Fast Fashion or Futurists? The Diverging Roles of Market Research

We’re counting down our Top 10 blog posts of 2013. Coming in at #6 is this IIEX presentation recap originally published in June.

Leading Edge Market Research book cover

Robert Moran of the Brunswick Group presented at the Greenbook Insights Innovation Exchange in Philadelphia today. He argued that research needs to “solve for acceleration — the acceleration in the rate of change in business, society and consumer demands.” To do this, research must pursue new paths, which Robert summarizes as the fast-fashion path and the futurist community.

Robert said “the metabolic rate of capitalism is quickening.” Here is evidence from the perspective of consumers…

Invention Date Invented Years to Reach 25% of U.S. Population
electricity 1873 46 years
telephone 1876 35 years
radio 1897 31 years
color TV 1951 18 years
mobile phone 1983 13 years
World Wide Web 1991 7 years

 
…and then the ability of suppliers to react:

Year Lifespan of corporation on S&P 500
1920 67 years
1958 61 years
1980 25 years
2013 18 years

 
As part of this rapid change, Robert identified “10 D’s that will change your business”:

  • Disruptive technologies
  • Disruptive innovation meme
  • Digitization
  • Disintermediation
  • Dematerialization
  • De-monetization
  • Data
  • Democratization
  • DIY
  • Demography

What does the problem of accelerating discontinuous change mean for the role of market research?

In the book Leading Edge Marketing Research, Robert outlined 22 plausible future scenarios for the research industry. Of these, two are particularly relevant in an era of discontinuous change:
  • The fast fashion path – RIME (Rapid In Market Experimentation) – “Do. Think. Speed to market. Rapid iteration. Products as real-time experiments, analysis of the sales data.”
  • The futurist community – Anticipation – “Think. Do. Anticipate futures. Analysis of STEEP factors: Social, Technological, Economical, Environmental, Political.”

In the fast fashion path, the model of “think” then “do” is turned on its head. Do, then think. Execute, then evaluate. As outlined in The Lean Startup, run rapid market experiments, and keep iterating, and keep iterating. Motto: new, better, faster, obsolete. This approach turns the research paradigm on its head, pushing product into the market, running it as an experiment, and learning. Retail stores that follow this pattern include Zara and Charming Charlie, which offers fast, inexpensive and fashionable clothing in a tight feedback loop.

The futurist community often collaborates to envision the future. For instance, The Futurist magazine includes forecasts, trends, and ideas about the future. What are the big changes on the horizon? In Race against the Machine, the authors extrapolate from the socio-technological age progression and see the Information Age passing into the Robotic Biotech Age. The social composition of society will change, and a new social structure will include people who lack the cognitive ability to work. There will be technological unemployment: what happens if you simultaneously have algorithms dislocate white collar workers and robots dislocate blue collar workers?

For more, check out Robert’s post on his blog, Future Of Insight, IIeX Philly: Fast Fashion or Futurists? (A Preview).

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  1. […] Fast Fashion or Futurists – Robert Moran of the Brunswick Group presented at the GreenBook Insights Innovation Exchange in Philadelphia, arguing that research needs to “solve for acceleration — the acceleration in the rate of change in business, society and consumer demands.” […]

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