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Fortune Favours The Brave: Our Adventures At IIeX Philadelphia

For me, IIeX is a place to be brave - to embrace innovative technologies but more importantly to champion transformative ways of thinking. And hopefully, for our industry, acting.


Editor’s Note: I suspect you’re getting tired of all the IIeX coverage, so I promise that today’s post by ESOMAR US Representative Susan Griffin of BrainJuicer and is almost the last one; I plan to share my thoughts on the event and next steps early next week. In the meantime, I think sharing the experience of various attendees is important from a knowledge dissemination perspective and I hope all of our faithful readers have appreciated it. 

On a personal note, Susan and the BrainJuicer team were one of the many firms that were incredibly helpful and supportive of our “little conference that could”; they are simply phenomenal friends and I want to give a great big  “Thanks You!” to them. I’ll list all of the others that we owe thanks to in my own wrap up post.  


By Susan Griffin

The research conference calendar is a crowded one, so we approached last week’s IIeX event in Philadelphia with goodwill and skepticism. Goodwill because Lenny Murphy, who organized it for Greenbook, is a tireless champion of the new in research. Skepticism because how new could a conference dominated by suppliers possibly be?

Pretty new!

There was – as expected – some whiz-bang technology. A Zoomkube kiosk – displaying live searches by attendees – and a Bizzabo app replaced the standard conference programme, setting the tone: no quarter given to attendees just wanting what they were used to.

But the thrust of the conference wasn’t so much new tech as a statement of intent: the old dogmas are dying.

Now, I’m a marketer, and I’m a marketer at BrainJuicer, so of course I’m going to remind you that we’ve been saying lots of this for years. From the importance of emotion through the significance of behavioral science, we’ve always been about new ideas. The Chief Juicer’s presentation at IIeX was all about hurling “research grenades” – like banning tracking for a year, as it gets you nothing game-changing, and dedicating saved funds to experimentation. That got heads nodding among buyers and agencies alike.

But it wasn’t just us. Sessions abounded that challenged old assumptions.

We’re always talking about how decisions should be fun, fast and easy.

At IIeX you had the fast: numerous companies – like Gutcheck – showed us the semi-DIY way of getting a quick burst of insight within hours.

You had the easy: Paul McDonald from Google Consumer Surveys showed how companies can replace 45 minute slogs with micro-surveys built around implied representation.

And you had the fun: Herdmeister Mark Earls explored the possibility of understanding social movements – opaque to our usual observations – through games and playfulness.

For some in the room, the fun came mixed with a nasty price shock. Jim Longo of Answertap showed an online DIY qual platform providing webcam IDIs and one hour groups for $900. Qual researchers in the room audibly gasped. On the quant side, Steve Phillips of Zappistore, the winner of the Insight Innovation Competition at IIeX Sao Paulo earlier this spring, joked about talking the human out of the research process. Several very human representatives of traditional research agencies looked notably uncomfortable. And Insight Innovation Competition Philadelphia winner RIWI promises real-time sample access better than river sampling or panel firms – disruption the panel giants certainly won’t welcome.

But generally the conference’s response to change was “bring it on”. We’ve heard the mantra “Market Research is Dead” plenty of times – this time Shelly Kuipers from co-creation practitioner Chaordix said it, and nobody disagreed.


Research dogmas, RIP?


Client-side researchers joined in enthusiastically. BrainJuicer’s Alex Hunt led a panel of clients talking about unmet needs in ad testing. Randy Adis from Pepsi, Edwin Roman from ESPN, Sarah Snudden from Green Mountain Coffee, and Casey Ingle from Owens Illinois. didn’t hold back in talking about where things need to change to create more effective communications campaigns. Meanwhile Lisa Courtade from Merck told us we have to recruit and train a next generation that can help us reinvent ourselves. She described new core competencies and new roles that can attract the best.

(The best and bravest existing researchers will continue to be recognised by the Ginny Valentine Badge of Courage Awards, and a new round of these was announced at IIeX – nominate here!)

