Traditionally, the New Year is a time for new beginnings. And, fittingly, it's the adoption of new techniques and practices that will be the main theme of Warc's Next Generation Research conference, which takes place in London on January 17th.
Providing a client-side perspective on the day will be Peter Roxburgh, VP for consumer insights at EMI. When I caught up with him at the global record label's London offices earlier this week, Roxburgh offered a strikingly different definition of next gen MR to my previous interviewee, BrainJuicer's John Kearon.
Where Kearon lamented the industry's reluctance to truly commit to new and potentially disruptive techniques, Roxburgh emphasised the value of the tried and true – practices that will be efficient, cost-effective and scalable across multiple offices around the world. A contrast in perspective that has been replicated by many market research agencies and client-side researchers over the years.
That's not to say that EMI is resistant to change: after all, this would be a hard stance to adopt in a music industry which has been fundamentally reshaped by shifts in technology and consumer tastes over recent years. Today, the company's datasets are compiled by in-house research teams, collating the opinions of thousands of people around the world, aged 13 to 85, via online surveys. Data are collected on everything from people's favourite artists and brands to how they listen to music. This not only assists the company in the marketing of its own acts, but can also allow EMI provide insight to other companies looking for the right music ambassador for a brand. Such deals can be lucrative for record labels looking to recoup revenues lost from falling CD sales – see Beyoncé's recent high-profile tie-up with Pepsi.
But in an industry that sets such store in gut feelings and hunches, actually getting music industry decision-makers to pay attention to market research can be difficult. "Utilisation is a common challenge for all insight departments," Roxburgh added. "We're always looking for ways to get people to listen."
To get stakeholders' attention, EMI has adopted a range of strategies:
- While the company publishes its insights on its intranet, it has also developed an iPhone app to allow stakeholders to access the data on the move.
- At company meetings, research results are integrated into the agenda – there are no separate, standalone, and therefore skippable, insights meetings. Instead, "we have business meetings of which insights are just a natural part," Roxburgh said.
- EMI has built up a network of "insight champions" – employees, often digital marketing managers, who are responsible for discussing and disseminating key research-derived insights to their peers.
It was this last initiative Roxburgh sees as the most important in cracking the utilisation problem. There are currently around a dozen insight champions in the UK, as well as other representatives in EMI offices in 24 countries around the world. Ironically, in an industry that is increasingly digital, analogue, face-to-face contact is still key to getting things done. "You really need people on the ground: particularly in the music industry, which is very strong in terms of its use of judgment and ‘gut feel'," Roxburgh added. "Face to face relationships are really what matters. It's not data that takes decisions – it's people. For insight to be useful, it has to be used."
At the conference, Roxburgh will be speaking on a panel that also includes representatives from Guardian News & Media, Coca-Cola and Facebook. And you can read a full agenda for the day, along with booking information, in the Warc Store.