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Guess what is now polling 3rd in the US Presidential race…

I went to the MRS Impact 2016 event last week in London.

I hadn’t been before so I didn’t know what to expect… and I admit to a little bit of scepticism before I walked through the doors on the Tuesday morning.

What follows is a summary of some key findings/thoughts, as well as some things I learnt which I will be bringing into Watch Me Think.

The 10 Commandments

Gavin Patterson (CEO, BT), and Stan (Unilever CMI lead) talked about his 10 commandments and those that jumped out at me were numbers 3 and 9…

No 3. Get visual or get impaired. Think how to bring insights to life using a fact-based, rather than fact-filled presentation.

No. 9. Never underestimate the power of N=1 – brands are increasingly being influenced by people.

‘Get visual’ is a commandment we have internally at Watch Me Think (for obvious reasons) and the n=1 principle was also very interesting (more of that later).

Stan was very much talking to the marketing community (which he serves at Unilever) rather than the R&D side – I’d love to know if the list holds for the R&D side of the business as well.

Watch Me Think are also in the process of signing up to the new initiative from Unilever called Paragon . An initiative created to infuse insights that will help to tackle the 17-point plan of the UN Global Goals – end poverty, combat climate change, and fight injustice and inequality around the world.

It’s a great initiative and it’s exciting to be part of it.

Love the haters

We heard from Pizza Hut about how they encouraged their board to ‘face the truth’ by hearing from rejectors, not just fans.

They showed how you often learn more from those disgruntled customers than your happy ones – perhaps it’s time to stop screening out those rejectors…. Certainly Watch Me Think have been pushing our clients to hear from all customer types, not just the fans. It seems we’re in good company. As Bill Gates once said

Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.

Research your employees

We heard from a Great Western (railways) who did B2E research (business to employee).

It’s a great way to engage your employees – we’ve seen some of our clients using our video platform to gather sales stories from their commercial teams, to understand and organize key objections (and resolutions).

N=1 (again)

We heard from the online company who introduced the concept within segmentation studies of focusing on an individual in the core segment and ignoring the rest.

Spend time filtering them down until you get one person who represents your key target and then learn all about them – diary their entire life and present the individual as the segmentation.

Ignore all the other segments and all the other people in that individual segment.

It’s the principle of n=1 (that Stan was referring to) and the ability of the human brain to attach to one person rather than try and understand more.

We can’t wait to explore this more with our clients – what are the benefits of getting 5 when 1 would do/be more effective.  Find your bullseye consumer.

Spend time with consumers

One whole session was dedicated to ‘pushing insight through business’.

We saw lots of people in this session talking about the traditional and well trodden path of ‘let’s spend some time with consumers’ in their cars (Jaguar), homes (IKEA), etc.

The desire to do that is high.

There are benefits of being there in person of course, but the ability to do that without being there, across multiple countries, quicker, and with the ability for everyone to participate (rather than the chosen few) is a principle that Watch Me Think was built on.

We think our approach enhances the old approach. In fact we know it does. Those that have tried it know it too.

The power of the story

The best session of the whole event a guest speaker called John Yorke.


I’d encourage anyone that’s got this far to buy his book Into the Woods.

He talked about structures of stories and how they all pretty much follow the same structure, and how this plays to human emotions.

This also counts in communication.

Principle is:

  • There is a central character who you fall for (not necessarily in love, just you have to care),
  • Then there is a problem, then a quest to solve the problem,
  • Then a climax (protagonist vs, antagonist) and
  • Then you get the reward (happily ever after).

It’s obvious but the power of curiosity is what makes people keep watching – they want to know what happens next if you get it right.

Overcoming a flaw is the classic story. The fact that it changes you is the aim. I go to listen, I listen, I change.

It’s an area that will really help Watch Me Think help our clients form powerful stories in the polished films we produce at the end of a project.

Trump vs. Clinton

One session focused on the US election. Lots of modelling and predictions.

Hilarious that Donald Trump’s hair (just the hair, not the face) is more recognizable than all bar 2 of the Democrat and Republican candidates.

It was Brainjuicer who presented on fame, feeling & fluency and shared with us this brilliance.

Anyway, apparently Clinton will beat Trump (just). Watch this space.

Let’s hope Brainjuicer turn up on Newsnight at election time instead of those same old same old polling companies.

Helping creative agencies understand your consumers

A great session on ‘driving creative change in design, advertising, and news’ and Reckitt Benckiser continued the theme of spending time with consumers.

They did in home observations (attending in person) and didn’t worry about the types of people they visited (no rigidity on demographics).

They observed how washing up/dishwasher is central to everything (everyone makes mess) and briefed in their creative agency on this very point.

They made a great ad for Finish. They avoided using questions – it had to be purely observational. It was ace. It was also right up Watch Me Think’s street (the value of observation & spending time with your customers (without the in person attendance part of course!).

The value of not being there (with consumers)

Which brings us neatly onto Marie Wolfe (from Unilever) who quoted how our brains deliberately make us forget things to prevent insanity and how Unilever use self made videos across 5 applications

  1. full consumer journey,
  2. how consumers really use prototypes,
  3. media behaviours,
  4. shopper experience,
  5. true habits and behaviours.

Interestingly, they also run post film interviews to test the memory of the participants and decode the what people do vs. what people say (aren’t we all!)

They have had some consistent breakthroughs.

Time is an optimistic memory – claimed time vs. real time is 50% error.

Seeing is not remembering – it’s only seeing, When you truly see, you can see where you can help….and perhaps the most important statement which we believe in completely here at Watch Me Think,

‘Without anyone present you see and hear the truth’.

And finally…it’s the presentation style stupid

One thing was clear throughout the event and that’s that presentation style is king: it’s as much (if not more) about how you say it, as what you are saying.

Have a personality, smile, be enthusiastic, make yourself interesting (not dull).

If you really want to communicate your message, you have to make it memorable.

That counts across delivering insights too.

Content comes a close second: but don’t make it a sales pitch.

Focus on the business impact.

What change did it bring?

Why did your method work better than others?

Have something to say: If you haven’t got anything to say, don’t bother saying it (and certainly don’t present it).


In conclusion, a great event, loads of ideas and actions generated.

My skepticism proved unfounded.

We’re looking forward to next year.