The central theme of #NEXT2017 – a market research conference held in NYC – was managing increasing complexity. In past conferences there has been a focus on big data and data integration, but it appears that now the industry has reached a point of data saturation. My colleague Stacey Kinley and I had the opportunity to attend this conference, and here are two key takeaways.
1. Insights should be presented as a story.
Our world is “data rich, insight poor” according to Anthony Tasgal, author of the Storytelling Book. His keynote was dedicated to the art of storytelling as a way to overcome complexity. We must slice through the noise with narratives, simplicity, and surprise, he suggested. “Information can be defined as how surprised we are,” said Tasgal, quoting Claude Shannon, the American mathematician.
“You can’t benchmark your way out of this” warned keynote speaker Eric Noble, founder of automotive consulting group The CARLAB. Noble is a car designer by trade (he designed – among many others – the Bentley GT sports car). Noble suggested that the common practice of focusing on delivering a few extra features for a few dollars off is a poor formula for winning in the car industry. Yet analyzing massive spreadsheets with competitive offerings is a common starting point to car design – and with very little benefit. He urged the industry to focus on the quality of information, rather than the quantity.
2. The importance of values is a formula for peak insight.
“Our values are our destiny” said Noble, quoting Gandhi. To get at these values, Noble’s firm leverages research techniques to uncover who the consumer is as a human – and not necessarily who they are as a consumer.
A recent NYT article echoed this sentiment suggesting, “Rather than trying to make others see the world the way we do, it may be more effective to meet them where they are.”
This theme of looking at the world through the eyes of the consumer, and not the perspective of the company, underscored the entire conference. A key takeaway was that it’s about the stakeholders’ identity and interests, and that it is a marketer’s job is to leverage those insights.
Seeing the world through the eyes of the consumer and then explaining their perspective as a story are two powerful lessons that can help us succeed in this data saturated environment.
To learn more about how to manage complexity in a data rich world, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.