By Snorri Gudmundsson
When the credit system collapsed in 2008, I was asked which economy I thought would recover first: the EU or the US. My answer: “The US because it is driven by people that want to succeed while Europeans prefer to be taken care of.” This week, I attended a market research and technology conference in Philadelphia, The Insight Innovation Exchange, where this observation was not only proven but greatly amplified. I used to live in Boston where I worked in the market research field and considered myself fairly up to date as to what was at the forefront of market research technology and insight generation. Little did I know what this conference held in store.
The first day, I was exposed to presentations that made me realize that I was not a little bit behind – I needed a landspeeder in order to catch up! The first presentation was ‘Fizzy Visuals: 12 Years Evolution of Reporting Insights with Coca-Cola‘ given by ace presenter Patricio Pagani of Infotools. He clearly demonstrated how large customers can be brought straight into the development phase that results in solutions and services that are tailored to customer needs. Infotools has not only done so for Coca-Cola; they also list Microsoft, Ford, Audi, BMW, Mazda and Viacom as their clients which proves that their method works wonderfully. Listening to Patricio was a great experience and of tremendous value to entrepreneurs and solutions providers of practically any size, type and geographic location.
Next up was a presentation by Nick McCracken, Product Innovation Research Manager at Ford, titled ‘Creating a Truly Global Marketing Research Function‘. He began by illustrating what the condition of Ford was once the crash hit and car sales plummeted. For many companies, such a sudden decline in sales means downsizing upon downsizing until nothing is left and the company evaporates into thin air. Nick, however, showed how Ford managed to regain market trust and loyalty through groundbreaking market research techniques and attention to customer expectations, wants and needs, and succeeded in bringing sales back to pre-crash levels. One example that really hit home was the observation that we usually have our hands full when attempting to open the trunks of our cars. How about this concept?
There is much more going on at Ford that can be directly traced back to effective market and consumer research and this conference really brought it all out. If other conferences are hits, the IIeX is a ‘Best of‘ album. Gasping for air, I both dreaded and looked forward to what was to follow. I also realized that the US is not years ahead of Europe; it is decades as these selected presentation titles show:
- The Power of “Wow”: Emotional Valence in Social Media (David Johnson, CEO, Decooda)
- It’s Not The Size Of The Data, But What You Can Do With It (Zachary Nippert, Chief Marketing Officer, MotiveQuest)
- Technology Frontiers: Text, Sentiment, and Sense (Seth Grimes, Principal Consultant, Alta Plana Corporation)
- It’s Not Mobile Research, It’s Research In a Mobile World (Bob Yazbeck, Vice President, Digital Methods, Gongos Research)
- Listen In: How to Gain Insights from Conversations (Frank Cotignola, CIM, Global Analytics and Digital Insights, Mondelez International)
This box of confectionaries was of course followed by a main course: ‘Expert Panel: Big Data or Big Brother? Ethics & Regulations in a Data-Rich World‘ featuring:
- Tom H. C. Anderson, Text Analytics Champion, Anderson Analytics/OdinText
- Peter Milla, Principal Consultant, Peter Milla Consulting/CASRO
- Steve Cohen, Co-Founder, In4mation Insights
- Jason Raguso, Leader, O2 Integrated (a Gongos enterprise)
- Neil Seeman, CEO/Senior Resident, The Riwi Corporation/Massey College, University of Toronto
- Brian Cain, Vice President, Global Market Research & Analytics, Merck & Co., Inc.
- Phil Davis, CEO, Rapleaf
- Gina Sverdlov, Consumer Insights Analyst, Forrester Research
This was only the first half of day one; there were two more days of this! The entire schedule is available here so you can see what you missed if you were elsewhere occupied. This is only beginning, however, so keep an eye on the IIeX; it will only get better. Now, to attempt a summary of this great event in a blog is like attempting to describe the picture below using a typewriter:
Each day ended in a networking event hosted by various firms involved with the IIeX conference. These events were held at bars or restaurants and enabled a free-flowing dialogue between solutions and service providers, potential customers (usually in the Fortune 500 category), VCs, consultants, and visionaries like Ari Popper, who gave an incredible lecture on how science fiction can project the future and then sent us through an exercise that forced us to really consider what the future may hold in store for us. Most of us have gone through such exercises before, but few have completed them with Fortune 500 managers on their team. The World Bank also had a presence there which indicates that market research and related technology is taken quite seriously at the highest levels and for good reason; the better we can project the future, the better our growth strategies will be (and I personally believe it will culminate in ‘individual choice‘ as opposed to ‘economic means‘).
So, to spiral back to where I started, the IIeX conference is a prime example why the US will, in my opinion, maintain its leadership position as far as innovation and market drive are concerned, at least in the foreseeable future. Where else in the world can a blender like the IIeX be established that allows businesses to form partnerships, seek mentors and advice, forge strategic alliances, meet privately with major corporations, interact with VCs, give presentations to a highly receptive audience, and become a part of something much larger? This is a new model that creates energy of a type I have never experienced before. It was as if the air itself was electrified and when conference came to its conclusion, I not only felt up to date; I felt as if I had gained a vision of what is to come over the next 3 years (I want to say 5 but that is an eternity given current pace of things). To finish, this entire concept is cooked up by a handful of visionaries that have both the ability to envision it and to execute it to perfection!
It is the US that will propel the world forward through futuristic thinking and innovation while Europe hesitates to take risks and overthinks everything. Life is about taking risks for safety leads straight to stagnancy (as Kyle Nel, International and Multicultural Research, Lowe’s Home Improvement, pointed out during our panel titled ‘Data Philanthropy: Channeling Information To Drive Public Sector Innovation‘. That is where I fear Europe is heading unless the Horizon 2020 EUR 80 billion EC fund is deployed with actual monetization strategies and growth targets as leading concerns. Play is safe and those billions will be wasted. Bring in that market savvy and business drive from the US as part of the free trade agreement between the two regions, and Europe may find itself with more business intelligence firms than just SAP. Europe has slept for too long; it is time to wake up.