I recently returned from two of the biggest market research and brand strategy conferences in the US—MRMW in Atlanta and Quirks in New York—and I wanted to take a moment to reflect on my experience and share some of the insight I gained. In this blog post, I’ll be discussing the three major takeaways from my experience at these conferences.
Takeaway #1: AI has people tuning in AND tuning out
The first takeaway from recent insights trade shows is that artificial intelligence (AI) is everywhere – and it continues to gain traction but there’s also a growing fatigue among those trying to keep up. I saw this up close at Quirks NYC, with enthusiasm for AI sessions on day one quickly fizzling and turning into AI avoidance on day two.
We’re just scratching the surface when it comes to seeing AI make advancements in entertainment, customer service excellence, and even scientific breakthroughs that will significantly extend our lifespans. But AI is hard to keep a handle on, as the pace of change is dizzying and there’s so much noise out there right now. Some of the things that are advertised as AI are really just rebranded, repackaged old technology that companies are trying to make sound more contemporary. This has created a lot of confusion.
People are hitting a wall in trying to understand which touted “AI” technologies are actually AI and which ones are going to affect their business. The net effect is that staying on top of how AI will transform your industry is both challenging and emotionally draining. That’s where having partners you can trust to help understand the space and pace of AI innovations can come in.
Takeaway #2: Real market research innovation is happening
My second takeaway from MRMW and Quirks is that there’s real innovation happening amidst all the noise and friction. Companies need to be able to filter out the hype from what’s actually relevant and use it to their advantage.
Probably the most exciting peek into the future that I saw was in a session at Quirk's New York where Ironwood Insights Group and Persona Panels introduced something called synthetic respondents. They start with a segmentation model and add a layer of additional private proprietary research. Then, they plug all of that into a ChatGPT-based engine and connect it to the web with an agent, where it consumes thousands of articles every day.
The result is a segmentation model that's "alive" and constantly evolving. You can ask these segments about things that weren't part of the original research, and it can project their perspectives and values into the future with confidence. You can use this to gauge brand perception, monitor competitor reactions, and stay in the loop about the potential impact of social and political events that impact your industry.
This opens up a whole new world of possibilities for enhancing secondary research, conducting early-stage synthetic concept studies, and informing marketing strategies and copy innovation.
Takeaway #3: Foresight is back
MRMW and Quirks both had four different foresight researchers present from McDonald's, Reddit, Molson, Coors, Colgate, and Palmolive. What struck me is how closely this ties in with the rise of artificial intelligence.
Again, take Apple's upcoming launch of their Vision Pro product. Imagine having a personal AI assistant that knows you better than you know yourself and anticipates your needs before you even realize you have them. This kind of technology is set to reshape lifestyles, accelerate awareness and product adoption, and catapult innovation to new heights.
But it's not just about wearables and personal AI assistants. We're talking about immersive experiences that transport you to sporting events, AI-powered customer service agents that never have a bad day, and scientific breakthroughs in health that could extend our lifespans. The sheer magnitude of change hitting us from all directions is enough to make anyone feel like they're flying blind.
That's why investing in foresight is becoming crucial for businesses. Having a guide that can help navigate these uncharted waters will be a game-changer. Companies that can scan the environment, analyze trends and mega-trends, assess technologies, and plan scenarios for the future will have a clear competitive advantage.
With exciting AI tools on the horizon, analysts will have even more insights to develop a solid point of view on what lies ahead. So, if you're not thinking about foresight yet, you probably should.
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About the Author
John Ferreira is Chief Insights Officer at Finch Brands, a leading insight-driven brand consultancy. In 2016, John identified the need for a better solution in the insights community space to help solve the pain points he felt when he was a client himself. The result was FinchSight insights communities, which helped Finch Brands grow over 1,000% in the following 5 years by solving real problems for clients. Prior to joining Finch Brands, John spent 11 years at Campbell Soup Company with roles in consumer insights and brand management spanning brands such as Campbell’s Chunky Soup, Prego Italian Sauce, and Swanson Broth.
To stay ahead of the curve, companies need to invest in foresight to make informed bets on the future. This includes environmental scanning, trend and mega trend analysis, technology assessments, and scenario planning.