I have maintained for some time now that the automation of the process of research, especially (but not only) quantitative research is the most highly disruptive trend in this industry for the foreseeable future. Platforms and hybrid platform/service solutions like ZappiStore, Gutcheck, Research Now, AYTM, Instantly, Macromill and dozens of others have cracked the automation code and are growing at an astonishing pace. In effect Sampling, Data Collection, Analysis and Reporting of anything survey based is rapidly joining the ranks of the vast majority of CX, Big Data, BI and Social Media platforms that enable the cost and speed efficiency that mass scaling allows, with very little human intervention.
I am privileged to be close to many of these companies, but I am on the Board of Advisers of ZappiStore so I have a front row seat watching them move from strength to strength as one of the key players in this evolution of the MR ecosystem. Other firms are following a similar trajectory and deserve all the kudos for their own unique offerings and approach to utilizing automation to create new models for insights generation, but the ZappiStore positioning is unique in that their position is fundamentally about being an IP marketplace vs. simply a suite of cheaper, faster tools. That is an important difference because of what it means for other suppliers and for clients.
There are many offerings in the world of MR that rely upon norms, longitudinal data and/or the corporate adoption of specific and long standing standardized tools: this goes beyond things like NPS to specific offerings that function today as “data currency”: Nielsen Ratings, BASES scores, Millward Brown tests, BrainJuicer FaceTrace®, TNS Conversion Model, myriad proprietary trackers and the list goes on and on. Just a few years ago clients were looking for cheaper, faster, and (perhaps) more impactful solutions, but because of the reliance upon these and other industry leading solutions they often felt held hostage. The emergence of DIY solutions as well as intense interest in emerging alternatives like social media analytics, neuroscience, behavioral data, etc.. have been largely driven by that client-side imperative. However, although these solutions have all gained traction as discrete solutions to address related business issues or as complements to existing standards, none have enabled clients to shift wholesale from their embedded and long terms standards.
ZappiStore realized they could use their proprietary Intellection platform to take virtually any research IP, either from suppliers or from clients, and automate it, making it hugely cheaper and faster while giving it global scale, lowering the barrier to entry for new clients with limited budgets, and allowing for the “modularization” of research wherein clients could mix and match combinations of tools to create even more value and impact. When they won the Insight Innovation Competition three years ago at IIeX LatAm in Brazil we knew they were special, once they started to rapidly “democratize” the IP of companies like TNS, Millward Brown, MMR and others the revolution went from a spark to a flame. I know first hand through my work with leading clients in Gen2 Advisors and the IIeX Corporate Partner program how rapid this shift has been, and combined with regular updates in my BoA role at ZappiStore as well the hundreds of supplier conversations I have every month, I have a unique perspective and here is the bottom line:
The era of process and/or “firewalled” IP being the driver of value for suppliers is already over (and to borrow from the William Gibson quote above), it’s just not evenly distributed yet.
It’s happening in quant first, but Gutcheck, Discuss.io and iModerate are examples of companies leading the charge for qual (which is tougher to do for sure) and as this evolution unfolds we will see more and more tech-driven players creating platforms to automate huge pieces of the research process. Clients will flock to those solutions and so suppliers will join forces with the automation enablers so they can remain competitive. There will be a rough period for many as they remove the research process as a revenue driver for much (but by no means all) of their offerings and instead pivot to a combination of consulting and volume-driven licensing of their own IP. Like any evolutionary process, some will thrive and some will fall by the way side, but the industry as a whole will be in a much better place.
And all of that brings us to the best case in point in recent memory: the announcement today that BrainJuicer has now placed two of their biggest products into ZappiStore.
Here is an excerpt from the press release from BrainJuicer.
BrainJuicer Group PLC (AIM: BJU), the world’s most innovative brand strategy and research agency, announces a collaboration with ZappiStore, a company specializing in providing top-class market research approaches in quick, automated, affordable and scalable options.
By partnering with ZappiStore, BrainJuicer now offers the core of its validated, award-winning research methodologies, BrainJuicer Ad Testing Express and FaceTrace® in a self-serve portal – a fit for ZappiStore through what its tagline calls “Insight Through Automation”.
