The future’s always bright in capability: EphMRA

The great thing about working in capability is that the future’s always bright. You are always striving to get to a better place - from good to great. It is in that ‘to’ that the vision resides – the way we hope to be – the positive future. It was these thoughts that I was enjoying about the market research and insight industry when I recently attended the annual EphMRA (European Pharmaceuticals Market Research Association) Conference last week. It gave me a flavour of their vision and what a bright future for them could be. There was a tone of optimism in an industry that has had its fair share off challenges. This year’s theme (embracing change and cultivating opportunity) underlined that optimism.

Behavioural Economics

It was great to see the desire to embrace new thinking. Behavioural Economics, as a new school of research thinking, was spoken about more and more with the desire to better understand how decisions are influenced by customer’s rational and emotional traits – their hearts and minds. And this is in an industry where value has been traditionally placed on the rational only. Although well established in other sectors, such as the consumer industry, the appreciation of emotional understanding is still in its infancy in the pharma world. It has long been known that some patients do not take potentially life-saving medication regularly. Why would someone do that? Nearly always for emotional reasons such as wanting to feel at their best for a precious day with the grandchildren.

At Brand Learning we regularly work with Insight & Brand teams to build their capability and humanise what starts as business objectives and leads to a marketing strategy. In other words, to be customer-centred.

Data visualisation was further supported by powerful examples from the media and how they can be translated with relevance and impact into the marketing world. Making data more compelling and interesting can be achieved by following a simple but very effective set of criteria:

  1. It should be able to attract an audience who ordinarily would not be interested;
  2. It should reveal a key insight that data visualised in the traditional way can’t;
  3. It should be entirely self-explanatory.

In addition was the simple but profound advice that people who are good with data may not be good at visualising it. We shouldn’t put pressure on ourselves to be perfect people with a wide palette of conflicting skillsets. With this in mind, if you work with data, use professional visualisers, they will do a better job of bringing your knowledge to life.


There was a very prescient warning about ‘gamification’ as a means of engaging your audience be it in dashboards or any other experience. Now, I have long been a fan of the good intent of gamification but what I hadn’t considered is that people’s expectations today are extraordinarily high. Driven by the universal use of mobile devices and sites such as Facebook, what people consider normal is actually of a very high standard. That makes any gamified experience full of potential to disappoint. So, know that if you are gamifying your brand’s website or social media content, then you are competing with Angry Birds and Candy Crush.

Lastly, there are more and more business leaders acknowledging that being more customer-centred is a key strategic driver. In short, knowing your customer better enables you to compete harder. It is us, in the marketing industry, who own that customer voice and owns that opportunity.

Business functions in many organisations are evolving, as they have over many decades, to be organised in a way that adds most value. As we work with many of our clients in this area there is a growing theme of how to align the organisation and it is simply to have a customer-centred operating model.

With these, and many other interesting ideas, EphMRA provided a forum for stimulating thoughts and opinions about the future. Helping organisations develop their capabilities to better prepare themselves to compete is Brand Learning’s core capability. Which is why the future is always bright in capability!

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For more information about how Brand Learning can help you lift your organisation’s insight capabilities, please get in touch. You may also like these films, perspectives and resources on Insight.

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