Reflecting on the Future of Innovation in Insights

Crispin Beale, Group President of Behaviorally, as part of his industry leadership activities published an extraordinary interview with three of the inaugural Insight250 Winners, Shirley Ng of General Motors, Mariela Mociulsky of Trendsity, and Tony Costella of Heineken. Certainly, it gave me pause for reflection. 

 They addressed some timely perspectives on innovation, leadership, trust, disruption, and the power of the human brain. I found myself contemplating our own trajectory at Behaviorally and the parallels in terms of how we are charting our own transformative course as an independent agency. I encourage you to read the interview but wanted to share a few thoughts that are close to my heart as we look to the future.

The contributors all shared perspectives on leadership and innovation, as well as the need for a clear vision and a long-term focus. So much of business today is focused on the short-term. Whether it is meeting the immediate business challenges of a world that is changing at a blistering pace due to the impact of COVID and geopolitics, or for those companies who must deliver shareholder value in quarterly increments, the balance between short-term gains and long-term investments is challenging. But it was reassuring to hear these three insight leaders agree that even as the landscape is changing, truly innovative companies must be bold and relentlessly focused. They are unanimous in the view that insights practitioners who will win their trust will have to exercise the analytical acumen to understand the implications of change and demonstrate the imagination to attack it, with a truly long-term view. 

The pandemic accelerated an imperative for innovation that has been fueling our own business strategy for a long time. The interviewees were unequivocal in stating that “quality, cost, and speed” are no longer choices but rather “table stakes” for the expectation of new research tools fueled by digital technologies. True innovation needs to deliver those three, and more. Foundational to our own innovation strategies and vision for the future are the questions: “What can tools like AI enable us to do faster + cheaper + better? And what can AI, along with all our other assets, enable us to do that has never been done before and cannot be done by others?” 

We are proud of how Behaviorally has grown in the last several years by leveraging our legacy of behavioral science, our embrace of digital solutions, and the human intelligence of our dedicated staff. But as our clients’ business challenges are becoming more complex, our future-focused orientation means that reinvention can’t stop here. It will be through the application of advanced technology, like AI image recognition, that we will continue to create solutions to our clients’ evolving business challenges in truly revolutionary ways for new and different channels such as e-commerce. 

Embracing this higher-order vision is how can we provide solutions that build on our deep domain expertise in designing and diagnosing the influences of shopper choice yet enter totally new realms of value creation for our clients, that they can trust.

Fundamentally, even as the context of our clients’ challenges get more complex, we believe the services we provide as Behaviorally need to enable clients to do something rather simple.  We must help clients realize the moment at which marketing investment achieves true value: the moment when all interconnecting efforts to influence consumer choice result in a shopping transaction.  Full stop.   

The route to this will inevitably be multidimensional and different while building on solutions of the past.  It will still involve the evaluation of physical and digital retail environments in which consumers encounter marketing assets, and the scoring and normative KPIs of assets to reliably predict what drives behavior – all done with speed, cost efficiency, and reliable predictive measures. The ultimate behavioral metric must be “will your marketing investment result in a purchase?” 

And that is the NorthStar of our own vision of the future.  We see it as our commitment, responsibility, and frankly our inspiration for working hard and supporting the growth that stakeholders in clients’ businesses expect. It is validating to see these insights leaders concur.  

The Author

Alex Hunt is a recognized pioneer in the practical application of behavioral science to shopper marketing in order to help clients develop consumer experiences that drive business growth. Prior to his role as CEO of Behaviorally, Alex served as global CEO of PRS IN VIVO, having joined the firm in October 2018.

Before joining PRS IN VIVO, Alex spent a decade building System1 Research (formerly BrainJuicer). Latterly, leading client-facing teams across 14 global offices as well as serving as an Executive Director of the System1 Group PLC Board.

Connect with him on LinkedIn.

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