N.E.M.R.A. and the warring city states

December 1, 2014

 

Just got back from a fantastic conference put on by New England MRA, and it’s worth shouting about - there was a real energy, air of positivity, and a focus on the business utility of insight. Great job, NEMRA!

 

Themes for the day were the hot (and often related!) topics of Behavioral Economics, Career Longevity, and Ensuring Business Impact.

 

Rob Duboff and I ran a session on Behavioral Economics and seemed to successfully provoke an audience full of good sports… The two of us had spoken beforehand and established that we agreed on pretty much everything BE-related, but in the interest of entertainment we’d decided to aim for a little creative tension, and perhaps even to address some cultural stereotypes.

 

Rob, the cynical American, argued that Behavioral Economics showed us where we were going wrong with research INPUTS. I, as the world’s most optimisticBrit, argued that it showed how we could evolve research OUTPUTS, and why it’s important to do so.

 

My opening gambit was an ambitious comparison of Market Research and Ancient Greece. Just like they were, we’re often a bunch of proud city states fighting amongst ourselves – whether it’s qual vs. quant, online vs. F2F, or any of the other navel-gazing debates we regularly seem to amuse ourselves with.

 

In times of peace that’s all well and good, but today we face an external threat - more specifically, a ton of threats.

 

David Smith of ESOMAR puts it well:

 

“We could be hit by a tsunami of new data and an avalanche of expectations that overwhelm us as data scientists, and other specialists step into the space we once dominated”

 

Where does Behavioral Economics fit in here? Well consultancies, ad agencies, even journalists – they’re all trying to claim Behavioral Economics as their own. But it’s about decision-making – and that’s what we do!

 

I’d say no-one understands consumers as well as we do. We don’t start with a model and squeeze consumer behaviors into it. We don’t forget them altogether and make recommendations out of thin air. Just like behavioral economics, we begin with actual consumer behavior and data and evolve our insights from that foundation. We should be the MOST confident business consultants!

 

The optimism I promised boils down to 3 key ideas:

 

1.     We’ve got the tools - we understand these theories

 

2.     We’ve got the perspective – we instinctively come at things from a consumer’s point of view

 

3.     And we’ve got the opportunity – we have clients that want our advice as experts

 

As ‘sexy’ as BE is, to make research indispensable we have to start applying it to our analysis – giving clients interesting ideas about what to do. I think it’s got that potential, and that by extension, so have we as researchers.

 

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