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The Ticking Time Bomb - How Can Brands Stay Ahead of Their Consumers

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Many of today’s brands and companies are struggling to keep up with their consumers. And one of the main reasons for this is because of fast changing technology and what this allows consumers to do in …

Many of today’s brands and companies are struggling to keep up with their consumers. And one of the main reasons for this is because of fast changing technology and what this allows consumers to do in terms of their interactions with each other, the brands, products, services they consume and the speed with which they are able to do so.

The big question we are constantly asking ourselves at Face is what does this mean for the research industry and what do we have to do to help our clients get and stay ahead of their consumers.

The answer to this question in its broadest sense is “Plus ca change c’est plus la meme chose” – or “the more things change the more they stay the same”.


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  • I was invited to speak to the Cello Associate Conference last week at Somerset House – the first of what will be an annual gathering of Cello’s potential future stars. The main focus of my presentation was that as an industry we are sitting on a time bomb. I brought some drama to my session by asking 3 volunteers to diffuse three dummy time bombs (by cutting one of three wires) that were boxed and wrapped while the remaining audience counted them down in just ten seconds. Of course people realised that they were not real but that the message behind it very much was.  
  • And part of the reason we are sitting on a time bomb is because the consumer landscape we have to operate in is changing very fast – consumers as we know are much more in control of the relationship they have with brands – or put another way Simon Clift the ex CMO of Unilever said recently in an article in the FT – we are behind the consumer and that is an uncomfortable place for us to be..in effect we are struggling to keep up with consumers!
  • And one of the reasons why the consumer is ahead of us is because technology is changing fast – the tools and the interfaces at their disposal that allow them to interact with each other and with brands in ways that were not possible 5 years ago – I think it is worth highlighting just a few quick examples… the screen becomes the interface (a more natural user interface NUI) TV participation is limitless FLEXIBLE SCREEN DISPLAY – Prototype A screen so thin, light and flexible that it can be rolled up and carried in your pocket, while consuming almost zero power.  That technology could become reality in two to three years, thanks to U.S. Army-backed research being done at Arizona State University’s Flexible Display Center. According to Army researchers, the displays could be in field trials with soldiers as early as 2010 or 2011. Flexible displays — when they arrive — will be a big leap from today’s liquid crystal displays (LCDs) and even organic light-emitting diode-based displays (OLEDs). The flexible displays will consume 100 times less power compared with LCDs. Reference: http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2008/10/post-2/#ixzz0p3YL6GS5 Interactive Digital Signs – Intel and Microsoft are new starters in the digital signage market, which is estimated to be worth around $3.5 billion (£2.4 billion) and set to grow by a $1 billion a year worldwide in the next three years. Technology companies — as well as advertisers — see potential. Experts talk of “screen bloom”. As the cost falls, we are seeing a big surge in high-definition digital-poster sites. Reference : Gideon Spanier – London Evening Standard
  • So what does this mean for all of us in this room – even though I think this is going to change the way we do things across the whole research and comms industry so both pillars of the Cello business I am going today to concentrate just on research..what does this mean for the research industry and what do we need to do to get and stay ahead of the consumer
  • the answer to that question is simple Plus ca change…
  • And there are 5 things that we must do so that we are always changing…
  • Must be fast, agile and deliver insight in real time and in a continuous way.. For the first time there are huge amounts of qualitative data about our customers out there for free that we can access in real time. Using our proprietary tool Pulsar we are able to listen and observe what your consumers and customers are saying on the web about your brand/product/service. It is not just what is being said where, when and by whom but also we are able to measure the which conversations (and so who of your consumers) are having the most influence. This helps us to identify your 1%ers. Our analysis is a combination of clever technology and human researchers to help deliver valuable observation.
  • The second is that as researchers we need to adapt our skills to meet the new demands this places on us as researchers… netnography – our ability to combine ethnographic research with the tools available on the web is a good example.. As a business it means we need to recruit different types of people with the skills that meet these new demands as well as train up existing employees….
  • We need to lead in the use of technology to help us become quicker, faster and more responsive in the ways in which we gather insight about our clients’ consumers
  • And this does not mean replacing human analysis – to the contrary the role of the researcher has become even more important than before….helping to find real quality from the huge quantities of data that are out there – it is the combination of both on-line and off-line approaches that deliver deeper, richer and more meaningful insight.
  • This means we have to keep challenging the way things are being done now and look to new and different methodologies that make the most of technology to help meet the challenges of the fast changing consumer landscape…
  • So we have inverted the traditional research approach of starting with qual and then going to quant by starting first with large numbers of consumers and then honing things down in a more qualitative way. To do this well it is vital to integrate on-line and offline methodologies within that process because it produces more ideas of higher quality And this means changing the role of the consumer – treating them as active equals in this process; giving them as much responsibility with direct involvement throughout the entire process separates Co-creation apart from more traditional research/marketing methods. As a result it is proving a more robust process than other approaches clients have been using.
  • And the final part of “change is the only constant” is that we must keep innovating – Face’s journey started with the launch of Headbox, a year later we launched Mindbubble, six months after that we launched Pulsar and later this year we are launching more products….
  • We all know about the long tail of innovation….but I believe in the long nose of innovation – we have got to sniff out what is coming next so that we can be there first. This will help us to stay ahead of our consumers and so lead the industry.
  • So if we are fast and agile Adapt our skills Use tech to lead Develop new methodologies and tools Keep innovating We will grow and prosper.....
  • … the alternative is being left with a bomb in our hands that goes off – and all the messy consequences of this don’t bear thinking about.
  • Transcript

    • 1. The Research Industry’s Ticking Time Bomb…Andrew Needham Founding Partner Face
    • 2. consumer landscape is changing fast
    • 3. helped by fast changing technology
    • 4. what does this mean for research
    • 5. “ Plus ça change plus c’est la même chose”
    • 6. 5 things we must do to stay ahead
    • 7. fast & agile 1.
    • 8. must adapt skills 2.
    • 9. use of technology to lead…. 3.
    • 10. but still need human analysis
    • 11. introduce new tools & methodologies 4.
    • 12. inverting the research process use the open web to harvest insights or ideas from a large number of people on the web tap into communities of consumers to refine and develop insights and ideas work with the most creative and passionate consumers (the 1%ers), to develop finely honed ideas exploration THE WEB crowd-sourcing CONSUMER COMMUNITIES co-creation CREATIVE CONSUMERS validation CONSUMER COMMUNITIES get the community to select the best ideas for launch, and find ways to improve them seamless process experts pulse in and out insights and ideas are captured throughout intimate open
    • 13. must keep innovating… 5.
    • 14. long nose of innovation
    • 15. innovate to grow or die
    • 16.