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That Darn Paradigm Continues To Shift

There has been much discussion here and elsewhere about how the MR space has changed, even if we have not fully accepted it yet. The full impact of disruptive technologies such as social media/networks and mobile convergence, and their accompanying …

There has been much discussion here and elsewhere about how the MR space has changed, even if we have not fully accepted it yet. The full impact of disruptive technologies such as social media/networks and mobile convergence, and their accompanying cultural shifts, have yet to be fully revealed. Although many of us in MR may not be feeling the sea change yet, we need look no further than what is happening “next door” in the world of marketing to see the writing on  the wall. Here are a just a few recent examples of news items that make the point of just how much the game is changing:

First, MediaPost has the results of a recent study on the pervasive influence of online channels on consumer decision making. The article has a ton of good information, but here is a summary:

According to the findings of the 2010 Digital Influence Index, by Fleishman-Hillard International Communications with Harris Interactive, when it comes to driving consumer decisions about a range of products and services, the Internet is by far the most influential media channel, but marketers have yet to capitalize on that influence.

Of the seven nations the study addressed, four reported the Internet to be the most important source of information. China ranked the web highest in importance, followed by Germany, Japan, and the U.K., placing it above advice from friends, family or coworkers, television, radio, newspapers, magazines, postal mail and e?mail. And though respondents spend a significant amount of time on the web, they still reported peer advice as an important information source. The Internet and peer advice tied in importance among Americans.

Next, the always reliable WARC reports on the efforts of marketers to pioneer the “wild west” of social media. This one is a gold mine of information as well and is very clear about the massive realignment of resources and budgets occurring to harness the power of new consumer engagement channels for both marketing and insight.

Universal McCann, which is owned by Interpublic Group, has recently set up a new “boutique” agency focusing solely on this area, called Rally@UM.

This unit will provide more traditional services in fields such as customer relationship management and strategy, alongside targeted tasks like “listening” and “community activation”.

Its primary aim, UM stated, is to overcome the “confusion” and fragmentation that characterises the Web 2.0 arena at present.

“I do think this is the year for consolidation in social media,” said Heidi Browning, global digital officer at UM, and who will lead Rally’s operations.

VivaKi, the digital arm of Publicis Groupe, intends to launch a similar offering by the end of this year, drawing together its technology and knowledge in a consultancy format.

Rishad Tobaccowala, chief strategy officer at VivaKi, added that it would be willing to make acquisitions to extend its existing capacity.

The motivation behind this move is obvious, as Facebook approaches 500 million users, while Twitter has also rapidly accumulated an estimated 120 million members.

“Social media is now part of all our clients’ plans; we can’t not be in this space,” Matt Seiler, chief executive of Universal McCann, said.

And one final piece of evidence, this time from the Kuno Creative blog. The writer takes us a few years into the future and discusses how social media and mobile convergence will continue to become interwoven into the lives of us all, and makes some bold predictions on what the enabling technology to be  a part of it will look like. For me, what is most compelling is the first paragraph:

We the people who promote and provide inbound marketing must from time to time consider the foundations of our thinking and move on. The marketplace already has. Before you can blink an eye, we will have moved on from anchored workplaces and desktop computing. We will not require clumsy laptops and clunky keyboards. We will think and communicate freely, and our devices will become a simple add-on to our biological being. Social media won’t be a “thing” anymore. It will be a way of life, just like talking is now. It won’t be years from now. This trend is here now, and marketers had better start getting on board.

Indeed.

Do we need a louder call to action folks? That darn paradigm continues to shift and we can either learn to ride it or fall off and be left behind.

The landscape of history is littered with the debris of companies that failed to innovate and adapt. I would even go so far as to bet that the number one reason established businesses fail ultimately can be boiled down to the inability to stay ahead of the curve of techno-cultural change. That failure can come from many directions: a lack of leadership, a lack of vision, the wrong talent in place, etc…  in effect, it is part of the cycle of “natural selection” within the business eco-system. However, since the clarion bells are ringing, smart leaders will embrace the opportunity to rise to the occasion and embrace the changes unfolding around us; that action will help to ensure their companies are not left behind on the march into the future.

In one of my early posts I discussed the need for creating a culture of innovation within the MR space and offered a few suggestions on how companies could position themselves to adapt to the new reality we find ourselves in. Innovation has been a hot topic for many of the posts we’ve made, and you can catch up on that topic here. Hopefully our collective musings will help spur some creative thinking on the part of our colleagues in the industry on how to capitalize on the vision of the future that is revealing itself and help  move our industry forward.

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3 Responses to “That Darn Paradigm Continues To Shift”

  1. Priya says:

    July 22nd, 2010 at 12:23 am

    Lenny,
    These are interesting observations. While there are agencies being estabilished primarily to execute- it would be very important to build a solid process for research in social media/ web 2.0. Most of them go the listening approach and rely on tools heavily to be able to do that. My take is tools are important, but much like traditional MR there is a combination of process and insight generation which will make the research useful. Very few companies are focusing on those aspects. The need of the hour is application of reasearch priniciples to understand brands/ industries in social media. Thank you

  2. Leonard Murphy says:

    July 22nd, 2010 at 3:18 pm

    Lot’s of great comments have been made on various LinkedIn Groups in response to this post. Here are a few:

    On NewMR – Co-creating the future of Market Research, Thomas Brailsford writes: “Leonard, I couldn’t agree more with your comments. I believe the paradigm HAS shifted! The shift will affect what we do and how we think. If Physics has been the predominate world view for the last 300 years (the machine metaphor – “levers” to “drive” this or that, understand a system by taking it apart and studying the pieces, always looking for the smallest building blocks of matter, etc.), Biology will be the new world view (ecologies, relationships, adaptation). The military coined the term V.U.C.A. to describe the current world (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous). That is the world that old MR mindsets is trying to adapt to. Sampling and inference will have to give way to relationships and influence. Linear will have to become organic, and imposed structure and riguour replaced by joint learning and participation. These are just nascent thoughts, but in 1988 Jerry Zaltman and Vincent Barabba wrote a book called Hearing the Voice of the Market. In this book they argued that the marketplace, the researcher, and the business decision maker formed a “system.” Traditional MR techniques approach the business decision maker as a client, and not part of the system. As we’ve looked at what is happening, it strikes us that it’s all about Listening (which we do with traditional techniques) but that new technology creates a whole new world of listening opportuntities, learnings about the brain help us understand what to listen for, and that many of our traditional assumptions about listening are not founded in a systems approach.

    Just some off the top of my head thoughts in response to your post.”

    Here is my response:

    “I think the biggest challenge we have as an industry is that we have contributed to the commoditization of our core value prop, and culturally we seem to be stuck in that mindset. The shift towards listening, observing, and strategic insight generation actually creates an opportunity to break out of that cycle, but I fear many folks will be unable to make the transition successfully. That is why most of the innovation and successful implementation of these new approaches is coming from outside of the MR space; they don’t have the perceptual baggage and history!

    It seems to me our task now is to figure out how we can reposition ourselves to compete with these new entrants by creating a “hybrid” approach that takes the best elements of the old and new and wrap that around insight delivery.”

  3. Leonard Murphy says:

    July 22nd, 2010 at 3:20 pm

    Also, if anyone has not read it yet, Alastair Gordon has a great post on his blog that approaches this issue from a slightly different angle:

    Butterflies Don’t Innovate: The Real Innovation Challenge for Market Research.

    http://gordonandmccallum.wordpress.com/2010/07/21/butterflies-don%E2%80%99t-innovate-the-real-innovation-challenge-for-market-research/

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