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Innovating The Innovation Conference

I believe that our industry needs an independent, flexible, non-political and not purely financially driven channel to explore cutting edge innovation.


Tom Anderson wrote a post today about the role of industry conferences in showcasing innovation, and in it he centered it around my own favorite event: MRMW. Here is an excerpt:

What is Next Gen Market Research? Depending on who you talk to it may mean different things. Some like me think of advanced analytics and big data (both structured and unstructured), others might say gamification, neuroscience, social media monitoring, MROC’s or mobile.

Clients like P&G are beginning to realize that they too need to understand these buzz words and decide which of these methodologies are ready and make sense to implement into their insights tool kit. Some of these, if implemented correctly, can offer firms an information advantage over their competition.

That’s why while marketing research trade orgs have traditionally been the main venue for sharing new ideas through our industry they’re beginning to face stiff competition from new sources which embrace change in our industry.

One such event is the MRMW (Market Research in the Mobile World) conference July 18-19. I asked event chairman Leonard Murphy what makes this event necessary and unique.

“We’re holding the event in Cincinnati Ohio, because P&G is one of many important firms in the area which realize the importance of keeping up to date and being at the forefront of research innovation.

I think this collaboration and sharing between suppliers and client side researchers is a good thing. It can happen more effectively when we leave all the politics associated with the traditional research trade orgs aside, and focus on true innovation.”

Now to be clear, I have immense respect for our trade orgs and think they do a lot of good for our industry, although I do often bemoan their slowness to act (or react), overly political processes, and territoriality. That said, all of those things are just the nature of the beast and don’t necessarily take away from the more plentiful good that they do. On the other hand, those systemic issues can be real barriers to supporting innovation, especially in a period of rapid transformation such as market research is going through now.

Innovation rarely comes from, or is even showcased from within, an inherently bureaucratic system. Since events are also one of the prime drivers of revenue for trade orgs, they tend to reflect the same tendency and in my experience are lagging significantly behind the curve on putting forward new thinking. It’s not their fault; it is the way they almost have to be engineered in order to appeal to to the largest possible audience of constituents, many of which have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.

It takes an independent organization without a vested interest in business as usual to innovate in this environment. If the DNA of the organization is about doing things differently, of abandoning the norm and charging ahead with the new, different, and disruptive while working with the foundational business that support us all, true innovation can occur and actually grow.

Those realizations are drivers for why I engage in so many events (both online and offline) and also took on the role of co-producing and chairing the MRMW conferences. I believe that  our industry needs an independent, flexible, non-political and not purely financially driven channel to explore cutting edge innovation. I see these efforts as aligned with the goals and strategic objectives of other organizations and trade associations, often even collaborative with them, but we are still free to chart our own course and see what happens.

The Market Research in the Mobile World conferences were originally the brainchild of The Merlien Institute. In late 2010 they asked me to be on the Advisory Board and help them develop an event for the U.S. focused on innovation. I roped in GreenBook and together we started developing a model that would really showcase the innovators and change agents in the industry, while providing an intense collaborative learning experience for attendees. The events quickly began to take on an identity of their own that was far different than the original concept and today many folks praise these events as being the most impactful they have ever attended.



I also wanted to make sure we stayed true to a few core ideas that would separate this event from others in the industry:

