Connection, Immersion & Reflective Dialogue at Quirk’s NYC

The world of market research conferences is back! After a couple of years of pandemic-induced virtual conferences, in-person conferences are back and in full swing. MRII sent a couple of folks to last week’s sold-out Quirk’s conference in NYC, and we are pleased to post this article about the conference from friend-of-the-firm Arundati Dandapani.

Quirk’s New York City conference offered another great opportunity to re-connect with leading industry colleagues from around the world. Tuesday evening saw a packed WIRe (Women in Research) welcome reception alongside other gatherings that carried on through the night, while Wednesday and Thursday were the full conference days. Enabled by the Klik app at the enormous yet easy to navigate Javits Centre, over 1400 attendees gathered at what truly was an insights summit.  

Global business strategist and qualitative research guru Susan Fader, Owner of Fader Focus would contextualize that my attendance of IIeX, Collision and Quirk’s NYC this summer has provided me with the “contextual intelligence” needed for this post-pandemic conference overview! Fader is a strong advocate for checking to see if baseline assumptions have changed prior to jumping into a business challenge. She is a strong believer in pre-research project preparation and her work often focuses on filling in the gaps in AI-and tech-powered datasets with listening and framing tools she has developed over her career.

There were several client-supplier teams and solo presentations. Themes that stuck with me from some presentations and conversations were as follows:

1.    Don’t ignore technology. It is only going to keep rising, and digital illiteracy is the one metric that is holding your teams back. The richest market researcher in the world is Ryan Smith, owner of Qualtrics, according to the Market Research Institute International’s Executive Director Dr. Stephen Kraus’ #MRX Survivor show and the balance sheets. ResTech is a powerful force and one that will only keep pumping investment into research to scale insights more accessibly, cheaply and with accuracy. You can join the movement for better technology in research and better research in technology by “taking both sides” (agency/client) and understanding the strengths and limitations of working across all sides of a problem argued Jacob Jacobson, Director of Consumer Insights at Woodside Homes. Your personality and inclinations can help you master the “psychologies of uncertainty,” but your knowledge of technology, curiosity and learnability, will only help you lead as an insights professional. The rise of future-thinking / foresight and scenario planning to deal with rising ambiguities globally are also complementary trends to the rise in tech-enabled research, said Dr. Kraus.

2.    Build on your deep expertise and brand to harvest the universe of your skillsets and stand out as a T-shaped professional. In our multi-faceted data and insights profession, there is always more room to broaden your impact across sectors and disciplines while anchoring to your core expertise. Vital farms and Numerator shared an excellent example of using segmentations that incorporated self-reported and transactional buyer data to understand egg consumer types in their presentation on the BFY (Better For You) or sustainability-conscious consumer. They demonstrated how their own internal training/ upskilling with segmentation practices while relying on their knowledge with their client of the BFY market and consumer produced a fruitful collaboration with strong outcomes.  

3.    Embed a culture of sustainability and long-held purpose in your organization. The future belongs to those who are intentional. Those who take great care to listen and empathize to innovate to the changing needs of their consumers and audiences. MasterCard, a technology company for the electronic payments industry has a simple goal – to ensure their products get adopted and used, and all of their actions and campaigns are designed to support that mission. As a B2B2C company that needs to appear like a B2C company, a lot of their work to stay client-focused and consumer relevant is reliant on a whole lot of UX and their employees’ core understanding of and evangelizing of their mission as a for-profit company.           

4.    Differentiation is about diversity. Understanding your niche and not piling on to the “sea of sameness” requires a sharp self-awareness and of the competitive set. The Collage Group’s multicultural-communities lens was a compelling way to engage a hyper-diverse America more authentically. Brand voice on social media has hit a terminal low from the Twitter feeds analyzed by Pulsar IntelligenceSparkler and Twitter Marketing.  This also spells big opportunity in reclaiming your brand narrative. People like to hear from distinct brands on social media, and people like to engage with brands of character that are willing to take a stand on issues of importance to their diverse audiences. A panel from Colgate-Palmolive, GfK, Nissan and Brother International discussed how purpose-led brands were leading the charge on sustainability initiatives and discussed how to master the fine-line between high stakes and vast business consequences for taking decisive action with messaging and campaigns, including insights on how to align social purpose with growing their bottom-line. Voxpopme and the New York Times Advertising shared how they combined first-party data with reader segments to deliver the most engaging stories to disparate audiences in polarized times.

