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TMRTE: Showcasing The New PGA of Market Research

Last week, TMRTE was held in Las Vegas and it was a truly great event. The theme was on how data convergence is driving intelligence, insights, and impact and the agenda was chock full of examples of the changing players, methods, and scope of market research.


Editor’s Note: Last week The Market Research Technology Event was held in Las Vegas and it was a truly great event. The theme was on how data convergence is driving intelligence, insights, and impact and the agenda was chock full of  examples of the changing players, methods, and scope of market research. There was little “theory” here; it was all about proving that the game has changed via real world case studies. I was fortunate to be on the advisory board for this conference, and it was thrilling to see the hard work we had all put in (especially the IIR team) come to fruition so well.

A special shout-out should be given to NewQual blogger Ben Smithee for Chairing so masterfully (Ben should consider being a professional MC!), Kelley Styring for providing such insightful commentary and blogging during the conference (rather than repost them here, you can find her take on the IIR blog), and to Marc Dresner for being the coolest roving reporter around.

The highlights for me were presentations by Greg Heist of Gongos Research on consumer authenticity & anonymity in mobile communities, Jane McGonigal on the application of game theory for data collection, Dan Ariely on Behavioral Economics, A.K. Pradeep on applying neuormarketing to social media theory, Christopher Frank and Paul Magnone on harnessing Big Data, Tiffany Schlain on the profound impact of the convergence of technology and personal relationships, John Kearon of BrainJuicer with an update on Digividuals, Stan Sthanunathan of Coca-Cola on his predictions for the future of the industry (I am proud to say they are similar to my own!), GreenBook blogger Tiffany McNeil of Del Monte on the importance of experimentation in market research, and Chris Jones of Zynga on leveraging real time data for business decision making. I also moderated a panel with Tom Anderson, Rapleaf, and Retargeter on data convergence and the drive to achieve a “Minority Report” type vision of the future of marketing which I think turned out well, but the real star of  the event was Google Consumer Surveys. To put it simply, they blew away the audience and succeeded in converting some and scaring the bejeezus out of the rest.

I am still digesting the event, and that combined with being gone for the past 7 days and getting ready to be out for another 3 while also trying to keep about 100 balls in the air (yes, I do have a day job!) means that it is going to be a few more days before I offer my own thoughts on the conference. In the meantime, Tony Cosentino has our collective back and offers up his unique take on the conference and what we learned from it means for the market research industry.

By Tony Cosentino

Call it PGA 2.0. Call it the convergence of distance, accuracy, and perseverance. Whatever you call it, the PGA tour has showcased a new generation of athletes. These are the kind of players that interact differently, process the game differently, and to the chagrin of the last generation of players, are not afraid of the big stage. Luke Donald with the perfect technical swing, the always positive Keegan Bradley, the unflappable Hunter Mahan, the sincere Bubba Watson (2012 Masters Champion), they are all so different, and all…so good.  There is something else, though. These players are highly adaptable. Just look at the comebacks of Kyle Stanley after he crumbled at 18 at Torrey Pines, or Rory Mcilroy (the world’s #1 player and 2012 US Open Champion) after the meltdown at the 2011 Masters.

Perhaps the most notable aspect of PGA 2.0 is that it showcases a large diversity of new talent and it is no longer dominated (nor intimidated) by a few names. Think of this statistic: rookies winning PGA events from 2000 to 2009 averaged two and a halve events per year; in 2010 and 2011, ten different rookies have won on tour, a rate double the previous years. So as older players such as Tiger Woods and Ernie Els battle to stay relevant, the new players think more and more about battling each other…

As the 2012 PGA Tour is a showcase for PGA 2.0, we might think of this year’s IIR The Market Research “Technology” Event (TMRTE) at the Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas the showcase for Market Research 2.0. Instead of the diversity of new golfers, however, our industry is seeing a wide breadth of new technologies, techniques and companies that are challenging the status quo. As they did last year (the inaugural year of TMRTE), IIR staff brought together the biggest and brightest names in market research innovation and did so in a most professional and entertaining manner.

