Re:thinking the new normal

17 May 2010|Added Value

ARF ReThink logoWe’ve just returned from New York and the Advertising Research Foundation’s annual convention, Re:think 2010.  It was a great event, jam packed with thought-provoking papers and discussions, all centered around the main theme of ‘The New Normal’.

The event covered a range of topics, but we noticed five key trends emerging.  Reassuringly, none of these were a surprise, and mirrored much of what we’ve been focusing on for clients.  Here’s a round of what we saw as the core of ‘the new normal’.

The New Normal is… Multicultural
Forget “Melting Pot”, think Intra-Cultural “New Mainstream”.  Rather than being absorbed into the existing culture, as per the assimilation model, newcomers are infusing their customs into American society, creating the “New Mainstream”.  This has significant implications for brands, advertisers and researchers alike in reaching and communicating with target groups.  Stephen Palacios, EVP, and our colleague, at Cheskin Added Value, is an industry leader with his research in this area.  To learn more, read a Q&A with Stephen.

The New Normal is… Multiplatform
Television, radio and print have been joined by new kids on the block, internet and mobile.  Rapid advances in technology have expanded media consumption avenues.  Consumers are regularly using multiple channels to meet their needs at any given time – be it a particular media at a particular time or using different medias concurrently.  For research agencies, this is a clear signal that research will become increasingly multi-platform in order to capture respondents at specific points in time, or to reach them by their preferred medium.  AV-id and CharacterLab are just two of the ways we’ve developed to tap into this trend.

The New Normal is… Listening and Participating
Listen up and join in!  ‘Listening’ to the consumer – the general buzz, what’s important, their needs – remains as important as ever.  But listening isn’t enough.  Participation is an essential next step.  Through the rapid growth in social media (think Twitter, Facebook, Blogs and so on), consumers are increasingly engaging in conversations about brands – steering these conversations with or without brand participation.  Listening, participating, engaging is essential in the new normal.

The New Normal is… Insights, Inspiration and Creativity
Deliver more than just insights, deliver inspiration.  There is a clear call for research agencies to provide more than insights when communicating findings.  They need to bring inspiration to the table – employing creative storytelling that brings the research to life and delivering future-focused actionable findings.

The New Normal is…  Research Methodology
Let’s get back to basics: the research question drives method and not vice-versa.  Numerous new and exciting tools are available within the new normal, social media monitoring, mobile interviewing, biometric testing to name a few.  Neuroscience, something that’s informed our work for several years now, is really taking off and offers another tool in the marketers toolkit. These new tools are a great addition to our  arsenal, opening up many new opportunities.  But it is imperative that they are used at the correct time and in the correct manner.

In short, the new normal is part of the here and now.  These trends don’t take place in isolation.  They work together to create the new normal.  Brands are going to have to listen, participate, and engage, within a multimedia / multiplatform environment, with a multicultural audience.  Researchers are going to have to deliver inspirational, creative, actionable insights, using the most appropriate methodology for high quality data.  That works for us.

Written by Zoe Dowling, Added Value North America.
Follow Zoe on Twitter.

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