ICG Burns’ Night
London Bridge on a cold, January night – unexceptional in every way except for the colourful balloon floating above the Market Porter pub. Looking up, you can just make out four apprehensive faces peering down at the assembled throng – clearly something is very wrong! The balloon is overloaded, and each occupant has to fight for their right to remain on board … the crowd holds its breath, waiting to see who will survive, and who is due for an early visit to the bar.
Our host for the night, Andrew, immediately took charge and set out the debate rules. A tough task master, he quickly established exactly who was in charge (and it wasn’t Arthur!) and presented the central theme – ‘In the future, all market research will be done this way…’
Becky Rowe was the first to step up to the plate, arguing that factory farm respondents result in horsemeat analysis, and anyway, what is wrong with being a curvy banana? Railing against the increasing standardisation and homogenisation of research, we must be prepared to invest in procuring good data and stick to our convictions when presenting results.
Dave Hannay then took up the baton, admitting that he is a total technology luddite and then proceeding to tell us that smart phones are taking over the world – speed, simplicity, always on and ‘in the moment’, the future of research is mobile. One amazing statistic claimed that 33% of people would rather give up sex than their smart phone…
Mike Wooderson countered with an argument unashamedly aimed at capturing the audience sympathy vote. Good research, irrespective of methodology, can only be delivered by experts who understand consumers and are able to use and interpret the data effectively. He finished with a direct, and heartfelt plea – to quote ‘saving me is a vote for your future’
Roy Langmaid seemed slightly bemused by the whole experience, claiming to be unclear as to why he agreed to climb into the balloon in the first place. However, as he was there, he argued that market research does not exist independently of societies. Rather, that companies want to influence people, and in order to do so need to engage directly with them. Employing mobile solutions, with the current trend of multi screening and continual partial attention, will never give the depth of insight required and may result in respondent alienation.
After a period of considered reflection (and if you believe that…) the audience was asked to vote. After a close call between Mike and Dave, Mike’s shameless appeal for votes failed and he was the first to leave the balloon – his cry of disappointment (or was it relief?) lasted exactly as long as it took him to reach the bar.
Round two – and the gloves came off! Quality and superficiality were the clear themes throughout all three arguments.
Firstly Becky, claiming to have been rendered speechless by Dave’s argument, proceeded to eloquently attack each of his arguments in turn, attempting to undermine the very foundations of his thinking. She questioned (as do we all) whether, after 40 years in research, Dave had any energy remaining to fight for quality/ against the rise of mobile and reiterated the view that we have to work hard to ensure that respondents have a positive experience of research and use our experience to help clients navigate through the system.
Dave immediately responded by saying that using smartphone technology actually increases quality because it is not relying on (flawed) memory but, instead, is ‘in the moment’.
Roy then took a more existential approach, exploring the idea that humans co-exist and interact with each other on many different levels at any one time (physical, character traits, beliefs and identity) and to fully understand the choices and decisions that are being made we, as researchers, need to develop relationships.
Whilst Becky’s confrontational approach was hugely entertaining, it didn’t ultimately win the vote of the audience, and she was sadly voted out.
And so to the final face off – Dave vs. Roy – both of whom were asked to put forward a two line summary of their position. This came down to a ‘wake up and smell the coffee’ message from Dave – can we really afford to ignore the growth in smartphones and the access to technology that this brings? This is where the majority of spend will be in the future and we need to adapt to, and harness, this power. Roy on the other hand, reminded us of various ‘technologies’ that threatened to transform the research world and all have failed. Fashion in research is always high profile, but transient. Being able to meet people and talk to them about their lives/ thought/ feelings is a real gift, and we mustn’t throw this away in preference for technical and superficial promises.
The final vote was held, the numbers independent adjudicated and the results announced – Dave was unceremoniously thrown out of the balloon and Roy reigned supreme. (It later came to light that one of Dave’s votes was a grudge vote, based on a rather disappointing pay rise awarded by Dave to a member of the audience in 1986 – she finally got her revenge!).
And then to Burns business – Robin Shuker, ably assisted by Kevin McLean once again entertained us with the story of the haggis and some ‘interesting’ facts about Robbie Burns. The haggis was then piped in by Lynn – our professional piper – and ritually ‘stabbed’ and toasted. Lynn played a selection of Scottish tunes and was enthusiastically applauded – and not only because she is currently training with the Scottish Woman’s Boxing Team. Haggis was eaten, drinks were drunk and chat was chatted…
Many thanks to our sponsors, Cobalt Sky.