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  • the future ofinsights project

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  • the future ofinsights project



    About this Document 2

    Executive Summary 3

    Introduction 4

    1. To see ourselves as others see us 6

    2. The trouble with insights 10

    3. From librarians to caddys new ways of working 13

    4. From caddy to explorer new methods 15

    5. From explorer to consultant new thinking 18

    6. Conclusion: three steps to the future-of-insights 21

    Appendix by BrainJuicer: the old laws of marketing 22


    Initiated by the WFA and their insights partner, BrainJuicer, the project involved over 300 of the most senior marketing and insights leaders across 94 of the worlds largest brand owners, representing global annualised sales of $2.6 trillion and 6.2 million employees.


    Published 2016

  • the future ofinsights project


    Senior marketers and insights leaders share an aspiration for the insight function it should play a strategic consultant role, challenging current thinking and proactively moving the business forward. The report identifies three practical steps to achieving this.

    Closer integration between insights and marketing teams, physically and organisationally.

    Broader adoption of new methodologies that create commercial advantage, and a spirit of open-minded exploration and experiment among those which show promise but whose commercial value is not yet proven.

    Seizing the opportunity to challenge stale thinking using the most up-to-date findings of marketing science about communications, branding, and consumer decision making.

    There is good news and bad news for insights professionals in the report.


    1. A third of insights leaders and senior marketers see insights leaders as efficient, expert, trusted advisors and educators, who build on ideas and push recommendations.

    2. Senior marketers and insights leaders both believe that the insights team can and should be delivering exploration and consultancy. Half of insights leaders already feel theyre doing this.

    3. There is a real appetite for innovation among insights leaders and senior marketers, both in methodologies and new marketing ideas. In methodologies behavioural science, ethnography, and (among marketers) big data are seen as particularly promising. In terms of new ideas, theres strong acceptance of emotion as a marketing and advertising driver.


    1. Less than a third of senior marketers are happy with Insights and almost a quarter are negative. Theyre also much less likely than Insights leaders to feel Insights teams are can-do, partners or commercial.

    2. A third of senior marketers see Insights as behind the scenes, data collectors and distributors which only 4% of insight leaders agree with.

    3. Some strongly tipped new methodologies, like social media monitoring and neuroscience, are far more popular among senior marketers than among insights leaders, suggesting a split in priorities or in perceptions of potential value.

    The Future of Insights study is a seminal piece of work every insights and marketer professional should pay attention to. It not only challenges the consensus about research but also provides clear and actionable recommendations to boost the partnership effectiveness between the insights function and their marketing stakeholders. There are many valid lessons there I intend to take full advantage of

    Yvan Goupil,Europe Head of Insights and Media at SABMiller


    Published 2016

  • the future ofinsights project



    Accelerating profitable brand growth is the goal of all WFA member companies and brand owners across the globe. The contribution of insight departments to that goal, now and in the future, is the subject of the Future-of-Insights project conceived by the WFA and their partner, BrainJuicer Group PLC. The work is being conducted with the most senior marketers and insights leaders at the worlds largest, most international brand owners, to ensure the project represents the leading edge of knowledge and aspiration in the industry.

    The first stage of the project was a survey, utilising the latest behavioural science-based research techniques to elicit the knowledge, feelings, associations, attributes and aspirations of those at the leading edge of the industry. In total 309 of the most senior marketers and insights leaders at 94 of worlds largest companies took part. This report is the summary of the research together with a vision for the contribution of Insights departments to accelerating profitable brand growth.

    The second stage of the project will be a series of interviews with CMOs and Heads of Insights to explore the findings and reactions to the vision for the Future-Of-Insights. The third stage will be a series of roundtables among Heads of Insights to discuss and agree a Future-Of-Insights roadmap. The fourth and final stage, among participating companies, will be an ongoing monitoring and sharing of progress towards realising the Future-Of-Insights and its contribution to profitable growth.

    Foreword from John Kearon, Chief Juicer, BrainJuicer

    The Insights industry was born 100 years ago, when in 1916 the Literary Digest ran the first national opinion poll among its readers, correctly predicting Woodrow Wilsons US election win. The Digest correctly called the next four elections. Then in 1936 they predicted victory for Alf Landon, when in fact Franklin D Roosevelt won a landslide.

    The Literary Digests 1936 poll was based on two million returned questionnaires. But a young researcher, George Gallup, won national recognition by predicting Roosevelts victory using a mere 50,000 respondents. It was the birth of scientific sampling, and during the 40s and 50s this new method spread from polling to marketing and advertising. Even so, Gallup was not infallible: in 1948 his organisation predicted a 5-15% win for Thomas Dewey over Harry S Truman. The headline writers ran with the story for the morning papers: DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN. They were wrong.

    Meanwhile the Insight business kept growing. Qualitative groups were invented as a wartime tool for propaganda testing. In the 1950s, Ernest Dichter, the father of Motivational Research, coined the focus group name and called them his living laboratory. His techniques shaped the 50s consumer landscape one of his groups helped invent the Barbie Doll. But not everyone was happy with Dichters insights into peoples unconscious minds. The backlash came in the form of Vance Packards famous The Hidden Persuaders, which brought motivational research to an abrupt halt.


    Published 2016

  • the future ofinsights project

    Packards intervention ushered in a more rational, functional era of differentiation, USPs and message-based persuasion marketing, alongside a slew of standardised research techniques to measure it. Metrics and constructs like purchase intention, segmentation, and brand awareness, linkage and loyalty have been the Insights industry default from the 60s and 70s to the present.

    Insights departments now occupy a crucial role in companies: understanding their consumers and predicting the success of new products and advertising. Their tools, techniques and philosophies have evolved enormously over the last 100 years. But as our history lesson shows, they have evolved through challenge the flaws in old methods being superseded by newer techniques. And the methods so ubiquitous today will themselves be challenged and improved upon in future.

    We are lucky enough to work in the insights industry at a time when challenges are coming from multiple directions. There is more data available than ever; the growing collection of passive data, the use of social media for insight, a surge of interest in neuroscience, and a fascination with behavioural economics and psychology. New competitors from analytics and tech companies are expanding and changing the research marketplace. And better, more empirical studies of marketing effectiveness from bodies like the IPA and the Ehrenberg-Bass institute offer a compelling, data-driven critique of existing research practice.

    So the Insights industry will and must keep evolving. This years UK general election proved as much: over 100 polls, using gold standard sampling and research techniques, utterly failed to predict the Conservatives majority. More accurate and advanced methods, like prediction markets, are available, but these have not been widely adopted. Why? The most likely answer is that they break the existing rules of research.

    Sometimes those rules need to be broken. If polling, the gold standard of research, is on trial, then so is the rest of our $40bn industry. Its time, once again, for the Insight business to change.

    The reason for this history lesson is to set our studys findings in the context of current practice, highlight areas of dissatisfaction and point to a growing sense of where the Future-Of-Insights may lie and the benefits that could accrue to those who pursue it.

    The Insights function sits at a crossroads in 2015. Under pressure from new technology, new thinking and new ways of working as well as massive cost and time pressures Insights leaders face more difficulties and opportunities than ever.

    Theres never been a better time to ask how Insights stakeholders see the function, what insight professionals believe, the methods they truly value, and where they want to be in future.

    Theres a lot to chew over in this study. Not all of it is comfortable reading for Insights leaders, or for senior Marketers. But theres good news too: a genuine consensus on wh


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