My adventures at Insight Valley Asia 2013

Sawatdee ka! Or ‘Hello’ in Thai. That was the first thing I heard last week when arriving in Bangkok. I visited the Land of Smiles to attend Merlien’s Insight Valley Asia conference to speak about the power of communities and be one of the chairpeople. Organizations such as Heineken, Samsung, Ericsson, Heinz, IFF and GlaxoSmithKline shared inspiring case studies, giving me a good impression of market research in Asia today. After this inspiring trip I have summarized my takeaways from this conference in 3 M’s: Mad men, Mobile and Move fast.

1/ Mad men

The era of ‘Mad men’ still applies for most of the South-East Asian countries. If you have ever seen this incredibly popular TV series, you’ll know I’m referring to the traditional marketing model of the 50s. While traditional channels like TV are still dominant for most brands, many organisations appear to be more and more interested in learning about new opportunities such as social media. This is a great development, because consumers are ready for it! Our Social Media Around the World study in Asia teaches us that 6 out of 10 social media users are connected with brands; 90% of them also want to help brands in co-creation activities. So, consumers do not only want to connect with brands, they also want to collaborate with them, which will change the Mad men era.

2/ Mobile

The shift to a two-way dialogue brings me to a second ‘M’, for Mobile. Asian countries have leapfrogged the PC phase and immediately jumped on to the mobile web. The rapid adoption of mobile and smartphones offer great opportunities to engage with consumers in a meaningful way. Mobile apps were a hot topic in many presentations; Jasmeet Sethi from Ericsson (India) also shared his vision about mobile apps. He argued that these apps give consumers ‘super powers’, enabling them to foresee things (e.g. traffic jams), that they have a great influence (on brands’ decisions) and that they signal opportunities (good shopper deals), just like Superman! One great example of having superpowers is to foresee the right location, like the “Sit or Squat” app from Charmin (the toilet paper brand). This app offers a new service to locate clean public conveniences neighbourhood wherever you are. How convenient!

3/ Move fast

The rapid developments in Asia are a symbol for the last ‘M’, for Move Fast. These developments require a flexible and agile way of working. Various presentations at the conference referred to the RIT (or: Rapid Iterative Testing) approach, such as Jemma Ahmed and Claire Rooney from the BBC. They shared a great case study on developing a new mobile-only news service in Indonesia, using the RIT way of working. This perfectly fits the Asian way of innovating, often referred to as ‘innovation through commercialisation’. Asian companies do not spend months or even years on testing and fine-tuning new products in labs, based on big piles of research. A product which is good enough is immediately thrown onto the market and, based on the feedback from the first customers the product is fine-tuned in a process of iterative loops.

The future is now

While research community method is mainstream in the West, I learned that the East is not quite there yet. However, the interest in this flexible way of working is increasing rapidly. The fast adoption rates of smartphones, the increase of Wi-Fi and the improved access to local Internet cafés enable consumers to participate in online mobile communities. My presentation ‘Collaborating with Consumers in Asia – Opportunities and Challenges of MROCs in the Asian Market’ shows different approaches as for running research communities in Asian countries such as South Korea, Malaysia or China.

Want to know more about research communities in Asia? Sign up for our Smartees Webinar Creating Universal Brands on June 27th (free!) or read my interview on

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