Insights 2019: Dark Marketing, research challenges, and more

Each March sees the annual Marketing Week Live show in London, with its co-located sister show Insights being of particular interest to anyone engaged with market research. While many of the presentations at Insights discuss projects with enormous research budgets behind them, there were some interesting parallels to the challenges faced by associations, publishers, and vendors.

The first presentation of the day was on the effect of so-called ‘dark marketing’ – highly segmented and targeted programmatic campaigns, conducted via social and web advertising, that are visible only to a small audience. This isn’t a new phenomenon, but the session highlighted the impact that dark marketing can have on your competitor monitoring efforts: as an example, Apple is one of the largest spenders on social advertising, yet their Twitter and Facebook accounts are devoid of posts, with all communications being channelled to highly targeted audiences. There are monitoring tools available that can shed some light on competitors’ dark marketing strategies, but the cost of these may be beyond the reach of many smaller organizations. The upshot of this is that your awareness of what your competitors are doing cannot always be maintained through passive means – you’ll need to talk to your customers to find out what messages are reaching them.

A packed-out session with a focus on working collaboratively presented a case study of trying to break down the ‘silos’ of knowledge within John Lewis – the retailer has dozens of teams, each with disparate and expert knowledge of different aspects of the customer journey, but which previously didn’t communicate that knowledge to each other. (A striking example was that the John Lewis website’s wishlist feature was originally implemented in a way that didn’t interface with their checkout or gift registry functions.)
The presentation walked through John Lewis’ concentrated drive to unite the insights each team had to offer, and successfully address business challenges. The key takeaway, though, was that a project of this type requires considerable facilitation to bring to fruition – either by a dedicated in-house team, or through external assistance if staff time is under pressure.

Another interesting presentation discussed the first national research panel of farmers in rural India. The session highlighted the importance of expertise and flexibility in a challenging research environment with solutions including a mix of technical innovations, staff training, and education of participants. Not every market research project is going to be so demanding, but this talk illustrated some of the important considerations that successful research design needs to take in mind, and why in-house staff might not have the expertise to anticipate all the complexities involved.

TBI has undertaken a number of market research projects for societies, associations, and companies from across the world. We’re well-versed in the complexities facing organisations working in the academic and learned publishing arena and have put our expertise to work for clients such as the Royal Chemical Society, the International Federation of Library Associations, the International Monetary Fund, and ORCID. If you’d like our help with your next market research project, please contact us.