This is us; this is our AI

Shaping technology to fit MMR's vision

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Ansie Collier, Global Innovation Director, Nova

01 Dec, 2023 | 6 minutes

In the dynamic landscape of market research, Generative AI isn’t just a tool at MMR – it is a strategic ally in our mission to elevate insights and deliver impactful results. And for us this is not new! While many an agency has claimed to launch new AI driven solutions over the past 12 months, as early adopters, MMR has been actively using AI for many years. Advanced machine learning, such as Bayesian neural network models, has been a staple part of our delivery. And just think back to 2022, when Nova, our in-house innovation team, secured first-wave access to Dall E, well before Generative AI exploded on the scene with the launch of ChatGPT later that same year.

Since Generative AI became more widely available, we’ve been experimenting and implementing it across the whole project cycle and to benefit all stages of the product innovation process. However, our approach is more than adoption. We shape the technology we choose to fit with our vision and strategy, pushing the boundaries to redefine how we connect with consumers and deliver value to our clients, augmenting an already strong expert toolkit.

Framing our strategic intent

Our journey with Generative AI is anchored in a clear statement of intent, grounding our focus and guiding its potential to unlock true value for our clients:

We embrace opportunities to leverage new technology to enhance our creativity, unlock the voice of the consumer, and deliver rapid insights that matter. In this context, we collaborate with Generative AI as a team member, appreciating its strengths and weaknesses.

We see Generative AI not as a standalone solution, let alone the ultimate solution. Instead, it is an integral team member that helps to strengthen and amplify our competitive differentiation – our deep product and sensory expertise.

So, how do we work with, develop, and innovate with Generative AI as a team member?

There are four strategically important focus areas in which leveraging Generative AI delivers significant value. But before we dive into these, let’s explore some of the context of our collaboration first.

As always, there are many paths to innovation. But perfection is rarely one of them. In the rapidly evolving world of Generative AI, perfection is a myth. Worse, waiting for perfection stifles progress. We are instead opting for a development approach that is MVP-driven. This means that we release fast, learn fast, pivot fast. This agility ensures that we’re always exploring, always progressively advancing our capabilities, always at the forefront of innovation – even if it is not always perfect the first time!

This MVP-driven development approach partners well with… well, with partners. Here it is a case of aiming for the right balance of investment. Drawing on our deep legacy of successful partnership, and with a firm appreciation of the premium value of speed in the context of AI, we turn to strategic partnerships to accelerate innovation and growth. This is particularly relevant where we can tap into established technology platforms, such as Nexxt Intelligence, Caplena, Voxpopme, and CoLoop, which offer robust capabilities that will deliver meaningful value to our business and our clients.

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In this context, Nova plays an essential role. They work to explore, interpret, and implement cutting-edge technologies and methods. It is not about technology for the sake of technology. Instead, this team works hard to uncover and pressure test the technology partners that will make a tangible difference to the quality and depth of insight we deliver. With such a clear focus on relevant and reliable solutions and tangible insight value, this team effectively helps to mitigate the risks associated with early-stage research innovation.

But partnership is only one side of a successful Generative AI strategy, the other is build. A careful assessment of partner vs. build is part of our decision-making process when reviewing any new application of Generative AI.

Why build? Because true differentiation comes from developing ownable MMR-specific AI-powered solutions. This is where our team of internal AI experts and developers come in. Strengthening this team is a critical business focus. We have already done this through key appointments, with more to come. Building such in-house expertise is essential to realize our ambition to create differentiated MMR AI solutions, which effectively embed our deep product and sensory expertise into every solution, augmenting our competitive advantage. Importantly, this approach gives us the flexibility to apply our core AI models in a range of ways for maximum value, rather than treating each potential use case as a new endeavour.

We are proud to lead such innovation of AI-driven, IP-embedded solutions in close collaboration with forward-thinking clients. Such co-creation not only elevates the innovation quality, but also allows us to rigorously test new technology against real world client needs.

And so, we have deployed an iterative, MVP-driven development approach, where we can combine our in-house expertise and strategic partnerships, to both accelerate and create ownable innovation.

But to what end, where do we see Generative AI adding the most value?

As part of a clear roadmap for success, we have identified four strategically important focus areas where we believe leveraging Generative AI as a team member delivers significant value. These four areas are:

  • Create: Generate new ideas, concepts and designs for our products and services, based on our data and consumer insights. Here Generative AI becomes a truly powerful ally, acting as a formidable summarization tool, distilling vast amounts of data rapidly to support hypotheses generation. But it is not just a digital librarian; it’s a creative prompt engine, pushing ideation beyond the obvious. And what we are really looking forward to is using our AI-generated consumer persona model, which is currently under development!
  • Visualize: Create engaging and realistic visualizations of ideas, products, and packs, bringing opportunities to life to engage stakeholders and provide stimulus for consumers. Here, our new team member takes the form of Midjourney or Dall E 3 to breathe life into ideas through instant visualization. We love being able to create real-time stimulus during focus groups, embracing dynamic insights discovery, with the potential for real-time optimization. And just imagine the power of visualizing personas to not only elevate segmentation, but when combined with social media data we can refine and update these over time.
  • Connect: Unlock the voice of consumers in a more natural and engaging way, capturing spontaneous responses in the moment, coupled with intelligent probing to deepen understanding. Connecting with consumers is at the heart of what we do, and AI, especially in the form of chatbots, play a crucial role in this. We are working towards a future where chatbots are not only seamlessly integrated into all surveys, but also available as powerful AI-powered standalone solutions infused with MMR IP and our unique sensory expertise. What is more, we also look forward to leveraging AI to realize voice interactions and personalized avatars to support our vision of increasingly natural and intuitive consumer engagement.
  • Synthesize: Rapidly analyze and synthesize data, identifying and summarising the patterns, trends and themes that are relevant for our clients and consumers. In the synthesis of data, the potential of Generative AI as a game changer emerges strongly. It’s efficiency to extract insights and generate tailored summaries based on unstructured and structured data is set to transform how we work with information internally as well as externally with our clients. The promise of insight summaries tailored to align with study objectives and end-user nuances holds such exciting potential, with significant developments expected in 2024.

In the rapidly evolving market research context, having a vision and strategy for Generative AI isn’t a choice; it is a necessity. MMR has chosen to ground this in a strategic intent and anchor its execution in this simple framework. This allows us to align Generative AI with our values and objectives, shaping the application of this technology to support our vision, amplify our expertise, and importantly support our commitment to consumer closeness and tangible client value through product superiority. At MMR, the future isn’t a destination; it is a journey with Generative AI firmly on board as a valued member of the team.