with actionability, risk taking and impact.

Word_Cloud_crc.png

INNOVATION: There’s a growing intersection between innovation and market research—the need for facilitation and moderation is expanding at the same time as more and more brands wake up to the benefits of co-creation with customers.  Key takeaway: Researchers with foresight and adaptability can contribute at the fuzzy front end and not just after products are conceived of and developed.

EMOTION: Emotional measurement and neuroscience continue to be hot topics, and CRC was no exception. How do you get beyond the rational to understand the complex reasons customers make choices?  What is the science behind emotions and how can we leverage our knowledge of social psychology and neuroscience?

QUAL & HYBRID METHODS: Seven separate sessions were devoted to ways in which qualitative research was a critical addition to quantitative findings and to storytelling.  Methods such as observation, in-home (in bathroom!) ethnography, online communities and a Quant + Qual method used by eBay brought faster and better insights.

Other themes and learnings included: observe more (93% of communication is non-verbal), be prescriptive not just descriptive, walk/hydrate/power nap/meditate, think creation vs curation, design thinking, improv and that old standby storytelling. 

Along with some interesting conversation, attendees heard some big industry news—the MRA and CASRO merger. As of January 2017, MRA+CASRO will now be the “Insights Association”.  Most members favor the merger and look forward to one cohesive professional organization.  It makes sense to me too, and I thank those who surely worked tirelessly to make this happen. I just wonder about the name.  After all of the talk of “actioning” at the conference (and in our daily work), I’d like to see the name reflect more than just insights—it  feels limiting--stopping short of the more important “impact”.  I would like to be associated with the result in addition to the insight.  Let me know if you agree or disagree. 

Kathy is CMB’s new VP of Qualitative Strategy + Insights.  She loves uncovering insights from customers across the globe and lived in Shanghai for 8 months doing just that!  If you missed her at CRC, you can catch up with at TMRE or send her a shout @ShopperMRX.

 

Topics: qualitative research, EMPACT, emotional measurement, conference recap, growth and innovation

How To Not Flunk the MRA Corporate Researchers Conference

Posted by Julie Kurd

Tue, Sep 06, 2016

You’re not going to flunk the MRA’s Corporate Researchers Conference, I won’t let you. Here are six sure-fire ways to fail (and how to avoid them): 

