(Drama on this post has been powered for theatrical appeal. Read post at your discretion, do not read slideshare at you peril).
In 1982 an R&B group called Indeep released a single that would alter their future.
The single was called “Last night a DJ saved my life“.
In that same year, Mary Meeker, today partner at lead VC firm KPCB, started working in Investment Banking as a stockbroker.
Also in that same year, yours truly was born in a big (everything seems big when you are a few hours old) hospital in South London.
Fast forward to last night and those three elements (Indeep, Meeker, moi) came together once again.
Last night Mary Meeker and her colleagues released their latest edition of their Annual Internet Trends report.
This is a presentation (embed below) which, if you work in anything digital related (and nowadays everything is), you should keep close, as it will prove to be valuable in many pitches and presentations.
Last night I desperately (you have been warned on the drama) needed a few slides on digital inertia, re-imagining and direction. And Mary Meeker was there for the rescue.DJ´s of the World, your live-saving days are over.
Mary Meeker knows the internet (has studied it since the Netscape IPO in the early 90´s). Mary Meeker does her research. Put those two together and you get the unofficial (but deserved) title of Queen of the Net.
Below, the slideshare pres. Research and Insight on the evolution and direction of the internet.
When we are presented with a business problem, we can either attack it from an already existing reality (an existing brand, technology, etc) Or, if it is ultimately a new type of problem, we will need to attack it with a fresh mind and try to solve it from scratch.
These two distinctions will largely determine what research approach we use.
If you are building or improving upon a certain existing business reality (currently established technology for instance), you need to understand how people value and perceive this technology, how they use it and what limits it currently has. This is when more traditional and analytical Research methodologies are very effective to understand the past and present and help shape future decisions.
But when it comes to questions that require projections into uncharted waters (like: We have this great technological advancement: How can we incorporate it into our business?) Then Research has to evolve to meet the predictive needs of the problem at hand.
This type of research becomes more of a hunt for patterns, and an amalgamation of different sources and inspirations from different markets, categories, countries. This is what is referred to as Design Research and in this process it becomes imperative that we balance raw analytics with informed intuition. Despite the “fluffy” connotations that the word intuition has when it comes to business solutions, it is in fact something much more sound. Intuition in this sense is not meant to be understood as unbound imagination or “gut sense”. Intuition should be informed, grounded, and the fruit of accumulated past experiences in other Research projects, other fields and other markets.
These are processes that are often iterative in nature as they start from assumptions and work their way through incremental changes and through the use of prototyping or even pretotyping (see my previous post on pretotyping).
It is no secret that differentiation is the Holy Grail in business breakthroughs (and in everything really: from securing a job versus other candidates to dating that girl in high school). But in a world where “Best practice” is yearned for, where products and communications are benchmarked against competitors and norms, it becomes quite a task to stand out. When everybody measures their success by contrasting their outputs with the market practice, Imitation is more probable than Innovation.
That is why to achieve differential innovation, the whole participatory team must strive to step out of their knowledge comfort zones, and accept a certain level of ambiguity. This is specially true as when comparing with other more traditional forms of research, the qualitative nature of the insights gathered through the Design Research projects do not offer the tranquility and safety of statistically representative numbers.
This ambiguity does not confront the validity of this type of Research. However it does mean that a special effort needs to be undertaken by the team members, to stress test all findings and be able to challenge and rethink any conclusions.
So, to attack a business problem that demands for an innovative solution that cannot rely heavily on the past or present, it is good to use informed insights, but it is great if we can complement these with some grounded intuition that will allow us to creatively iterate until we reach sustainable differentiation.
Would love to hear any personal experiences you’ve had on this.
I am proud to say that I have a Market Research background. For a few years in London I worked as a Researcher for Millward Brown (working with great brands and even better people).
I find this research background of great value almost every day. When dissecting client data, attending focus groups, performing secondary research, gathering insights…
Research is extremely important no doubt and clients rely heavily on it to make difficult (or compromising) consumer decisions. In our creative agency we also rely on research (qualitative, ethnographic, but also quantitative thanks to BrandAsset Valuator) to find truths about our brands that will help shape strategy and fuel creativity.
But research´s image (I find) is devalued and unfairly perceived as outdated and un-sexy, which sometimes leads to a certain “ugly duckling complex” within Research agencies (when in fact their role is an important one if done correctly).
This limits not only their involvement with some of their clients but also their ability to capture and retain talent.
That is what stood out for me when I visited Brain Juicer´s web: Immediately it doesn´t feel like a research company at all. It’s another animal entirely.
Their positioning away from the “traditional” research image and their establishment into a more creative, vibrant and technological research hub is a very interesting one (and is helping them secure the position as one of the fastest growing research agencies in the UK).
Through a series of definitions of parts of the brain (which I will not delve into!) they arrived at the following conclusion: “We don’t think as much as we think we do”. In essence this means that emotions (and not rational processes) are the ones that mostly govern our decisions.
So what does this mean for Marketing?
Well, for one it means that raw emotional advertising (this they contrasted using IPA data) is much more effective.
