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#IIeX: Market Research Goes Nuclear

This week, I attended IIeX, a market research and technology conference in Philadelphia. I 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.



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:

  • Peter Milla, Principal Consultant, Peter Milla Consulting/CASRO

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.

I want to thank my good friend Lenny Murphy for igniting this torch and the Gen2Advisors and GreenBook teams for making it all happen. You guys simply rock! It is an honor knowing you.

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8 responses to “#IIeX: Market Research Goes Nuclear

  1. I met Snorri at the iiex conference. Good guy who knows 1) a thing or two about business and 2) how to strategically position himself to get food during a very crowded networking event. Interesting to hear his perspective on the EU. Given the number of UK people/firms at the event, I wonder if the UK is included in his assessment?

  2. Great summary of the conference, Snorri. And thanks for your kind words… I’m glad you liked our Coca-Cola co-creation case study.
    I’ll extend Snorri’s greatings to Lenny and his amazing team for a fabulous conference. And for many more ones to come!!

  3. Alec, you totally made my day here. The strategic positioning was quite successful. :o)

    When I speak of the EU, the UK is not really included as the UK has a greater marketing drive than the rest of the continent. The presence of so many UK firms at the event actually proves that. :o)

    Patricio, you showed me that the impossible is not only attainable but also very sensible. Great meeting you two and I hope our paths will cross again in the near future. :o)

  4. Thanks for this great post. And your kind words in your email. A pleasure to meet you. As I have said to people at conferences I speak at, I am certain your readers will agree…..

    “Do not focus on the rather blasé terms like Big Data and the overused Cloud every vendor in every industry is steaming up the air with…. See how these tools enable you to get decision-enabling, actionable, strategic, tactical and operational insights, quickly, repeatedly.”

    – Imran Anwar

  5. Why bash “Europe”? Which part of “Europe”?? “Slept for too long” – these kind of generalising and sententious – not to say frankly offensive – sentences aren’t very helpful, and suggest an outdated, ideological, cliche laden rather than an empirical mindset. I love the US, but just like anything – region or otherwise – it has its strengths and weaknesses. Not sure what this comment is doing here in GBB – and next time you’re in Europe, Snorri, check out some of innovative MR companies in eg Netherlands, UK, Belgium, Germany….just to name a few.

    1. Edward, Snorri is from Iceland and spends a majority of his time in Europe working with the European Commission as an Evaluator for the Horizon 2020 Investment program; certainly his opinion is stated strongly, but it is also based on the facts of the disparity in technology innovation, ESPECIALLY IN ALL THE VARIOUS PERMUTATIONS OF DATA COLLECTION, AGGREGATION, SYNTHESIS & ANALYTICS, between Europe and the US. Certainly innovation is occuring in Europe, although much seems to be in the realm of process and applications vs. technology creation. And yes, there are exceptions for sure, but not nearly as many as one would expect from the marketplace the size of Europe. I invited him to IIeX for the express purpose of creating business bridges between US & Europe within this space in order to help kickstart the type of innovation we see here in Europe and/or to create new markets for US companies in Europe.

  6. Imran, always a pleasure and I am now following your blog; convinced I will learn a lot from it. 🙂

    Edward, of course I’m generalizing a bit to drive the point home. I’m part of the EC funding mechanism where my role is to increase the weight of the ‘marketing plan’ in the application process. Last time, we tossed out 10 projects out of 12 as the marketing strategy was either missing, unconvincing or completely off target. I work with multiple firms in Europe in supervising and sharpening their marketing efforts, most of them in E-Europe but several in the Nordic region as well AND the UK and Germany.

    The reason I put this forth in general terms (like black and white although it’s packed with gray shades) is to make the big picture easier to understand. If you compare EC’s Horizon 2020 to US’s TriLinc, you’ll find marketing missing almost entirely on the EC side whereas it is the focal point on the TriLinc side. Europe is social by nature and half of it was actually part of the Soviet, a spell from which it is now emerging from. The Nordic countries are part social, part capitalistic. EU is very fragmented and in my opinion horribly slow and conservative. Several Fortune 500 managers that I have been lucky enough to interact with share that sentiment, as one pointed out: When Americans see an empty field, they say ‘We can build there’ followed by ‘And we SHOULD build there.’ When Europeans see an empty field, they say ‘We CAN build there’ but follow up with ‘But perhaps we SHOULD’T.” This golden story came from a Fortune 500 exec. manager during dinner when we were discussing the differences between Europe and America.

    I didn’t mean to offend anyone, Edward, just to highlight an issue that I believe needs to be addressed, especially in light of a possible Free Trade Agreement between the two economies and the Horizon 2020 EUR 70 – 80 billion fund. That is tax payer money we’re playing with and we owe it to the people to use it responsibly. In my book, that means importing US marketing skills to Europe or funded projects will continue to perish in academic attics.

    Also, I am well aware of MR activities. The thing is that I formulate marketing STRATEGIES and that’s where things fall apart in Euroland.

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