Increasingly marketers are realizing that emotional measurement needs to be at the heart of their research tool-kits. But as the research industry continues to be leaner and more agile, there is an audience that needs access to proven tools available in an automated platform.
“We have sensed for a long time that the paradigms are shifting in the way in which clients want to engage with research partners.” John Kearon, Chief Juicer, explained, “On the one hand, clients want highly consultative and predictive advice, that draws on the very latest understanding behavioral science offers, for why people make decisions the way they do. That is our core business. But there is also a hunger to do things more quickly and cost efficiently. What better and more exciting way to serve that need, than ensuring our validated and award-winning System 1 tools are available to as wide an audience as possible, in a cost effective and automated way, via the highly innovative and disruptive ZappiStore.”
FaceTrace launched in ZappiStore 8th February and BrainJuicer Ad Testing Express has followed, launching 15th February in the platform.
Steve Phillips, CEO at ZappiStore commented, “We are thrilled to welcome BrainJuicer to ZappiStore making two of their breakthrough emotional measuring tools, FaceTrace® and Ad Testing Express available to a wider community of researchers. Emotional measurement is crucial for brands to achieve successful marketing, advertising and NPD. BrainJuicer’s award-winning methodology, combined with the power of automation, will make for truly impactful, lightning-fast tools, giving brand and agency clients access to business-transforming emotional insight – all in a matter of hours.”
I knew this was coming, and as the announcement became imminent it seemed like a great opportunity to chat with Alex Hunt, President of The Americas for BrainJuicer to dig in a bit deeper into their thinking about jumping on the automation train now and what the company plans next.
LFM: Hi Alex! So today both BrainJuicer and ZappiStore announced some pretty cool news. Can you describe the deal in your own words?
AH: The big news for this week is that BrainJuicer is making two of our core System 1 research approaches available to research buyers who use the ZappiStore platform. The first approach is a simple survey featuring our award-winning FaceTrace® tool [now used to survey over 5 million people worldwide!] for measuring how people feel about any given type of stimulus, the only question one ever really needs to pose to consumers. The second is our BrainJuicer Ad Testing Express method, which leverages FaceTrace® to assess emotional response to advertising ideas at any stage during their development. It also converts consumer feeling into a 1 through 5-star rating which is predictive of an ads in-market business effects. Using BrainJuicer Ad Testing, clients are able to use a validated system to quantitatively identify the famous 5-star creative ideas that will build Fame, Feeling and Fluency for their brands.
LFM: Automation has become one of the biggest buzz terms in our industry, and companies like ZappiStore are examples of why: they are using technology to help scale the IP of other companies (like BrainJuicer) while creating cost and speed efficiencies never before possible. That is a pretty big disruption to the standard research business model; what made BrainJuicer decided to jump on this train?
AH: We are increasingly hearing clients express the urgent need to engage differently with research partners. On the one hand clients are seeking high engagement, consultancy and advisory, where research partners participate in strategy and execution for growth. This is the heart and soul of our core Juicy research business. More and more clients also have little use for the data collection-only models or traditional market research that asks consumers to answer rational questions bearing no resemblance to how they actually make decisions, and yield little to nothing in terms of directional, predictive guidance.
On the other hand, brands need to be agile, cut costs and increase efficiency in a fast paced, ultra-competitive world. The knee jerk solve for this was DIY. But disruptors like ZappiStore are offering clients validated, world-class solutions and cost effective choices through an easy to use portal. As clients became hungry for lower cost solutions based on BrainJuicer System 1 methodologies, ZappiStore became an obvious path for us to provide them cost effectively to the largest number of prospects and clients.
LFM: Obviously you hope for this to be a significant revenue channel for the company, but what other benefits do you think this new model will provide to BrainJuicer and to your clients and prospects?
AH: Developing a new revenue stream is certainly part of our motivation to make express versions of our products available in ZappiStore. But equally, we like to practice what we preach. We counsel our clients that to successfully grow their brands they need to build Fame, Feeling and Fluency; ZappiStore felt like a great way to make our suite of System 1 research tools more available and more famous among a wider group of research buyers.
