Notes from CRC 2016: What’s research got to do with it?

By November 11, 2016 Other No Comments

After attending the recent CRC 2016 (Corporate Researchers Conference) in San Francisco, I came home with some key trends that got me excited about my own role as a researcher.  The fact that one must do research in order to understand what the research is for is not lost on me, so I’d like to explore some of the themes that came out of this event including:

  • how we get off track
  • what we can do to drive action
  • why we should want to be disruptors of the status quo
  • who we want to weave stories for in this ever-challenging arena
  • and my favorite – research is powerful

There are a lot of poorly written surveys  

This first topic surfaced in a number of conversations, but it really presented itself in a breakout session on the insanity of market researchers, and a workshop conducted by the Burke Institute.  Over and over, I heard complaints like, “surveys are too long” and “we field too many surveys.”  But the thing that really came across in these two sessions is that objectives need to be clearly identified up front. Kick off calls were mentioned as a key piece by Nestle panelist, Jill Donahue, on Day 1, and supporting opinions were expressed by Pratiti Raychoudhury from Facebook who talked about how important it is to understand core objectives. I took this to heart – especially when Burke panelist, Dr. Ron Tatham, said we really need to make these objectives more than “looking to learn…” They need to be tied to a specific decision to drive the research. All questions we ask and the reports we write should always ladder up to these objectives. Hence, you have to do research to understand what the research is for.  This will ultimately result in more effective surveys and solid conclusions.

Drive action

Along with crafting appropriate and meaningful surveys, driving action was a theme that cropped up in many places. This ties directly to the above, but it was put best by Brett Townsend from PepsiCo when he said “everything must drive sales.” At the end of everything, we as researchers need to always keep in mind the ultimate goals of the research, and this requires a clear action standard in place at the beginning of each project. From the very beginning of a research project, an “If, then…” mentality needs to be in place when. More than one presenter stressed that clients should not just be saying our research was interesting, they should be saying ‘Now I know what to do next.”

It’s ok to rock the boat

One of the main reasons I love doing research is that we are in a strong position to challenge  the status quo, so I was thrilled to attend a Millennial Path-to-Purchase session where they talked a lot about thinking outside traditional methods and using the voice of the consumer to challenge assumptions For me, this suggests a feeling of  “researchers as disruptors.” By that, I mean we have the opportunity to drive real, meaningful change both within the research industry and for our clients .  Research gives us a chance to make waves and look at things differently with each project that presents itself—with the caveat that careful planning is required in order to create constructive disorder

Weave that story

Storytelling was a big focus at this conference, and there were more than a couple sessions focused on this. Specifically the two-part workshop by Second City was designed to get us as researchers thinking more from a storytelling perspective.  More than one presenter talked about not showing every single piece of data (One  panelist admitted to not accepting any report longer than 10 slides.)  I walked away from that workshop with a few tricks, but the main thing I took away from it was an understanding of perspective. When we are constructing a report, always think about it from the perspective of your audience. What is the story they would want to be a part of?  What would get them excited about the data surfacing from the research exercise?  Dr. Tatham (Burke Institute) cleverly suggested starting with our summary and then populating data to support it.  This might take some shifts in behavior but if It results in a good story for our clients, I think it’s worth considering.

Research is powerful

I get it, this was a researcher’s conference so not super-surprising, but still it made me feel energized about my job. Brett Townsend (PepsiCo) specifically said he wants his vendors to be more consultative. In that same panel, Jill Donahue (Nestle) said we should know we are the voice of the consumer. It’s something I often ask – How we can always go back to that. We are responsible for bring the consumer into the mindset and development cycles of our clients.  We’re at a pivotal point where the research provider is seen as a partner, and with that comes ownership.  It’s still true that we don’t make the decisions, but we help drive them.

I think as researchers we should know more than anyone that everything evolves. Behaviors change. Audiences change. Clients change. Needs change. We need to constantly be willing to adapt to new thinking and new ways of doing things. I embrace the present but am excited to see what the future holds for market research.

Wayne Goodreau

VP of Research & Insights


Wayne brings over a decade of experience as a market research professional. His expertise spans a number of vertical industries, including consumer packaged goods, information technology, insurance and financial services, and pharmaceuticals. Wayne has extensive experience in conducting both qualitative and quantitative research that translates into insights aimed at helping businesses make tactical and strategic decisions.

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