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The Most Important Presentation at Esomar Congress


By Steve August

After attending a big research event like this year’s Esomar Congress in Atlanta, I like to take a week or so before writing out my thoughts and reflections.  There is so much information, so many great presentations over the course of three days, that I find it takes some time away to get perspective.

As I think back on this year’s Congress, one of the presentations struck me as the most important for the market research industry. And it’s probably not the one that would pop to mind first.

You might think it was Tom Ewing and Bob Pankauskas’s fine, best in show presentation  ‘Research Without Questions’ on context hacking as well as system 1 and 2 thinking to blend modalities of research and get insights without a direct question. Certainly a great piece of work on mapping behavioral economic theory to tactical research execution.

Another possibility might be “Measuring Emotions Through a Mobile Device Across Borders, Ages, Genders and More,” presented by Rolfe Swinton, RealityMine, USA and Rana El Kaliouby, Affectiva, USA.  This was a stunning demonstrating of the fusion of mobile and facial recognition software to show how facial expressions could be caught and analyzed by smartphones anywhere in the world.

Or you might think it was “the History of Underwear” presented by  Dave McCaughan of McCann Worldgroup.  Mr. McCaughan took the audience on a humorous and sartorial journey through the history of underwear, while at the same time showing how sometimes the best insights are to be found embedded in what you know already.

Actually, the presentation that has stayed with me featured none of the hot topics in market research. There was no demonstration of advanced technology, no facial tracking, no mobile, no communities, not even a mention of big data or behavioral economics.

The presentation was called “What’s a Nice Insight Like You Doing in a Concept Like This,” and showed in a straightforward manner how insights can be translated into winning concepts.  Presenters Lee Markowitz, Barbara Garau, and Lourdes Alvarez-Chavarria spoke to the most basic value of market research.

You would think demonstrating how to translate insights into winning business decisions would be common for conference presentations, but often the focus is on the methodology of generating insights and the translation of insights into good business decisions is neglected.

Ultimately, market research’s purpose is to drive business decisions, and all the methodology, and cutting edge technology doesn’t help if we don’t reach the end game of informing good business decisions.

And that’s why, from my point of view,  “What’s a Nice Insight Like You Doing in a Concept Like This,” proved to be the most important presentation of this year’s Esomar Congress.

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