  • Content is King. It’s all about delivering value via content; in this case, the sessions themselves. We pride ourselves on picking the best presentations for inclusion. Oh, can’t make the event? That is OK; we love our content so much we make videos of all sessions available to everyone for free afterwards. It’s good karma to share.
  • No “Pay to Play”. Quality content drives the agenda, not financial goals. Of course we have to make money and we love our sponsors for helping us do that; they get an opportunity to shine as our partners, but sponsorship is optional, not required to get a speaking slot. Since our sessions are not salesy, sponsorship is a good value for those who want to make a more compelling case for their products or services outside of their session topic, but even then we only allow for a handful of sponsors.
  • Innovation is generally driven by suppliers. It’s simple supply and demand: clients have a need, and suppliers meet that need. That is why we tend to showcase “suppliers” more than “clients”; they are the ones putting their businesses on the line to create innovative solutions within the marketplace. We love client presenters and especially like it when clients co-present with suppliers on case studies, but we’ll give the supplier side disruptive innovator a spot on the agenda every time if we can. Based on the level of support we have received from some major global brands, they seem to concur that our model delivers what they need: exposure to “the next big thing”, not more of the same old, same old.
  • We’re all created equal. No keynotes, no sessions longer than the rest; everyone gets 20 minutes regardless of who you are and your role or prominence in the industry. Content is king, not status.
  • Collaboration is key. We’ve divided the conference up into 4 modules that are united by thematic elements and when taken together guide the participants through an educational experience. Central to this idea are the “Activation Sessions”; moderated discussions with all attendees at the end of each module to ensure key takeaways are coalescing for all involved and forming a foundation before moving onto the next module.
  • Networking rocks. We build in lots of scheduled networking time during the day and in the evenings so attendees can interact informally and build solid business relationships. MRMW is where partnerships are formed and deals are made.
  • Conferences shouldn’t be capital investments. Conferences should be offered at extremely affordable rates that won’t break your budget. Many of the past attendees say that this was the most informative and valuable conference they had ever attended.
  • It’s about the event, not the destination. Too often conferences are held at tourist destinations that detract attendance from the conference itself. We identify under-served markets with large populations of regional MR pros for our events. We try to partner with academic institutions and local research clients and suppliers as well to make it impactful for them and to keep costs low. No Las Vegas, Orlando, or NYC for MRMW. Previously we held the event in Berlin and then Atlanta. This year it was Amsterdam and Cincinnati. Next year….any suggestions?

I think we do a good job of baking these ideas into everything we do with MRMW, and this upcoming conference in Cincinnati is a perfect example of seeing all of them coming together to build a unique world class conference that is very different from anything else in the industry right now. Here is a bit more about the event; I think you’ll agree with me that it is unlike any other conference currently being held in Market Research.

The Market Research in the Mobile World conference will take place in Cincinnati July 18/19. We’ll be giving over 90 visionaries, innovators, influencers & change agents a podium to help chart the course of the future of insights. With speakers from around the world, MRMW will showcase many of the best minds in the global market research industry.

We’ll be exploring the implications of mobile, social media, and Big Data for the future of market research, with a focus on how digital convergence is changing the game for insights professionals on both the client and supplier side.

We are working with many leading client-side and supplier organizations to craft a true opportunity for stakeholders on both sides of the table to come together and share knowledge. Attendees will be able to engage with senior leaders from BBDO, Chrysler, Microsoft, Johnson & Johnson, Blizzard Entertainment, Alcon Labs, and other organizations in co-creating the future of the industry. We’re especially pleased to announce that the entire event is being developed in cooperation with multiple leaders within Procter & Gamble!

Only MRMW 2012 gives the podium to the new entrants and emerging leaders who are disrupting and changing the game for everybody like Google Consumer Surveys, Wayin, Gigwalk, Dscout, Research Through Gaming, CivicScience, Decooda, Netbase, OdinText and many more disruptive innovators!

Of course, you’ll also hear global firms like Kantar, Brainjuicer, Survey Analytics, Kinesis, Confirmit, Research Now / iPinion, Vision Critical, Lumi Mobile and other innovative supplier organizations talk about state-of-the-art research applications.

Like all previous MRMW events, this working conference will be packed with intensive learning at every turn – taking place in a uniquely collegial, collaborative, and open environment.


Over two full days of presentations, panels, and interactive sessions, the conference program is divided into four modules:

  1. How New Technologies Are Transforming the Insight Function
  2. Research Validation & Use Cases
  3. The Research Industry’s Threats & Opportunities
  4. The Road Ahead: Market Research in 2020


The MRMW 2012 conference is specifically designed for CEOs, VPs, Directors, and Managers of Consumer Insights / Market Research, Market Intelligence, Marketing and Branding, and Innovation & New Product Development.  Opportunities to network with peers will include scheduled breaks and a series of fun and casual networking events.

So what are you waiting for? Register online and judge for yourself whether we’ve truly created an exceptional conference. Here is the link:


Use code GB20 to get 20% off the registration until May 25!

See you in Cincinnati this summer!

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