  1.  Don’t plan ahead. Right this moment, send yourself an invite to two 30-minute “meetings.” One meeting just prior to the conference (MRA CRC starts 9/26) to plan your goals, and one about a week after you’re back (first week of October).  Before the conference, your first order of business is to print out the agenda.  Read the synopses and circle the sessions you want to attend.  In some timeslots, you’ll notice you want to attend all three sessions (circle them all) and in others you may find nothing relevant to your industry or your role. You can always re-read the agenda and make adjustments during the actual conference. I’ll talk about meeting number two a bit later.
  2. Stay in your hotel room on conference calls. Yes, of course you’re busy. We all are. But we also all need to invest the time to broaden our understanding of the world, our industry, and our clients—you need to LEAVE YOUR HOTEL ROOM.  Hack your workaholic tendencies by booking your calendar as "unavailable," from 7:30am until 11:00pm every day of the conference so others know that you’re busy. CRC2.png
  3. Don’t have your elevator speech. Map out your interests/needs/desires to focus your conversations.  A lot of your fellow attendees have significant experience, so if you care about the role of emotions in brand identity and not about millennial shopper behavior, we’ll tailor our conversation and case examples to respond to your specific question(s).  Here are the bare bones of your elevator speech: use your 30-minute pre-conference meeting to write it (or write it on the plane).  You should state the super obvious things about yourself and your company’s context, that we suppliers probably don’t know:
    • My name is __ and I’m from __ (yes, it’s on the nametag, so this is optional)
    • There are __ number of people in our research department and we’re centralized/decentralized. We want to know if you’re the only researcher or have a team, if you outsource 100% or 0% of your work, and if you have a new CMO who has doubled or cut budgets. 
    • State your interest and your pain point: We have a __ [project] coming up, and I need to __.  How would you approach this if you were pitching me? Alternatively, if you don’t have an immediate need, direct the conversation like this: While there’s nothing I’m outsourcing now, I need to think about 2017, and we’re most focused on __ [millennial targeting, geographic expansion, brand or product, etc.].  Can you tell me more about what you’re doing in this space and how it’s relevant to me?
  4. Avoid ‘booth city.’ Vendors (we prefer “suppliers” or “partners”) are not vampires.  We come with our pop-up storefronts offering you candy, raffles, cocktails, t-shirts and cute toys to bring home for the kids. Collect it all, but don’t just make it a "grab and go."  Learn a little from us…our PhD’s are using proven techniques in exciting ways and inventing new approaches that brands need and love.  Respond to us when we invite you to connect and see where it leads!  You have to play to win. 
  5. Don’t build your network. Whether you’re connected to 50 or 500 people on LinkedIn, you need to keep actively learning alongside your network.  For your professional network, you need a mix of hub and spoke, content originators, amplifiers, spotters, visionaries and geographically diverse folks, so as you meet people, don’t just collect business cards that will languish at the bottom of your laptop bag. Connect with people on LinkedIn and you’ll have access to a broader network of connections, ideas, and inspiration.
  6. Don’t share. You’ve already gone through the effort of attending the conference, but there’s research that suggests we don’t retain information unless we re-purpose it, share it three times, merchandise it, etc. In other words, you need to take one more step to cement the knowledge or the people you met into your universe.  That’s where that second 30-minute meeting comes in:
    • Get connected: Follow up with the people you met on LinkedIn and Twitter, and drop them a note (see #5 above)
    • Share externally: Post your presentation on your LinkedIn profile so more people can see it. Didn’t present?  Be sure to take detailed notes in two-four sessions and write a post in easy bullet format to share what you learned.
    • Share internally: Share what you learned during your internal staff meeting or take a stakeholder to lunch and talk about an idea sparked from the conference and how it might help them. Don’t be generic…state the name of the presentation, who presented, what was learned, and why it was useful.

Follow these simple steps and I promise you, you’re not going to flunk. For an added incentive, tell me what you do to win at CRC (or another conference) and I’ll send you a fun little gift.

Julie blogs for GreenBook, ResearchAccess, and CMB. She’s an inspired participant, amplifier, socializer, and spotter in the twitter #mrx community, talk research with her @julie1research.

Topics: conference recap, Market research

Getting Virtual at IIR Omnishopper: The Future of Retail

Posted by Julie Kurd

Tue, Jul 26, 2016

cy.pngAt this month’s IIR Omnishopper conference, all anyone could talk about was Pokémon Go.  Several research suppliers told me they’d downloaded it and everyone was marveling at its stellar adoption and usage rates.  I had my 13 year old son’s account on my mobile device, so I began the conference naively thinking ‘I’ll go out before the sessions start and catch a few Pokemon for him.’  I couldn’t stop, and despite the fact that CMB works with leading gaming companies, and we’ve got more than a few die-hard gamers on staff, I don’t consider myself a gamer.

How had I morphed into Cheffen Yobs from the moment I began to play? The answers are a case study in consumer motivation:

  • Primary motivation/goal: My initial, primary motivation/goal for Pokémon Go, of course was getting more creatures and points because why not? It was a hot new marketing opportunity and I anticipated being able to talk about it over lunch at the conference (the game rates high on helping me build my social and personal identity)!
  • Secondary motivation/goal: I quickly learned that Pokémon Go has history embedded in each stop, so I started learning interesting things about the city of Chicago. This motivated me to alter my destinations, because I was curious about a particular building or statue. I was looking in the ‘corners’ of Chicago city center, and I was discovering new art, new monuments, and new bridges.  Over the course of the 3-day conference, I walked through several great sections of Chicago. I went to about 12 hours of conference material but I set my clock to wake up earlier to play that game.  Typically at a conference I fly in and then I sit.  And I sit. And I sit.   
  • Unintended benefit: Many of my colleagues share their gamified solution to fitness at our office, and they push each other to exercise more, but my life is hectic and I just don’t add fitness to my priority list. Imagine my surprise when one of the unintended benefits of my trip was that I actually walked 10 km in a level of heat that I can’t even describe, and I didn’t even know I had walked so much until I got home and my son told me!

