Read my reports from day one and day three of ESOMAR Congress 2011.

Day two opened with sessions on behavioural economics and measuring ROI. I opted first for BE, not least because I couldn’t resist listening to the person with the best job title in our business, Chief Happiness Officer, a position held by Stephen Phillips of Spring Research.

Phillips' presentation looked at what MR can learn from BE. Unlike classical economics, which develops models based on the assumption that individuals generally make rational decisions, BE does not start with this assumption.

Market research, says Phillips, also works with various models – such as a fairly hierarchical purchase funnel model or conjoint analysis – s but only asks questions that force respondents to answer in a way that fits the model.

Shorter surveys, respondent-led questionnaires and more freedom to allow respondents to express themselves would ultimately provide better insights, he argued. The key lesson for market researchers is to use more."

On the ROI front there were lessons as well, especially from Sky TV and Mesh Research on evaluating advertising campaigns. Danny Russel of Sky fears that MR is too concerned about methodology, whereas good communication is needed to convince CEOs and CFOs, the people who hold the purse strings in companies and understand the language of ROI and want results within days, not weeks or months. But ROI cannot be delivered by the supplier alone; it always has to be co-created with the client.

The paper from Philips about using co-creation for innovation in the garden light market described "mating consumer insights to company knowledge".

Tuesday’s afternoon sessions started with the story of how Vodafone built open knowledge centers which raised the profile of research at the C-level. Vodafone is a leader in promoting flexible, mobile, and off-site working in the Netherlands and, for that purpose, established a multi-faceted research programme using crowd-sourcing, co-creation, and involving the C-Suite execs. Results were fed into a central life-rhythm knowledge centre, accessible to all.

More Dutch wisdom came from Unilever's story of integrating R&D functions of various business segments, such as laundry products with skin care and cosmetics. This required employees to learn about different consumers. Consumer insight was shared internally across all units and management levels (co-ownership). Another step was to connect R&D staff with individual consumers. Gamification was an important tool to engage both staff and consumers; it also increased engagement, feedback and compliance from respondents who were organised as an interactive community.

MarketShare and the NSPCC presented a new model of the consumer purchase process , to move away from the emphasis on media touchpoints that act directly on purchase decisions (such as the last click effect) and take into account the whole consumer pathway including all indirect touchpoints that also contribute to and advertising campaign’s ROI. The NSPCC example shows how understanding the ROI contribution by individual touchpoint enables optimising the marketing mix resulting in increased donation without any extra budget.

I enjoyed Graeme Lawrence and Pete Comley’s Punch and Judy show on social media research – the aim was simple: to draw attention to ESOMAR’s Social Media Guidelines and the potential pitfalls for MR.

The day ended with a client panel featuring Volkswagen, General Mills, P&G and Reckitt Benckiser. All pointed out that as clients they are less concerned about methodological technicalities and even representativeness of samples (Joan Lewis, P&G) than MR agencies. What they wanted from MR wasn’t necessarily lower prices and quality of data was still important.

But many wanted agencies that can also act as consultants, not just as suppliers. Ideally, MR agencies should become partners with their clients (Gilbert Heise, Volkswagen) and challenge some of the dogmas of the industry (Jeff Hunter, General Mills), and Lorna Waiters (Reckitt Benckiser) pleaded for more engaging ways how MR agencies present their findings.

On one of the key questions – how long traditional survey research would remain relevant – Joan Lewis gave a fairly gloomy prediction and she opined that survey research will decrease substantially over the next few years.

Browse all the papers from ESOMAR Congress 2011.