Bring back the edge in a world in turmoil

As published in Research World Magazine, the February 2018 issue. The world is in turmoil: politically, economically, socially, technically. While change and turmoil are universal, the difference now is that the gaps between the current and the new are extreme and opposite. This spread has not spared the marketing insights industry either.
We have moved from a business reality characterized by linearity, craftmanship and scarcity to one defined by acceleration (e.g. of decision making), automation (e.g. of services) and abundance (e.g. of data).
Bring back the edge in a world of turmoil
This leads to a commoditization of marketing insights as we know it and has put the power with data technologists, data scientists and data engineers. Marketers and insights professionals have failed to keep pace. Market research has lost its edge and true insights may no longer be perceived as bringing a competitive edge for brands and executives.
While proponents of current evolutions will say this leads to faster and cheaper insights, critics will claim it puts quality, creativity and even innovation at risk. True, plain commoditization may lead to a loss of the skill of interpreting human behavior, big data may lead to a false sense of security that executives know everything and well. But the worst that can happen, however, is that critics hopelessly defend themselves and lose track of the real ball: human understanding and collaboration.
So how do we deal with and lead in turmoil, gauge underlying emotions and motivations of (dis)affected target groups and translate these into the business of research? How can we bring back the edge in market research and insights?
The answer may be easier to give than to put in practice, but let’s give it a try. Overall it boils down to showing leadership and communication. Market research and insights can create an EDGE by means of adopting a strategy of Envisioning, Digesting, Gluing and Earning.
ENVISION a long-term perspective of what your insights should add up to, in line with your brand’s bigger purpose. The plan for this success can be done in several ways but building structural human connections with interesting and interested people is key. Program thinking is of utmost importance while ad hoc approaches seem more something of the past.
DIGEST by means of streaming insights in agile ways, beyond speed only. Working in short, iterative cycles producing tiny insights in a do-learn mentality will fuel fast-decision making, still leaving time for foundational studies whenever needed. To realize this as a daily business practice it is important insights professionals communicate their work effectively and become visible often, if not unceasingly.
GLUING different methods, data sources and teams are important for triangulation and a comprehensive understanding, but also allows sticking to core principles of data provenance and method quality.
EARN the attention of all stakeholders through engagement. Researchers need to get into the frontline and ban long and boring surveys. We need to encourage executives to adopt snappy surveys which are not only appealing independent of the devices they are completed on but also generate better and more contextual data.
In short, in a world of turmoil brands (be it social, political or commercial) should create a strategic edge by putting insights and collaboration with their target groups at the heart of their business in versatile and agile ways.

Eager for more insights on how to bring back the edge marketing (research) deserves? Get your download of the full Have we lost our EDGE? bookzine.

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