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07/05/2008

Esomar Innovate Conference, Copenhagen (1 of 2)

I attended the Esomar Innovate Conference in Copenhagen  (16-18 June) but I wasn't able to see all the presentations. Here is a handful of thoughts and observations about the bits I did see:

* The giant step that market research could take to help innovation everywhere hasn't yet happened. We're still waiting for the moment when the representatives of the big research factories arrive on  stage and acknowledge that they are running on empty, that it is becoming harder for them to sell the dream of certainty even to the weakest of clients and,  that after helping to deliver mediocre products and communication and helping to kill the many dreams of enthusiastic brand managers, planners  and creatives, they are closing their factories down.

* The majority of speakers came from the UK, western Europe and the US. The majority of people in the audience came from the developing world.  Either there is nothing very innovative happening in the developing world or those of us from the developing world cannot write very good papers (the 20-page-long variety that Esomar requires for entry).  My feeling is that the problem is with the papers themselves and the dominant, Western rules of discourse.  The people who judge the papers are from the West and they will naturally prefer a style and thinking process that is close to their own style and thinking.  The problem with the Esomar papers is similar to the problems with most of research reports: they tend to get out of hand and dilute insights and issues in an avalanche of words.

* Gregg Fraley was the keynote speaker and  I really enjoyed his speech  while I was watching it. I am trying to remember now what he was talking about. I recall a picture of the iPod. And a picture of Steve Jobs.  And a slide saying "Starbucks is dead".  Watching the speech was  like watching a good Hollywood movie - enjoyable but without providing a lasting experience that could really touch your life.

*The presentation of Márta Hoffman (RI, Hungary) and István Kozári (Initiative) was the highlight of the conference for me, and and not just because it was the only presentation from the developing world.

Inno08hungarians

 

In a nutshell, Márta and István have changed the way in which Tic Tac connects with consumers online in Hungary.  In the past Tic Tac had a reasonably good but very static site. The site celebrated the brand but was not particularly useful for consumers.  Márta and her agency found gifted young people and co-created with them a concept for new online community for Tic Tac. 

The community is based on a strong insight into Hungarian society (not only) that the  research  uncovered and that lead to the "Networks of Favours" idea:

Insight_networks_of_favours    

The  "Network of Favours"  is the concept for the Tic Tac community. People join the site to exchange little favours : walking a dog, watering plants, and such things. 

It ticks several boxes:

  1. It is useful to people and doesn't celebrate the glory of the brand (and being useful is a must if a brand wants to join an online conversation);
  2. The scope is  bigger and more important to people than the category and related territories e.g. "freshness", and;
  3. It is the right territory for Tic Tac.

The role of research in the development of the community was crucial: Márta and her agency found the right people to co-create with. They didn't just utilize creative consumers but included people from agencies and the client's company. They created an engaging environment for them. They facilitated,  moderated and interpreted the sessions in an informed way that was  in-line with the thinking on the brand. All of this led to the insight, ideas and real results.  And it was fast and affordable. This is what good research should do.

For everything else (technical innovations in market research) there is Google and Facebook. Ironically, it seems easier for the researchers lacking the intuition needed for doing the research job properly to displace the issue and create the need for a new, high-tech, silver bullet research methodology that will deliver pre-packaged ideas for innovations to clients' desktops.

I think that we need more case studies like the one on Tic Tac to dispel the "silver bullet" myth.

I work on Sure/Rexona and one of our key tasks at the moment is to find a way for the brand to join (get a permission to join)  the relevant conversations that are already taking place, online and off. The case that Márta and István presented was an inspiration for me, worth much more than the general discussions about innovation (with inevitable calls to actions, figures of percentages of innovations failing in the market and pictures of  iPods and Steve Jobs).

Here is the presentation that Marta has kindly shared with me:

(I have copied the photo of Márta and István from Henrik Hall's article.)