What it Looks Like in Research Heaven

When we introduced this 5-part blog series on 2018 Trends in Research, we talked with you, our current and potential clients, about a lot of things that have you furrowing your collective brow. But one of the best parts of those many hours of conversation was when we asked you to describe what it looked like when a research project has gone perfectly. In short, when it looked like research heaven.

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Nothing we write could do justice to this subject like your own words, so here are some quotes from you in response to your very favorite interview question:

That’s easy. The research shows the partner has understood my brand. Period.
~Director of Evaluation and Insights

It’s consultative in nature; it’s extended my thinking.
~Global Brand Owner

The project has buy-in internally from the research and they’re not taking apart the methodology, because the consulting experience is right there.
~Director of Category

No data errors, communication of the insights was clear, succinct and impactful; insights were actionable, with the right storytelling to get to a decision.
~Manager of Demand Generation

It’s not just a good method; it’s been the right method for my needs.
~VP of Marketing, North America

A great project makes the internal client happy. The research partner has come to me with experience and thinking, it’s on time and on budget, and most of all we have something actionable. That’s heaven.
~Research Manager

In short, these quotes serve as a perfect handbook for how to be a great research partner.

Next, our final blog in this trends series, where we will cover The Shape of Things to Come. For those who would rather not be patient, request a copy of the full trends report.

To be continued!

 

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How Research is Changing

In this, our next blog in the series on 2018 trends in research, we are moving onto the second major theme: change. As we interviewed you—our current and potential clients—you couldn’t help but focus during those hours of conversation on all the recent shifts in your world. And while they may not seem like news to anyone in the industry, hearing about the why behind them and your pressures sent our empathy into overdrive and made them quite real.

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Your thoughts centered around three changes you are dealing with on a near-constant basis. Here they are, what you had to say about them and what keeps you up at night.

  1. Speed!

Internal challenges of approval processes and getting consensus around research initiatives have not gone away. This triggers the need for faster delivery of insights to be responsive to business needs, especially when it comes to anything digital.

I do DIY if I can. It’s faster and cheaper. But it’s mostly for the speed. We need to move at the speed of the business, not the speed of research.
~ Client Insights Team Leader

Not all of you sit well with the DIY solution, however, especially when it comes to reaching your sample and getting the quality your brand decisions depend on. You feel torn.

What’s changing? Good news is that agile research agencies are responding to your needs through innovation with solutions that deliver quality with shorter reporting timelines.

  1. Overload is the New Normal

Increasing layers of complexity haven’t just upped your learning curve; they have added a whole new layer to getting it all done. Add to that your larger research portfolios, where business consolidations have left you with projects from strategy to tracking, with the need for campaign excellence in between.

What’s changing? Having research partner expertise to call on without the clock ticking for help connecting the dots back to business goals is a must. It’s no longer your dream; it’s a requirement for any partner.

  1. Communicating Research Internally

Once upon a time, you had the time and resources to craft your own versions of reports.

Well, that’s over.

The implications for you on non-narrative, insight-poor reports are huge. It means stress, late nights and trepidation at translating findings.

My challenge? Getting the research to be ‘sticky’ with internal clients…that it’s memorable and they know how to use it. And I just a 272-page deck from a vendor. Are you kidding me?!
Senior Brand Manger

What’s changing? Researchers must provide you with reports that are clear, compelling and instantly sharable. It is now the mark of excellence and distinction in the MR industry.

In summary, these three changes are major shifts in how you work, and by association, how you live. Researchers must address these new realities of speed, overload and socializing research internally in their deliverables if they are to call themselves a true consulting partner.

Next up, our third theme: What it looks like in Research Heaven! If you just can’t wait, request a copy of the full trends report.

Stay tuned!

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What You Want and What You Get: The Ask

As we wrote in our last blog introducing this series, we are publishing trends from our research this summer interviewing those who work with and directly buy research. It is an important part of how we, as a consultancy, can better learn about those we value most, you—our clients.

The first of the four areas we will explore is: Your ask of a research partner.

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After 32 hours of interviews, we uncovered five trends on this topic:

1. The research you commission across practice areas is still not free from the dreaded data dump.

“The most important challenge is to translate the MR into business insights! Most cannot do this…they can give me a 160 page data deck but cannot put that data into context. They can turn a spreadsheet into a power point, but not data into insights.”
– 
Global Brand Director

You utilize a variety of accepted methodologies and sources in your roles, with one ultimate goal: business-relevant insights.

