Four Trends Spotted at The Market Research Event (TMRE) – Part 3: Unconventional Thinking

In late October I had the opportunity to attend The Market Research Event in Nashville, a meeting of over 1500 global industry researchers, including both those working as brand strategists from within a company and those partnering with brands to provide external support and guidance. After three full days of engaging breakout sessions and keynote addresses, and one and a half notebooks worth of insights, I returned to the office with four trends that remain top of mind, several weeks after leaving Nashville.

Trend Four: Think outside the box

While many of the sessions at The Market Research Event highlighted case studies of successful brand strategies, partnerships, and the use of new research methods, the keynote speakers took the conference to another level by pushing the audience to “think outside the box,” both as market researchers and as consumers. Each expert brought a different perspective to the table, but all reinforced the idea that unconventional approaches and new ways of thinking will best position market researchers. In my opinion, some of the best “think outside the box” strategies shared at the conference include the following:

  1. Use video games to solve real world problems While many picture a couch potato “gamer” glued to their television or computer day and night, with controller in hand, author Jane McGonigal turned this stereotype on its head, sharing fascinating ways in which video games are being used by government organizations, doctors, scientists, and many other groups to tackle real world problems. One of the most memorable was the highly-effective use of a cancer-fighting video game to help children with leukaemia remember to take their chemotherapy medication every day. Another is the game “Fold It” which allows over 50,000 online gamers to contribute to scientific research from the comfort of their home.
  2. Recognize that the nature of “selling” has fundamentally changed In a world where customers have access to just as much, if not more, information about the products and services they are buying than the salespeople who are trying to persuade them, the dynamic between buyers and sellers has permanently shifted. Author Dan Pink argued that, because salespeople are no longer being relied on to provide all product information and pricing options, their approach must change accordingly, focusing more on finding common ground with a potential buyer, learning from failed sales opportunities (but not dwelling on them), and identifying the problems that customers did not even realize they had and helping to solve those problems.
  3. Gain perspectives on the future from “little kids and aliens” We often turn to experts when looking for predictions about the future, whether economists asked to give their thoughts on where the market is headed or political analysts asked about an upcoming election. However, many times those without any previous knowledge or preconceived notions can give fresh and, often accurate, perspectives on where the world is heading. In the case of keynote Jared Wiener, we are asked to look at the world through the fresh eyes of “little kids or aliens,” in order to predict new trends.
  4. Find where you are on the “inverted U-shaped curve” and act accordingly “You can have too much of a good thing.” “Less is more.” “Everything in moderation.” In the final keynote address of the conference, author Malcolm Gladwell (and his quite fantastic hair) took these sentiments a step further by arguing that, in every part of life, we are on what he terms to be an “inverted, U-shaped curve.” Continued action on the left-hand side of the curve will improve results, continued action in the middle of the curve will have no effect on results, and continued action on the right-hand side of the curve will make things worse. Gladwell applied this curve to several topics, including class size in school (smaller is not always better), prison sentences for crimes (more years in jail does not always mean less crime), and R&D funding (more money does not always lead to better products). Before taking action, whether in parenting, at work, or even when enjoying wine, Gladwell encourages us to first evaluate where we are on the curve – is “more” still a good thing or will it have a detrimental effect?

Full 2013 Survey Results Report available here