The 2013 ESOMAR Congress In Review

24 Sep 2013|Mark Whiting

I always feel that reading a roundup of a conference that someone else has been to is a little like seeing the picture of the birthday cake at a party to which you weren’t invited. You think, “hey, that’s great !” (for them). And in this case, since the conference is the BIG one in the MR world, the Esomar Congress, and because this year it’s taking place in the fabulous city of Istanbul, we’re not talking about any old cake, but a magnificent presentation piece of many-layered tiers, flavours and decorations (so now you’re thinking, I hope he had too much cake and is feeling slightly queasy).

Well I’m not! The cake is indeed delicious. But I’m going to try and give you more than just a photo of what’s happening and attempt to let you actually taste the cake.

So I’ll avoid just listing the ingredients… you just need to know that the theme of the party was “Think Big” and that in addition to the highly anticipated debates on the impact of Big Data, it’s been an extraordinary mix of attention to all the details that guarantee the integrity of our analysis (we’ve heard about the bias introduced by fielding questions on different forms of mobile devices, using different scaled questions and using different languages to speak to bicultural respondents) through to the skills required to inspire and mobilize our clients’ marketing teams (the specific skills of six insighter archetypes and how to apply “The Messy Mind Agenda” to spark connections between apparently unrelated pieces of information).

… And focus instead on trying to help you actually imagine you’re eating the delicious cherry on the top of the cake. One presentation has stood out for me so far, at the half way stage of the conference. That of one of the four key note speakers, Galya Frayman Molinas the President of the Turkey, Caucasus & Central Asia region for the Coca-Cola Company. You may have already enjoyed some of the highly original and (highly effective) marketing communication that Coke has become known for in recent years, but it’s well-worth re-visiting the “I love you” coke dispenser or the “football kick-about” to understand how Coke, through the guidance of insight-connected senior management such as Galya Molinas, is applying its philosophy to “be in the moment”.

Actually, the philosophy has four tenets, not just one:

1. To be in action: change that implies an action plan
2. To be in the zoom: proactively predicting the future, not validating the past
3. To be in the depth of insight: generating deep consumer insights
4. To be in the moment: learning as it happens

All of this spoke of the importance of recognizing that it’s no longer sufficient (if it ever was) to just observe or question and analyze consumer behaviour, but of the need to actually be part of consumer behaviour, with the end goal of not just creating value for the company, but for its shareholders, stakeholders, employees, distribution partners and consumers. Coke doesn’t just want to understand what’s going on in culture, it wants to be culture; it doesn’t want to measure conversations, it wants to be part of the conversation; and it doesn’t want to understand whether people are happy to drink Coke or not, it wants them to be happy because they are drinking Coke.

It made me think that often, as a researcher, I feel that I and my clients are always on the outside of consumer culture looking in through whatever data window we have chosen (be it the big data window, the geo-location mobile window or the ethnography window). Whereas, suddenly here was a clearly very wise lady from Coke talking about how marketing and insight for her have fused into one single experience – her
Marketing is Insight and her Insight is Marketing.

A delegate from the audience tried to get our speaker to agree to the pretentious claim that Coke was selling “happiness”. “No” Ms Molinas replied, “we’re selling a refreshing soft drink… and we never forget that we are a beverage company”. But it just so happens that it’s a beverage company that has gone beyond consumer-led to being (and I must think of a better term) “in the consumer” (hopefully you get what I mean): seeing, feeling and living the Coke moment from inside because its knowledge of the consumer has become close to instinctive. Of course, instincts aren’t always fool-proof and there are a lot of examples I could give you that would give a less hagiographic point of view on Coke – but take it from me, I wish my insight cakes were as well-blended as the examples (and insight lessons) that were shared with us during this particular keynote presentation.

Like all good cakes, the Esomar conference is of course highly digestible, so I’m off now for second helpings, hoping that the second half of the conference (which features Gary Kasparov!) will continue to be just as tasty.

Written by Mark Whiting, Director, reporting from the 2013 ESOMAR Congress in Istanbul.

 

Photo credits: ESOMAR

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