Questions and excitement about Pokémon Go also found their way into the conference sessions.  The Mall of America’s Emily Shannon talked about the Mall’s digital strategy. There’s the mundane—assigning every bathroom a different text number so you can text that the bathrooms are dirty, and there’s the delicious—hungry shoppers can ask ‘where can I get a great ice cream?’ and because the Mall of America has 12 ice cream stores, the Mall staff ask further questions about the ice cream preference (via text) and deliver an exceptional experience.  Shannon said that the Pokémon Go was definitely delivering the excitement and enthusiasm that are central to the Mall of America’s value proposition, so they were meeting and selecting strategies to increase engagement and delight among mall goers.  In the week following the conference, the Mall of America has launched a Trainer Lounge and tips for playing Pokémon Go at the Mall. 

The conference was exactly about engaging consumers along the path of discovery through purchase and repurchase to loyalty and advocacy.  Each presenter had a different take, and each brought us through their approaches, from full body Virtual Reality to eyeglass technology, cash register data, landscape assessment, qualitative consumer diary, strategy platforms, ideation, and survey trends.  Many speakers, including Ron Wetklow of Treasury Wine Estates, to Scott Young of from PRS IN VIVO, and Laura-Lynn Freck, of Red Bull talked about digital engagement driving physical engagement. 

In the consumer insights industry, engagement, primary and secondary motivations and unintended consequences are central to our work.  In the weeks since the conference, I’ve logged in a few times, but I don’t feel motivated to play.  Why?  1) the history of my suburb just isn’t that exciting, 2) there are only a few stops near my house and it’s not that interesting to go to the same spot 10 times 3) thanks to in-group norms—I’m not going to stand outside the library with 10 kids under 18 years old to play a game on my mobile device because they’re ‘not my tribe’. But, combine the game with my frequent traveling and make me learn stuff on my timetable and maybe even talk to people and I’ll play every time.  It’s been 10 days since the conference and I see the game everywhere, my bet is on the brands who can “catch” the opportunities that come from these uber-engaging tech-enabled phenomena.

Julie blogs for GreenBook, ResearchAccess, and CMB. She’s an inspired participant, amplifier, socializer, and spotter in the twitter #mrx community, so talk research with her @julie1research.

Did you miss our recent webinar on the power of Social Currency measurement to help brands activate the 7 levers that encourage consumers to advocate, engage, and gain real value? You're not out of luck:

Watch Here

 

Topics: technology research, consumer insights, conference recap, customer experience and loyalty, retail research

Which #MRX Conference Is Right for You?

Posted by Julie Kurd

Thu, Jun 02, 2016

In the lives of kids and teens, you have your birthdays and your “half” birthdays. In the world of market research conferences, you also have main events and “half” events—the main events are the IIR TMRE Conference (in October) and the MRA’s Corporate Research Conference (in late September). These are the coming-of-age events—lots of attendees, many tracks, guest speakers whose names you recognize, and clients from the world’s leading brands.

In my role at CMB, I participate in a lot of conferences. In addition to the large fall conferences, there’s a lot to be learned at the smaller conferences that bloom each spring. As you think about what you want and expect from your conference experience, crisscross the country with me as I share a little about 2 great “half” events:

ISC2014LogoLong.pngMRA’s Insights & Strategies Conference (ISC)

The MRA ISC is perfect for low pressure networking and conversation, and the content is great. Here are some reasons to register:

