ORLANDO, FL: Microsoft, the technology giant, is relying on a new breed of marketing research "consultant" to identify powerful consumer insights and help translate them into actionable strategies.

Reed Cundiff, General Manager of the research team within Microsoft's Central Marketing Group, discussed this topic at The Market Research Event (TMRE), a conference convened by the Institute for International Research (IIR).

And he reported that its market researchers can now draw on a wider range of sources – including social media, search and behavioural analytics – to understand consumers in deeper, and often faster, ways than ever before.

Consequently, he suggested, many of Microsoft's "classically-trained" researchers are "blossoming" into "research consultants" who possess an increasingly broad slate of skills. (For more, read Warc's exclusive report: How marketing research is changing at Microsoft.)

One example is true business acumen, which Cundiff described as "really understanding at a very detailed level the business that you are supporting, as opposed to leaving that to the marketers or the engineers that you interface with."

A second area of enhanced savvy is communications, and successfully breaking down research findings – whatever their source – into tangible insights that can easily be put to work for the brand.

"If we cannot frame our ideas in ways in which our internal stakeholders can understand and take action, then the utility of our work lessens dramatically," said Cundiff.

A key contributor to these developments has been hiring team members from "untraditional" backgrounds, like an expert in modelling from the financial-services industry, a graduate specialising in decision theory and an Air Force veteran.

"If we can walk into a decision-making room and have someone with great communication skills, have someone else with fantastic market-research capabilities, have someone with market-analyst skills, someone else who is a data scientist and bring those people in functioning collaboratively as a team – frankly, name your business problem, and we would be absolutely happy to be able to attack it," Cundiff said.

But such developments, he continued, cannot come at the expense of traditional competencies: "Our goal from the outset has been, and continues to be, whenever possible, making sure that we maintain core capabilities and excellence in research subject matter expertise and project management."

Data sourced from Warc