In the Fuse 2012 executive summary by Renée Whitworth of Flood Creative identified one of the main conference trends as the following:

"Stop focusing on consumer behavior/traditional research only and start watching other patterns and behaviors."
Throughout the event we saw design taking inspiration from geometric patterns found in nature or from cities and we were urged to look to history as well as current trends online (for example, on YouTube) for inspiration in branding. Debbie Millman as our conference chair gave us her list of insights for how CEOs can help themselves break bad habits and included the notion that traditional research was not the “holy grail.”

My custom chip flavor from the app
on the Lay's Facebook Page
It seems many brands are already taking this spirit to heart. This interesting article in the New York Times technology section proclaims "Social Media Are Giving a Voice to Taste Buds."

The article notes that companies from Frito-Lay to Sam Adams to Estée Lauder’s MAC Cosmetics are looking for consumer insights on social media. Some, such as Frito-Lay are quite literally turning their Facebook page into the modern day focus group, asking consumers to "click an “I’d Eat That” button" in support of new flavors. Others, such as Wal-Mart, are using social media listening - automated monitoring of public Facebook and Twitter posts and search terms - to identify sentiment and buzz around products.

So where will your next brand inspiration come from? Facebook? YouTube? Pinterest? Are you using social media for these purposes, either via data mining or actual interactive social media research?

Steve Jobs famously disliked focus group based research, claiming "It isn’t the consumer’s job to know what they want" and we all know the famous Ford quote about "faster horses" - but despite these examples, listening to our customers is important, perhaps more important then ever given the myriad ways they have to speak to us. Where will you be listening?

Michelle LeBlanc is a Social Media Strategist at IIR USA with a specialization in marketing. She may be reached at

In association with EmPower Research, a Genpact company, The Institute for International Research invites you to join us for a one hour complimentary Web Seminar:

Driving Best-In-Class Customer Experience: Beyond Social Media Listening
Tuesday, August 7, 2012
12:00PM - 1:00PM ET


• Sangita Joshi, Managing Partner, EmPower Research, a Genpact company

Reserve your Webinar seat now at:
Please mention your priority code: MWY0001BL

Today the rise in customer participation in Social Media is pushing marketers and researchers to listen and learn from Social Media conversations. While numerous applications of Social Media research are taking shape, understanding customer experience through the new media is gaining tremendous mind-share.

Social Media provides an excellent platform to listen to customer concerns, criticisms, and feedback, and address issues through one-to-one engagement. Social Media listening helps brand managers and marketers in not only differentiating their service quality but also aligning them with customer expectations, thus, driving greater satisfaction and better experience. In this session, you learn how Social Media can provide holistic insights on the “voice of consumer”.

Participants will learn:
• Understanding and measuring customer experience through Social Media – the possibilities today
• Beyond listening- Tracking voice of the consumer across the relationship cycle
• Social engagement- The path to improving Net Promoter Score/Customer Satisfaction Index

Sangita Joshi is the Co-founder and Managing Partner of EmPower Research - a Genpact company. She has over 20 years of experience in research of which the last eight years have been at the executive level. At EmPower, Sangita leads social media research and delivery to global clients, and closely works with the innovation team to continuously evolve solutions that aid decision-making in a dynamic business environment. She regularly writes for leading industry publications and speaks on topics related to social media-led insights.

About EmPower Research:
EmPower Research, a Genpact company (NYSE:G) provides integrated media and business research services. We help our clients understand stakeholder perception and needs, empowering them to service better. We use proprietary methodologies to listen and learn about conversations in the customer ecosystem, deriving real insights for active stakeholder engagement.
For more information, visit

About IIR:
The Institute for International Research (IIR) is the world's largest conference company and has been the leader in the provision of business information for over 25 years. IIR produces over 5,000 events annually through its network of offices in over 35 countries.
One of our sessions at Fuse 2012 focused on "Designing Emotion" with Caleb Chung, Creator, inventor, Pleo and Furby and we definitely heard many tales of connecting to consumers through emotion throughout the three days of this year's event: from storytelling with Joe Sabia to finding emotional connections to the industrial design of candy packages with Justin Coble of Mars Chocolates.

 Therefore, I was interested to see that Hasbro is once more relaunching the toy: this time with some updated features for our digital world. This video from Engadget gives you a sneak peek of the little creatures:
The Engadget author immediately writes of an emotional reaction to the toy in describing first impressions:
"Those big, white, glowing eyes get you immediately. In place of those familiar plastic spheres are two big LCDs that comprise roughly a third of Furby's body. The new eyes significantly contribute to Furby's range of emotions, allowing Hasbro to design different dot matrix pupils for different moods like anger and innocence."
(One other fun note for the Fuse crowd: Furby kept one design feature as it's own sort of 'jewel': "In the middle of its forehead is a black marking -- it doesn't actually serve a particular function, instead serving as a "legacy" design, where the toy's IR sensors once lived.")

Will audiences react fondly towards this new, more digital Furby? Has Hasbro managed to marry an emotional connection with some neat new smartphone & tablet tie-ins? Or are those big robot eyes a little too 'uncanny valley'? I guess we'll see this Fall when it hits stores.

Michelle LeBlanc is a Social Media Strategist at IIR USA with a specialization in marketing. She may be reached at


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