ESOMAR CONGRESS: Impressions from Day One in Amsterdam

By Jackie Lorch, Vice President, Global Knowledge Management

On a typical rainy day in Amsterdam, over 1,100 researchers gathered in the old Amsterdam stock market, with its splendid redbrick and cast iron décor, to kick off ESOMAR’s 70th Anniversary Congress.

Plenty of national pride was on show as Director General Finn Raben, in standout Dutch-orange blazer, began by declaring that everyone wants to be a data scientist these days, but no one wants to be a researcher, and #IAmAProudMarketResearcher is a hashtag to live by.

President Niels Schillewaert followed up by warning us all about “data drunkenness.” There is so much data available today, but we must remember to put people first; we are a people business. (I’d add that letting people answer our questions on the device of their choice is a basic step in putting people first. SSI’s Andy Jolls will be talking about this at his presentation on Tuesday afternoon; it’s past time to put people first this way.)

Chair of the Programme Committee, Vanessa Oshima followed with a bold, personal and persuasive speech, a call to action to change ourselves as our research environment changes around us. With the help of a spot of Haka chants from a local rugby team, it was definitely an energetic start to the day.

Some of the later presentations kept the momentum going. Among them:

SSI’s Keith Phillips presented with Microsoft on using appended data to get a more fully rounded picture of today’s developer populations. Merely title, department, role and function are no longer good enough to encompass the reality of this more-diverse-than-you’d-expect population.

Pepsico presented on the need to radically upgrade talent: the industry needs to overhaul the way we attract talent because today’s best graduates don’t even know what insights analytics jobs are – we are competing with much better-known and usually better-paid opportunities such as those in law or investment banking. We need to cast our net wider, bringing in a broader skill set to the industry, and need new strategies to be successful.

Pepsico did research to understand how to talk to students and how to position insights as a distinct, exciting, relevant and phenomenally compelling career. As a result of what they learned they issued a “Go Trendsetter” Challenge, asking students to identify one food and drink-related trend and create an insights project around it. The best submissions earned the chance to work with a Pepsico mentor, and the very best were rewarded with job offers — at lower starting salaries than other offers the individuals had received – because the students were so inspired by the world of insights and analytics.

We must not only attract the best of the best, says Pepsico, but re-frame what we want them to do.  We need data scientists, culture experts and people experienced in the startup ecosystem, communicators, social media experts and storytellers – and we need to think about pre-work and post-work as well as traditional project-work if we are going to maximize their impact. Clearly articulating what a career in insights really means will allow our industry to bring in the best and the brightest then unleash their talents.