Curiosity, AI, and impact: 3 takeaways from Quirk’s Chicago 2024

1 April 2024 | 6 min read | Written by Kelvin Claveria

Our team just got back from the 2024 Quirk’s Event in Chicago, where we got to connect with hundreds of amazing insight pros. Excitement was palpable at the conference this year, with many attendees eager to learn and network with peers.

During the conference, we got to attend some thought-provoking sessions and hear from researchers and market research firms about what’s new in our industry. We also used a conversational survey to understand the attendees’ thoughts on the state of the market research industry and their opinions on reimagining research.

Based on our conversations with researchers, the presentations we saw, and our own survey findings, here are 3 key takeaways from the 2024 Quirk’s Chicago conference.

Takeaway 1: To harness the true power of curiosity, companies must be intentional about it

On the first day of the conference, several of our team members attended a session from Marybeth Andrews, Global Foresight and Capabilities Manager at McDonald’s, and Aly Ferry, Supervisor, Foresight & Capability Exploration at McDonald’s, about building a culture of curiosity. They emphasized that curiosity is important in driving innovation, boosting morale and enhancing collaboration in the organization.

To facilitate these goals, McDonald’s created a Curiosity Club to bring an “outside in” perspective and encourage exploration of different ideas. One key benefit of this club, according to the speakers, is that it helps employees harness foresight and “link the future to today and tomorrow.”

McDonalds - fostering curiosity through Curiosity Club

Of course, curiosity is very important for insight pros. What’s interesting about what McDonald’s is doing is that they are operationalizing and scaling curiosity to tap into the collective wisdom of their employees to stay ahead of the consumer landscape.

Takeaway 2: Insights can and should drive business impact

Driving tangible outcomes was top of mind for many attendees at Quirk’s Chicago. In fact, in our survey, measuring and demonstrating business impact ranked as one of the top 3 key priorities for insight pros, trailing just behind speed to insights and storytelling. It’s no wonder some of the most memorable presentations focused on the topic of market research ROI.

During their presentation, Sofia Gomez Garcia, Executive Director in Innovation, Special Projects and Global Community Management at Warner Bros. Discovery, and Jennifer Reid, Co-CEO and Chief Methodologist at Rival Group, shared how a modern approach to insight communities can deliver real impact. In 2017, Warner Bros. Discovery used the Rival platform to help modernize its A-List Community. The company’s objectives were to hear from more Gen Zs, capture more video feedback to generate deeper insights, and accelerate speed to insights.

Warner Bros. Discovery insight community

Since incorporating Community 2.0 to their research, Warner Bros. Discovery has been able to uncover more modern methodologies. They use mobile-first features to get in-the-moment insights on new theatrical releases, conduct usability testing in a more conversational way, and get candid feedback from fans on concepts and future initiatives. Sofia shared that Rival Tech is now the company’s default recruitment protocol — using our conversational research platform as the first step to attracting and welcoming new community members.

Warner Bros. Discovery insight community outcomes

During their presentation, Sofia and Jen touched on tangible ways the research team at Warner Bros. Discovery measures the impact of their insight community and justifies their investment in it. Tracking the volume of research studies and savings in research costs is critical in this exercise, but finding ways of linking your research back to sales and revenue is just as important.

Another session that tackled business impact came from James Wycherley, CEO at Insight Management Academy (IMA). A former research leader at Barclay’s, Wycherley said that improving the profile of an insights team is essentially a marketing exercise. Research teams need to optimize their position in the hearts and minds of stakeholders. Doing so requires an intentional focus on your team’s brand, awareness, reputation, and process.

Transform the impact of insight teams - Quirks Chicago 2024

One interesting tip I heard from Wycherley's presentation was creating and promoting a “signature piece” from your team — timely and useful research that has legs and that can get the attention of various stakeholders in the organization.

Takeaway 3: To harness the true power of AI, insight teams must recognize both its potential and limitations

Just like many market research conferences this past year, AI was huge topic at Quirk’s Chicago. In our survey, however, some researchers expressed some trepidation on presentations about AI. As one attendee remarked, “most presentations about AI are pure sales pitches.”

With that said, I had the pleasure of seeing some AI-focused presentations that were both practical and interesting.

For example, Diane Lauridsen, Head of Consumer and Market Insights at UScellular, presented a fascinating session on incorporating Generative AI into the insight-generation process. Just like many researchers, Lauridsen was very interested in understanding the potential application of Generative AI to enhancing insights and whether it can be a standalone solution. So, she designed an experiment to understand whether Generative AI can help reveal the factors driving familiarity, consideration, and usage among 4 brands in an unnamed industry.

Generative AI - lessons from UScellular

According to Lauridsen, her experiment showed that Generative AI can be effective for insights, especially for broad research questions. AI delivered both time and budget savings as well as comprehensive high-level themes. She cautioned, however, that AI algorithms can be inconsistent, so researchers need to “leverage multiple sources” and find commonalities.

AI delivered both time and budget savings as well as comprehensive high-level themes.

“Generative AI is not a stand-alone solution,” Lauridsen concluded. It’s “good for support” but it’s definitely not a replacement for human creativity and judgment.

Another interesting presentation about AI came from Max Wartel, Ph.D., Director of Consumer Insights and UXR at Fandom. Dr. Wartel's presentation revealed findings from a series of research studies conducted by the Fandom team on AI perceptions and attitudes in the user-generated content (UCG) community.

AI perceptions among the user-generated content community  - research from Fandom

Research shows that the UGC community is wary of the term “artificial intelligence.” In fact, features that explicitly mentioned AI got low positive sentiment among UGC contributors. Interestingly, however, participants expressed excitement for functionalities and applications driven by AI, as long as those applications were not explicitly branded AI.

Dr. Wartel noted that AI art, in particular, garnered strong negative response among UGC users.

People don’t care that something is 'AI-powered'... What matters to people is the practical applications and the benefits to them.

IMO, Fandom’s study is a reminder that marketers and researchers need to be very aware of what really matters to consumers. At the end of the day, people don’t care that something is “AI-powered” — in fact, this research suggests that mentioning AI at all could backfire. What matters to people is the practical applications and the benefits to them.

Conclusion: Let’s continue to reimagine research!

Thank you to everyone who dropped by our booth and checked out our presentation with Warner Bros. Discovery.

A big highlight for me was finally being able to connect in person with people like Justin Hawkins and Chelsey Popejoy, both of whom are connected to Insights Career Network, a volunteer-run organization that I recently got involved with. 

Insights Career Network volunteers at Quirks Chicago

I am coming back from Quirk’s Chicago more excited than ever for the insights industry. We're at an interesting juncture, with lots of experiments happening in the AI world and many research teams looking for ways to really drive business impact. More than ever, it’s important that we rival the status quo and re-imagine what’s possible for our industry.

P.S. If you enjoyed this article, I encourage you to check out our recap of the 2024 Quirk’s Dallas conference!

author image
Written by Kelvin Claveria

Kelvin Claveria (@kcclaveria) is Director of Demand Generation at Rival Technologies.

Talk to an expert

Talk to an expert

Got questions about insight communities and mobile research?
Chat with one of our experts.


SUBSCRIBE Sign up to get new resources from Rival.

Subscribe by Email

No Comments Yet

Let us know what you think