A Discussion with Coca-Cola by Diane Hessan and Stan Sthanunathan (Read!) #TMRE #MRX

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Live blogs by @LoveStats of @Conversition. This is a session summary from The Market Research Event by IIR in Orlando, Florida, November 2011. It was posted mere minutes after completion of the talk. Any inaccuracies are my own. Any humorous side remarks are also my own. Feel free to leave comments and critiques.

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The 21st Century Market Researcher: A Discussion with Coca-Cola
Diane Hessan, President & CEO, Communispace
Stan Sthanunathan, Vice President, Marketing Strategy
& Insights, The Coca-Cola Company

  • The session starts with standing room only. Lines along the wall and the back of the room. You missed out! What does Stan worry about? What is his story? What’s right, what really matters for his organization.
  • Stan says he has no filter between his brain and his mouth. 🙂
  • Why MR? It wasn’t what his father wanted, he wanted him to be a doctor or an engineer. He hated engineering. He needed to correct it and he went to business school. He had an inspirational professor – organizational behavior professor and economics professor.
  • Why is Coke iconic? Community over hundred years. Everyone has a story about coke. And not just in Atlanta. 100 000 people in company and more in the bottling industry. They live and work in the community and touch people on a daily basis. It’s a drink that promotes happiness on a daily basis. 1.7 billion times a day.
  • What do they do next? Five by twenty. Five million empowered women by 2020 in Africa. Doesn’t mean computers on her desk. It means wheelbarrows, door to door selling. Some graduate to having a small truck. Either way, it puts food on the plate for women who didn’t have it before.
  • MR is best profession in world.
  • It is the most critical component before any meaningful decision. Challenge is inspiring people. Be a change agent.
    “Research quality doens’t matter” “We’re in the dark ages”
    Why is best profession in the world more boring, most youthless profession? Part of job is boring and won’t let you rise to challenges. You will never solve quality. Quality is table stakes. They don’t get us to glory.
  • Companies want insights function to cost everything. BORING. Processes don’t get glory for anyone.
  • Starting a ppt with methodology slides is probably not a good idea. We get stuck in fact filled presentations. Not fact full presentations.
  • Truth doesn’t mean facts with tons of numbers on the screen. Lots of data makes you look smart as opposed to communicating truths. You don’t need all the facts for that.Surveys aren’t dead. Ask people, they’ll give you answer. Are they telling you the truth? WHY would they tell you the truth? Surveys always have a role, a crucial role. But survey research measures the past. You don’t reach a destination by looking in the rearview mirror. How do we look ahead? Inspire people to look ahead. That is insight.
  • Insight is something that seems intuitive. BUT, did you know before I told you? Probably not. That’s insight.
    80% of budgets are rearview mirror. How do you change that? Surveys are like crack. You just can’t stop. If you can’t influence brand health in one month than why are you tracking it every month?
  • Why do we need gigantic sample sizes in every teeny country? Do you need tracking in every country, all 90 of them? If they aren’t going to be different, then focus tighter and you save money. Put that money into forward looking research.
  • 124 years ago, if we used current protocals, we would have never launched coke. Dark brown fizzy liquid with alien taste? No way. But someone had a vision and the rest is history. Create the future. Don’t just follow it.
  • Hire people who are not similar to who you already have. Not skin colour. Diversity of thinking. Anthropologists, etc. He did an interview where they talked about a girls involvement in the orchestra. She was best hire. She could tell a great story, great team player in orchestra, knows her role.
  • You don’t want people bobbing their head and agreeing with you. Then somebody is redundant. People need to disagree with reason. Doesn’t happen easily. People worry about getting fired and their promotions. It starts at the top. It’s ok to make your boss feel uncomfortable.
  • You can teach technical skills.
  • Make your rearview research look ahead. understand where people are headed as opposed to asking them.
  • What do you outsource? What do you NOT hire for? He hates process. He outsources process. Never outsource thinking. That will get you in trouble. Don’t think insular. Thinking takes time and you can’t do that if you’re worried about processing.
  • Predicting the future is based on the past, not where you want to go. Paint a picture of the future and find the road there.
  • Fundamental principles of rattling, shaking up the senior management – surprise, be proactive. What fact did you create for the day that made people’s jaw drop? Make people think about something in a new way. “Half a China” is the same as “700 million people per day” – That’s fact versus different concept.
  • Never underestimate the power of n=1.
  • Best research is where you immerse yourself personally. Ask employees. It will change the culture. Get audio and video from people on the floor. Use it. They become involved and they’ll love you for it.
  • Insight is just common sense, self-evident. AFTER it is told.
  • Changed your mind recently? Research is a journey.


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