By Steven Cook, CMO.com
Last month CMO.com attended the Insight Innovation eXchange 2015, in Atlanta, where thought leaders shared their visions and examples of how they have used tech tools and techniques for actionable consumer insights.
This was the third annual IIeX global conference, with 200-plus TED-like talks and 750-plus attendees hailing from research houses, Fortune 500 companies across all verticals, and technology providers.
I had the opportunity to talk with the IIeX chairman and executive producer Leonard “Lenny” Murphy, who is also the editor-in-chief of several GreenBook publications. In addition, he is senior partner at strategic consultancy Gen2 Advisors, is involved with the Advertising Research Foundation and New York American Marketing Association, and serves on the board of several companies and universities.
I also spoke with Beacon-Research president Kristin Schwitzer, who started her career in P&G brand marketing and is a tech innovator in the qualitative consumer insights space. She is a past board member and vice president of the global Qualitative Research Consultants Association, where she has been a member for 15 years. Schwitzer was also one of the IIeX chairs and led the QRCA Track on advances in technology-driven qualitative research.
I asked Murphy and Schwitzer to share with CMO.com readers their three most important points from the conference. Read on for their multifaceted perspectives.
Murphy: First, the overall lens for thinking about the impact of technology on marketing insights is how to engage, understand, and activate customer relationships–the three big buckets of the customer lifecycle–and knowing we can do it cheaper, faster, and better. This is where data tech comes in, like mobile, wearables, programmatic, and IoT. These can be game-changers by giving us better, deeper, truer real-time understanding of attitudes, nonconscious drivers of decision, and real behaviors.
Increasingly, we are capturing this data via the customer’s digital exhaust–the tracks that we all leave in our daily lives from our interactions with all technologies we engage with every day. This digital footprint gives us much of the who, what, when, where, and how–without ever having to ask a question of the customer. There will still be the need to ask some questions, but how we do surveys has to and can change to be more customer-friendly and accurate. For example, there was a recent Cambridge University study that proved with just Facebook Likes, they could predict consumer psychographic profiles with 70-80% accuracy and predict the types of things that you would probably like.
Think of this as “programmatic analytics,” where your behavior can be predicted based on your digital exhaust. We are there; we now have the ability to do this. To get to the unconscious part, the why, and the real time, we have facial scanning, voice, text, retina analytics, biometric data, sentiment analysis. Now we can take all of this data of how somebody looks, what they write, what they say, analyze their emotional states, and combine that with these other more quantitative components to paint a fuller picture of the consumer. And we can do it extremely cost effectively, at scale, and in real time.
What remains is the engineering work to develop the right big data algorithms to combine the right data streams to predict the right outcomes. We are close–we will have this within five years.
Schwitzer: Strongly consider using mobile as a research insights tool. Using smartphones to capture self-reported consumer ethnographic behaviors, thoughts, and attitudes in real time and in the micro-moment during brand experiences via video, pictures and text is yielding more complete and accurate insights. This is important because there is a clear gap between stated and observed behavior.
Mobile allows us to be where researchers typically can not be, such as with new moms feeding their babies in the middle of the night, with Millenials hydrating during a gym workout, or shoppers in the aisle while making first-moment-of-truth purchase decisions. Mobile also enables us to capture more granular details and texture than what consumers can remember about a brand journey or usage experience, and it allows us to be in multiple states, regions, and even countries at the same time–without the high cost typically associated with ethnographic research. All of these benefits have positive implications for brand managers, product developers, agency creative partners, and the entire business team to better understand their consumer. And much of this data is visual, which can be used for storytelling and video reporting.
We call it “visualizing learning,” bringing to life what everyone on the business team needs to see from the consumer’s standpoint to be inspired. Data visualization and storytelling are huge.
Murphy: The research insights organization is not a cost center. It may have been traditionally. But, today, the tools exist for the insights group to move beyond simply being the bean counters, the CYA protection for marketing, or the keepers of KPI metrics tracking. The insights organization and budget now need to be reallocated to business and brand strategy. Researchers are now stepping outside of their comfort zones and thinking about the future, not just being reactive by measuring consumer satisfaction.
