This week I was one of nearly 1000 attendees at the Annual Market Research Event that took place in San Diego, California. There are all sorts of reasons why people attend this conference â for me, it was the opportunity to hear the chatter from within the research business and to get a sense of whatâs important to this tribe of bright people and specifically what they are thinking and feeling about the future.
So let me start with a few personal observations:
âÂ Â Â Â Â The keynote speakers in this conference were in my opinion the best that I have encountered for a long while. They were all relevant, many of them were good storytellers and all of them had me riveted.
âÂ Â Â Â Â On the other hand, some of the break-out sessions, the âtracksâ that these conference organizers appear to love, were less inspiring and it really feels to me that they simply run out of talented speakers. And thatâs not surprising when there were 60 tracks in the two days that I attended.
âÂ Â Â Â Â And then there was the issue of wireless signal. How can a huge conference hotel such as the Hilton have such remarkably poor wireless signal throughout much of the hotel. As a iPhoner, I am quite used to this with AT&T but to see many of the Blackberry brethren suffering in the same way was an odd thing to behold.
But I digress. Because the real huge surprise for me at this conference was the thrust of much of the content. I imagined it would include the mandatory smattering of social media evangelistsâŚand it did. I was expecting debate about the value of analytics and data decodingâŚand I was not disappointed. But what really caught me off balance was the extra-ordinary focus on that old thorny subject called âEMOTIONSâ.
Speaker after speaker and discussion after discussion focused on the importance of feelings and not just thinkings. And everybody, even the quant jocks that I talked to, seemed happy about this. So why, in the middle of the toughest business climate that many of us can remember, are we obsessing about emotions and feelings? You would have thought that these were precisely the market conditions when validation and empirical analysis would dominate. Was this the Market Research industry having a senior moment? Whatever the reason, it caught me off-balance.
So as I write this note 48 hours after the end of the conference, things are becoming clearer as to why this feelings phenomenon might have emerged and I sense there are several elements at play here:
âÂ Â Â Â Â First, the world has become increasingly data-inundated and almost all great researchers now accept and embrace the fact that data alone no longer represents the clear competitive advantage that it once did. This is a huge shift in perspective and opinion.
âÂ Â Â Â Â Second, there is a fast-growing recognition that ground-breaking insights rarely originate in quantitative work [thatâs not its purpose] and with âinsightâ seen by many as the super-solution to every business problem, it is no surprise that researchers have transferred their attention to qualitative research to better address this issue.
âÂ Â Â Â Â Third, the emergence of neuro-research as a new weapon in the market researchers toolkit has resulted in the industry focusing more and more on understanding the balance between rational and emotional decision-making and guess who wins that battle every timeâŚyep itâs those pesky emotions.
âÂ Â Â Â Â And last, in tough economic times, many companies are actively looking for the âresetâ triggers that will jumpstart their businesses and there is a clear realization that those triggers will be unearthed from new âqualitatively-derivedâ insights and not through some new spin on the data
For me personally, this new obsession about feelings is well overdue. At Sterling, we have always respected the more rational role that data plays in building brands but our real enthusiasm is focused on the more emotional value that can be unlocked through insight generation. These two skills are not mutually exclusiveÂ but I left San Diego with a real feeling that a new balance was emerging between the rational and the emotional and that is the really good news that will benefit all of us.
Simon WilliamsTweet this | Tags: emotions, market research, marketing, positioning, research, San Diego, Strategy