Key Takeaways From This Year's TMRE Conference
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Key Takeaways From This Year's TMRE Conference

November 5, 2013

Jen O'Brien

This year's TMRE conference was a great opportunity to connect with other researchers and marketing professionals. I attended lots of great presentations during my two days in Nashville, and many of these talks provided important reminders about best practices in research, branding and strategy.

Last week’s TMRE conference was a great opportunity to connect with other researchers and marketing professionals.  I attended lots of great presentations during my two days in Nashville, and many of these talks provided important reminders about best practices in research, branding and strategy:

  • Brands need to be mindful not to add to consumers’ levels of “digital stress.”  According to Jeffrey Cole, 90% of Millennials sleep with their phone next to their bed – it’s their alarm clock, but they also have a “fear of missing out” (FOMO) if they aren’t constantly connected.  While most Americans share this desire to stay connected, there’s been some push back recently; many consumers are now looking to disconnect from the matrix, at least for bursts of time.  The challenge for brands is to use technology to connect with consumers without adding to information overload.
  • Rethink your idea of the perfect salesperson.  Daniel Pink reminded us that we’re all in sales now; even if we’re not officially on our company’s sales team, at least part of our day is spent trying to influence others in some way.  But don’t worry if you’re not an outgoing extrovert – that doesn’t mean you’re a bad salesperson.  According to research that Pink shared with us, the best sales people are actually those in the middle of the introvert/extrovert scale.  These “ambiverts” are successful since they can alternate being sociable with periods of reflection on what others are thinking and feeling.
  • No matter what industry you’re in, you should consider Amazon as a competitor.  Jeffrey Cole shared interesting insights from his 13-year longitudinal study on digital behaviors as well as predictions about the future of several web-based businesses.  Amazon has already put multiple book store chains out of business, and Cole believes that drug stores are next on Amazon’s hit-list, followed by the fashion industry. If you aren’t yet tracking your brand’s performance relative to Amazon, you should start– if Amazon isn’t yet a top retailer in your field, it soon will be.
  • Modular, mobile surveys are poised to have a big impact on market research.  Paul McDonald from Google introduced the new mobile survey platform that will soon be downloaded on all Android phones.  Android phone owners will receive survey invitations through this app and can earn Google Play credits in exchange for answering questions.  One restriction on market researchers who want to use the platform is that only 10 questions can be asked at a time.  While you can purchase multiple modules in order to cover all the questions you need to ask, each respondent will only have answered 10 questions.  Researchers will need to have a tight analysis plan from the start of the study to ensure that questions that need to be analyzed together are included in the same module.
  • If your customers relate to your brand, there are big benefits (beyond immediate sales).  Jeremy Sack shared reasons why it’s critical for brands to create personas with which their customers identify.  Consumers want to buy products and services from brands that they feel embody who they are and they’re also more likely to advocate for these brands.  Plus, consumers will forgive mistakes of brands they relate to – they’ll attribute successes to your brand and failures to extrinsic factors (similar to how they explain their own successes and failures).
  • Your brand can create its own best customers.  Michael Lewis from Bank of America walked us through some (scary) data that shows Millennials are incredibly uninformed about finances and financial products.  But well-informed consumers make better customers for BofA – they are less likely to default on loans or get into other financial trouble.  In order to create the type of customers that are best for them, BofA has partnered with Kahn Academy to bring educational programs to Millennials and create better informed consumers.
  • If possible, include both survey data and database information as inputs into your customer segmentation.  Several years ago Panera conducted a segmentation using self-reported data from an online survey.  Through this study they identified their target segment that represented 16% of their customers but 46% of sales.  As a next step, they turned the typing tool from the segmentation into the sign-up form for My Panera loyalty cards.  When they did this, they found that their target group was 17% of their customers but only represented 19% of sales.  When it was time to refresh their segmentation, Panera changed their strategy to make sure they were including more accurate behavioral information from their database as well as attitudinal variables.
  • Focus group participants don’t always need to be homogenous.  In a typical focus group, participants have similar backgrounds.  We want them to share their experiences and opinions openly, which might not happen if certain participants are seen as “experts” on the topic being discussed.  But including participants from different backgrounds can be a great strategy for ideation sessions – people with different perspectives are able to build off of each other’s thoughts to come up with better ideas than any one group could have developed on their own.  Enfamil shared an example of an extremely productive ideation session for baby formula that they conducted using this approach, with people from very different backgrounds – moms, doctors, and neuroscientists – all in the same group.   In order to avoid the problem of certain participants being seen as experts and dominating the conversation, each participant presented a “mini-TED” at the beginning of the session to establish that they were all experts in different fields.
  • Understanding the life stage of your consumers is often more productive than understanding their generation.  Jared Weiner discussed how life no longer follows a well-defined series of events.  Instead, non-linear life trajectories are increasingly common: people have children and then get married; people move away from home only to later move back in with their parents; and some people retire but then decide to go back to work.  Two people who are technically in the same generation can be in extremely different life spaces, which impacts their attitudes and behaviors more than their age.

Jen O'Brien

Vice President, Insights & Strategy

As Vice President, Insights & Strategy, Jen has significant experience managing a variety of quantitative projects including segmentation studies, brand tracking and message testing. Jen leads...

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