Should you have been there?

14 Feb 2018 | ICG News & Announcements

Qual 360 – Should you have been there?

Should you have been there?

Qual 360 Conference, Berlin, 7-8 Feb 2018

Many thanks for Margaret Amein who has prepared this highly entertaining review of the conference … 

FoMO – Fear of missing out – a general worry that others might have been having a great experience that you missed

Did you miss anything by not attending the 2018 Qual 360 “Evolve and Transform” Conference in Berlin?

Well, if you want to keep up with trends in qual – and research in general – and expand your network within Europe – this seems to be THE conference for that.

Who was there?

  • Client-side researchers from Sky, Ericsson, Coca Cola, Delivery hero, Jaguar Landrover, Kao (haircare), Barclaycard, Etsy, Babbel, etc.
  • Trendy, innovative research agencies and a few classic ones.
  • Independent quallies from all over Europe.

I didn’t meet any other ICGers (were any there??), but our own Nikki Lavoie from Mindspark was the Conference Chairperson and first up to speak.

The Promise – Why did I go?

Qual 360 Berlin was billed as a “Must-Attend” conference with case studies / innovative qual techniques / best practices / trends.

More importantly, almost every program topic was relevant for me – and generally looked more up-to-speed than the usual conference agendas.

Given the big promises and my most-likely too high expectations, I was ready to be at least a little disappointed. That was based on very nice but not amazing experiences from other conferences. As another ICGer said, research conferences tend to be a bit “samey” after a while – you’ve already heard it before.

The Reality

In this case, I was not only blown away by the what I absorbed, but I also just had a great time.

Would I attend another Qual 360 Conference? A definite yes.

The conference was so thoughtfully organised that I would even consider the MRMW in Stockholm in September – which is also run by the same group. And, I also wondered if it would make sense to network further afield and attend their conferences in the U.S. and Asia?

What was great about the Qual 360 Conference?

Having so many clients there – presenting and mingling with the attendees made a real difference.

Unlike other conferences – most of the presentations gave a genuine insider view of the client perspective or then showcased different approaches to the usual. I never had the feeling that I was watching a sales pitch made to look like a presentation.

I also liked that the friendly, social environment was highly conducive to networking. Business cards were flying. And, it didn’t seem to matter whether you knew everyone or no-one before you arrived.

What could be better?

Given the disruption happening in qual and in research in general – Qual 360 might want to consider scheduling more small break-out sessions than in normal times. We (my table) often felt we needed to discuss and debate in a smaller group after some of the more thought-provoking presentations.

Five Takeaways from Qual 360, “Evolve and Transform”

  1. Opportunity: Over and over again, we heard that clients don’t trust qual data, because it’s too subjective. Sample sizes are too small. We also heard that they need it more than ever. They have too much data but not making any sense of it. They need qual to find out “why.”  The result is that you saw what looked like qual research being dressed up to look like quant in order to be accepted by management.  The opportunity for qual is real (but the objections to qual have also never been easy to address).
  2. Opportunity: Repeatedly – we heard presenters tell us that clients want actionable recommendations rather than a list of brilliant insights.  This is obviously not news to anyone yet this point was being driven home again and again in multiple presentations. And that indicates both internal and external researchers are still struggling to go beyond the findings –  and make actionable recommendations in a way that’s relevant for end-users. A long-term, unmet need and another opportunity?
  3.  Challenge: In terms of approaches to research – truly creative, trendy research agencies seem to be sprouting up like mushrooms so we’re going to have to work hard as independents not to get left behind in our approaches.
  4. Challenge: In terms of how results were presented – quite a few had presentation standards at ad agency levels. This puts the pressure on for better-looking presentations, photos and short, professional videos highlighting research results. Or risk looking out-dated. Ouch!
  5. State of the Market: You have a sense that shrinking budgets; constantly improving DIY research tools; and more competitors for the same business is impacting independents and all types of agencies alike. Even the trendy, innovative agencies with very long and desirable list of clients seem to be having their fair share of ups and downs.

Favourite Speakers

Trendy agencies coming from London such as BAMM and Northstar stole the show by merging ad agency production values with market research. If you think the actual research content matters more than how it’s presented – think again. In many cases, the bigger goal was to get the full client team on board with the customer viewpoint rather than focusing on the insights. That’s why a creative, beautiful way of organising a project and presenting the results matters so much.

Otherwise – in terms of who is innovating in research – some of the practices were so cutting-edge – there was a collective gasp in the room during certain parts of presentations. The virtual reality shop and product display created by m concept (Berlin-based psychologist-researchers) along with Ericsson’s Consumer Labs truly crazy virtual reality focus group are still on my mind. Belgium-based Haystack’s multisensory research project to enhance the user-experience of visitors to an art museum stood out as well.

Of course, the client-only presentations don’t need to be glamorous or cutting-edge to catch our attention. In the end, these are the ones that are going to give us the most food for thought in terms of what we need to do for clients.

Most Coveted Project

Accenture U.K. had a project from a non-profit organisation in the U.S. called Girls who Code. The big question from Girls who Code – when girls are just as interested as boys in computing why do only 12% of women end up working tech fields?

Accenture, working with a research partner, got the take-aways the client needed. And it was a very challenging project brief. Still, I would have loved to take this on.

Funny Incident

I found myself and an English (Irish-English to be more specific) attendee sitting directly next to me laughing loudly (even too loudly) at various presenter jokes and comments. We couldn’t help it. But when I looked around the room – many seemed stone-faced or then laughed at different things than we did.

Not sure what’s going on there, but it reminded me of lunch room situations when I was in my 20s working in the U.S. My best friend at work would have to tell jokes specifically for me  – and I would fall on the floor while my fellow American co-workers didn’t – and vice versa.

Am I an American with a more English sense of humour? Maybe that explains why I never laughed so much as I did in my 10 years living and working in London – only to have that come to a rather abrupt halt when I moved to Germany – where the workplace is rather serious in comparison.

Margaret Amein –