A day in the life of… Susan Vidler, Global Chief Research Officer at Toluna

Published November 22, 2021

Toluna,

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Originally Published by Econsultancy. Written by Nikki Gilliland.

Susan Vidler is the Global Chief Research Officer at consumer insight and market research company, Toluna.

We recently spoke with Susan about the importance of brand voice and why, more than ever, brands must demonstrate their true meaning in order to appeal to consumers. Here’s what she had to say, along with her thoughts on the future of consumer market research.

Talk me through your role, and how it fits into the company

Toluna is a technology company that delivers insights at the speed of the on-demand economy. We combine innovative technology, award-winning research design, vertical expertise and a panel of over 36 million consumers.

My role as Global Chief Research Officer is to develop, define and implement best practice across the research function at group level. In this role I have the privilege of leading a fantastic team of research consultants across multiple industry sectors. Our key aim is to help clients use research to make business decisions at the speed the market demands.

What drives effective customer research?

There are many factors, however in its simplest form market research is essentially the process of collecting and analysing data/information to help inform decision making. For each programme the more clearly you can identify what you are trying to achieve (what you want to understand, explore, investigate, measure etc.) and the decisions you want to make based on the research the more accurately a programme of work can be designed to meet these goals.

It is always about understanding what the challenge is for the brands we are working with and then being able to design/recommend the appropriate techniques to be able to provide the required information with the greatest level of rigour applied to the process.

Brand values are arguably becoming increasingly important to consumers – how can brands respond to this (and the rising expectations of consumers)?

What a brands stands for and how a brand communicates plays an increasingly important role in the decision to buy/use its product or service. People are more likely to buy from brands that align with their values and others have actively stopped supporting brands that don’t.

Therefore, it is really important for brands to understand the needs and expectations of their target audience. Needs, attitudes and behaviours can change at pace therefore it is critical for brands to stay close to consumers and listen to their needs if they are to be successful in terms of fulfilling these needs.

Is there danger that the so-called ‘values economy’ will create disingenuous marketing? How can brands avoid jumping on the CSR bandwagon?

It is important for brands to communicate what they stand for in a clear, focused and consistent way. However, what a brand stands for needs to be authentic and fit with the organisation and its culture. If authentic brand positioning overlaps with values consumers also believe are important, then this is where the opportunity lies.

People will not respond well to brands who communicate values but cannot see a brand’s values in action.

What are your predictions for the future of your industry?

Market research has changed a great deal over the last few years and the pace of that change has only accelerated over the past 18 months. The business problems we help organisations solve i.e. managing and monitoring the health of brands, whether or not communications are resonating with the target audiences, what concept will be most successful, what is the optimum range of products etc. have not changed a great deal, however, what has changed is the way the research needs to be conducted in order to better support organisations and the environments in which they are operating.

It is not just that the whole process needs to be faster – it is about using automation and technology to meet the need for speed, for quality, for ease of use, for flexibility, for value all at the same time.  The pressure on organisations to do ‘more with less’ continues and efficiencies are needed at every stage of the process to drive quality insights at pace.  Technology and automation will continue to drive improvements in the research process.

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