AQR’s stand drew people from all over, hosting discussions about the nature of qualitative research, while attracting a number of potential new members and helping spread the word about AQR itself. There was a keen appetite for information about the opportunities it provides to learn from the best in the business via webinars and to train and connect with likeminded researchers at its various social events and conferences.

The format of the event encouraged mixing between disciplines of market research. It was both easy to navigate and felt open and welcoming. Key takeouts from the two days are:

1) Even though technology is increasingly sophisticated and can provide answers that consumers are unable to provide themselves, a qualitative understanding of how to contextualise these results will impact the methodology’s success. Tech shouldn’t be used as a proxy for creative thinking. As Susan Fader championed in her talk about counterintuitive thinking: it is incumbent on researchers to think outside the box, to be brave in our approach.

2) We shouldn’t take our hands off the wheel of new tech, but we also need to remain critical when applying academic models to a market research context. We must adapt academic models for the consumer market. The consumer context is a unique one, as Jon Puleston demonstrated in his talk on adapting the Big 5 personality measures for commercial research.

3) Brands’ social roles are changing. Increasingly, as Russ Wilson demonstrated in his talk on brands’ responsibility to tackle climate change, they are being called on to lead the charge, not simply mirror the trends that are already happening. Businesses have the financial and social capital to speed up the pace of cultural change, and in the case of climate change, have an increasing moral imperative to do so.

From segmentation to sustainability, virtual reality to visual personality, cultural trends to media spend, this event brought together people from every facet of market research to share experiences and debate the future.