The take away: Your best research partners have real intake conversations with you, identifying what the research needs to solve for in design and reporting.

2. There is a big difference between a research vendor and a research partner. A partner is not always looking for the sale. They are innovative, not just pitching products. They even (gasp!) do on-site visits because they have skin in the game. Your partners are not order-takers, they are high-functioning strategic thinkers. In short, vendors come and go, partners are irreplaceable.

“I call a vendor with a project; I call a partner with a problem.” –Director of Customer Insights

The take away: Your ideal research company has a deep bench of consultants whose role is thought partner and solution provider—not a salesperson.

3. A clarion call for true innovation. You are asking your research partners to riddle you this: Is this a new level of insight or just a shiny technological magic trick?

“Researchers should have some self-awareness. Are you really the only ones offering something? You may have innovative products, but do you have innovative solutions?
-Manager of Market Research

Your businesses have been in a perpetual state of innovation, pressured by market imperatives. You are holding your research partners to providing innovation that positively impacts what you need for your business.

The take away: Your research partner must talk innovative solutions, not just new products, and be able to articulate the value they actually bring.

4. It may seem like a no-brainer, except you made it clear you aren’t always getting it, and that’s excellence in project management. It’s still shocking to you when the basics are not buttoned up. With all you have to do, the last thing you want on your plate is to micro-manage the outside research team.

“What makes a great project? Consultative experience gives me the ammo I need internally, a partner. But, you’ve got to get the blocking and tackling right. If you can’t, you’re one. I’m not trouble shooting your issues.” –GM of Brand Strategy and Insights

 The take away: Projects must run smoothly for you, to avoid work stress and the creation of distrust in the partner relationship.

5. Lastly, but likely the most powerful, you want great reporting.

“Speak human, in snackable pieces; be a storyteller!” –Brand Manager

You want industry-level not just project-level expertise, coupled with strong analytics that have a reason to be there—because they bring deep thinking and real value.

The take away: A true partner provides reports with clear and concise recommendations you can share out with confidence and without the reworking.

In summary, there’s a gap between the promise and the real, a gap that any smart research partner must close to create that loyalty that makes you say, you are irreplaceable!

Stay tuned for our next blog where we share what you told us about how research is changing. In the meantime, if you can’t wait,  request a copy of the report.

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What We Did This Summer

While we definitely had our share of road trips, BBQ’s and ice cream, we also did some work. Some serious work. We were very focused on a project that was close to our hearts: talking to clients about their experience working with research providers and how it can be better. This research is an important part of how we, as a consultancy, can better learn about those who we value most, our clients. We began this journey with one goal in mind, to learn more about how we can be even better partners to you.

rawpixel-666920-unsplashWe conducted more than 32 hours of in-depth interviews with a range of business professionals who considered the use of research an important part of their work. All were communications research decision makers. Some knew us and had worked with us for years. Some were new clients. Some had yet to work with us, and others didn’t even know exactly who was doing the interview.

We drank a lot of coffee.

So, what did we hear?

This blog will begin a series that shares out findings from our Trends Report (click here to request the full report), focusing on four main themes that emerged:

  1. Your real ask of research partners and what you often get.
  2. How research is changing.
  3. What it looks like in research heaven.
  4. And, the shape of things to come…AKA the future of research.

First, we need to walk through your world, so, let’s begin with a little bit about you.

Your job titles cover a host of functions not on your business cards—and your responsibilities keep growing—making you time-compressed like never before in your careers. You care deeply about your brands, but even the mention of work/life balance is stressing you out.

On average, 30% of your time is devoted to research, with communications research included in that mix. You don’t see research as just another box that needs to be checked. It’s a critical tool that is being utilized by you to pave the way into the future.

Though often not the lion share of your workload, branded communications research is near the top of your list for importance. Why? It’s where the brand connects to the customer—it has to be right! This research is a small part of your world with big consequences.

“I think quality creative is more important now than ever if you want anyone to see it.”
Director of Insights

With research carrying such importance to you and your companies, finding the right partners is crucial. All of you, without exception, preferred to discover new research partners through recommendations from current or former colleagues. You want trusted referrals, word of mouth from a known source is your favorite way to find a research partner. After that, conferences, industry news and internal vendor days help you to meet new companies, but it’s a distant second to getting a reference you trust.

