The last few not quite so live blog posts: Empathy, Digital Context, and Visualization #ISC2015 #MRX

MRALive blogged from the 2015 MRA Insights & Strategies Conference, June 3-5, 2015 in San Diego. Any errors or bad jokes are my own.


The Use (and Misuse) of Empathy in Market Research: Tom Bernthal, Founder and CEO, Kelton Global

  • journalists try to make people comfortable enough to tell their stories
  • insights industry has really involved in the last 12 years to bring in the skills of journalism and story telling
  • stories are more powerful than data
  • smart brands build empathetic bridges between businesses and customers
  • successful companies today don’t just sell a great product, they sell a great experience
  • what your company does doesn’t matter if people never find out about it
  • customers need to crave your product
  • Warby Parker, Tom Shoes, Dollar Shave Club, Travel Hack – all do this well
  • Head is understanding, Heart is feeling and you need to do it with the ears eyes and heart of another
  • Gut is your instinct
  • Mikes Hard Lemonade was build from gut, and the guys name wasn’t Mike, Mike was the most popular man’s name at that time
  • 1 – make room for emotion, provide psychological air, connect people like me, foster conversations that reveal deeper emotions and experiences. community style research helps with this, allows people to talk amongst themselves as they would normally do with their friends. don’t be afraid of silence, when the room goes silent there is pressure to fill that space. often the respondents will dig a bit deeper to give you more if you give them the space
  • 2- dare to be wrong and challenge what you know, empathy has a narrow field of vision. research is to formulate hypotheses. you need to look off center. it’s not as simple as understanding one single person. it’s everybody around that one person.
  • 3 – connect at the scale, explore the ordinary. we borrow from the tragedies of others to make our empty days feel better.
  • 4 – know when to zoom in and zoom out, integrate approaches. empathy doesn’t increase as the size and scope of the problem grows. we have more empathy for a single person than for hundreds. empathy lacks foresight. it latches on today not tomorrow.
  • 5 – don’t let the facts kill the story, let the story carry the facts. the story is a machine for empathy. powerful tool for imagining yourself in other people’s situations.
  • 6 – have a little empathy. tell a story your audience can hear. consider stakeholder mindset when crafting your story. the risks of poor storytelling are high. tune out if too long. dismiss if too broad.


After Omni-Channel: Preparing for Digital Context: Stacey Symonds, Sr. Director, Consumer Insights, Orbitz, Martie Woods, Lead Strategist, Thought Leadership, Stone Mantel

  • consumers are expecting to reduce the gap between thinking and doing – consumers will almost always give up information about their behaviour if they thin the information will reduce steps required and help them accomplish a goal quicker
  • consumers surround themselves first, then make all sorts of micro purchases
  • now, we buy a brand, and then we buy all the accessories that we didn’t realize we needed
  • people create their own organization structures, like how your browser opens to a saved set of tabs and you automatically go to amazon to buy books
  • the home screen of your phone is what you used most often, it’s hard to get on someone’s home screen
  • consumers are seeking to maximize their attention, the more empowered people are to accomplish more in a short time, the more people meander. rarely do they do one thing at a time. so what are people doing while they interact with your brand? it may hinder the activity but consumers don’t mind.
  • while working, 79% of people email, 45% do social media, 46% listen to music, 61% are texting, 36% are banking, 30% shop, 45% are life managing
  • the journey is less about a linear path and more about a constant state of moving
  • digital supports modes – consumers develop patterns for their activities, a general pattern for focusing and getting things done
  • reading mode or working mode or exploring mode or learning mode – you need to know what mode people are in so you interact with them in the right mode
  • when you shop for clothes, you might be in planning mode or sharing mode or speedy mode
  • consumer behaviour demands more than omni offers, thinking on channels must evolve. we need to focus on digital context. its about how mobile media, data, sensors, and location all come together.
  • consumers never use the words omni and channel.
  • pillars of digital context include the environment, tools, and modes


Best Practices for Data Visualization and Presentation Design: Erik Glebinski, Manager, Consumer Insights, Pepsico, Kory Grushka, Partner, Work Design Group

  • [font size on the title slide are GREAT!]
  • [wow. room is completely packed, not a spare seat and the entire back wall is full of standers, and the aisle is full of sitters!]
  • ‘look at how much data i pulled’ – too much data on one slide
  • ‘the novelist’ – people who use a paragraph of text on the page
  • ‘the repeater’ – does the same point on multiple slides in slightly different formats
  • ‘the sleeper’ – people who use the same chart on every single slide
  • ‘the cartoonist’ – uses clipart in anyway everywhere
  • ‘the cliffhanger’ – someone who uses unnecessary chart builds
  • typography, colour, simplicity, cohesion
  • serif or sans serif – serif has the little decorations on the end of the letter, like times new roman, useful for large passages of text, for reports, because those lines create connections between letters
  • sans serif have grown in popularity because internet is short form content which is better suited for focusing on a single word or a few words
  • warm colours stick out more than cool colours, highlight in orange or red
  • be minimalist with colour, use it sparingly, it should be used for a strategic purpose, stick to 2 or 3 colours. lots of colour kills hierarchy and makes it look cluttered. bias to fewer colours.
  • don’t colour every bar in a bar chart differently
  • apple is a case study in flat design
  • less is better – Dieter Rams
  • if you have any bias, move to simple minimalist edited down side
  • keep font, formatting, and colour consistent from slide to slide, use one colour on an entire slide where it makes sense
  • infographics are design heavy and data light, focus on narrative and story
  • data visualizations are data heavy and design light, often done by dumping data into programs that plot, designer makes sure it looks good
  • 3 ways to evaluate – clear, insightful, beautiful – does it make sense given the subject, is it legible, is there a value add or is it just a spreadsheet, does it look sophisticated
  • bar graphs – space between the bar should be half the space of the bar; where category names are really long flip the chart to horizontal so you can read from left to right
  • line charts – the less lines the better, 6 or more lines is cumbersome so split them up into multiple charts; label the lines themselves on the chart
  • pie charts – consider donut chart if you need several pie charts; start your largest slice at 12 o’clock, 6 slices or less is best so aggregate the smallest ones if you can
  • presentation design
  • pure cinema concept of Alfred Hitchcock – push the unique concepts of the film, use storyboarding – do your own storyboarding even if its stick figures and squares and lines that look really stupid
  • use one idea per slide, limit all unnecessary information, you don’t need every datapoint but just the ones that make the point, visually show them less and communicate more
  • use layering – use multiple slides, highlight one point on one slide and a different point on the next slide eg, grey out several lines
  • white space is your friend, eyes are drawn the point that matters
  • slides shouldn’t talk – avoid too much text, 4 or 5 bullets with 4 or 5 lines; don’t use narrative, this isn’t a book, don’t use sentences that required reading


%d bloggers like this: