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AMA Research & Strategy Summit Day 1: Ask, Explore, Understand



Editor’s Note: Kaylor Hildenbrand of PARK Research Consultants joins the GreenBook Blogger team with her coverage of day 1 of the AMA Research & Strategy Summit. Kaylor is primarily a qualitative researcher, so her unique skills of observing, understanding, and communicating are particularly well suited for blogging. I’ll post my own piece later this week; for now enjoy the great contribution of Kaylor!

By Kaylor Hildenbrand

Those three words – it is how I conduct my work as a qualitative researcher, and it is how I try to live my life – always curious.

I have the good fortune of being able to attend the AMA Research & Strategy Summit this week.  I’ll admit it – I’m an AMA conference rookie so the opportunity to attend this year’s event was especially intriguing.  What will I learn?  Who will I meet?  Where is lunch??

My curious nature typically leads me into my various adventures with an open mind.  I try not to have specific expectations.  Rather, I wait anxiously to be surprised.

The conference officially began on Sunday, September 11 – a day when many if not all of us likely had the events of a decade ago on our minds.  While many lessons were to be learned from the events of that day ten years ago, one important lesson for me was to embrace opportunity when it comes.  And I’m discovering that much of the theme for this conference is centered around identifying your opportunities.

The first day of sessions began with the keynote address by Tony Palmer, Senior Vice President and CMO of Kimberly-Clark Corporation.  He reminded us that with a true understanding of consumer insights, companies have the opportunity, through marketing, to truly affect behavior.  He showed us commercials that generated laughter, thoughtfulness, and tears — the latter an Australian production showing a speeding motorist hitting a young boy, with the message, “Speed kills.”. Consumer insights work had shown that metaphors were not effective in encouraging safe behaviors thus this harsh look at reality was created.  In two years, traffic safety was greatly improved.

A session presented by Abby Mehta, Ph.D., Senior Director and Global Head of Marketing & Consumer Research for Monster Insights, acknowledged the struggle some researchers face, particularly client side, in justifying their true value.  She shared that marketing research departments often default to a support role when they should actually be standing up and standing out as a point of illumination.  She suggests marketing researchers take the opportunity to show value and relevance by answering management’s key questions — what did you find, and what do I do.  She advises researchers to be a consultative partner by understanding and focusing on the business impact, offering actionable insights, and sharing the findings across business units.  She further tells researchers to confidently demonstrate leadership and expertise, and communicate succinctly and effectively.

Jen Drolet, Vice President of iModerate, later gave researchers in attendance a look at things from the client’s perspective when she presented on the topic of “What Clients Actually Want From Research Suppliers”.  So what do they want?  Jen tells us that our greatest opportunity lies in partnering with them, like “a good dance partner” — in sync, sometimes willing to lead, and sometimes willing to defer.

Trust, she reminds us, is the backbone of any strong partnership and we have the opportunity to develop and nurture that trust by delivering great service consistently.  Be smart, be flexible, be available.  Communicate effectively and serve your clients in a consultative manner (a recurring theme).  As for deliverables, the advice is to offer turnkey reports, noting that length and format is secondary to content.  Just be careful to only include points that are relevant or that help to tell the story.

With so much attention on new technologies and social media, Jen confirms that innovation matters.  Key areas of interest are in social media monitoring and online communities.  The caveat, however, is that new technologies or methods must be relevant and effective.  Don’t simply go for the latest and greatest without knowing the pros and cons.  I concur, noting that sometimes “old school” is best.

Finally, Jen gives us a dose of common sense, calling on us to treat our clients as we would treat a friend, or as we would want to be treated ourselves.  Keep that in mind, and you should have abundant opportunities coming your way.

Look for additional insights to be shared tomorrow as I continue to ask, explore, and understand this exchange of information.

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