TMRE 2014: Day 1 Recap

Christina Luppi
Sr. Manager of Marketing

The Market Research Event 2014 kicked off Monday with more than 1,300 attendees, 150 speakers, 120 sessions and 100 exhibitors. As the largest market research event in the world, TMRE 2014 offers tracks in brand insights, strategic communications, new technologies, big data, predictive analytics, consumer psychology and behavior, and more. Opening keynote speaker Itamar Simonson, author of “Absolute Value,” told consumer researchers that increased availability of information via the Internet has empowered consumers to more easily determine the value of products and that this, in turn, has decreased the power of brand loyalty, as well as the ability of marketers to control the marketing equation. Simonson, the Sebastian S. Kresge Chair of Marketing in the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University said websites that share product reviews, such as Yelp, Zagat, Amazon, and Angie’s List, give consumers more control in the marketing equation–and marketers less. “Consumers are becoming less irrational because the information environment has changed,” Simonson said, noting that consumers are less likely to listen marketers and more likely to listen to fellow consumers and reviewers in terms of product quality. While in the past, marketers had been able to define the value of products in the minds of consumers by presenting limited options, such as catalogs or advertisements featuring two similar versions of a product, the Internet has give consumers the power to compare products, gather reviews from consumers and expert reviewers, then determine value.

These changes have allowed lesser-known brands such as Asus, Roku, and Nest to gain market share. The new marketing environment also allows easier diversification of products, according to Simonson.

The shifting marketing landscape also reveals that marketers and product developers have had less success using market research to predict what products will be successful in the marketplace. He pointed to the iPhone as an example of this, sharing a slide that reported a 2007 study conducted before the release of the iPhone predicted that convergent products were not desired by consumers.

Because consumers are more likely to rely on product reviews, Simonson said that measuring consumers’ current product preferences to predict future choices for new product concepts can be useless or misleading. He also said that the same is true for brand loyalty, noting that top-of-mind brand awareness is less important than in the past. He informally polling the audience to see who had switched brands in recent automotive purchases.

“Loyalty tends to decline with increased access to information for consumers,” Simonson said.

The morning’s second keynote speaker, Harvard Associate Dean for Strategy and Innovation Youngme Moon, shared one of the day’s most concise, polished presentations when she discussed the need for brands to  “flip the fundamental,” in order to differentiate themselves in the marketplace.

Moon, the Donald K. David Professor of Business Administration at Harvard, shared insights from her 2010 book “Different: Escaping the Competitive Herd,” which explains how brands such as Ikea, Mini, and Google have differentiated their brands by “saying yes” where other companies have said, “no.”

Moon used Scandinavian furniture maker Ikea as an example of a brand that had flipped the fundamental to win “hugely loyal” customers in a furniture industry that is extremely competitive and traditionally sees very low brand loyalty.

“Ikea refuses to give customers the benefits its competitors routinely provide,” Moon said. Those benefits include assembling furniture, offering a wide range of styles, and focusing on long-term quality. “If you don’t like Scandinavian, too bad.”

Moon stressed the importance of creating a company culture that embraced the sometimes seemingly crazy, unorthodox ideas that can lead a brand to “flip the fundamental” and find a unique brand niche. She said such a culture begins with company leaders who have passion for your work and your life.

“All passion is, is an extreme version of caring and believing,” Moon said.

In an afternoon Demo Zone session, Sentient presented a demonstration of our product Sentient Prime™, which gave participants the opportunity to set up their own implicit association tests using try.sentientprime.com. Sentient Founder Dr. Aaron Reid, Ph.D., led the demonstration as each audience member used their mobile phones and tablets to measure their implicit associations for different chocolate brands.

Implicit research technology measures system 1 processing–the neurological response to stimuli that a subject is not aware of. It includes uncontrollable and unintentional responses to stimuli. One way Sentient uses implicit research is through our Sentient Prime™ platform, which combines behavioral sciences with the latest technologies to assess emotional associations with brands, products, packaging and advertising.

Market researchers can work with Sentient in traditional market research engagements or by using Sentient Prime™ in an online setting.

In the 15-minute session, audience members were able to quickly set up their own implicit research survey using Sentient’s online portal. Participants then took the survey, which included receiving BarkTHINS chocolate. Attendees remarked on the ease and added insight the demonstration revealed.

“Awesome,” said Matthew Shrednick of NASCAR’s consumer research group, who took part in the demo session. “Really interactive and really proved an important point that consumers don’t always say what think. With this implicit technology, you can get at what’s inside the consumer’s head.”

Another highlight from TMRE day one included Thania Farrar’s morning session, “Storytelling and Actionable Research Delivery.” Farrar, director of research innovation at Burke, Inc., encouraged market researchers to present more actionable insights by using storytelling and considering their audiences more.

Farrar suggested that market researchers should have a delivery plan for their findings and meet early in the process with key client stake holders to determine how that delivery plan will work.

In the afternoon keynote session, Danah Boyd, social media and youth culture expert and author of “It’s Complicated” delivered a presentation rich in insight into how young people use social media and interact online. Boyd’s session was packed with information for market researchers, including the revelation that teens and other young people are often “gaming the system” by bending social media and online networks to suit their purposes and needs.

Boyd noted that teens will often insert brand names such as Nike randomly into their Facebook posts in an effort to manipulate Facebook’s algorithms and gain more visibility for their posts. She warned that data from social media use can be tainted because of these types of uses.

Boyd suggested that social media has gone through three phases. The first two were experimentation in the early years, and consolidation in the past six year as Facebook rose to encompass more online activity and linked other social accounts. We have moved into a period of fragmentation, now, with young people trying to find places where they can more easily control social interaction.

Day 2 of TMRE 2014 features a presentation from Sentient, “How to Extend Your Brand With Implicit Consumer Insights” by Dr. Reid and Stephen Springfield, Sentient SVP of brand and innovation strategy at 2:30 p.m. in the Galeria North room.

You can also visit Sentient at booth #220 to find the results of the Demo Zone demonstration of Sentient Prime™ from Monday. Connect with us on Twitter as well during TMRE.

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