Consumer Insights – A time to flourish

Scott Spence
Unilever Chief Client Officer
Insights Division, Kantar

The market researcher's job has always been to 'understand people'. For the longest time the research industry created its own data sources, turned that data into insights and made fact-based recommendations to marketers. The arrival of Social Media and other forms of consumer generated data disrupted the status quo but also presented new opportunities. Social has been vaunted as the death of the research industry. But, perhaps it’s the re-birth of the power of consumer insights. Many of you know that in the Chinese language, the same word is used for crisis and for opportunity. We prefer J. F. Kennedy's explanation, "The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word 'crisis.' One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity. In a crisis, be aware of the danger–but recognise the opportunity." This is the mindset researchers and marketers need to adopt to fully embrace what social media presents by way of a data source.

At Kantar, we’ve been working with social media data for years and have found many ways to use it to provide even more and richer insights. The trap people can fall into is using this new data source as a 'replacement'. What a waste! This data reveals so many new insights, and we’ve developed ways to use social data to replace or augment traditional methods to reveal new insights.

A data agnostic approach is the only approach for the future because data sources will come and go over time. The market research industry needs to come to terms with the fact that it’s no longer the only source of data, and it no longer owns all the data.

Data access, trust and privacy have already become a much bigger part of our business, and the industry can expect more changes ahead. We need to return to the essence of the industry's existence – to help marketers understand people. The industry needs to get very comfortable with new data and feel positive about any data source that helps marketers connect with consumers and make the smartest decisions to drive brand growth.