This was my first time at The Market Research Event, and I want to send out a ‘thank you’ to IIR and to Quirk’s Magazine for giving away a free pass via their monthly contest! I was lucky enough to win the free pass!

To set the stage for my Top 10 List:

I manage a very small (essentially 2 people) market research department in a large organization in Portland, Maine. So I approached TMRE from the client side – looking to learn some best practices, gain some new insights, and scope out some potential vendors.
After attending 20 sessions and keynotes and sending out 283 recap tweets, I’ve narrowed down my list to my personal Top 10 Favorite Sessions at TMRE. Here they are, in no particular order:

  • Jeremy Gutsche, founder of and author of Exploiting Chaos gave a high-energy keynote on The Trend Report: Clusters of Innovation. Besides sharing the 2011 Trend Hunter video (see below), he encouraged the audience to not become complacent and stuck in the daily market research routine…don’t be afraid to fail, because this mindset dulls innovation and inspiration. Also, don’t be afraid of change and chaos as there is ripe, fertile ground there for research. (Also a great plug for his book Exploiting Chaos, which I read on the plane.
  • Annie Pettit, Chief Research Officer at Conversition Strategies, @LoveStats on Twitter, and bona fide social media research guru gave a great talk on Capturing the Whole Picture of Your Target Audience. She highlighted that “extreme vigilance is required to accurately process social media research data,” and reminded the audience that in order to score sentiment correctly, we all need to ensure we’re up to speed on emoticons, slang, texting shorthand, etc. For audience members looking into social media research providers, Annie shared some tips for what to ask so as to find a reputable vendor. Stuffed elephants also made an appearance!
  • A session very close to my heart was Nicole Freund’s Succeeding as a One-Wo/Man Army: Creating Value When You are the Only Resource. Freund, who is the Consumer Research Manager at The Coleman Company, truly is a one woman research army for 8 brands and more than 22 product categories. Freund drove home the point that even without a huge budget or staff, solid and really cool research can be done! She also reminded the audience that with a small staff (or no staff): “You have to be able to do guerrilla research, but also know how far it can take you” and “Know the tools that are realistically available, and sometimes “no” is the right answer.”
  • Immersion inspiration could be found at Heiko Schäfer’s presentation Bringing the Consumer, Shopper and Customer to Life. Schäfer, the VP of Consumer & Market Insights at Henkel Consumer Goods (The Dial Corporation) provided a fascinating case study of an immersion session he recently produced. Set in the company cafeteria, and complete with interactive (and insightful) games, the immersion session looked like it was a great success! Reminding the audience that we’re not just survey designers, Schäfer shared: “We’ve become journalists, storytellers, videographers, entertainers…it’s important to bring in the voice of the customer every day.”
  • If you’re a gamer, you know about Blizzard Entertainment…and Adding Value with Research When Drowning in an Ocean of Data presented by Jason Anderson, Director of Global Consumer Insights, session, definitely lived up to my geek girl expectations.Several interesting facts from the session:
    • Blizzard hired a full-time data visualization engineer
    • They use in-game achievements and badges as market research tools
    • They don’t consider other games their competitors, they consider other leisure activities their competitors
    • They know how to rock PowerPoint – Anderson wins the “best slides” award of the day by combining a simple, impactful headline with cool graphics from the game.
  • As a Communispace alumna I couldn’t miss Diane Hessan (Communispace CEO) speaking with Stan Sthanunathan, VP of Marketing Strategy & Insights at The Coca-Cola Company at The 21st Century Market Researchersession. Apparently I wasn’t the only one excited to observe this conversation, the session was packed with folks out into the hallway.The interview was packed with juicy sound-bites from the gregarious Sthanunathan (“I have no filter between my brain and mouth!”). Sharing his thoughts that “market research is the BEST profession in the world,” Sthanunathan feels it’s important to hire diverse, and unique, talent…great storytellers who aren’t afraid to be disruptors. Diane closed the session with a great reminder for us all: “Never underestimate the power of N=1.”
  • The intersection of social media and market research is of particular interest to me, so I made sure not to miss Antony Barton of Intel’s session: Integrating Social Media Analytics into the Traditional Primary Research Toolkit. Barton shared how Intel has established a Social Media Center of Excellence and provides social media training to all marketing staff. Social media listening is a supplementary tool to help their research team dig deeper. Barton feels it’s important to infuse traditional research with social media, behavioral, and search analytics – it’s important to not be siloed.
  • Another fabulous social media-focused session was Consumer Understanding & Insight Manager at Hallmark Tom Brailsford’s presentation: Social Media Data and Market Research: How to Get There from Here. Hallmark developed their own framework for measuring social media data and Brailsford shared several highlights from a case study around holiday ornament purchasing and social media. Interesting finding: Twitter is being used for anticipatory conversation about ornament purchasing and blogs are recapping the purchasing experience and subsequent holiday celebrations.
  • Cary Silvers, Director of Consumer Insights at Rodale presented some fascinating findings from a recent study: What’s Next for America’s Grocery Shoppers. There is a shift with consumers from focusing on what’s not in the food they are eating (fat, sodium, etc), to what is in the food (nutrients, etc.). There is fragmentation going on with grocery shopping, as consumers are not getting all they need in one trip at one store: “The one stop shop is not how Americans shop.” The quick trip is increasing, and weekly meal planning is apparently a misnomer as only 1 in 3 Americans plan their meals out for the entire week.
  • I've worked with Disney in the past so, it was great fun to attend the session co-presented by Jaclyn Skinner, Market Research Manager at Walt Disney Parks & Resorts and Jen Drolet, VP at iModerate about How Online Conversations Help Disney Capture the Voice and Language of their Guests. Having received feedback that their post-reservation website experience wasn’t resonating with Guests (aka Disney customers), Disney utilized iModerate’s moderated chats in quant surveys. The chats provided a happy side effect in that people were really excited that Disney was talking directly to them, and bringing the moderated chats into the research reports helped the research team tell the story to stakeholders and bring the Guests to life.
Were there some sessions that weren’t brilliant or weren’t particularly applicable to my role? Sure, but the excellent outweighed the mundane.

All in all, it came through loud and clear at TMRE that market researchers for the most part really enjoy their jobs. It’s not often that one travels for business and even at the cocktail parties, away from the sessions and exhibit floor, people are eagerly debating sentiment analysis, the best tools for surveys, and the coolest clients.

Finally, as you all know, I’m very active on Twitter, so it was a particular thrill for me to meet many of my Twitter friends “in real life” for the first time…and they’re even more fascinating and witty (and type wicked fast) in person!

Will I go back to TMRE next year? I would love to!