It was quite a week to be in Chicago for lovers of musicals and insights! As one of the lucky market researchers who got to attend the Corporate Researchers Conference AND see Hamilton, I knew I couldn’t “throw away my shot” to share just a few highlights that inspired me and made me think.
First up, the critical question: Marketers and Researchers, how are you helping your company to differentiate, separate, and grow? If you want to be “in the room” with your company’s decision-makers, and not just the bearer of insights, you’re going to have to employ art and science. Here’s what some of your peers are doing:
- Judd Antin of Airbnb will ONLY hire “full stack” researchers—those with 1) formative qualitative (ethnos), 2) evaluative qualitative (usability), 3) survey design, 4) applied statistics (yeah), and 5) SQL (merging data sets etc.). He sees the sciences as key to growth, a solution to homophily and the confirmation bias that limits our thinking and growth. He is definitely not throwing away his shot. He challenges us to get outside of our point of view and has established guidelines for non-English surveys in a company that is in hundreds of countries. His group is redesigning the host interface, conducting ‘check-in’-a-longs (take me!) and he’s demanding rigorous quantitative analysis to prioritize the strategically important improvements and operational optimize the tactical elements. They have a full time international community member panel in 10 countries and in 10 languages and they translate surveys in and out of native languages for results in a single week. As Alexander Hamilton would say, “Learn to think continentally".
- Charise Shields from Toyota reminded us that women buy cars. Millennials buy cars. Millennial women buy cars. They are redefining the two-year intender path to purchase, and they aren’t a monolithic block. They are single parents, married parents, couples without kids, and childless singles. The upper funnel of the purchase decision funnel has been democratized because the path to purchase begins online. This shift in the anatomy of the purchase journey means researchers need to reevaluate their preferences for relying solely on advanced quantitative research. Charise’s presentation was a great example of why I love CRC—talking to researchers who are flexible, innovative, and willing to try new things.
- Ronda Slaven from Synchrony Financial and Neil Marcus from MetLife were not afraid to discuss the disturbing implications of poor participant experience on deflating brand equity. Both Ronda and Neil spoke candidly about their experience and the work they are doing to improve the participant experience. It seems like a simple gesture, but Neil shared a video (shot with an iPhone!) of himself thanking participants for their time. MetLife embedded the “thank you” video at the end of a survey, and saw a significant increase in participant satisfaction among those who watched the video over those who didn’t. Ronda and Neil are challenging their teams to push the envelope on improving participant satisfaction—practically shouting “I’m past patiently waiting, I’m passionately smashing expectation, every action is an act of creation.” These brave researchers are reshaping the industry’s poor habit of cramming everything into a questionnaire or moderator’s guide. After all, in a way, participants are an extension of the organization and their happiness matters.
- Mark Stephens from American Family is an agent for change, Mark and Judd are very alike in that they see the power of both qualitative and quantitative as a pathway to company growth and to making the world a better place. OK this is CMB’s co-presentation, and I work at CMB, so it’s easy to see your own work as a masterpiece, but, sitting in a full room of the LAST session of the LAST day, the researchers in the audience asked two dozen questions about proxy variables and appending data and drilled for understanding like Hamilton….studying profoundly, day and night so their minds are obsessed with “the fruit of labor and thought”.
- Kate Morris of Fidelity presented on her public relations research work. She drilled home the importance of being memorable because memorable is actionable. Of course, storytelling is a typical imperative in the research world, Kate’s wonderful defiance and unique perspective reminds us, as Hamilton reminds us, to ask “who tells your story?”