Category Archives: Blog

MRSS Asia Research Conference: The Brave New Digital World

On 7 August I attended the MRSS Asia Research Conference 2014 at Fairmont Hotel. Despite the strapline – Brave New Digital World – invoking sci-fi dystopia, it was instead a day filled with inspiring and thought provoking sharing from 12 veterans of the market research industry.

The topics centered around changes in consumer behaviour with the rise in smart devices. The world is overtaken by digital media, albeit not overnight, but with evident footprints that are too deep to overlook.

President of MRSS, Joan Koh, kicked-off the conference with a strong message for brand leaders and researchers. She said that 70% of brands are still relying on traditional media, but smart devices are multiplying and shaping consumers’ lives today. Moving forward, it will be an exciting time learning and catching up with the consumers with the new technologies.

mrss 1

 5 takeaways and implications on how we approach MR

 1. Real role of mobile phone:

I was very intrigued by Dave’s McCaughan’s paper on “Who needs a nose!”: The truth about your fifth sense. I gave my personal vote to Dave as the best paper not because I learnt a new word from him – phubbing (check it out if you don’t already know), Dave put across a very interesting point, which really bugged me and made me rethink how we can tap into this behaviour when conducting research. In a piece of research, Dave found out that when people were asked to choose what they can’t live without, most choose their mobile phone over their nose! Mobile phone has taken on a very important role in our lives, helping us sense and interpret things around us.

Why did I say this bugged me so much as a researcher? Look at how we manage research sessions now – we always tell participants to put their phones away so that they can focus on the discussion happening in the room. But what also means is that we are actually asking them to put their 5th sense away!

I remember asking a participant to put away her phone during a workshop discussion. She told me that she was going online to look up what we just said about the product technology because she has never heard of it and found it really interesting. Imagine this for a moment – if we were to design our agenda and exercises such that participants are asked to go online to look for inspiration, ideas or images, the insights we gather will be rich, diverse and quick. Most importantly, we are working with consumers with all of their senses, including the new 5th sense.

 2. Big data & big challenge:

Big Data is a buzz word that experts reckon brands and agencies are still working hard to make sense of , but let’s dive into it anyways as it sounds really important. From what I gathered from various papers shared at the conference, Big Data must be used with a strategy and end-game in mind. There is no lack of data, but to create meaningful connection with the data requires more thought.

Arno Hummerston, Digital Market Intelligence from GfK, gave his honest thoughts that big data is not a case of the more the merrier. In addition to that, Arno also raised some worrying challenges social media research faces with the use of multi-devices information channel and multi-delivery environment.

Recently, Jessica Owens our in-house social media research expert suggested 10 ways to add rigour into your social media research to deliver solid findings. One of the ways that Jess mentioned, “qualify your quant insights” is something that many clients have seen lacking in the market. Only data that are translated into meaningful insights offer new learning of the market and audience. At Face and Pulsar, we have researchers who are committed to qualifying mass amounts of data to create meaningful stories to inspire insights.

3. Tapping into new behaviour:

I had a geek moment when Melissa Gil, Director of SingTel’s Customer Intelligence and Living Analytics, presented the geo-analytics findings of SingTel’s big data. It is fascinating how traffic pattern informs shopping behavior, giving SingTel confidence to execute tactical marketing effort and staff planning.

Having covered the macro insights, capturing and understanding the actual audience behaviour is important to provide a holistic picture of the insights. In a research to understand people’s shopping behaviour, SingTel requested its research participants to upload receipts of their purchases. The information collected from the vast amount of receipts provided deep insights into shopping behaviour from a location, day and time perspective. This method of data collection was probably less feasible years ago, but now people are open about  capturing and sharing personal experiences via technology. Since SingTel has ownership over the data, they can always call up the research participants to provide deeper insights into each spending experience.

I feel that Big Data has definitely blurred the lines of quant and qual further – in a good way. Starting broad and wide provides a direction on what to focus on. Focusing on selected issues provides a perspective on why things are evolving the way they are. We will definitely see more and more need for hybrid of intelligent minds to analyse data with both a macro and micro view.