In this time-starved environment, conference attendance is dropping, while webinars and podcasts you can do from your desk are ratcheting up. This lack of time is also driving some of what we will address in the next blog:

What you want from your research partners and the gap, sometimes devastating to your productivity, between that and what you get.

Stay tuned!

Amy Shea is a Brand Experience Director at Ameritest

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Advertising Trends from the 2018 “Millennial Superbowl”

In case you missed, forgot, or haven’t seen MTV since Jersey Shore first aired over 10 years ago (am I aging myself?), the VMAs were August 20th. And while you might be wondering, “What does Jennifer Lopez have to do with anything?” Sadly, not much, because what caught our attention doesn’t have to do with any of the performances, but rather the ads that aired between them.

If you watched the VMAs, it was easy to see who the big spenders were. Taco Bell, Cover Girl, Verizon, and Pepsi, among others, all fought for a chance to appeal to the VMA’s target audience, 12-34 year-olds. Nielsen reported that just over 9.8 million viewers tuned in for the VMAs this year and brands tried to make the most of their time with this group. To prepare for the “Millennial Super Bowl” (as MTV referred to it) brands came out in full swing, trying many things to appeal to viewers. Here are a few advertising trends we noticed throughout the night:

Long-form Advertising
Through the years, we’ve seen more and more brands produce longer content as a way to engage viewers. Long-form advertising can be a highly engaging and powerful tool for brands, and while this isn’t a relatively new idea, it’s great to see brands utilizing this method. During the VMAs, Olay aired a 2-minute musical inspired ad to promote their Daily Facial cloths. Love it or hate it, viewers went to twitter to voice their opinions of it. Time will tell how or if it will impact sales for Olay, but it certainly got people talking which is often considered a win in this day and age.

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Targeted Messaging
One of the most prominent trends during the VMAs was highly targeted advertising. Contextually, these ads were different from things you would encounter on other networks and on other nights of the year. Ads tried to be interactive and in the moment. Taco Bell tailored ads to incorporate the night’s big winners and Amazon Alexa allowed viewers to vote during the show simply by saying “Alexa, vote for the VMAs.” The VMAs were comprised of ads and experiences geared toward 12-34 year-olds, and while broad mass market advertising has a time and a place, it definitely wasn’t in attendance at the VMAs.

Social
Messaging wasn’t only for TV that night. Brands prepared content and experiences for viewers that ranged from brand sponsored pre-show livestreams, Twitter campaigns, and full force Snapchat plans of attack. Twitter reported that this year’s VMAs were the most-tweeted non-sports program with 2.2 million people sending 21.4 million tweets in the U.S. alone.

If there’s anything to take away from this year’s VMAs, it’s to develop creative that stays true to your brand, but have fun along the way.

Abby Asani is a Senior Research Analyst at Ameritest and may or may not be a former Jersey Shore Fanatic. 

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Couldn’t Attend the IIeX Conference? We Did. Here’s What You Should Know.

Last month was a busy month of conferences. Our team attended Greenbook’s IIeX (Insights and Innovation Exchange) in Atlanta. The event beat its personal record for attendance with almost 1,200 research representatives filling the halls.

With more than 225 speakers and 150 sessions, four of us weren’t able to dominate the five tracks of learning. But, we did put our love of caffeine and our quant skills to good use so that we could efficiently bring back the learning to our team and our clients who didn’t have the time to dedicate to the actual event.

We started by doing a quick quantitative assessment of the subject matter. We felt there were six themes that dominated: A.I Machine Learning, Behavior Science/Emotion, Case Studies/Sales, etc., Sampling, Agility and Blockchain. While these conversations aren’t wildly new, we felt they were sophisticated. The industry feels like it’s collectively smarter and we have moved from information gathering to application.

Here is the essence of what we heard:

Picture1A.I. & machine learning aren’t just for your smartphone. The conversation has moved from “what is it, and will it make me obsolete” to “here is what my team has done to implement some A.I., what about you?” One of the keynote speakers, Marie Wolfe, from Unilever did a wonderful job making it clear how her insights team has adopted the practice by thinking about it as Augmented Efficiency and found tremendous efficiencies because of it. They have created a platform called Answer Rocket where they can ask questions as if they’re talking to Siri, but specifically about Unilever and their own proprietary research. The platform makes it possible for insights team members to get answers in seconds that used to take days or sometimes even weeks.

