Humans, phablets, Facebook friends
When it was suggested by one of my colleagues that I attend the AQR conference at Marketing Week Live 2014, I was of two minds. I couldn't wait to hear what's been going on in qual, but was concerned about dedicating three hours at the show to one session.
Well, I had nothing to fear: the AQR conference was the highlight of my day!
PRS Award Papers
The first three presentations were by the Prosper Riley-Smith Qualitative Excellence Award finalists and winner. Id already read about them in In Brief, but they were even better when experienced first-hand. Mark Thorpe's paper about humanisation revealed lessons that were not only relevant to Truths client, John Lewis, but also to the broader business community.
Sarah Jenkins informed me of the intriguing mixed methodologies used in IPSOSs work with the BBC News Audiences team and also taught me a new word on the street that I think could catch on: the phablet.
To conclude the first half of the conference, Acacia Avenues Caroline Hayter, with the support of EDF Energys Bettina Meddings, told The story of Zingy. And, just as their research had aimed to do with this cheery little chap, their presentation left me feeling really good (and looking forward to what I could learn in the latter half of the conference).
Millenials and Brands
After a 15-minute break, Rebecca Harries took us through OneMSs research into Millennials: thats people aged 18-30 to you and me. It was really interesting to see stereotypes about my age group put under the microscope. Some of the behaviour I see in myself, my friends and my colleagues every day was put into context, as part of the bigger picture for brands, and it certainly made me have a few light bulb moments throughout this session.
Next Kat Slater, in a Madonna-esque head set (sadly, no singing or dancing to accompany this next time, Kat), who described Firefishs research into how people interact with brands online. The key take out here was that brands need to think more carefully about what theyre actually trying to achieve on social media, and why.
A Like or a Follow isnt where the journey ends; brands need to be aware of how they come across on social media versus their other channels. They dont want to get annoying Facebook friend syndrome. As Kat pointed out, weve all got one of these people in our lives and even if we like them in person, we can start to despise them on social media. This is a category many brands currently fit into in their existing and potential customers lives, and one they need to get out of to have any real success in this space.
The conferences closing session was all about accreditation. This is a topic that now has lots of momentum, industry backing and, as Acacia Avenues Blue Martin revealed, the potential to further professionalise our industry.
Blue helped restore my faith in what accreditation is trying to achieve. Currently, anyone with a computer who fancies a go at qualitative research can. Raising standards through accreditation should discourage them, while creating a high-prestige sector thats attractive to students in schools, colleges and universities and, rightly, put qualitative research on the desirable career map. Theres a lot of upcoming work still to be done on this, so watch this space!
Finally, I cant fail to mention the AQR chair, Ken Parker, for his wonderful job as Master of Ceremonies at the conference as well.
Overall, the morning was really interesting, insightful and thought provoking. This was definitely the gem of the Understand zone at MWL 2014, and if you didnt get to see the guys at the conference or the AQR stand this year, make sure you dont miss them there in 2015!
Client Services Manager, The Thinking Shed
This article was first published in InBrief magazine, August 2014
Copyright © Association for Qualitative Research, 2014