Qual. Agencies And Insight For Innovation – The Best Mix?

When looking for the next big innovation having the right consumer insight is critical. So, where do you go to get this insight? Very often, the first port of call is a market research agency. But is a research agency the right partner for consumer insight at the front end of innovation?

Here’s a number of reasons why an innovation agency/ consultancy is likely to be better equipped:

Researchers are generalists:

  • Whether it’s a focus group, in-depth interview or ethnography, researchers tend to follow a pre-planned discussion guide with little deviation. This is fine for other types of research but not innovation. It immediately limits the scope of the consumer conversation as you will only get the answers to the questions you know to ask, and that’s a big flaw when it comes to innovation
  • Consumers tend to be observed and questioned. This direct questioning doesn’t enable consumers to access to their subconscious thoughts which is where the really great nuggets of insight are hidden away
  • Very often, researchers are not given the business parameters within which they can work. They do not have the bigger picture and a good understanding of the many variables or paths the business is happy to investigate. This means that they are often reduced to working within the ‘knowns’ they have been given by the business rather than being able to go where consumers might want to take them
  • Of course they will deliver in-depth understanding of consumer drivers, behaviours and motivations. But where the value is for innovation (in amongst all this information) will not have been identified. It is left to the business to wade through and hopefully identify which are the possible foundation nuggets to ideate against

When it comes to innovation the fundamental issue is that finding gaps and ideas are just not on the typical researcher’s radar. They are focussed on answering the questions they have been asked, not on exploring widely. They can find the dots but they don’t join them together, which means that the truly original insights that will help you to deliver great innovation will often remain elusive.

Innovation agencies are expert opportunity ferrets!

An innovation agency’s style and approach is very different to those of a researcher:

  • They have a complete view of your business and the parameters you are working within meaning they can take unexpected and unknown paths with consumers 
  • They specialise in searching for the gaps and opportunities so will turn into little ferrets from even a little whiff of anything like a relevant insight/ hook/ territory
  • Their different head space means that you will get the key nuggets from which to ideate and the motivations around them, delivered to you on a plate. There is no need for further analysis or research. You should have your insight platforms and ideation territories clearly identified
  • They have a less rigid approach to consumer interactions, following consumers thought paths and engaging with them in lots of creative ways. This allows the subconscious to be revealed and therefore deeper insight to be identified

So, if your objective is gleaning consumer insight for possible new innovation platforms and territories then an innovation agency is going to take a far more highly focussed approach to digging out opportunities and gaps.

Published 22nd June 2015 by Natalie Reed @ the Strategy Distillery