Picture1Agile should be your middle name. Insight professionals aren’t ever going to stop being asked to do things fast, fast and faster. Almost every presentation included an element of “how can you stop asking for 100% of what you used to put in your filing cabinet and get the 80% that you actually need in order to immediately act?” The DIY research industry is continuing to evolve and become a more trusted tool when the need for speed is the key need for a team’s research.

Picture1Behavior sciences are becoming more important. When we started adopting Kahneman’s System 1 and System 2 language, we started a really important trend of understanding the difference between what human beings say they do and what they actually do. We also started to understand there are things you just shouldn’t ask someone to tell you, because, well, they actually can’t. This year, many organizations talked about how they have meaningfully changed up their methodology based on a more predictably irrational human being. The ability to get at better insights because of this growing body of knowledge is really piquing.

Picture1Storytellers needed in insights-driven organization. Although not one of the dominant headlines of the event, there was a common thread throughout about the industry’s need for clear, concise, articulate storytellers. The need to move our internal audiences is equally as important at the internal level as it is to move the people who pay for our products. In fact, if we don’t do our jobs first, the second doesn’t ever happen. The consensus is that teams haven’t begun to tap out on developing the skill of turning data into stories.

Picture1Um, who’s taking my survey? Sample providers led many conversations about the need to focus on policing the quality of online sampling. It will be news to many that fraudulent online survey responses are now a HUGE business, bringing in about $7B of revenue. How and why, you ask? How: Bots. Why: Personal income – especially for tech-savvy citizens of lower-income countries. Look for the ESOMAR and sample-driven organizations to begin preparing better and more transparent practices in this area of research.

Picture1They’re heeeeeeeeeerrrrrrrre. Blockchain isn’t just for other people. It’s made its way into the MR industry enough so that there were presenters focused on getting noticed for being early to the game in order to shape the conversation about how we should start to become comfortable with it as a thing. What is it and why should researchers care about it? Rather than try to summarize it, we’re stealing the words from one of the industry’s leaders in blockchain, Nina Nichols who wrote a great piece on the subject in Quirk’s publication last November:
“In the future, for example, marketing researchers could see screeners becoming obsolete. We will no longer have to take a respondent’s word that he or she qualifies for a survey because their blockchain-authenticated data will speak for them. And each time that consumer provides data, that data will be stored on the blockchain, further enriching their profile for research. Think of a respondent who three years ago indicated via a survey that they used a particular brand of insulin. Now imagine being able to rapidly re-target that same person for a follow-up survey without having to re-screen.”

If you would like to peruse the library of presentations, the IIeX team has made them available here: https://iiex-na.insightinnovation.org/page/1302912/past-presentations

Becarren Schultz is Director of Client Development and a caffeine and conference aficionado 

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“Got Milk?” Got Updated

imagesThe California Milk Processor Board recently rolled out a new ad in which three children commiserate about the challenges of adolescence over cold glasses of milk. The spot marks a strategic shift away from the instantly-recognizable and universally lauded “Got Milk?” ads, though the iconic phrase still shows up as the tagline.

A relevant and accessible narrative? Check. Generating meaning and emotion? You bet. Creating a single-minded branding moment? Most definitely. By building a believable and relatable story (what kid doesn’t think their parent’s job is boring?), touching a nostalgic nerve for the simpler problems of middle-school and leveraging the valuable brand asset of “Got Milk?,” the ad hits the trifecta for successful advertising.

Building on the strength of the creative, the ad also subtly shifts the brand’s messaging to adopt a more positive and inclusive tone. The original “Got Milk?” spots were inherently centered on a lack or a fear of missing out. Nobody wanted their answer to the titular question to be “no.” The new campaign instead places the focus on the communal and social elements of the product. It marks a natural, logical step in the overarching brand narrative. Rather than simply inducing people to purchase milk, by means FOMO or other, this ad highlights the comfort of knocking back a cold glass of milk. There is no need to directly answer that classic question anymore. Of course you have milk. Now, let’s talk.

Taylor Smith is a Research Analyst at Ameritest and has been drinking milk since 1993.

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