BrainTrust Query: How will social media transform consumer research?
By Joel Rubinson,
chief research officer, The Advertising Research Foundation
"Research Methods are now years behind the consumers,
and falling farther behind," Leading Advertiser
In 2003, accountability was thought to be
the differentiator in market research; in fact, consultancy, leadership,
insights were listed as necessary but undifferentiated. The shift in research
strategy in only five years is profound…from an emphasis on report card
accountability metrics to becoming a learning organization that puts the
human at the center of marketing thinking.
There are three primary reasons that the
emphasis on learning is emerging now:
- New marketing questions. The human
is now in control in an "always on" world of long tails
of media and purchase choices, and where social media leads to information
and opinions spreading like wildfire. Marketers now have a partner
in managing their brand in a world where push marketing turns into
pull in a blink of an eye, for example, where TV advertising leads
to search as people are often media multi-tasking. In this world,marketing
teams are seeking new ways of connectingtheir brands to people. These
initiatives will require new mental models, which will lead to new
tools and metrics, but first, we must re-learn the consumer.
- New mental models are emerging. Science
has taught us that humans are different than we thought. Neuro-science,
anthropology and behavioral economics have painted a totally different
picture of how people absorb messaging, retrieve memories, and make decisions
from what was believed only five-10 years ago. We have learned that "think-feel" is
one word, that people often use fast and frugal heuristics (rather than
elaborate trade-offs of attributes) to make decisions, and that one of
those heuristics is based on copying from others in your "tribe" accelerated
by social media which has connected people more than ever before). Those
current research tools that only capture a piece of what matters based
on this new learning must evolve.
- New data feeds, notably social media are
now available that allow us to "listen" to naturally occurring
conversations and behaviors…to hear the unexpected. These insights
come at us like a continuous river, changing the cadence of research.
pipes", as Pete Blackshaw from Nielsen
Online calls them, go beyond "push surveys" to include social
media conversation, search, digital analytics, customer interaction in
the "brand backyard", interactions at retail, and managed communities.
At our San Francisco conference on Research Transformation, Charlene
Li referred to the rise of "activist consumers". She and Pete Blackshaw agree
that these consumers demand to be heard.
So, if an enterprise wants to put humans
at the center, it must become a learning organization to anticipate the
human’s next move. This is the research function’s big opportunity…its
moment in time.
Discussion Questions: How will social media
transform consumer research? How must research methods
be redesigned to capture these changes in the consumer, their
communications, and their purchasing drivers?
[Author’s commentary] Many of
these insights were gleaned from the creation last July of the "Research
Transformation Super-Council." Members include advertisers (General
Mills, Levi Strauss, Microsoft, Procter & Gamble, Subway, Unilever),
research providers (Nielsen, TNS, Motivequest,
Keller Fray, Kantar) and media companies (ESPN, Razorfish, Digitas, Vivaki.)
The subject has also been the focus of two ARF Industry Leader Forums in
New York and San Francisco, and will be featured as well at its annual
Re: Think 2009 Conference in New York, from March 30-April 1.