4. It’s not only about the Gen Y and Millennials:

I must say that Benjamin Smithee’s talk was very captivating. It is a topic that I am particularly interesting and passionate on – the Gen Y and the Millennials. Yes, we all should know by now that the Gen Y and the Millennials grew up in the digital world, and that changes how brands should engage with them. But what’s more fascinating for me is how Gen Y and the Millenniums are impacting the upstream generation – their parents. When Ben talked about this, it dawn on me that it is so true that I have been influencing my mother’s lifestyle to a large extent! I introduced her to smartphone and tablet, I introduced her to H&M and Zara, and I introduced her to the world of YouTube and iTunes. Before, my mother consumed media solely through TV, but now she watches offshore cooking programmes on YouTube at any time of the day.

What does this mean? Brands should not be looking at this segment in the same way. While they don’t form the bulk of the “digital generation” as much as the Gen Y and the Millennials, they definitely are spending a fair amount of time and money online.

This also inspired me to relook into our research design and approach. Often we would be concerned about adding digital components for audience above the ages of 45, but this new insight gave me a fresh perspective. I feel that the digital world has made pure demographics less and less meaningful.

5. It is time for change

In the closing message, Ray Poynter reinforced what Joan Koh started with – the context has changed but most thinking is still based on old methods. Ray pulled very interesting contrast between the landscape of 1974 and 2014. What’s most interesting to me are two areas:

#1: In the past the consumer’s role was passive, which has evolved to be reactive, and now it is collaborative. This changes how research approach should be designed – it is no longer about evaluation and feedback, but creation and refinement. At Face, we believe in co-creating with consumers right from the beginning of the process. It is a new era where brands and marketers should seek to work more closely with consumers.

#2: Marketing to global consumers in every local market. With technology and smart devices, people are no longer restricted to what they have and see in their own market, but globally. This gives brands a lot more challenge to create a unifying message that works cross-market, but also give brands a lot more opportunities to cross-sell.

Vijay Raj, Unilever CMI Director for Research Innovation and Protocol Management, made it explicit that it is no longer enough for brands to innovate to cope, but we need to proactively innovate to win.

It is encouraging that clients are excited to embrace this change. In fact, brands are expecting their research agencies to take leadership to transform and inspire approaches and thinking. It is exciting times ahead. We don’t know what the limit of digital technology is, but we know we will be limiting ourselves if we don’t adopt it.

FACE’s ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

This week the inevitable happened. FACE became the next in a long line that has been nominated for ALS’ Ice Bucket Challenge. Yes, the social media phenomenon reached us in our London Office; we have Brightsource to thank for that!

ALS is a disease that many had never heard of or understood before the Ice Bucket Challenge; it has brought a huge amount of awareness to the charity and many similar non-profits who are trying to fight the cause.

The challenge represents more than just throwing iced cold water over your head. It shows us the incredible power of social media, and how quickly content can go viral.

We would like to thank Brightsource for the nomination. Our nominations go to Extendi, Sennep and Sensum. You have 24 hours – considering it’s a Friday we’ll give you until Monday.

Please donate what you can to the following links:

ALS in the US here:…

Or to the UK’s Motor Neurone Disease Association here:

Find out more about ALS (known more commonly as Motor Neurone Disease in the UK or Lou Gehrig’s disease):…

Meet us at… Corporate Researchers Conference


Corporate Researchers Conference (September 17-19, Chicago) is one of the only conferences created for and by corporate researchers, and FACE cannot wait to be there.

We will be putting you to the ultimate test with our Internet cats vs. Internet dogs battle, just like we did at Marketing Week Live in the UK. There, the more dominant force has been Internet cats. Now with the test going transatlantic for the first time, will the US be any different?

If you’re familiar with our experiment then you’ll know that everything we do at FACE is about understanding people. Once again we have teamed up with our friends at Sensum who specialise in mobile solutions for capturing, visualising and reporting engagement. Using Sensum’s proven biometric technology (yes, we are taking this seriously) we will measure people’s emotional reactions to one cat and one dog YouTube Buzzfeed video and solve this old-age debate once and for all.

 Although everyone already knows whether they’re a cat or dog person in real life, things may be a little different in the digital sphere. So when it comes to Internet pets, which one do people like more? If you’re attending Corporate Researchers Conference in September please come over and take the test to see not only which pet will win YOUR heart, but who is the winner overall. 

And while you’re there, please say hello to Andrew Needham (our CEO), Job Microsoft (UK MD), and Marc Geffen (US Research Manager) who are very much looking forward to meeting you.

