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Unilever seeks to reinvent research

News, 25 July 2016

NEW YORK: Market researchers may need to begin with a "blank slate" as they try and adapt to the pressures of real-time marketing and optimisation, a leading executive from Unilever has suggested.

"We need to think 'research reinvented,'" Dr Kristy Vance, Unilever's Global Director/Media Insight, told delegates at the Advertising Research Foundation's (ARF) Audience Measurement 2016 conference. (For more, including further research tips, read Warc's exclusive report: At Unilever, a mandate for change ... Now!)

"For this to really work," she continued, "I think we need to take everything that we know about market research today and throw it out the window. We need to start from scratch. Blank slate."

Building on this theme, Vance suggested firms like Unilever – which owns brands like Dove beauty products, Ben & Jerry's ice cream and Hellmann's mayonnaise – now require the ability to rapidly execute and iterate in the digital world.

"We need to optimise in real time. We need to get that learning, get that feedback, in real time," she told the ARF assembly in New York.

Such demands represent a challenge for traditional research practices and procedures, which often took several weeks to bring to fruition.

"Do I think that the need for speed will sacrifice research best practices? Potentially. I think it will challenge best practices in a good way," Vance said.

"I think that a lot of the best practices that we have are built on an old way of thinking – an old way that consumer behaviour existed.

"In a good way, we need to challenge some of those best practices and develop some new best practices."

One example of how this theory will translate into action involves the creation of greater amounts of content at faster speeds than in the past – a trend meaning copy-testing will frequently not be viable.

"In this new digital world, we now are required to have much more personalisation. That leads to a lot more content that often cannot be pretested in advance," said Vance.

"The ideal is to have a lot of different creative up front so that when you do go live, you can shift to the five [activations] that are performing the best."

Data sourced from Warc