Another soft benefit is the speed with which we can actually bring a consumer voice to the dialog around any marketing or advertising industry discussion. An example of this in practice was just this past week when BrainJuicer and ZappiStore accepted the challenge of testing all 62 Super Bowl advertising spots overnight using BrainJuicer Emotion-into-Action™ Star rating system, via Ad Testing Express on the ZappiStore platform. We were able to rank and publish results from all 62 ads within 12 hours of the end of the game, enabling research to contribute to internal conversations at client organizations and the broader advertising industry dialogue while Super Bowl was still dominating the day after game press headlines. It was truly exciting to bring a valid consumer voice to the debate when the conversation was happening, something research has hopelessly struggled to do in the past. To hear more about the BrainJuicer and ZappiStore Super Bowl partnership click here.
LFM: John Kearon has talked a lot about the need for MR firms to shift to a consultancy model and certainly has made it plain that BrainJuicer is focused much more on that direction than the traditional market research play. Is the scaling of your research-centric tools and products through platforms like ZappiStore part of the strategy to free the organization up to focus on consulting?
AH: Since our inception, BrainJuicer has been on a mission to transform the research industry and drag it into the modern era. This is no easy task given that the vast majority of research spend still reflects and supports the traditional, thinking-based, classical marketing model and the tools and frameworks that reinforce it. This despite the behavioral sciences proving consumers don’t think anywhere near as much as the traditional model assumes and rendering it wholly inaccurate. It’s also fair to say we’ve heard a lot of positive feedback and enthusiasm from clients for the possibilities offered by a partnership between ZappiStore, the industry’s most disruptive platform innovation, and BrainJuicer, voted Most Innovative Agency by clients in the GRIT report.
To accomplish our strategic mission we knew we needed to make our suite of innovative System 1 tools starting with BrainJuicer Ad Testing Express, available through as many channels as possible starting with automated platforms such as ZappiStore. The side benefit of scaling our current tools like this is that it does leaves our team more time to focus on full service consultancy and disruptive innovations of the kind that have made BrainJuicer [arguably] famous.
The pace of innovation at BrainJuicer in our core full-service Juicy research consultancy practice has certainly increased over the last 12 months: we’ve launched our new Brand Story-Teller product and our Fame Feeling and Fluency inspired BrainJuicer Brand Tracking approaches. While we can’t release the full details just yet watch this space for what we believe will be a genuinely ground breaking and disruptive announcement for the consultancy end of research industry coming from the BrainJuicer Group later this summer!
LFM: what do you think this heralds for the industry as a whole?
AH: Risking a dramatic prediction, don’t feel we are alone in foreseeing some radical shifts across the industry. Client-side budgetary pressures, a world moving quicker than ever and increasing demand for research premised on an accurate and behaviorally inspired model for why consumers make the choices they do, are going to dictate and accelerate change. As I mentioned before, we see the extremes of market research industry becoming clearly bifurcated on high end consultancy on the one hand and radically different platforms for efficient access to valid, behavioral science inspired, consumer insight on the other.
This is going to be brutally challenging to several sectors of the research supplier community. Those traditional suppliers, who have been focused on once lucrative, but now too expensive and ineffective data collection services with minimal advisory – the big middle of the business , will become irrelevant. Costly trackers with no predictive features, largely because they focus on the wrong metrics, will simply go away.
But all traditional suppliers [who have clung to outdated understanding of how consumers really make decisions, not grounded in a behavioral model] will be ill-equipped to evolve, innovate and create new methodologies. These new methods and platforms are essential to help modern marketers achieve famous marketing and profitable brand growth. If we may be so bold, innovators like BrainJuicer and ZappiStore, are better placed, as practitioners who defy convention, dare to experiment and risk failure, to lead the industry into a new era.
LFM: I think you’re spot on, and it’s a Brave New World emerging for sure! Here’s a “research” question or you: how will you measure success of this new direction?
AH: As with all BrainJuicer initiatives, success of placing our tools on ZappiStore will be measured according to three criteria. First, do our clients like it? We certainly hope they will enjoy having a new, easy way to access our System 1 research approaches. Second, do our shareholders like it? Typically shareholders like happy clients! And third, is our team enthused by it? We have incredibly passionate and Juicy team at BrainJuicer committed to our strategic mission to transform the research industry. Our team is very enthused about the extent to which BrainJuicer’s partnership with ZappiStore will facilitate accomplishing our strategic mission.
