Consumer market research is an essential tool to build and differentiate brands and drive innovation. But things are rapidly changing in the industry with the research vendor business model being disrupted by SaaS competitors, encroachment by different industries, emerging methodologies, lower pricing and easier access to consumers.
Change creates opportunity
Research and insights is clearly at a crossroads, and it’s not entirely clear what the industry will look like 10 or even five years out. What we do know is that while disruption creates precariousness, it also creates opportunity. The research and insights function has the opportunity to grow in stature, though it must transform in structure. What we do know is that research and insights must improve at communicating, positioning and, ultimately, selling its organizational value and deliverables. As communicators, we need to rethink the paradigm of 150-slide data dump. Researchers should focus on delivering compelling, contextualized, clearly elucidated and actionable insights that inspire rather than just provoke. To be all those things, our work must tell a story.
To tell better stories researchers must optimize key media by thinking differently about delivery formats. Here’s three ways to begin.
1. Think differently about your presentation
Many research presentations use a narrative structure that focuses on the process, rather than the objectives of the research. A preferable approach is to focus on objectives, putting calls to action, and key takeaways, front and center. Taking a narrative approach, a deck might have a table of contents and few key insights followed by pages of dense data. In contrast, a deck with an objective-based narrative structure will outline the key objectives and the adjacent insights/solutions. A well-crafted, objective-based deck will organize and curate data to support those points as succinctly as possible.
2. Think differently about video
Brand stewards should consider how video formats are calibrated to the nature of the research and message. Two relevant formats to consider are: movie trailers and documentary films. The choice of which to use should depend on what type of message is to be delivered. If your message is selling, you want to inspire action and a movie trailer style might be preferable. That would ideally be short (a minute or less), with fast-cut editing, dramatic background music, and much lessdata and text. Alternatively, if you wish to inform, a documentary style may be optimal.
On a completely separate note, one heavily underutilized tool is sprinkling your video clips with actual consumer sessions. One method is short excerpts of 1-2 minutes that bolster key points, problems to solve, etc. Clips should be well-edited, with a strong narrative structure, but if you can capture actual footage from consumer sessions, it can greatly enhance your video.
3. Think differently about experiences
Experiences are the other main distribution channel for research/insights. While share-out events are critically important, insight professionals often give short shrift to the experience and the audience profile. Researchers should experiment to improve in both areas, to maximize learnings and organizational attention. To heighten the experience, a variety of formats should be explored, whether styles of presentation, event formats, or otherwise. Brands might consider having actors pose as target consumer segments, or feature articulate, charismatic target consumers.
New event formats should be explored, such as live, “fishbowl” style events, in which consumers sit on a panel in real time, surrounded by business people, then let the audience and speakers swap places. Unfortunately, when it comes to telling stories, we often neglect the consumers of our work. Oftentimes research socialization events have different audiences. Whether marketing, senior management, strategy/insights, sales or other constituencies, each event should be formatted and experiences calibrated based on the motivations and understanding of each audience.
As the market research industry continues to be challenged by new competitors, disruptive business models, and changing consumer habits, research and insights presentations will change in profound ways. Therefore, we must improve our ability to communicate, position, and sell our work. To succeed, we must learn to optimize the media formats that communicate research deliverables and the stories we tell.