In fact, when researching into more exact description of emotions (and according to Brainjuicer) “Awe-inspiring” is the adjective that best boosts effectiveness in advertising.
From here they turned to one of my favorite ads to further make their point about emotions being a powerful driver (beyond conventional pre-conceptions).
I remember watching this ad by agency Fallon and feeling uplifted (and I also remember the FT stating the uplift in sales which I have recovered for you below).
You can imagine when this was pre-tested (IF this was pre-tested) that it most definitely flopped in every copy testing measure (especially as it was probably done in an un-finished and un- edited form).
That is why research is such an important tool. We need to master it so we can know when to follow it blindly or when to completely ignore it and go with our gut feelings.
Sometimes you hear/read a new word and the word´s own personality stands out from the very beginning. It´s even better when the word is actually a useful one to learn. This is the case of Pretotyping.
This post is to introduce the concept and the utility of Pretotyping. I will merely be summarising from the original sources that are out there on Pretotyping which I highly recommend for anyone who wants to dig deeper: The Pretotyping Manifesto video from this past January 2012 at Stanford, the original Pretotyping web page, and the free online book
A bit of background on Pretotyping: The idea of Pretotyping, whilst largely common sense is not a new concept. It’s basically an unconventional but effective form of market research. But whilst the core nature of it is not groundbreaking, the structure and articulation of the ideas and practices that surround the Pretotyping are very poignant and feel very much new. The naming and postulation of Pretotyping has been created and championed by Alberto Savoia who was Google’s Engineering Director and an expert on Innovation.
A bit of background on Mr Savoia and the seed of the Pretotyping concept: Alberto Savoia is a serial entrepreneur, who has had his fair share of sucesses and failures. After a really promising start into entrepreneurship, his second big profile project, with big leagues VC funding, flopped. This marked a wake up call for Savoia, who while at Google, decided to focus on this very important question we should all ask ourselves every once in a while: WTF?
WTF? =why the failure?
Mr Savoia started by outlining a very simple principle.
Law of failure=most ideas fail (even if very well implemented)
If most ideas fail (just take a look at all the apps that are sitting unused in the Apple store…), and most ideas take a healthy amount of time and money to fully activate, it makes sense when Alberto urges us to, when developing a new product or service, “make sure you are building the right IT before you build IT right”. This is Mr Savoia’s mantra for developing anything succesfully (a book, a company, a product…)
The trick, as it´s quite likely that most of our ideas will fail at implementation, is not to outrun failure, but to use it to your advantage.
What is the Pretotyping premise? Well, this takes into account speed of failure. The quicker your idea fails (as most will fail) the quicker you can try more ideas until one eventually becomes a success. The worst ideas are those that we allow to fail very slowly, as they consume our time, our money and our motivations in the long run.
Definition of Pretotyping: Validating the market appeal and actual usage of a potential new product or service by simulating its core experience whilst minimizing time and money spent.
The main question you ask when pretotyping: does it make sense to build it? would people use it?
In essence, Pretotyping is closer to innovative market research techniques that to prototyping.
If you adopt Pretotyping, the amount of ideas you will test will increase substantially, with them your amount of quick failures will also increase (you will fail more and quicker), but in return for your speedy failure you will eventually also come up with more successes. The goal of Pretotyping is to minimize slow, painful failures and increase quick ones, to reach success sooner.
The Pretotyping Manifesto
Innovators beat ideas
Data beats opinions
Doing beats talking
Simple beats complex
Now beats later
Commitment beats committees
Pretotypes beats Productypes
So what is the main advantage of Pretotyping? Cost-efficient and speedy failure so as to quickly and cheaply discern those products or services that people won´t try, so you can go ahead and continue trying to find those that will.
Types of Pretotypes:
Mechanical Turks: Any dummy development that has not really been fully fledged out would fall into this category. A recent example mentioned by Alberto Savoia would be an IBM speech-to-text product, that was originally intented to spare business executives who were not PC-savvy from typing. The validation was executed through a Mechanical Turk as in reality the software wasn’t developed at all. Executives who tested out the Pretotype were made to believe it was a finished product when in reality there was a professional typist that did the typing into the Pretotype computer from another room.
Pinocchio pretotype: Here you create a dummy product and assess it´s worthiness by filling in the blacks with your imagination (wooden block with painted buttons carried around with you would serve to see if you would use a palm device throughout the day)
Fake door: This measures interest in a service or product. You basically put an ad that explains the product and see if people clicked on it. Very low investment (Adwords) and in return you get real consumer interest data!
Impersonator pretotypes: you take another product and wrap your product label around (to see if people would buy it, try it, etc)
Huge and very successful companies pretotyped in their origins. Facebook tried out pretotyping. They started with a small group of university students to see if the idea really worked. And the rest is history.
Pretotyping has also been vastly used in advertising. When developing an ad idea, you don’t produce and shoot straightaway. You recreate a mock up version of the advert to see if it is differentiating and relevant enough to really produce.
Any examples out there that you can think of that involve Pretotyping?