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    Disruptive Innovation – Rewriting the Book on Marketing Research

    Frank Smadja, EVP of Engineering


    When Google incorporated in 1998, it had serious competition from Yahoo!, Altavista, Lycos, AOL, and other now forgotten search engines. Google founders had no specific training or education on search but they still came up with a new way to rank search results using the underlying structure of the Web which no other search engine was doing at the time. This idea brought a little difference that could only be called disruptive. This little garage startup with its PageRank algorithm has gone on to slay its competitors and become the de facto search engine for nearly 90 percent of worldwide searchers. Clearly, being a little disruptive works.

    Disruptive innovation changes industries, and it’s what Toluna is employing to redefine marketing research in the 21st century. Being innovative and disruptive means leveraging knowledge and techniques that come from other markets and domains.  At Toluna, we have assembled a talented team of strategic thinkers that come from everywhere but marketing research. In fact, the work my team and I do within Toluna has nothing to do with the nuts and bolts of conducting research studies. It has everything to do with creating new experiences, new avenues of communicating, new venues for interaction, and new ways of getting the answers our clients need.

    An Upstart within an Established Company

    Our R&D office in Israel serves as our Innovation Hub and is part of an established mid-sized company that has proven its mettle in the research world. We exist independently from Toluna in what is quickly becoming the innovation capital of the world. Here, we have access to some of the greatest strategic and technical minds as well as the space to conduct expansive and imaginative investigations. We do this unencumbered by traditional marketing research ways of thinking. Our separation gives us the freedom to consider all avenues of invention no matter how crazy they may seem.

    Connecting with Consumers

    We have a tremendous amount of latitude to explore and drill down into issues to better understand consumers’ day-to-day experiences and reach them more effectively – and, perhaps more critically, in a way that is fun and engaging. We also recognize that consumers value their time above nearly everything else, which means we must prove our worth to them every day. We must be as attractive to them as the many other ways in which they fill the lag times in their days. To be effective, we must become part of their lifestyle, another point of connection in an increasingly connected world.

    Anticipating Client Needs

    Similarly, we recognize that our clients see us as a technology-driven and innovation-inspired company. This view spurs us to continue to seek newer, better, ever more dynamic ways to support our clients in their quest to conduct marketing research. That’s why our focus is on the DIY experience. Automation, however, is only as good as the architecture on which it’s based. To provide superior tools, we must anticipate our clients’ needs even before they do. To challenge the status quo, we must connect unrelated dots, observe and listen intently, and ask “what if” questions daily. We know there is always something new just over the horizon.

    Time, a Premium Commodity

    Everyone has too much to do, too many demands placed upon them, and competing priorities that can confound even the best-laid plans. Discovering new opportunities in which to engage consumers, such as with “in the buying moment” surveys or passive data collection via mobile apps can lessen consumers’ time commitment while gaining valuable insights for clients. The need for speed is always a consideration.

    Our goals are simple. We believe our ability to expand the capacity and potential of marketing research is limitless. Like kids in a candy store, we can’t wait to see where the next brainstorm takes us.