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Carly Shira


“The world is changing faster than ever before.” A familiar proclamation that we have all read, felt, internalized, and - dare I say - likely become a bit numb to as we continue to see just how dauntingly fast the world is changing. Enter The Market Research Event (TMRE), an impactful industry conference that was held in Denver last week. Conferences such as this have a unique way of reminding us of the role of the Insights industry to empower people and companies with the data and insights to feel a bit more confident amidst the overwhelming velocity of change. 

With a seemingly never-ending cup of hot coffee in hand, standing behind a new company’s booth for the first time in almost a decade (located conveniently near said hot coffee..), I welcomed the nervous jitters with anticipation for TMRE: “REVOLUTION IS HERE. MAKE CHANGE YOUR SUPERPOWER.” Change, a theme I felt both professionally and personally as I dove into attending the conference during my second week at Highlight.

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I’ve since come down from said caffeine jitters, and as I reflect on the days packed to the brim with sessions, conversations, connections, and the buzz of the conference floor, I’ve realized a powerful irony. Amidst the “rapid pace of change”, I never cease to be inspired by the fierceness and resilience of the Insights industry. Amidst “unprecedented uncertainty”, there is profound comfort in being surrounded by brilliant humans focused on driving positive momentum. Amidst the “flames of transformation”, a few things have remained constant in the market research world, and it is these very things that are driving our industry forward.

  • Insatiable Curiosity 
  • Consumer Obsession 
  • Focus on the Future 
  • Human Connection

1. Insatiable Curiosity:

We in the Insights world love the question “why”. In fact, it might very well be the thread that connects the fabric of innovators, investigators, creators, thought leaders, and passionate insights professionals that were present at TMRE. In Ann-Marie Allison’s (Danone) session, she talked about the power of insights as that special moment where you bring disparate data points together founded in never-ending curiosity backed by the evidence to bear. 

From exploring practical applications of AI to the question of what it means to be human. From how to connect with the next generation of consumers to how we evolve relationships with internal stakeholders to go beyond asking great questions to get to great answers. This insatiable curiosity is the very foundation that allows consumer obsession and focus on the future to take form.


2. Consumer Obsession:

In a fascinating session focused on the future of restaurants led by Erin Merit (Coca-Cola), there was a focus on generational differences in food preferences, delivery expectations, “car culture”, and yes, even how we try to cater our homes to be a representation of ourselves. While millennials are focused on putting on a front of catered perfectionism, Gen Z embraces the “messy realness.” 

As a Millennial, I thought “...well…that picture of false perfectionism is exactly how I want my house to look…cool, I am officially a TMRE statistic” then arrived at the more productive realization that this poignant token of insight can change how brands cater messaging, products, and narratives to connect with the evolving consumer. 

Consumer obsession begins with exploration, and beyond exploring integral generational differences, this session demonstrated the creative ways that our industry is leveraging new sources of data (TikTok, Instagram, in-context learning, agile physical product testing, etc.) alongside traditional best practices to aggregate insights in a way that humanizes trends to inspire action. 

While a mere vignette of the broader consumer-centricity, it is sessions like this one that captured the obsession with connecting with consumers - not as shoppers or data points, but as humans - in new and more relevant ways to bring products and communication to life that truly connect. 


3. Focus on the Future:

From exploring how to connect with Gen Alpha to the impact of AI to how to structure organizations that celebrate agile innovation, the focus on the future was ever-present. While the range of topics was vast, the focus on people, processes, partners, and technology that drive positive momentum and embrace a future-focus was a common thread amongst the tracks. What struck me was a stark shift: in an industry that has oftentimes been viewed as traditional, there is a clear commitment to step up to the challenge of the pace of evolution by embracing technology and the ability it has to enable deeper human understanding. 

There was a palpable sense of pivoting from ethereal discussions about AI to programmatic applications in the market research world. As we continue to explore this space as an industry, the exploration of what it means to be human is necessarily intertwined; we continue to explore what elements are deeply, irreplaceably human. 


4. Human Connection:

Which brings me to my personal take-away: 

While the world can seem bigger than ever, the world of market research is small. If you are lucky enough to be in this ecosystem, you are surrounded by curious people – people motivated by solving true human tensions, deeply understanding what makes people tick, and uncovering how to drive empathy in a time of uncertainty and disconnection. It is conferences like this that I walk away with a full cup, grateful for the inspiring brands, thought-leaders, and colleagues that I have been fortunate enough to work alongside. 

We continue to be inspired by partnership that goes far beyond a contract: the genuine energy around seeing clients on stage, witnessing the depth of relationships regardless of the current company. While we are always focused on learning the latest and greatest approaches, technological advances, shifts in consumer behavior, there is a Humans First way we approach client success. Always. 


So yes, this was the first time in 8 years that I’ve been behind a different company’s booth at a conference, and the theme of change is very real. But I am so excited to see the best that is yet to come at an organization that embodies the very pillars that drive our industry forward.

  • We are insatiably curious about how to solve the gap between digital and physical product testing, and the conversation of driving relevant and rapid product innovation with the evolving consumer revalidated the need to realize this vision. We see this curiosity and passion in our community of Highlighters who are hungry to be at the forefront of product innovation and co-creation. 
  • We are consumer-obsessed as we work to bring brands closer to the true product experience in order to build better products for people and the planet - with a focus on understanding consumers as humans and humans first by balancing statistical significance with giving a voice of qualitative nuance that unlocks genuine human insights. 
  • We are continually focused on the future by identifying how we can drive agile innovation within our own organization and enable rapid innovations with our partners. 
  • We are fueled by and founded on human connection - whether it be our passionate community, our incredible clients, our inspiring industry counterparts, or our colleagues who continue to challenge us day in and day out - thank you. 


The revolution IS here, and we are indeed working to make change our superpower here at Highlight each and every day. 


Is representing your company at a conference a standard component of new hire onboarding? Not quite. Was it an inspiring way to understand the extensive impact of Highlight’s in-context agile product testing? Absolutely.

Fellow TMRE-ers, stay insatiably curious, consumer-obsessed, focused on the future, and most of all, stay irreplaceably human. 


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