CEOs Speak: Mike Gettle @TNS, David Krajick @GfK, Marc Litvinoff @ORC, Mary Ann Packo @Millward Brown #AMAresearch #MRX


Welcome to this series of live blogs from the American Marketing Association’s Research & Strategy Summit in Las Vegas. Any errors, omissions, or silly side comments are my own. (I won’t necessarily who says what in this post. Just mentioning main ideas.)

AMA market research event

CEO Panel Discussion:

  • Facilitator: Rene De Coning, Global Strategic Insight Manager,BP Americas
  • Panelists:
    • Mike Gettle, CFO & COO, TNS
    • David Krajicek, Ph.D., CEO, GfK Consumer Experiences North America
    • Marc Litvinoff, President and CEO, ORC International
    • Mary Ann Packo, CEO, Millward Brown North America

How do you handle tension and pressures of quality

  • Tackle tools, technology, and talent. Invest in these three areas. Set up relationships so you know what and when is needed. Often don’t have time to go into detail so invest in relationship so short-hand conversations are possible.
  • Clients don’t care about supplier profitability.  We can get cheaper and faster but we have to invest in technology and team to get there.
  • Upfront time to understand why the research is being conducted is the most important thing. Find solution targeted for that. [darn tootin!]  Trade off for speed isn’t worth it in the end.
  • Move from data gatherer to insight hunter. It may not come from a survey.
  • You can invest in things and make them less expensive over time. Investing in people is not inexpensive. If you skimp on people, everyone suffers.
  • Why is procurement involved in the research process? Decision can not and should not be made purely on cost.
  • “Do you want fries with that” has nothing to do with research. It needs to be “tell us about the food you’re interested in.”
  • By keeping things secret, we grope in the dark looking for the right solution. The more open you are about what you want, the more likely you are to get what you want. Don’t keep ‘proprietary secrets’ when talking to your research team.

How do we make that upfront dialogue better and shorter?

  • “Central Question” – a format of identifying the main question. e.g., change the product colour to blue. What do you think the question is? Who is the stakeholder? What are barriers? What would success look like? [My fave question - what would success look like]
  • We don’t want competitors to hear our competitive advantage at group procurement sessions. Why should I teach my competitor what they don’t know how to do? Invest in an hour dialogue with me and I’ll do a better job at giving you what you need.
  • It always comes down to billable time. A 4 hour prep session is billable time. If you can’t tell us ahead of time what you need, we’ll just have to bill it somewhere. We want to invest the time wisely.

How do we adapt to the changes that clients require?

  • Industry is under dramatic transportation and we are not evolving with the times. Clients want things faster than ever and now they CAN get it faster, sexier. They also want more consultation and advice and strategy than ever before. How do you service around these new factors? Is every company a McKinnsey company?
  • Mix of talent and staffing is changing to reflect this. One person can’t do it all.

Let’s talk big data.

  • Forget big data. Let’s talk the RIGHT data. They are moving to get technology to better handle big data but it still comes down to answering questions properly.
  • Difficult to grasp [I still don't know why big data is a big deal. Researchers have been dealing with it since transactional data was born.]
  • At some point, you must stop analyzing and start making decisions.
  • How many clients think about their own resevoir of information as their own big dataset? Do you really need another study or can you just go to your resevoir?
  • What’s the pattern in the data that relates to the question you didn’t ask?

Anybody is a researcher today

  • Should we be scared of google and surveymonkey? Do you just need tools or do you need experts. Do you want to live in the house I built because I own a hammer and a saw? You must rely on others when they have expertise that you don’t.
  • All data is not good data.

What keeps you up at night? What are you excited about?

  • The great thing is the pressure of speed, real opportunity to deliver value. The problem is how to balance tech, talent, tools.
  • Biggest challenge is finding and retaining the best talent.
  • Ability to connect learnings is accelerating. We approach each type of research as if the other types of research don’t exist and don’t related to each other. That is changing.

How should we vet research firms?

  • Set the context of business issues, what are your challenges, what keeps you awake at night? What tools/tech/talent do you have to help me? Do they have the talent to respond to your issues?
  • What is your experience solving this business issue? Don’t assume because you knew us 5 years ago is what we will do for you today, we change over time.
  • Just because you don’t collect it doesn’t mean it’s not important data.
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