The most notable aspect of TMRTE was the mood. The client heavy event (I think the statistic was about 70%) created an atmosphere of mutual respect and curiosity. No longer were the client side participants turning around their name badges so that they wouldn’t be bothered; instead, some of the best learnings were to be had away from the major presentations. Topics such as data mash-ups, integrated analytic platforms, mobile security and visualization, social, and the emergent cloud industry were of particular importance to me and apparently others as well.  As a result, this event felt much more like the original IIR Market Research Events that I attended when I first arrived in the industry.

The first big presentation of note was Chris Frank and Paul Magnone who’s book, Drinking from the Firehose has struck a chord in the industry. Mr. Frank opened with the fact that in his role as head of insights at American Express, he receives 3-5 calls a week from people trying to introduce a new technology. The problem, he suggests, is that he doesn’t need a new technology; he needs someone that understands his environment and can help him do a better job to ‘curate the customer conversation’. Without going into details, the presentation (as well as the book) offers a pragmatic approach for dealing with the complexities of Big Data in order to derive insights and compel action in the organization. This of course is coveted advice in the industry today.

Dan Ariely gave a good presentation, but unfortunately it did not give much more insight than his book, Predictably Irrational. The basic message is that our subconscious rules our decision making, and therefore the industry must continue to innovate especially with respect to experimental designs in research. The most practical idea he offered was that of asymmetrical dominance which suggests that we as researchers must pay very close attention to choice context within our designs. In one of the breakout sessions, Jeffrey Henning of Affinova (who offers his own summary of the conference here), after a dramatic entrance, did a very good job of clarifying this idea with particular applications of monadic and discrete choice designs.

Stan Sthanunathan of Coca-Cola gave his 2020 predictions for market research. With the risk of shortchanging the ideas, they are as follows: 1. Focus groups go virtual, 2. Q&A is passé, 3. Top MR Agencies will include Google, Facebook, and McKinsey, 4. Mobile will primary data collection method, 5. Biometrics will be mainstream, 6. TV ratings will give way to ‘connection’ ratings, 7. Privacy battles over personal information will become bigger and more frequent, 8. Death of random sampling, 9. Dominance of situational research, 10. Digital natives will be the new breed of researcher.

IBM gave a good presentation regarding text analytics. What surprised me is how early we still are in this field. (I guess I should have remembered the Intel presentation in Orlando last November). For IBM, as with Intel, there was obviously an extensive amount of human intervention necessary to interpret results. For example, taxonomies often need to be created by hand, thoughtful prioritization decisions need to be made, and weighting schemes through mechanisms such as Klout scores are still questionable.

Accenture discussed the customer journey and how they are approaching this space. As would be expected, the presentation was well thought out and focused on the story as much if not more than the methodology. The most compelling sub-plot was the move from a silo’d view of the customer to a more holistic view. That is, as companies such as TCOM and Financials start to combine information, the view of the customer becomes much more complete and actionable.

The very last presentation of the conference may have been the most impactful, and it also included the quote of the conference. When the two bright young Google employees came on stage, the packed room listened intently. (For a recap of Google’s strategy in the space, please see this blog piece by Leonard Murphy.) While there wasn’t a lot of new information given, there was some ability to read between the lines. In particular, the Q&A revealed that they are currently thinking about mobile surveys and approaches to multi-question surveys. They also said that they have thought through offering open-ends, but they didn’t see this fitting with their core value proposition.

The quote of the conference had to be when the gentleman from Google moved through the software demo and after a few minutes he brought up the prompt to write the actual question. He said with all seriousness (and I’m sure without intention), “this is where all of your expertise is put to the test. This is where you write the question.” I couldn’t help but chuckle and think that is how the technology industry perceives the market research industry- a bunch of question writers.  If this is indeed the case and we do not find the adaptable spirit of a Stanley or a Mcilroy, we may find ourselves as Tiger Woods and Ernie Els do today, somewhat irrelevant to the real competition.

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4 responses to “TMRTE: Showcasing The New PGA of Market Research

  1. Thanks, Tony! Great recap, and thank so much for the shout-out and kind words! I had a great time at the conference, and felt the content was TOP NOTCH!! Excellent presenters!!!

  2. 🙂 Susan, you’re too kind! I would probably be more like a Jimmy Fallon…as long as I could get the Roots as my house band!

    In all honesty though – My dream as a kid was to be Johnny Carson….strange, but true….Born to be a researcher and host 🙂

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