Between new technology, tools, and thinking, the insights group is stepping up their roles to deliver innovations in the organization to drive the bottom line. The insights group is now positioned better than ever to identify and gather all of the components needed to answer the business questions to then drive the bottom line with more and better tools to take the insight and shepherd it into the organization. We have unprecedented access to consumers’ lives. Having said that, we do need to understand this new balance of power with consumers and understand that this is a new relationship; we need to be respectful and manage this relationship carefully. Research is now part of the consumer experience–it is a brand touch point.
Schwitzer: This is a really exciting time for qualitative research. With so much information available today with big data, CMOs, and their teams need help to bring insights to life in meaningful and actionable ways. And today we have more tools in our qualitative toolbox now than ever before, with more coming such as Oculus Rift VR and wearables such as Google Glass and wrist-worn trackers. Relating back to my first answer, qualitative gets you the story and allows you to go much deeper and get the richness you need to tell the whole story. This new tech also makes research more experiential for consumers, even gamifying research, and that becomes part of their overall brand experience. The implications for CMOs are many, such as capturing the whole true story, which enables quicker and better onboarding of their teams to inform and inspire them on the ideal consumer experience, unmet needs, the consumer’s real reality, their environment, their behavior. No more PowerPoint-only research summaries. Tell the story in a video; storify the insights.
Murphy: The pace of change is only going to increase. So there is no more standing still–in any piece of the business. For example, mobile, being the exobrain of each of us, is the conduit to the lives of consumers. Mobile knows where you’ve been, where you searched, time of day, where and what you paid. Google and Apple are the largest big data platforms in the world–they know everything–and they are really good stewards of data–very concerned about privacy. They both ultimately want to be lifestyle companies by making people’s lives better. This has implications to the CMO and their insights team to who brands partner with. For example, Google is an ingester of research, a client of research, a producer of data, a licensor of data, and they offer research services–so they are a competitor, a friend, a partner, a client, and a supplier all at the same time. They are part of the insights community as is every other tech company on the planet. We are now in the world of unconventional partnerships, resources, and technologies.
CMOs need to think about working with a variety of partners, including working with noncompetitive brands in other sectors to bring more insights and programmatic analytics together to get more of a 360-degree understanding of an individual consumer in real- time. We’ve seen real-world use cases at IIeX where this is being done now. This is where we are going.
Schwitzer: Going back to mobile, with new capabilities like geofencing, we can now microtarget potential research participants, such as consumers as they enter a car dealership. We can intercept couples or individuals who have walked into a dealership, screen if they are there for service or to buy a car, and if there to buy a car, go deeper with them on their experience in real time. Mobile research platforms are commercially available today and are being used by innovative researchers and brands. Beta testing is done, and we are now capturing best practices and exploring even more new ways to use mobile. Wearable connected devices will take what we can capture even further without consumers even thinking about what they are doing to fill the gap between reported and observed behavior.
As you lead through yet another transformative part of your CMO role, I hope these additional thoughts from several IIeX keynoters inspire more innovative insightful work to understand your consumer better, and ultimately build a better brand relationship with them.
- You’ll never own the future if you care what other people think.
- Innovation is hard. Innovation is a muscle. Keep working on it.
- Think yes before you think no.
- Differentiated is better.
- Actionable is better.
- Holistic is better.
- Cheaper is better.
- Faster is better.
About Steven Cook
Steven Cook has 25-plus years of Fortune 50 global strategic B2C and B2B omnichannel brand marketing, business development, innovation, and digital and social media experience at P&G, Coca-Cola, and Samsung Electronics, where he was SVP CMO, North America. Cook is also a Silicon Valley, Silicon Beach, and Silicon South digital startup CMO. Cook’s FortuneCMO LLC works with startups, VCs, PEs, and Fortune 1000 companies in branded CPG and tech, durables, lifestyle services, and digital and social media. He currently is the CMO for Forté Ventures and Champion Capital Group. Cook also mentors entrepreneurs at TiE Atlanta, the local chapter of TiE, the world’s largest entrepreneur network.