  • Your boss will approve of the cost, and your family will love the shorter duration. This conference was located in New Orleans this year—which is a convenient nonstop flight from most US locations—and, with a civilized 1pm check-in, you can get a full day of work in before you go. Less expensive than other comparable events, this conference offers several tracks, covering dozens of topics with 45 speakers. In contrast with the super large conferences (which many extroverts like me love and attend in Q4), this conference has a manageable ~400 attendees.
  • Learn about new innovative companies and techniques, and reconnect with your key research vendor partners. Unilever’s Marie Wolfe introduced me to two nicely positioned qualitative research solution companies: Discuss.io and WeSeeThrough. These two innovative qualitative research companies offer new options for online qualitative—rapid online interviewing from Discuss.io and sensor technology from WeSeeThrough. Companies like CMB are there too, mixing new and proven techniques with tried-and-trusted rock solid execution.
  • Exceptional networking. Networking is essential to remaining vital in the workforce, even if speaking to strangers isn’t your favorite thing to do. ISC builds in a lot of natural networking functions with different types of people in mind—sessions are small, large, adventurous, workshoppy, and sometimes even involve bacon. Sessions range from 20 minutes to 1 ½ hours and are often interactive. The meals are all varied, so you can sit at large tables one meal and walk around cocktail style for another meal.
  • Location, location, location. MRA does a great job pushing us to truly experience the city we’re in. Whether you’re visiting a local company or trailing a marching band down Bourbon Street on a Wednesday night, if you attend an MRA conference, you’ll venture outside the hotel because they create activities and experiences for you to do it. MRA is great at picking cool new places that even frequent travelers like me haven’t visited, including St. Louis and now New Orleans.

IIR’s TMRE in Focus: the New Face of Consumer Insights

tmre_in_focus.pngI initially wondered if it was worth it to lose a day at the office flying from Boston to California to attend such a small (125 person) event. In addition to strong content, here’s why I’m glad I participated:

  • Hands-on, experiential sessions. This conference experimented with new, hands-on, experiential formats, including workshop breakouts. For example, during the Netflix session, we all collaborated at tables of 4-8 people to condense 6 slides into 2 to get a more relevant storyline from the insights. Every table had new ideas and enhanced the final discussion. This hands-on collaboration helped to create mental “stickiness.”
  • Problem solving perspective. Speakers were focused on solving client side researcher problems, ranging from improving the research organization and impact at your company to collaborating on a common goal. The digital world requires serious structural changes to assess and prioritize every option for your brand. For example, when Pinterest spoke, they focused on the rising tide of DIY (do it yourself) research and noted that the company’s department of 10 researchers handles all qual and quant in-house. Pinterest’s researchers are focused on helping the company become a catalog of ideas where people can discover, save, and share the things they love. As you evaluate the research department of tomorrow, look to your peers for clues on how to structure it, what to outsource, and whether to centralize or decentralize the research budget.
  • West coast orientation. Attendees were primarily from the west coast (Gap, Microsoft, Netflix, Warner Brothers, Twitter, Pinterest, Kendall Jackson, Gallo, etc.). A number of non-west coast attendees were from companies like L’Oréal that could combine the trip with office visits to its sub-brand home offices. This is a location-focused conference. So, if you want to connect with NoCali and SoCali researchers, this might be a good option for you.   
  • In hotel experience. This event took place at the Ritz-Carlton at the world’s largest marina—Marina del Rey. We took initiative to leave the “campus”—venturing to Venice Beach and Santa Monica—and invited other conference-goers after the conference ended both nights, or we never would have left the hotel. Meals were simple, and the conference started late and ended early each night.

If you’re sending people to several conferences next year, or if you’re choosing from all your options, consider the May conferences. First, compare both agendas to see if one conference has more content you’re interested in or more speakers from companies you want to learn from. Next, take location, time of year, and conference size into consideration. When it’s time to decide, weigh all the information against your goals. Happy learning! 

Julie blogs for GreenBook, ResearchAccess, and CMB. She’s an inspired participant, amplifier, socializer, and spotter in the twitter #mrx community, so talk research with her @julie1research.

We've had a busy month of attending conferences. Couldn't make one? 

Read our recaps!

Topics: consumer insights, conference recap

CMB Conference Recap: Uncovering Innovation - the Clay Street Project at P&G

Posted by Ed Loessi

Mon, May 23, 2016

Light_bulb_with_plant.jpgThis month, I had the opportunity to attend the Front End of Innovation conference here in Boston. One of the most exciting keynote addresses was provided by Karen Hershenson, Leader of the Clay Street Project at Procter & Gamble (P&G) and was titled Innovation from the Inside-Out. The idea of innovation from the inside-out is especially intriguing to me, because CMB has committed to extensive efforts in product development and innovation. We’ve formed an innovation group within the company—drawing participation from people all across the organization. Having been involved in innovation programs for the better part of 10 years, I've learned innovation is not a one-size fit all proposition and that it’s essential to learn from other leaders and companies about how they harness innovation within their organizations. Karen’s story and ideas did not disappoint.