5.    Sow your talent and spread yourself in growing industries, client sectors, ancillary trades. It is helpful to keep your eyes on the horizons of the fast-growing future advised Stephen Kraus of MRII-UGA, in their presentation. Industries like cannabis, privacy enhancing technologies, blockchain, metaverse, offer tremendous opportunities for insights professionals. Canopy Growth’s Insights Manager, Jessica Chee-Hing’s presentation with Explorer Research’s Partner and President Anne Stephenson, offered new insight on the highs and lows of mapping consumer journeys. They used a mixed-methodology behavioural science-powered approach, segmented consumers on experienced users versus inexperienced users, and tapped into their unique needs from retailers and budtenders to leverage shopper insights across cannabis formats.

6.    Knowledge is an industry too. It is the god of all industries and the backbone of all culture, operations, technologies and people. Lucy Davison, CEO of Keen As Mustard and her client BIC demonstrated, for example, the importance of pointing to a single source of truth and democratizing insights so they are more inclusive of the needs of all the relevant stakeholders in timely and enduring ways. Because of the increasingly information-powered societies we live and work in, Alex Dimanche had observed that the most important role post the pandemic was that of the CIO. This value in understanding the business of knowledge, intellectual property and the effectiveness of privacy-metrics as benchmarks of our profession is evident in the complex times we live. David Abbott, CEO of TakeNote, a Verbit company focused on secure transcription services in the UK, was the sole presenter who discussed privacy concerns around the world and how data breaches and fines were all too common and occupied the major share of news when there was more to the story in maintaining checklists for clients, vendors, suppliers and partners. That same afternoon’s CASE session on sample industry trends and ways to mitigate fraud was a strong refresher in how the data-quality needs of our industry remain at the heart and centre of a respectable profession, and that collectively a lot more can be achieved to mitigate bad data.

Other Memories

I enjoyed being in fuzzy photos with colleagues at the welcome event, being a Market Research Survivor along with fellow islanders at the MRII-UGA session, and throughout the conference earning a total of US$25 in Starbucks credit and a big roomy Explorer bag.

The emerging powers of emotional and behavioural technology was in public sight to be leveraged. I enjoyed for example, the IVP Research Labs’ President Bob Granito’s “neuro-challenge” battle of focus / concentration tug-of-war between two willing participants with the goal of channeling your “Matilda powers” to move the mid-air suspended ball into the opponent’s court – for a pink brain chocolate. A session I had to miss was J.P. Morgan’s Michael Rosenberg’s “How to outperform as a corporate research professional in 2022” which sounded intriguing for his big consulting perspective, and one that later Lucy Davison of Keen as Mustard confirmed was a popular presentation.  

For those into personality types another interesting session was by Vanguard’s Manager of Market Research Communities, Clint Jenkin about the five most frustrating client personas (internal and external clients) at the table who will derail your next project. The profile-types he mapped came from observations as a “social anthropologist” of his lived experiences. He did not attribute the five personas to any formal research, and even bravely self-identified as “Scandric the Scout,” the one whose exhaustive datasets come from “something his brother’s cousin said once that stuck with him.” Through each of the five personas, Jenkin did a great job of explaining the concept of Fundamental Attribution Error (FAE) or the tendency to nurture personal blind spots while blaming others’ personalities and behaviours without understanding their contexts and environments. 

Looking forward to being back on the fall conference circuit with more news and data-stories!

About the writer: Arundati Dandapani, CAIP

Arundati is the Founder of Generation1.caa platform that taps into the overlooked talent and outlook of Canada’s newest residents, placing newcomers, non-profit associations and cannabis insights at the forefront of industry innovation. She is the author of two books, the editor of several publications, and has most recently served as (is the outgoing) Chief Editor & Intelligence Officer (CIO) of Canadian Research Insights Council (CRIC) and Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Certified Analytics and Insights Professionals of Canada (CAIP-PAIM Canada), both roles she created when identifying a gap in the industry marketplace. She is also a 2022 Insight250 Judge for the ESOMAR-led awards program, an Advisory Board member of Algonquin College’s Marketing Research and Analysis (MRA) Program in Canada and has presented at, chaired or reviewed presentations for AAPOR, WAPOR, ESOMAR, CRIC, CAIP, Market Research Institute International (MRII) and the University of Georgia (UGA) among other industry forums. Find her on Twitter at @itadnura.  

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