The hottest approaches at IIeX attracted multiple presenters. Plenty of sessions talked about the futility of asking directly, as it’s finally being acknowledged that consumers are woefully unreliable witnesses to their own behavior. The hallways of the conference seemed paved with eye trackers and no presentation was complete without a heat map. And, of course, there was a strong neuroscience presence – presenters extolling fMRI, EEG, emergent facial coding technologies – with a general consensus that rational testing misses out on emotion and real feelings. That might not be news to readers of BrianJuicer – but if the “System 1 Research” argument is gaining ground, we’re not complaining (though we think neuroscience only gets us partway…)




Amongst this bazaar of prophets, how do you tell which way things are really moving? Follow the money. Simon Chadwick of Cambiar Consulting presented the Cambiar Capital Funding Index for 2012. Where is the big VC money going? Analytics, Big Data and Mobile – with traditional MR dropping to almost nothing, and no big move for Neuroscience…yet.

We’ve not even touched on some of the most entertaining presentations – Sion Agami of P&G and Rick West of Field Agent’s “They Showed You WHAT?”, a paean to mobile ethnography reviewed here by blogging ace Jeff Henning. Or Ari Popper of SciFutures talking about using science fiction as a way to envision the future in product innovation and scenario planning.

But through this carnival of methods and vendors, the message kept coming through. The old stuff is broken… it’s not relevant… we have to innovate.”

And what was the most shocking was the degree to which that message was coming from the old guard with the most traditional practices to defend.

In a “big data” session, Larry Friedman, Chief Research Officer of TNS gave a passionate presentation of a TNS study that looked at what survey research has traditionally been measuring and its relevance to actual behavior. “We know Purchase Intent has *zero* correlation to actual behavior! If it is not yielding accurate data on which we can make decisions on, why do we keep asking it???”

Larry didn’t say that big data is going to replace big trackers entirely, but he did make a plea for the industry to stop the endless cycle of “Study Study Study Study Launch” and do more “Experiment Test Experiment Test Experiment Test”. Experiment more. Fail faster.

Wow. We couldn’t have put it better ourselves.

So bravo Lenny and bravo IIeX! We came away with the sense that you have given the industry more than just a new whiz bang science fair. For me, IIeX is a place to be brave – to embrace innovative technologies but more importantly to champion transformative ways of thinking. And hopefully, for our industry, acting.

See you in Amsterdam , Santiago and Singapore in 2014!

(Thanks to Susan Griffin for this Conference Report!)

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4 responses to “Fortune Favours The Brave: Our Adventures At IIeX Philadelphia

  1. Great assessment through an entertaining journey! It was nice to see people looking toward the future and leaving the past behind. We have been mired too long in our tried and true methods and though the road to the future often looks murky, the sun always rises somewhere.

    As I see the first rays of dawn in this new age of MR, I am reminded of a guy I met when I had my first job. He owned a local typewriter company and he just shook his head at those new things called terminals. He picked up his glass and said “”that it twas always darkest before the dawn”. He hung in there until the first PCs were introduced and was one of the first to sell PCs to consumers and small businesses..I saw him years later at the airport as he was returning from Europe. PCs made him a millionaire. He winked at me and said he still typed all his correspondence on a typewriter.

    So as the first rays of dawn appear in the new age of MR, you just have to the courage to see things in a new way. You don’t have to like it, but you do have to acknowledge that the world is changing and if you want it your way you have to lead not follow.

  2. Wow! I get goosebumps all over again reading Susan’s recap! (and the borrowed title from Aida certainly got my attention!) It is time to be brave and courageous — time to reinvent ourselves and our industry and if the nearly 500 people present at IIeX are leading that charge, I have no doubt that we will not only evolve, but transform ourselves. For the first time in over twenty years, I didn’t feel overwhelmed by agencies at a conference (and yes, Susan, I felt some trepidation going in as well), the feeling I experienced was one of collaboration and shared goals. The clients, the agencies, the tech companies, and academia, all seeking that bright new future. It was incredible.

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