5 Key Lessons from the Clay Street Project:

Karen leads a team of designers, educators, and marketers that solve innovation challenges for P&G brands and noncompetitive Fortune 500 companies. The group—the Clay Street Project—was formed in 2004 and has been instrumental in building innovation teams, individual innovation and creative skills, and impacting many P&G brands. The group is often tasked to solve problems that keep their leaders up at night, addressing cross-business-unit challenges, and looking at entirely new products, or processes that have hit roadblocks.

Karen highlighted some of the key things that drive the delivery of innovation for Clay Street and P&G including:

  • Use a defining question – “How might we?”: I found this to be an excellent question because it's entirely open-ended, it doesn’t pre-suppose or seek to direct a particular path, it just asks “how” and lets the person take that first step.
  • Create the conditions, innovation from the inside out: This is essential. Innovation is not something that can be mandated. Innovation is something you seed, water, nurture, and see what happens, course correcting along the way. On their website, Clay Street notes that innovation is a by-product of work, team, and systems and that many organizations make the mistake of focusing on only one of those, which kills the entire process.
  • “All practitioners of innovation have a process, and we're no different”: I, in particular, liked this idea. I could clearly see the team has a process, but it’s an open process. The process of starting with the right question and creating conditions, which seems a bit fluid, are in fact a process. It’s just that the process doesn’t dictate how you work, nor does it say that your challenge can be solved using this templated idea. By letting the team figure these things out on their own, it’s more likely they’ll learn the lessons and that knowledge will stay with them as they move out into the organization.
  • Help teams deliver better long-term value: Ultimately, this is the mission of the Clay Street Project. Innovation impacts so many areas within a company, and there are many individual measures along the way, but in the end, it’s about better long-term value.
  • Understand your environment: As a global company, P&G requires deep consumer insight and long product pipelines filled with solutions for many different types of customers. The types of innovation that P&G need are different from other companies. There are many innovation methods and philosophies to embrace, but you must choose the ones that match your company’s culture and customer environment.

I saw many things within Clay Street’s guiding principles that are relevant to CMB. In particular, the need to create the conditions for innovation. As a company, CMB has been innovating for three+ decades; we may not have always called it innovation, but we have now put a stake in the ground, and we are calling it out, putting resources towards harnessing innovation as a defining principle. We are clear in our minds that innovation is how we are going to create long-term value for our clients and the company. Finally, we understand our environment, which is part of a rapidly changing service and information industry. Market research is being impacted by technology, changing service models, big data, and client competition. Our need for innovation has its drivers, but I could see that it has many of the same requirements as those of a larger multi-national company like P&G.

Ed is the Director of Product Development and Innovation at CMB. He thinks there is a game changing product or idea within everyone and it’s his job to dig it out. You can share ideas with him @edloessi

Topics: product development, consumer insights, conference recap, growth and innovation

CMB Conference Recap: NEMRA’s Spring 2016 Conference

Posted by Ashley Harrington and Brian Jones

Thu, May 19, 2016

nemra-logo.gifLast week, we spent the day at the New England Market Research Association’s (NEMRA) Spring 2016 Conference, learning from colleagues in the region, both on the corporate research and consultant/provider side of the business. There was a lot to take in, but a few ideas particularly stuck out to us:

  1. Embrace Agility: A session on the lessons we can learn from startups challenged us to dismiss existing perceptions of “agile” research as simply “fast and cheap.” Instead, he encouraged us to think about market research agility in terms of being flexible, working smarter, and challenging the industry or process-related status quo (without sacrificing data integrity).
  2. Be Consultative: While “faster” and “cheaper” are often king, we also have an opportunity to be better by being more consultative (which is critical to CMB’s approach). A panel of corporate researchers at the conference underscored the importance of research partners being more consultative by:
  • Developing a better understanding of how researching findings will be used. If findings are going to be used primarily to convince a C-level executive of one key point, a one-pager should be included in the report that addresses that point clearly and concisely.
  • Telling the story and delivering insights—not just “data dumps.” While the panel acknowledged that the research team may want the 100-page report for their own edification, a project is only successful when the data is socialized and shared off-team. We have the opportunity to help organizations do that. 
  1. Evolve: A speaker on mobile data collection and another on gamifying research encouraged us to consider instances when incorporating new tools might help us better solve our clients’ research problems. For example, there’s an exciting opportunity to capture real-time path-to-purchase data with mobile, in-the-moment research. With gamified questions in an A&U study, we can help better engage respondents and collect richer data (e.g., asking respondents to play a game in which they enter words to try to get another respondent to name a brand—think Catchphrase for a brand study). In both cases, it’s important that we stay at the forefront of what’s new and useful in the industry without forgetting to apply the same critical thinking and rigor to any “new” tools that we do to the tried-and-true ones.

