"Disruptive Innovation" has long since happened. But we market researchers have been rather slow at keeping apace.Kolumne von Adele Gritten
A colleague of mine forwarded me an interesting slide from a recent IBM Entrepreneurs conference. It pointed out quite starkly and in a no frills way that digital disruption has already happened. Not at all big news to those of us who work in the research, media, marketing and communications industries.
But what struck me about the overall contents of the slide was how the most successful global businesses today have disrupted the market in such a clever, Trojan-Horse like way. The world's largest Taxi Company (Uber), doesn't actually own any Taxis. The world's largest accommodation provider (Airbnb) doesn't actually own any property or real estate. The world's largest Telecommunications companies such as Skype and WeChat do not own any telecommunications infrastructure and of course, the world's most popular media owner (Facebook) creates no content, whilst the world's largest movie house (Netflix), doesn't own any cinemas. The list could go on!
This phenomenon, sometimes coined 'Disruptive Innovation' has become ubiquitous in business vernacular. It refers to transformative business models, like those cited above, where formerly traditional industries get turned upside down, literally, overnight in some instances.
Why should we care about all of this? Why should we be worried? Certainly, the digital world has shifted us way beyond disruption to something which I think might more aptly be coined the 'PIMP economy' (Post Innovation Market Paradigm). Without in any way wishing to denigrate the above cited companies, it would seem that the fastest route to making big money today is to effectively solicit customers on behalf of another in return for a hefty slice of earnings.
This all means that established businesses, whatever category and whether brand, product or service led entities must stop resting on their laurels. Just because companies have been good and unique at doing something for the last 20+ years, no longer means that customers will evolve with them. This week alone in the UK, we've read about the death of the "Lad's" Magazines, as Publishers failed to keep apace of changing consumer needs and wants.
Digitally driven businesses can now be set up overnight, can draw crowds of customers within seconds, can market themselves and re-position themselves on a whim, often at little cost and effectively, (like the examples listed above), become highly profitable and world leading brands without much by way of actual physical product, inventory or owned assets. Oh, and they can exit markets and move into new ones quickly too!
Whilst talk of nimble, agile economies has long been documented, the step-change disruption of late by some of the above mentioned companies and others alike to be conceived today and launched tomorrow is fundamentally game-changing the way we as researchers need to help clients launch, analyze and predict likely market outcomes.
For categories when sometimes the new introduction is so disruptive that it changes the category entirely, invalidating the old view, research approaches need to change. Imagine a transportation segmentation that relies on taxi travel frequency as a defining trait. This framework would have been entirely disrupted by the entrance of Uber et al, since the shared ride services fundamentally changed who uses paid rides, why and how often.
Brand and other funnel-like conversions are nigh on impossible in the post disruptive / 'PIMP economy'. They fail to consider real-world events that consumer experience, the choices they make, the marketing they encounter, the research that they do, the people whose advice they consult up to point of purchase etc. All these touch points offer important opportunities for intervention to marketers and of course, require our attention in our modeling.
Things like predictive algorithms and machine based learning will therefore have to be better leveraged and used to help us much more; else we fail to keep apace of sweeping disruption via public opinion surveys alone.
When brand tracking launched on to the modern management scene in the 1970s, it was simple. Have you heard of the brand? Seen it? Tried it? Liked it?. But where are we now? More questions, more analysis, more sample, more subgroups. When are we going to harness technology to look for something other than more of the same?
I fear there's a danger that, as an industry, we confuse the availability of real time data, increased opportunities for in the moment research and integrated data from digital and social sources as "tick box" innovation, the perfect solution for keeping up with disruptive business.
But as clients, and we as an industry, still, by and large want to focus on studies rather than data systems, think of research projects in isolation rather than continual programmes that could have brand, advertising, experience and product development data all interlinked, little is going to change. And whilst procurement teams are only focused on short-term cost efficiencies rather than longer-term (often significant) investments in new technological infrastructure, and whilst most agencies still operate in siloed specialisms, little "innovative disruption" is going to occur in our world until we are prepared to radically disrupt our very own traditional business models.
But I say that's exactly what we need to do. Let's look for our version of "innovative disruption" in the research industry. Let's learn from and leverage the commercial acumen of the new 'PIMP economy'. Let's build a research future that’s not afraid to rocket, take a leap-off faith and set us free from all too often unwieldy, complicated, traditional, processes not fit for purpose for the 2020+ world. Anyone with me?
Adele Gritten is European Managing Director of LRW Europe (Lieberman Research Worldwide) whose European Headquarters is in London. Adele joined LRW in Jan 2015 with a remit of growing LRW’s footprint across Europe. Prior to joining LRW, Adele spent 5 years as Commercial Director at YouGov, latterly overseeing the company's 5 core consulting verticals: Media, TechTel, Financial Services, Public Sector and Consumer. Adele started her career in media strategy, planning and research at CIA and Omnicom owned agency PHD. She also spent time as Head of Research for Clear Channel and as a Director for Quaestor Research and Marketing Strategists Ltd. Adele has an MA in Social and Political Science from Cambridge University.
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