Things researchers could learn from Harry Potter

As published in MarketingTribune on June 4, 2013. Companies usually try their very best to keep their market research results a secret to the outside world. We use sophisticated and careful procedures to minimise the risk of leaking stimuli or conclusions to possible competitors, the media or other parties – kindly referred to as ‘danger occupations’. ISO-certified agencies have strict guidelines concerning the management of data and reports. Of course this is all perfectly understandable: the launch of a successful new product, service or campaign is often preceded by years of preliminary studies and testing.

Sharing: the open economy’s credo

But is the world not a different place today? Do we not talk more and more about the open economy, with its focus on transparency as well as on sharing and co-creation of knowledge and experiences? Jörgen Andersson, SVP Director Brand & New Business at Esprit, made a powerful statement (in a recent interview with Joeri Van den Bergh for his book How Cool Brands Stay Hot): “As a result of the unlimited openness and transparency in today’s economy, the consumer is the brand and the brand is the consumer. Everything tends to flow together.” In the open economy competitive capacity is built by a quicker and better sharing of gathered knowledge and insights than anyone else, not by keeping those insights a secret to the world.

Wizarding World of Harry Potter: from 7 to 350 million

A strong example of that ultimate power of sharing is the moment when Universal Studios opened the ‘Wizarding World of Harry Potter’ fun fair. The creators and designers of the fun fair shared their story in an exclusive webinar with a small group of only 7 people, who happened to be the most influential Harry Potter bloggers. Their next step was obviously to immediately start writing about it, sharing their unique experience on Facebook and Twitter as well as via e-mail. Within 24 hours about 350 million people knew the story…

Research as marketing instrument

What should researchers learn from the Harry Potter story? Only too often researchers miss a chance to share things with the outside world. This could be about the process (what exactly did we do?), the results (what did we learn?) and/or the consequences (what did we decide?). Here is a list of the main advantages:

  • If you share your insights more quickly and in a better way, you will constantly build content which has conversation potential for your target group. As consumers strongly trust the messages which reach them from their direct surroundings, you will ‘recruit’ fans and ambassadors for your brand.
  • By opening yourself up to the outside world and by looking vulnerable, consumers live your brand as ‘more human’ and more authentic. Successful brands often are those brands which are perceived as ‘real’ and personal by their target group.
  • The quicker you share insights, the quicker you will get further input and feedback. These iterative feedback loops will help you, as organisation, to react more quickly to new trends and to have an easier job in adjusting them.

I will end my story with a nice quote of Unilever’s CEO, Paul Polman: “Many old-school CEOs are stuck in their ways: we need more collaboration and openness.” Are you up for the challenge?

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