What innovative approaches to research have you been exploring?

Ashley Harrington is a Senior Project Manager who leads projects for world-leading financial services brands. Outside of work and attending conferences, she enjoys managing the ultimate project a10-month old baby boy.

Brian Jones is a Senior Project Manager at CMB. He enjoys the sharing of ideas among peers at events like NEMRA’s Spring Conference.

Topics: strategy consulting, conference recap

CMB Conference Recap: IIR’s Front End of Innovation

Posted by Heather Magaw and Jen Golden

Wed, May 18, 2016

Front-End-of-Innovation.pngOne of our favorite speakers at the Front End of Innovation Conference (FEI) this year was Greg Brandeau, former EVP and CTO at The Walt Disney Studios and former SVP at Pixar. His talk centered on a book he co-authored called Collective Genius, which provides insight on how to create a culture of innovation in business. He presented a simple, yet compelling, definition of innovation: any change that is both novel and useful. It can be any type of change—a business process, an approach to customer service, a new product idea, or an old idea applied in a new way. 

As he was speaking, we were struck by how many of his key points aligned with themes from an all-company meeting we had both attended earlier in the day. CMB is constantly looking for ways to continue innovating across our organization, so perhaps that’s why this speaker resonated with us. Here are a few key takeaways:   

  • Decision-focused point-of-view: In order to be innovative, a business must have a focused point-of-view that drives towards a specific objective. Creating alignment within innovatively driven organizations can be challenging, but necessary. This enables all employees to work toward the same goal and take the risks to get there. 
  • No one walks on water: Greg debunked the myth that innovation is an idea or solution that comes all at once to a single person. The reality is that innovation is a team sport, which involves gathering ideas, gaining knowledge, doing research, getting feedback, evolving the ideas, etc. Everyone in the organization has something to offer, and it’s the leader’s job to identify what that is. Need an example? When Vineet Nayar took over India-based HCL, he admitted that he didn’t know exactly how to set up the struggling brand for success, so he pulled together a team of young employees and told them to come up with a plan. By embracing a new style of leadership, the company’s sales increased dramatically over the next few years.    
  • Collaboration is key: Creating a genuine sense of community is necessary for nurturing innovation. Community exists at the intersection of a shared purpose, shared values, and rules of engagement within the organization that define how individuals and teams behave, interact, and think about solutions. Truly innovative groups are able to elicit and combine members’ separate slices of genius into a collective one. 
  • Learning culture: During Greg’s career at Pixar, he spoke of a time when they nearly lost all the data from Toy Story 2. Since Greg was ultimately in charge of making sure something like this did not happen, he immediately went to Steve Jobs and turned in his resignation letter, assuming he would be fired. Steve didn’t accept it, however, reasoning that Greg had learned from his error and that it would set a bad example within the organization if someone was fired over a mistake. The takeaway? Employees might be less likely to try something new or take a chance in the future if they’re constantly worried about the possible repercussions of failure.

Tomorrow’s leaders are tasked with driving—not just executing— innovation. The leaders that will be most successful at evolving their organizations will be those who:

  • Shape the context for their employees, rather than mandate the direction
  • Amplify, rather than minimize, differences among employees and their teams
  • Create communities of people who innovate rather than expect employees to be followers who execute 

At CMB, we’re willing to take chances (on ideas and employees), which ultimately leads to a committed culture that is striving to be better. Is your company? 

Heather Magaw is the VP of Client Services. This was her first year attending the Front End of Innovation Conference, but it won’t be her last. They hooked her with the fresh fruit infused water as well as the host of great speakers. 

