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  • Kevan Oswald

Qualtrics Insight Summit


My home town of Salt Lake City has never really been on the map as a marketing research hub, but for at least a few day once a year, that all changes, as hundreds of geeky marketing researchers (myself included) descend on the Qualtrics Insight Summit.


This was my second year attending Summit, and for the most part the conference did not disappoint. I only found myself in one subpar session where I sat with pen in hand only to leave with a blank page 45 minutes later.

As expected, most of the keynotes were pretty good. Michael Lewis, author of Moneyball and the Blindside, kicked things off. He was followed by former CMO of Beats, Omar Johnson. Omar spent most of his time emphasizing the power of emotion and its association with music. However, one of the more interesting insights I garnered from his presentation was a list of guiding principles the marketing department at Beats is driven by:

  • Product is king

  • Tell a story

  • We are all artists – even data people

  • Live young

  • Be authentic

  • Live the connection – put yourself in the place of your customer

  • Move culture

  • Honest, fearless, real

  • Not data…insights

Next up was Angela Duckworth, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, TED speaker, and author of Grit. From her presentation I learned about a “fixed” verses “growth” mindset. People with a growth mindset are “gritty” because they don’t feel that learning is fixed, it changes and grows. They don’t see failure as a permanent condition. It’s temporary, they learn from it and quickly move on.


The best breakout session I attended on the first day was “The Amnesiac Customer: Building and Emotional Connection” by Howard Lax of Kantar TNS (marketing research agency). I pulled two points out of Howard’s presentation:

  • We choose between memories of experiences, more than actual experiences. As a result, the key to making an experience memorable is an emotional hook or imprint. Building a strong emotional imprint is crucial to creating strong customer relationships.

  • Performance is rational and objective. Preference is emotional and subjective. In the marketplace, preference trumps performance therefore emotion is more important than reason when developing your marketing message.

The first keynote on day two was Joseph Pine, author of the Experience Economy. Joe used a couple of examples to drive home his point that we are continuing to evolve into an economy where the experience itself is a distinct economic offering.


Joe illustrated his point with an example of a large gumball machine that allows you to watch your gumball cascade down a series of drops, spins, and turns. The gumball costs more than the same gumball in a standard machine, and people are willing to pay it, because it is the experience that enhances its value.

Like the breakout session I attended the day before, Joe emphasized value of the customer experience. Performance measures such as “nice,” “easy,” and “convenient” typically aren’t memorable or personable. They don’t create a distinct economic offering. A distinct economic offering is created by a memorable experience.


After Joe, Michael Phelps took the stage. I don’t know that Michael provided any ground breaking marketing insights, but hey, it was Michael Phelps. It was fun and interesting to hear his story.


About a thousand times less well known, but much more valuable from an educational perspective was Harvard Business professor Clayton Christensen. Clayton shared an experience of a time that he was hired by McDonald’s to study why half of their milkshake sales occurred in the morning. Milkshakes were never meant to be a breakfast food, and McDonalds never promoted them as such, yet they were unexpectedly selling like “hotcakes” (pun intended) during the morning hours.


After a series of one-on-one interviews he concluded that people were essentially “hiring” the milkshake to do a specific job, and that job was to satisfy them on their long drive to work. The thickness and time it takes to consume a milkshake gave them something to do on their journey. Other options, such as a banana, bagel, or even Snickers weren’t as effective in accomplishing the same task, so the milkshake was “hired.”


His point was that when we choose a product we essentially “hire” it to do something for us. Brands that dominate their market are “purposeful” because they offer a product that people instinctively buy to do a specific job.

To illustrate his point he asked everyone to think of a company that they would turn to if they had to furnish an apartment. He then had everyone who instantly thought of IKEA raise their hands. Very few hands remained down. IKEA isn’t about quality or customer service, but they are an instinctive brand because of their ability to focus on creating a solution for a specific job that people are looking to accomplish.


Instinctive brands simply focus on understating that they must design a product experience that fits what the customer wants rather than trying to convince customers that they should want what they company already has.

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