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Impact 2015: why ambiguity may be your brand’s best friend

The first session of Impact 2015 (the MRS annual conference for insights and data bods) got off to an interesting start by Unilever CEO Paul Pollman, who challenged the members of the audience to change themselves in order to change others after a particularly climate changed focused speech. One interesting takeaway was his obsession with the new generation beyond Millennials — Generation Z, a generation who “are not anti-business solving problems or getting involved…so get involved and let them help [your business].”

I chose to avoid the privacy camp and instead focused on the unknown…or VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity). Dubbed “Predicting success in an unpredictable world”, the session had a lofty goal; are consumers demonstrating classic human behaviour in the form of risk aversion and hostility to change or is the Market Research field actually measuring meaningful things? Chaired by The Future Place‘s Ray Poynter the session was an honest look at the state of human behaviour predictability and the challenges associated with it from a few perspectives – brands, agency and perhaps most interestingly directly with clients.

Sam Gomez, head of client strategy at Flamingo hit hard and fast with an honest look at VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity) and the challenges it faces in being implemented. “It’s how you react to VUCA that matters”, Gomez believes. She continued about putting this into practice and how there are many brands out there who are not embracing VUCA and instead are creating refuges. In order to thrive in the VUCA and post-VUCA world it’s clear a new skill-set for market researchers (and brands) needs to emerge and be crafters.

TAKEAWAY: VUCA is not a problem if it is handled early. The key is to not overthink it – your guts are there for a reason. An interesting point considering this is a data conference…

Next up was the fabulously spectacled, Kristin Hickey from Ruby Cha Cha who discussed the tools and mindsets brands need are not currently in existence and that “too much fun at ideation stage” is screwing over a lot of good innovation. Hickey continued that beyond ideation an understanding of “the commercial applicability ad granularity associated with this is simply not there for agencies and brands who are in charge of innovation and change”.

TAKEAWAY: Increase the business knowledge of your employees before you ask for innovation.

Brand darling, Innocent Drinks closed out the session with some case study porn on its latest vegetable drink release. Few details were given although the main focus was around ‘Priming’ (a psychological technique surrounding association — Google Meyer and Schvaneveldt who led this field in the 1970s)

TAKEAWAY: Activate your data — do not reward for stability — that will drive you nowhere. Data is good, but how much reassurance are you really getting? Focus on creating change and real-world testable action.

Image: Yogesh Mhatre via Flickr.

Author | Paul Armstrong

Paul Armstrong
Paul Armstrong runs HERE/FORTH an advisory that helps business leaders decide how to best use rapidly changing and emerging technologies. More

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