Jen Golden is a Project Manager on the Tech/e-Commerce team. This was also her first time at FEI, and she was happy to hear that almost losing all the Toy Story 2 data helped foster creativity at Pixar, which enabled the creation of characters like Wall-E, Dory, and Mike Wazowski.

Come innovate with us!

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Topics: Chadwick Martin Bailey, conference recap, growth and innovation

CMB Conference Recap: Yale’s Customer Insights Conference

Posted by Julie Kurd

Wed, May 11, 2016

Logo_Yale.jpgA hidden gem of a Consumer Insights conference, the Yale Customer Insights Conference is great for researchers seeking advanced quantitative methodological thinking. This conference is a rare mix of business and academia. Well-known PhDs came from Yale, Harvard, Columbia, and Wash U to share their research and findings. Not to be outdone, mega-brand thinkers from companies including Spotify, Vail Resorts, Viacom, and REI also came to share their insights. Here are a few key takeaways:

  • Peter Fader discussed how Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) drives business forward. He had an abundance of wondrously specific cases, including how Starbucks is shifting from knowing your “usual” locally to knowing your “usual” virtually so that you’re able to have a personal and frictionless experience no matter where you are. In other words, Starbucks has become “a CRM company that monetizes through coffee.” This attempt to understand what each customer wants/needs at the atom level is a prime example of what Starbucks is obsessing over (and it’s not the next roast).
  • Kirsten Lynch, the CMO of Vail Resorts, focuses on the emotion and passion of Vail’s very specific target audience. The company’s segmentation scheme directly feeds everything they do. The target customers are not just pedestrian affluent—they are significantly wealthy, with average household incomes of $280k, so the customer mindset is very focused on exclusivity and excitement (vs discounts). When guests return to one of the resorts, everything they do is tracked in the Vail app: ski runs, where they dine, the people they’re with, etc. Like Starbucks, the data again is available at that atomized level, which not only allows Vail Resorts to personalize the experience for the guest, but also allows Vail’s leadership to assess strategic assets and ask: what do we need next? Another lift or another restaurant? Where do we need it, and why?
  • Spotify took all of the data it collected last year and used it on a “Year in Music” campaign, which was not only able to give each subscriber a recap of his/her year in music, but also able to give specific countries and zip codes information on the most popular songs/albums in that area. Fun fact: Eric Solomon, Director of Global Brand Strategy for Spotify, shared that Justin Bieber’s “Sorry” was the most popular song last year in Williamsburg, one of NYC’s trendiest neighborhoods (can Beliebers be trendy?). People now listen to more than 40 hours of music in a week (yes, that’s the level of a full time job), and Spotify is using this data to segment by mood states (party, focus, sleep, workout, etc.) instead of by genre.
  • Ross Martin, Viacom’s EVP of Market Strategy and Entertainment, talked about how the company is moving passive fans to active “super” fans and discussed the shift from selling impressions to engagement. How can brands acknowledge and celebrate these super fans? Martin shared an example of a Millennial asking Viacom if he could make Ninja Turtle cuff links (a potential trademark violation) for his wedding. Viacom not only approved the use, but actually manufactured the cufflinks and sent them to the entire wedding party for an experiential point of connection with its influential fan base (which was an earned media opportunity for sure).
  • Michel Tuan Pham from Columbia Business School discussed how feelings and emotions affect our judgments and decisions. Whether there’s a “like” button or the option to give something a rating (e.g. 5 stars), people derive pleasure from the act of liking or rating something. His research found that even when there are no stakes and no decisions to be made, people like to “like.” His research examines motivation (narcissism) for these “likes”—and he concludes that as marketers, you should emphasize the “you” when asking customers to “tell others how YOU feel about Product X” because it’s more narcissistic than altruistically motivated.

Be sure to add this conference to your calendar for next year, and we’ll see you there.

Julie blogs for GreenBook, ResearchAccess, and CMB. She’s an inspired participant, amplifier, socializer, and spotter in the twitter #mrx community, so talk research with her @julie1research.

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Topics: consumer insights, conference recap, brand health and positioning, digital media and entertainment research