LFM: Last question Alex; are you considering rolling any other products into ZappiStore or other automation platforms?
AH: Yes, Lenny. We love to be bold and try innovative things at BrainJuicer – as you know! – and if successful we build on them. So anticipating the successful launch of BrainJuicer Ad Testing Express on the ZappiStore can certainly foresee our Predictive Markets approach to screening ideas using the Wisdom of the Crowd becoming the next methodology we make accessible through new platforms. Let’s see what 2016 brings!
Take care and thanks for your time, Lenny.
So there you go, straight from the horse’s mouth.
BrainJuicer is one of the smartest companies in our space and they see the shift I outlined earlier happening. It’s certainly possible we’re drinking the same Kool-aid, but I am as certain about the trajectory of automation in MR as I was about the growth of mobile and Big Data several years ago, so I think my track record speaks for itself. However, I have been wrong before and will be again, so take it with a grain of salt if you must and we can compare notes in a few years to see how things have played out.
To add a bit more perspective, my friends at ZappiStore recently posted on LinkedIn Pulse their take on the implications of the BrainJuicer partnership. It’s a third data point to the case I have made that Research Automation has now come of age.
ZappiStore has come a long way since its launch in the spring of 2013. Opening shop with a handful of white label products, it took out its automation proposition to the MR industry. In those early days ZappiStore delighted some of the largest PCG companies with the offering, who helped them expand into new markets. With client endorsement of automation in the back pocket, we reached out to research agencies, evangelizing the benefits of automation: cost efficiency and speed.
The first agency to join the store was TNS who automated and launched TNS Conversion Model Express onto ZappiStore. Shortly after we were delighted to welcome Millward Brown and MMR as members to the store with their first listings.
Now we are thrilled and emotional (pun intended!) to be welcoming BrainJuicer as the latest Agency Member to the store. Working with a multiple winner “Most Innovative Agency” is exciting.
The current offering on the shelves at ZappiStore offers tools addressing Copy testing ( from Millward Brown, BrainJuicer, Zappi White label and soon Affectiva), Concept/idea screening (BrainJuicer and Zappi White label), Media Planning/Touch point ( PointLogic), Packtesting ( MMR), Brand equity ( TNS & Added Value).
We feel it is important to further build out and diversity our offering with tools from different big agencies to small boutique ones. The criterion remains ‘great research thinking’. ZappiStore’s goal is to work with the best thinkers in the research industry and help them bring that thinking to clients in a way that retains the quality that they value but also answers the cost and time questions. We are actively talking to a range of other agencies who are interested in building with us to get their great thinking and IP into an automated environment.
It should not surprise that clients are delighted to benefit from automation while continuing to leverage the quality research thinking they are accustomed to. And given the current business context and requirements, it is not a luxury but rather a prerequisite to address and answer the cost & time questions in some way or another. Stan S. from Unilever summarizes Unilever’s challenge to their MR suppliers as: “50% the cost 50% the time, 200% the impact”. Steve Phillip, CEO ZappiStore says: “I worry that in the drive for speed some clients are forgetting quality, and DIY surveys are being used more often even within smart corporates. We know the old saying of garbage in and garbage out but the key reason DIY is being used is speed. We see ourselves as offering the benefits of DIY but with the expertise of top researchers included, automatically.”
Together with our member agencies we can offer clients the best of both worlds enabling them to get the triumvirate of great quality, speed and cost. We provide the platform and the member agencies provide the thinking. This is also changing the behavior of our clients so that when previously they would have conducted one research project during the development of a new ad or product, now they can use a much more iterative test and learn approach. They can have an idea in the morning, test it using one of the industry’s best testing protocols over lunch and make an informed decision about where to go next in the afternoon. Or tweak it and test it again!
It’s an exciting new world and we hope 2016 becomes the year where Gonzalo Fuentes’s (Millward Brown) prediction of a tech revolution and consultancy evolution for our industry comes to be. From our end we will do our part and can’t wait to announce other major research partnerships soon.
Congratulations to BrainJuicer, ZappiStore, their clients and the industry as a whole. We’re entering a whole new world of leveraging the very best of technology and human brilliance to create new solutions to deliver impact. It’s going to be a fun ride!