Impact 2017 - A review

Friday 21st April 2017

Impact 2017:  Are you future fit?  The MRS's annual conference, billed as the 'biggest, brightest and boldest conference in the sector' has just finished - but did it live up to expectations?  The ICG sent along two reporters to see whether they were impressed by the 'dynamism' of the event, were insipred and came away with intelligence and stratgies for tomorrow.

Day 1 Reporter:  Ed Newton

The two-day conference kicked off with a short address from Jane Frost.   Jane mentioned the MRS efforts to be more inclusive and briefly talked about the current survey being managed by Lightspeed who were measuring the extent of the issue. 

Our retiring president, Dame Diane Thompson was then thanked for her contribution over the last three years.  She welcomed our new President, Jan Gooding, Global Inclusion Director at Aviva, whose term of office began in March.

The conference programme comprised of 26 sessions over the two days with a wide choice of topics, all relevant to the industry of today.  Nicola Mendelsohn (Facebook) began by giving us an insight as to the corporate culture – openness, inclusion and innovation.  They developed a programme to remove the gender bias.  When they scoured the world to assess what others had done to resolve the issue they realised that there was little published work.  As a result, they developed their own.  Since launch 99% of management have voluntarily participated.

Following the Boston bombing Facebook developed a system that would assist in the management of disasters, assisting emergency services to better manage these catastrophes.  Since launch it has been activated over 500 times and notified over a billion people. 

Brexit and the issues surrounding it was a prominent topic of the conference.  The clearest supporters of Brexit were those who believed that their futures would be less good than their parents.  Those keen to remain were confident that their futures would be better as a ‘Remainer’.

Many remainers were in a state of shock of the result while leavers were often euphoric.  Some in the audience loudly voiced that we are now a divided society and efforts should be made to redress this imbalance.

Work for charities and projects assisting social issues were prominent.  Network Rail were concerned about distressed passengers.  They had developed an App to be provided to all guards and drivers.  The App was the simplest way for staff to know the procedures and could act accordingly.  When piloting they quickly realised its usefulness.

The FCA took us through a study dealing with Dementia sufferers and their financial management.  Many of the providers have made little effort to ensure that their web sites are sympathetic to the elderly. 

  • “New improved means chaos and confusion”
  • “If I could ask just one thing is that they understand the importance of patience” 

The message from Oliver James was that everybody has different and potentially several personas.  He illustrated this with David Bowie and his stage persona Ziggy Stardust, which he used in differing ways, such as his need to overcome his fear of strangers. 

The last session was from Caitlin Moran.  She provided her views on equality and society.  The shortcoming these days is that people are not inventing the future, they seem to devote too much time complaining about the present.

It was a packed agenda covering a wide range of topics.  The research industry is clearly busy and the topics that it is now involved are expanding.  The papers delivered were thin on new methodologies but counterbalanced by the current breadth of applications. 

Finally, it was time for the MRS Annual Conference Party.

Day 2 Reporter: Karen Cooper

I have to start with an apology – it is now nearing the end of April and the MRS Conference happened over a month ago.  A crazy work schedule followed by Easter caused this delay, but on the bright side, a bit of space for a write up is a good thing and a luxury we’re rarely afforded in today’s fast paced commercial reality.

I only spent the morning of the second day at Conference, so it was a quick dip-and-out, but, emerging after a few hours from the deep bowels of the Grange Tower Bridge Hotel I felt both intellectually stimulated and inspired.  Given the unstable and frankly frightening political and cultural landscape, I was expecting more doom and gloom, but it had quite an upbeat and optimistic vibe.  One reason for this I think was due to the excellent Key Note speakers, all experts in areas other than market research, but chosen to make us think differently about our day jobs.

I only heard one Key Note, Dan Snow, historian extraordinaire, but heard gushing reports from participants about Caitlin Moran (who made impressions with her comment ‘The internet is at the drunk toddler stage’) on Day 1 and Dr. Hannah Fry (who explained the mathematics of love) and Ed Balls (who got conference dancing) on the afternoon of Day 2.  Dan Snow positively fizzed with enthusiasm about his chosen subject, boldly claiming that looking at the past can help build a better future, a line of reasoning that echoes our own industry (‘Evidence matters’ – MRS).  One anecdote about finding historical start points and Middle East Taxi drivers, stuck with me and reminded me of the importance of not taking a brief without looking at the client’s past and broader context.

Then it was decision time – a choice of three equally enticing sessions: Redefining Quant and Qual, Tackling the taboos and Lessons for brands from Brexit.  I chose the latter, for no other reason than it was near the coffee stand.  It was quite an interesting session, starting with the fact that there were six female speakers and one male – go MRS!!  One thing that remained me with (pardon the hint as to which way I voted), was a new potent way of segmenting data – you’ve guessed it, whether you voted remain or leave.  It seems like there are some really interesting insights cutting data in this way, challenging traditional demogs or even political left/ right leanings.

The third, and final session I went to that morning was ‘Nudge or hint?  Is behaviour change going far enough?’, showcasing three successful behavioural-based case studies including tackling childhood obesity, getting young people to recycle and stopping drivers using mobiles.  All three case studies were interesting and well presented, and showed the importance of thinking beyond the obvious/ what you hear from respondents and the need to explore system 1 thinking.  However, my slight niggle with this session was that each of the case studies had other components driving success beyond behavioural insights, so I guess the answer to the title of the session is ‘no’ (although I mean behavioural insight on its own isn’t enough).

Sadly, after a tasty lunch I had to leave, but felt nourished in more ways than one.


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