Conference Recap: ESOMAR Congress 2019

Sept 8-11
by: Michael Dorr, Managing Director – Hotspex UK

Hotspex had the pleasure of attending the ESOMAR Congress 2019 in beautiful (and rainy) Edinburgh, Scotland.  The rain did not dampen our spirits.  The atmosphere at the conference was electric and we’re feeling truly excited for the future!

In 2019, the world of research continues to transform, driven by the confluence of technology, ever-changing consumer behaviours and the proliferation of data sources at our disposal.  The ESOMAR Congress theme this year was, fittingly, “transformation”.   There were so many fantastic presentations / discussions; its difficult to distil, here are some of my personal highlights.


The conference kicked-off with a keynote speech by Chris Burggraeve (former CMO of Anheuser-Busch InBev); who effectively framed the conference with 3 key fundamentals…

  • Today’s Marketing Reality is Tough
    52% of Fortune 500 companies from the year 2000 are gone (bankrupt OR cease to exist)
  • The primary role of marketing…
    …is to create sustainable pricing power for your brand.   In other words, create a brand that people will gladly “queue” for (e.g. Apple)
  • Uncover True Insight
    Great marketing is grounded in true insight – effectively defined (by P&G) as…“An accepted belief, habit or practice related to your brand or category, that, if understood, can intelligently be acted upon… to impact behaviour and/or perception”


Why conduct a traditional survey when consumers are telling us about our brands (by the droves) via social media?  Whether they are posting photos OR sharing opinions / experiences, we are sitting on a wealth of data and potential insight.

The L’Oréal (España) team are using the > 200 million social media posts tagged as #selfie to understand beauty trends.   This is a prime example of how new data sources (via social media) provide such a rich opportunity to learn about consumers.   And according to L’Oréal, the next frontier for analysis (beyond selfie photos) will be video.

SKIM presented a fantastic presentation that combined maths and emojis, looking specifically at thumbs up (👍), love (❤️) and thumbs down (👎).    This new and ever-growing language of emojis has a strong emotional impact on how consumers feel.  Analysis showed that 1❤️ = 3.5  👍.  And even more compelling, 9.7 👍  = 1 👎.   

And, Christiane Reimann from Intel shared her experience addressing the question “Can brand health tracking be replaced with social media listening?”  By using social media data, plus machine learning, Christiane and her team identified elements of their traditional tracking data that could be replicated effectively with social media listening.   Though Intel was unable to correlate brand imagery statements from their tracker (e.g. innovative, quality) with social media data.  In the end, the conclusion is that yes, social media listening can add value, but we’re not quite ready to replace our ‘good old’ trackers just YET.


With all this new technology and data, it is easy to be seduced by the tech and lose focus on the consumer.  Several talks at the conference effectively confronted this topic.

From GSK, Nicolas Pochart spoke in-depth about the pressures of being “tech pushed”.   He reminded us that the average mobile app downloaded today has a 90% chance of being deleted in the next 90 days.    You definitely need to embrace and leverage new technology, BUT the heart of your marketing & new innovations must be consumer-led.

Another great example of being consumer-led was from Join the Dots / Insites Consulting (with Nomad Foods).  To research a newly launched product for Nomad Foods, the team developed a chatbot to engage with consumers in-store (via a mobile app).   In contrast to a static survey, this approach engaged consumers in a conversation over time and in a relevant context.   Also, the team worked to offset the uncanny valley effect (i.e. A.I. can evoke an eerie / uncomfortable response from consumers), by animating their chatbot as young, naïve and quite excitable, which encouraged respondents to want to share and help “teach”.  Very inspiring.

Without a doubt, I have left this year’s conference inspired.   In my opinion, a big part of why Hotspex is ranked #6 on GRIT’s Most Innovative Supplier list for 2019, is because we actively embrace change.    We’re proud to be part of such a dynamic and ever-changing industry and we’re excited to be part of this incredible transformation.  

See you at ESOMAR 2020 in Hotspex’s hometown, Toronto.

Twitter: @MichaelJDorr
For more about Hotspex click here