I went to Amsterdam not sure what to expect of IIEX Europe. I knew the conference was about marketing innovation but what exactly did that mean? Mostly, I was excited to go since I was giving a talk as part of their New Speaker Series. This was not your college marketing seminar. This was a congregation of the top marketing research professionals.
I went to the conference by myself, which meant I didn’t have a co-worker to hang out with the whole time. Soon enough I had made a group of friends. The conference was a perfect size where you could get to know people and start seeing the same faces around. The other attendees were very friendly. I was easily able to go up to someone and join in the conversation. There were some companies running booths. These folks were not overly pushy of their products or standoffish. Even though I was not a prime customer they took the time to talk about what their companies did. There is quite some amazing tech in marketing research!
The conference kicked off with an inspiring keynote speech. The speech asked attendees to use their imagination because what they were about to see was cutting edge ideas. I saw many themes run through this two-day conference:
- Humanization of systems
- Look inward for innovation
Humanization of Systems
“You’re not meeting my needs if you’re not embracing technology.”
Tech is huge in marketing research. According to Melissa Gil, Gartner reported that CMOs (chief marketing officers) are spending more than CIOs (chief information officers) on tech! They emphasized the fact that technology now understands the human language. MRX needs to take advantage of this to accelerate intelligence of their research. See Watson passing the medical boards. This conference challenged the audience use human incarnations of a system because humans are more likely to respond to other humans than machines.
What I heard from the audience, was that their company’s consumers were people. They were challenging marketers to look at customers as individual people, not just consumers of a product. View the technology you use in a human way. We do this by tracking how people emotionally respond to what we’re putting in front of them.
It’s not just that tech is huge in marketing research. It is that technology affects how the business makes money. Think of it like this: marketing research is helped by technology. Those findings impact business decisions which, if done correctly, create profit. Because of this, researchers aren’t necessarily reporting to CMOs. They are reporting to CIOs, CTOs, and other business leaders outside of the marketing department. It is becoming more important for marketing researchers to understand the business (offerings, products, processes, etc.) when doing research because their research impacts the bottom line. I talked about this before (which you can read here) – how in tech or whatever we do we need to do it for the business. If what we do doesn’t result in profits than it is pointless. The last speaker said that we no longer have room for “nice to haves”. Everything moves so quickly that you only have time to focus on the “must haves” to stay competitive. After all, Fortune 500 companies are now down to a 15-year lifespan.
Where do we find innovation?
I sat in on roundtable whose topic was Innovation as a Service. The roundtable was a bit awkward since the topic leader was looking for feedback on his innovation company. He wanted us to “SWOT” it. While I was originally very interested in the roundtable topic, it quickly was revealed that the company used business analysis to improve business processes. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. It’s just not what I imagined as “innovation as a service”.
If you’re a company looking to innovate, looking for help outside of the organization is the wrong move. Your company, your business – it needs to be your vision. If you, as the leadership, don’t have the vision to take it forward then that’s not good. Instead of looking for outside help, you should look inside the company to people who make it operational every day. These are the folks who, when given the opportunity, will rise to the challenge and create the wanted innovation.
The closing speech, Innovation to Insight, given by Melissa Gil had some really good pointers for innovation within the company. Gil used these techniques to help her go from a marketing researcher to a Director at Credit Suisse.
- Find people to go on the [innovation] journey with you
- Work with the network you have to solve the problems you want to solve
- Innovation means change. Using Change Management is like helping the organization go through the 5 Stages of Grief. Be aware that people are going through these changes when shown data that support new processes.