Do you want to know how to identify top influencers within your category? Interested in the ingredients of a successful co-creation project? Or what it takes to become a socially intelligent business? Then come to our booth at stand 202 in the Vista Lounge, we’d love to tell you all about it.  We’ll also present our social data intelligence platform Pulsar which enables you to go beyond keyword tracking to map brand audiences, track how content spreads, and manage your teams to engage effectively with your customers in social media. 

Thank you to Buzzfeed for kindly allowing us to use their content for this experiment.

We are (Face) Family. Sharing Knowledge, Making Memories

FACE company history was made on 18th July when all four offices came together for the first ever global company gathering. As the sun beat down onto the Oxfordshire countryside, Facers explored the  tents, bonfire pit, chill out zone, hog roast and travelling bar, catching up and getting to know teammates from across the world. There were mentions, promotions, new role announcements, and a massive “thank you” from Andrew Needham, our CEO – and then a party well into the early hours.

Not only was Face Festival incredibly special, so was the week leading up to it. There was an unbelievable amount of knowledge sharing, team-building, absorbing new skills, and sharing best practices. It was also an amazing opportunity to finally put faces to names, as many of us had only met over email.

I think I can say on behalf of all Facers that this week could not have been any better. It exceeded all expectations, bringing us together to develop our creativity and cross-continent knowledge. We are already counting down the days until next one.

Check out our Face Festival memories below:

FF Collage 2

If you want to stay up-to-date with what we’re up to here at Face, please follow us on TwitterLinkedIn and Facebook

A Day in the Life of a Co-creation Illustrator

Title for blogpost

If we went back in time 23 years, you would find a situation very similar to now. I would more than likely be surrounded by paper, pen in hand. I have always drawn. Drawing what I see, drawing what I feel. Drawing in the car and on the train. Drawing on the beach and in the garden. Making up stories, characters and worlds. Almost always making a mess.

As time went on, the natural progression took hold. GCSE Art followed by A Level, and then before I knew it I was graduating with a degree in Illustration. Then it hit me, I can draw, so what?! I have done a degree in Illustration, BIG DEAL! The real challenge was yet to come.

Through my first professional illustration projects, I realised that I am passionate about documenting individual stories and experiences. From these moments I developed a strong interest in the inclusive nature of illustration and the ability to inspire people of different ages and backgrounds. Throughout these first projects I found myself creating action and drama to accompany these interactions, paying special attention to crafting something memorable and accessible. Seeing children engaged and involved in this way encouraged me to investigate the world of education, most notably teaching dance and drama.

Blog post Illustrations 1

Turning up for my first FACE co-creation workshop, I wasn’t sure exactly what it would entail. All I knew was that it was an opportunity to draw and bring ideas to life.

As I sat, fresh felt tips in hand, it turned out that my past experience had equipped me well. The inclusive nature of previous illustration work saw me comfortable to spread out my paper right amongst the participants, tuning into lots of voices discussing multiple opinions. Working with children enabled me to think on my feet. I flourished in a situation where my intuitive nature to create and capture was in its element. I was very pleased and thankful that this illustration opportunity existed, and from that moment on I decided that I would do everything in my power to record the content of the workshops in the most vibrant and exciting way possible.

Blog post Illustrations 2

There are many different styles of illustration, but I like to produce it in its purest form: something visual that explains an idea, captures a moment or documents a thought. When I illustrate it is important that my drawings can be interpreted by lots of different people and appreciated for what it communicates not just how it looks. That said, I have developed a certain aesthetic that I hope accompanies the meaning well.

In this fast-moving world, the ability to record in this way is still relevant. Illustrations can be used as inspiration. They prompt idea generation, acting as a visual reminder of concepts and discussions as well as recording the world around us.

Visual communication has been around since the dawn of time. From cave drawings that depict the priorities of early human life to the decorative yet informative aboriginal art, which maps out the location to the watering hole and all the myths and stories in the landscape. From this to the Bayeux Tapestry that acted as the social commentary of the day – they all demonstrate the human desire to mark make and express ourselves, to record and explain the world around us. We’re still doing the same today.

Blog post Illustrations 3

When planning a co-creation workshop it is important that there is a plentiful supply of paper and lots of felt tips for the illustrators. My brand of choice is Sharpies as you can create a clear bold line with a good range of colours. There is nothing worse than a dodgy set of half-run-out pens to disrupt the flow of consciousness. We have been known to get through quite a few packs due to the quantity of outputs and the pace at which they are drawn.

