One of the best ways to keep up with the latest developments and breakthrough thinking, technical applications is through Seminars, conferences, summits.  I usually am quite picky about which ones I attend and if there’s a choice prefer going through a recording instead of attending the event.

Here’s a choice of some of the best learnings that caught my eye, and I liked and which are a great learning for the marketing and advertising community.

Why are some innovations and product launches successful while the majority fail?

Nielsen India had earlier last year shared their analysis of the most successful launches in recent years. From this, Nestle India wanted to dig further into the food and beverages sector. At the Global Congress in September, Ritanbara Mundrey (Nestle) and Amit Bali (Nielsen) presented their learnings, and this, I think is a MUST-READ if you are in advertising and marketing, and especially if you are planning a product launch.  Incidentally, India is a more difficult and competitive market than the US as the success rates for new product launches are half that of the US… so this is really useful stuff to go through!

Of the million tweets every minute a few stand out and get to be popular.  What makes for a successful tweet?  An analysis by Cecily Long of Flamingo UK and Sara Picazo of Twitter, helped them win the best paper award at a conference held last week.  One highlight was that Twitter is designed to interact with its users to help them both explore ‘whats happening’ in the world, as well as themselves. And in short its the tweeter’s interpretation of the world around that readers are interested in, and there was a pattern to what people liked.  This would be great reading if your brand has a high follower base in micro-blogging sites like Twitter.

At the same conference a virtually impossible challenge was managed by “Beautiful Lives” of Netherlands where they helped an organisation that served those with special needs (mental disabilities) to discover areas of improvement.  Some of the learnings that these special needs ‘clients’ shared became the basis of changes in both the facilities as well as the program management and style.  This truly was work that is contributing to changing the world in its own little but positive way.  Its no hyperbole – if market research can help those challenged and give them a voice, imagine the limitless potential in helping us hear more in the world.

Now Big Data conferences can be a little overwhelming – either too technically geeky or an overdrive on the hyperbole with a high oversell on the kinds of predictive abilities and miracles possible.  Not so, at a conference last week where participants from IBM, Twitter, Microsoft etc. shared cutting edge learnings and developments.

What was interesting to me were two instances where the Insights function contributed to it. One of the speakers Sunando Das from Kantar UK  heads a team of data scientists (and he is the only non-data scientist).  He shared the potential of Artificial Intelligence algorithms to mine big data, and I liked the framework he used where there were some new applications too, and accessible for non-technical folk like most clients would be, illustrated with some case studies. For me this stood out, as he was able to also share some new applications while also doing this in a non-alienating form (which, I am sorry to say usually happens when experts in big data analytics talk)

At the same conference a breakthrough idea was what the Unilever insights team did in collaboration with Ipsos, for mining big data. This started off as a project to understand fragrance and applications of this in laundry better. The result was an outstanding piece of a library – ‘an inspiration ecosystem’ where different data points were aggregated including big data, consumer contacts as well as research.

What I liked best was that the insights teams (lead by Ratna Pratik of Unilever and Radhecka Roy of IPSOS) along with the technical team created this “artificial intelligence ecosystem” which mirrored how the human mind works.  This not only mined and patterned big data, but also threw up suggestions and connections of the search topic, which were remarkably similar to how our synapses are triggered and we make associations.

This therefore became a discussion forum as well as a research mind in the cloud, and a great source for inspiration leading to a very successful launch & promotion for fabric softener in Indonesia. They also showed some examples of how a search for mothers would be organized by feelings & experiences and this I found would typically be how our mind would ‘research’ such topics. the best impact of this in their own words was an “infinite best-before date” for this system.

These were among the papers that caught my eye. Yes, for each of these presentations there would be a detailed write-up explanation of the best practice being discussed.  I really felt these were suitable inspiration and reference for not just the marketing and advertising but business community in general.

There is a great platform for this, and the pity is you are likely to miss this, as it is done under the rather deceptive cover of market research.  The global body of ESOMAR hosts these conferences annually and great care is taken in the selection and vetting of these papers, as well as making sure the presentations are engaging and relevant to the broader audience.

The papers are available through esomar.org or through warc.com, but ideally you can join in the conference either in person or through live stream (which is free BTW). Members of ESOMAR can access these video recordings on demand. If you are in marketing or advertising, its highly recommended you keep a ear out for these and check topics of your interest, as chances are thats where you will encounter a great breakthrough or inspiration for one.

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