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Talking Researchers Off the Ledge

Rich Raquet, President, TRC posts his thoughts on the #IIeX Insight Innovation Conference held in Philadelphia this week.

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By Rich Raquet

Really enjoyed the IIeX Greenbook conference. I generally concurred with the opinions expressed and many of the presentations gave me ideas on how we might better serve our clients. Thought I might share some of my reflections here.

In general terms this was a conference that likely scared more than one researcher to jump. For example, Charles Vila the head of Campbell Soup’s Consumer and Customer Insights for North America said that within five years he doesn’t expect to use any survey data. Personally, I tend to disagree with such sweeping statements (hopefully this won’t prevent me from working with Campbell’s moving forward), but perhaps they are necessary to shake our often complacent industry into thinking differently.

In that regard, Campbell’s is a good example. Their flagship product is soup, a product that has been around forever and sold by them for 100 years. This doesn’t stop them from innovating not just with new products, but in the way they engage the customer. Their staff is immersed in the latest gadgets that consumers are using so they can better understand how they can be employed in Campbell’s marketing efforts.

So, I’d encourage researchers to do the same. Ultimately it doesn’t matter if surveys go away or simply cease to be the primary form of data collection. If we allow ourselves to be defined by how we acquire data then we deserve to go the way of the proverbial buggy whip manufactures did at the turn of the last century.

The great news is that many of the new technologies being shown off are not really competing with us. Most seek to provide new tools for traditional research companies to use. Some might replace surveys and others augment them. Some are really just surveys in another form (such as Google’s) and there are new ways to design and implement surveys to better get at the truth (my partner Rajan Sambandam’s presentation on “Behavioral Conjoint” being one self serving example). The possibility of improving our ability to guide product development, pricing research and marketing is one we should embrace.

At one of the last presentations, Simon Chadwick talked about what investors are looking for and he noted that research firms that refuse to get on the band wagon are dead, but investors who don’t understand what we are all about are going to miss the boat too. In other words, we need to define ourselves as providers of insight that allow our clients to make good business decisions AND we should utilize all the tools at our disposal to accomplish that. So come in off the ledge and get to work…

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