sweep of Research Live’s innovation page is a quick way to sum up innovation in
the research sector. One story talks about how research can grasp
voice-controlled technology, another news piece covers Microsoft’s foray into
AI. There’s real-time audience analytics here, and facial coding there, with a
tangible hint of fear that Facebook, Google and Amazon are out for our jobs.
Lead at MMR Research Worldwide, it’s my job to keep on top of developments in
the wider world and put them to work in an insight context. You might imagine
that this means creating exciting new digital platforms, hanging out with
trendy young developers and launching one branded MMR innovation after another.
than not however, innovation simply means piloting a new technology before
we’ll recommend it to clients. We’ve spent considerable time and effort
exploring things like gamification, facial coding, implicit association and
mobile surveys to ensure that the solutions we offer meet real client needs
rather than paying lip service to trends.
such innovation streams have seen us launch the ubiquitous mobile research app
and a video hosting platform - and we’ve got a real tech corker coming up - but as a rule, our most successful innovations
have come from within, utilising our eyes and ears and the experience and
expertise we have in-house.
The Focus Group is DEAD
disruptors would say that the focus group is dead; we’d say our EROS (Early
Rules of Success) groups are anything
but. We took the traditional focus
group, and with our specialist knowledge applied articulacy screening and
skilful sensory moderation to create a proprietary method that’s in huge demand
with some of the biggest global names in food and drink. Why? Because it uses
consumers to shape new product development, tightening up product and pack
briefs and ensuring that marketing and R&D are all working to the same goal,
with a better chance of getting it right first time. We’ve just been
shortlisted for a Masters of Marketing Award for our work in helping baby bath
brand Paddy’s Bathroom get to a better product and pack design in a matter of
location tests (or ‘hall tests’) seem a little old fashioned when we should
surely be able to send new products via an app nowadays? Well no. In reality,
there is no more efficient way to get consumers to physically try food and
drink products (we should know, we’ve probably done tens of thousands of them
over the years), so we dialled the hall test up a notch, using tech additively
to provide a streaming real-time dashboard that allows researchers and clients
to observe the story as it unfolds, and select participants directly in the
hall for follow-up interviews, voxpops or quick qual groups as the CLT is
happening. By removing the need to flesh out quant data with qual groups, or
quantify qual with quant, we’ve created a great innovation in MMR-Connect that
blends the two and really supports our mission to reduce the innovation
timeline for clients.
innovation has to be the simplest of all, and it feels really exciting because
of the huge value it offers to clients. Sensory evaluation of products
typically takes place in controlled conditions at a sensory science centre, in
order to get consistent ratings across attributes. But this is quite far
removed from real life. Hermes (derived from hermeneutics) from MMR offers a cost-effective middle ground
whereby MMR’s sensory panellists are issued with products to try at home rather
than in the lab, which they can assess like real consumers, but with the benefit
to clients of advanced sensory articulacy and acuity and as much control as the
client wants to include. By combining sensory and consumer data in one go, we
once again strip valuable days out of the innovation process for clients.
So you see,
innovation doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel. By looking to the expertise we
have in-house and vast experience of the questions that we’re typically trying
to answer for clients, we can arrive at an innovative solution that simply
greases the wheels and gets us to those answers more quickly.
Dr Caroline Withers leads innovation at MMR Research Worldwide.