Heinz conducts consumer research at speed in China

Geoffrey Precourt

"No matter how many times you go to China," Diane Kosobud told the Advertising Research Foundation's 2013 Re:think conference in New York, "you're going to learn something new."

And, added HJ Heinz's director for consumer and customer insights, how much you learn depends on how you go about your work: "Local partners are critical in China to make sure that you're not staying in a Western part [of a city] or working with a Western mindset," she argued. "The sooner you get out of that, the more you learn - walking the streets, at the shrines, at the shopping malls."

Diane Kosobud talks about Heinz's research strategy in China

Those lessons work best when brand-orientated research begins with the proper kind of focus. In a country where demographics vary not just from cities to towns to villages but from one block to the next, the breadth of data can intimidate insights professionals.