There are many good illustrators out there, but not all have the attributes that make great co-creation illustrators. The main skill needed is the ability to avoid getting intimidated by the fast paced nature of the workshop. In these situations you don’t have the luxury of time to create perfect or ornate illustrations – instead you have to be fast, vibrant and expressive to get your points across. There also needs to be a certain amount of clarity to your work, so maintaining a crispness of line combined with communicating the details is a fine balancing act.

At FACE we recruit illustrators through a combination of viewing online portfolios and personal recommendations. Primarily we look for good use of colour and bold confident lines. Having a variety of styles implies adaptability, but it’s also important they maintain their own visual identity. Personality and humour should feature strongly in their work as this makes it not only appealing to the consumers and clients alike, but also lasting and memorable. It’s great when the illustrators have raw talent, but it is also important that I brief them well beforehand. They should be completely aware of our expectations before they start illustrating at the workshop.

The illustrators are encouraged to start drawing right at the beginning of the workshop. This enables them to warm up, get fluidity within their wrists and start absorbing what’s being discussed. If they sit waiting to be instructed, the illustrations will be disjointed and lack energy. Supplying the illustrators with felt tips helps maintain the bold style and they are advised to fill all of the paper. A full page, bursting with colour has a lot more impact than a tiny pencil Illustration hiding in the corner. The use of text to accompany the Illustrations is also advised, but should only be used in an imaginative and creative way. An ideal co-creation illustrator should be extremely enthusiastic, enjoy employing a fast drawing style and should feel confident expressing their abilities in front of a group.

Blog post Illustrations 4

A couple of years down the line I still can’t believe the experience I have gained. The prospect of a workshop continues to be very exciting. Whilst listening carefully is a priority, it’s also important not to over-think the situation. If you worry about how to capture everything with the time constraints, you will be pre-occupied by this challenge and it will become an impossible task. It’s definitely better to keep your head clear and imagine it more like a vessel, allowing the words to flow through your mind only partly consciously. You are the one in control of simplifying the moment.

When it comes to what I physically draw on the page,  in a way it’s actually quite hard to distinguish what it is I physically do, as illustration has become like second nature to me. That said I am able to identify a few illustrative traits I have developed as time has gone by.

The illustrations I complete often fall into two categories. One is a more intuitive depiction of what the participants are saying, documenting their thoughts and feelings. These are usually drawn earlier on in the day allowing an emotional response to be captured. As the workshop continues there is more of an opportunity to create new ranges of products or solutions, to the problems they wanted to resolve. In these cases I employ a slightly more graphic feel to my Illustrations clearly displaying a curve of a lid or how the mechanics of a pump may work.

I will often place the theme in the centre, using speech bubbles and arrows to document initial thoughts. I tend to place borders round my drawings as it brings it all together, as well as emphasizing the fullness of the page. I am a fan of mini comic strips, usually combined with silhouettes and shapes, but I really enjoy using a variety of techniques to express the ideas.

Then, as the illustrations are completed, it is very helpful to place them on the wall there and then. Firstly it shows the narrative of the workshop in real time, as well as enthusing and inspiring the participants with the ideas that have already been generated.

The illustrative outputs from the workshops are scanned and turned into individual jpeg images. These images often accompany a debrief that explains what the research has uncovered. They can be used in the product development phase along with triggering memories and reminding the clients what was discussed.

Blog Post Illustration 5

Since my first workshop my role within Face has definitely evolved. I am now the, in-house creative as well as illustrating at the workshops. I work closely with all areas of the business, creating artwork for presentations, proposals and debriefs. I have produced illustrations for clients ranging from technology to iced tea, from O2 to Coke & Unilever. I was especially pleased to work closely with animators to produce both the “About Us” and “Manifesto” animations on the FACE website, and to spend two weeks with Sennep (The designers behind our Pulsar website) to refine my Adobe Illustrator skills.

So as I continue to surround myself with paper and pens, I reflect on how lucky I am to be doing something I love. I realize how much I can continue to extend my skills being in this ever-changing and exciting environment.


If you’d like to hear more from Beci, go say hello to her on Twitter or LinkedIn

Or if you’d like to talk to us about co-creation, please get in touch here: