We love talking with experts.
First of all, experts have spent hours and hours thinking hard about the questions we ask to ourselves. When we wonder about the way people travel, why not talk to people who have made a life time commitment to understanding contemporary mobility? When it comes to food habits, why not talk with nutritionists, chefs, food critiques, sociologists, anthropologists? And why not ask market researchers? They often tell us their frustration that the same pieces of research gets commissioned over and over again, only because of the reluctance to dig into past knowledge*. On nearly all projects, we need ad hoc research. But asking ad hoc research to answer generic questions leads to a lack of efficiency and focus. Why ask focus groups questions that have been answered in PhDs, or National statistics? Experts can answer general contextual questions so that ad hoc research can focus on specifics.
Then of course, in our field, cultural resonance, cultural experts articulate the cultural context of brands in a unique way. When aiming at defining brand context, we typically interview academics in sociology, cultural anthropology, history of literature and arts. And also teachers, local activists, entertainers, bloggers, doctors, chefs, as mentioned, sommeliers, architects, firemen, politicians, community leaders, NGO staff, environmentalists, social workers, burlesque artists, musicians, photographers, journalists (yes, they are often very knowledgeable!!) – experts with insights relevant to our quest.
Some agencies and marketing consultants claim to talk to unconventional consumers, trend setters, “prosumers”, because in their view, mainstream consumers, those recruited by traditional market research, are too conservative and too little opened to innovative ideas. When it comes to innovation, we agree! And we do the same, only, we call them experts: talking to the avant-garde of society is extremely inspiring. Only avant-garde experts can imagine the future, and not just represent the present and the status quo. But we believe being trendy, or cool, or quirky is not sufficient to produce foresights: looking forward requires a vibrant imagination, but also, a solid study of the dynamics at stake, and the ability to make sense of them. Proper forecasting skills.
*This includes internal expertise, the knowledge that lives within an organization and that gets forgotten. We like to start a project with a knowledge review. We are often amazed by the quantity (and quality) of information we eventually find in old reports that have been forgotten on the top shelf of our clients’ archive room.