Methodology in Context is a conference for anyone who wants to examine the genesis, practice and implications of methodologies that generate valuable consumer and citizen insight.

Delegates will be offered a view of a methodological landscape that is both kaleidoscopic, challenging and fast-moving. 

What precisely has driven the creation of a range of dynamic and creative methodologies? How, in detail, do those methodologies work? And how can we address the challenges that these new approaches present?

The conference is an invaluable fixture for insight professionals who have a passion for the big picture and the fine detail. It’s a day of strategy. It’s a day of expertise. 

Ten research professionals, from some of the most resourceful and creative insight agencies, offer delegates a balanced view of the demands being made of them, the work undertaken and the likely implications for consumers, citizens and the insight business. 

Research professionals on both side of the agency divide will have the time and space to examine some of the profound strategic and technical issues facing us all. This MRS conference will help delegates bolster their methodological armoury with fresh solutions.


Radisson Blu Edwardian
9-13 Bloomsbury Street,London,WC1B 3QD

9.30 Opening Remarks

Chairman: Richard Young, Journalist and Editor


9.40: The opening challenge: finding truth in a post-truth world

For so long, the research community has been able to pride itself in its quest for finding truth, whether those are truths about a brand, a product, a consumer or even about society as a whole. But what does that mean in a post-truth world of fake news, in which experts no longer matter and the traditional dividing lines have been replaced by new tribes of ‘leave’ and ‘remain’? What have researchers done to respond to these fundamental shifts, and where is there further to go? This session will look at what’s going on in our new post-truth world, and the questions that agency and client-side researchers need to ask themselves across the private, public and third sectors to readjust to a world gone mad.

Holly Wicks, Associate Director, BritainThinks


10.10: Brave new worlds: how can virtual reality and augmented reality drive deeper insight?

More than 50% of people own some description of virtual/augmented reality equipment – isn’t it time to tap in to the possibilities? Find out how the market research business and its clients can use this technology to gain a deeper understanding of motivation to help drive innovation and deeper customer connection. Can the tech really produce richer data and can it help to generate quant data from qual experiences?

Dr Alastair Goode, Cognitive Scientist, Gorilla in the Room


10.40: Hiding in plain sight: fresh insight strategies for new product development

We all know that the success rate of New Product Development (NPD) is low. In response we have improved our models, made ourselves more agile, and looked for ways to improve our ability to predict. But are we looking in the right place? By turning the NPD spotlight away from customers and into the very organisations we work for, a better measure may emerge. Discover how insight can help to bolster development muscle by turning the NPD process on its head and establishing a frictionless relationship with stakeholders.

Martin Oxley, Managing Director & Jenny Lindsay, Director of Client Services, Buzzback Europe


11.10: Refreshment Break


11.30: Gaining attention: going beyond behavioural economics to provide a structured psychology-driven approach to increasing engagement in low-interest areas 
Often the most critical topics are the ones that fail to capture the interest of respondents. They are either deemed ‘dry’ or concern matters that people would rather not think about – or want to delay thinking about. How can we ensure that low-interest topics resonate and gain the attention they deserve? Discover how using a wider psychology platform means that we can ensure that engagement-related insight spawns stronger communications and engagement strategies for both commercial and social good.

Nicola Stenberg, Senior Partner, Big Window Consulting


12.00: Unmediated observation: revealing behavioural insight at scale

Traditional research based on pre-determined questions about what people do or why/how they do them can sometimes be misleading or incomplete. Using video to observe how people actually behave - in context and at scale - reveals macro and micro visual data unobtainable in any other way. Discover how video-at-scale can help to enable better consumer empathy, co-creation and insight.

Dr Charlotte Coleman, Insight Director & Sam Paice, MD Client Services, Big Sofa Technology


12.30: Lost in translation?: a cultural approach in the context of globalisation 

As businesses go superglobal and people expect increasingly authentic brands and product experiences, consumer-centric methods such as personas, mapping journeys and design thinking are no longer enough. In the context of globalisation, we need to update our innovation processes and methodologies to take broader cultural contexts into account. We’ll discuss how this approach will allow us to design products and services for people across different cultures and complex backgrounds with a positive social impact at profit level. 

Joanna Brassett, Director and Founder, Studio INTO


13.00: Lunch


14.15: Debate: bias in the business

Unconscious bias gets in the way of good decision making. Scratch the surface and traces of prejudice and discrimination are baked into the results of these decisions, from recruitment policies to marketing campaigns to machine learning. So how can research design and methodology help the rest of the business to neutralise bias?

Chair: Tim Phillips, journalist and editor

Jake Steadman, Senior Director of Research, International & Agency, Twitter
Colin Strong, Global Head of Behavioural Science, Ipsos 
Jay Owens, Research Director, Pulsar
Jan Gooding, Chair, Stonewall & President of MRS


14.55:  Ocean and sky: semiotics married to digital media analytics

Digital media offers us oceans of ‘real data’, but cannot of itself identify the human meanings which lie within. Semiotics enables us to identify the structures which define meaning, but is entirely qualitative and ethereal. We use a semiotic analysis of Corbyn and May to identify ‘seed codes’, and provide an iterative framework to map the meanings in the data. We have chosen a political subject because the energetic dialectic serves to hot-house the generation of meaning. However these techniques are directly applicable to commercial and social research.

William Landell Mills, Director, Amaranth Insight & Preriit Souda, PSA Consultants


15.25:  Refreshment Break


15.45: Leading the pack: can leading edge behaviour predict what’s next for mainstream consumers?

Predicting the future is at the top of any insight and innovation wish list. All too often, however, brands fail to spot what’s coming next by sticking too close to their already existing consumers. Using leading edge participants as predictors of mainstream behaviour is obviously nothing new, but doing so accurately – and in a way that’s relevant for specific categories or brands – remains one of the greatest enigmas within our industry. In this session we're asking: what tools and frameworks do we need to turn this art into science? And is observing 'leading-edgers' the future of brand health and cultural relevancy, or is it just unreliable information that will never reach beyond a niche?

Matilda Andersson, Managing Director & Roberta Graham, Senior Consultant Futures, Semiotics & Listening, Crowd DNA 


16.15: All together now? Methodological challenges in delivering diversity and inclusion
Research will only ever be truly effective when it asks all the right questions of all the right people. Earlier in the day, you’ll hear about ensuring that agencies themselves guard against bias. What does it take to make the social and market research work itself truly inclusive? This presentation discusses challenges related to identifying opportunities, sampling, recruiting, asking the right questions, analysing results and interpreting findings when working with minority groups.

Marie-Claude Gervais, Founder and Research Director, Versiti


16.45 Closing Remarks

17.00 Close

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