Industry Speak – Interview with Brian Lamar

To better understand the mix of industry professionals in our marketplace who have recently joined the Canadian Research Insights Council (CRIC) as members, and introduce their thoughts, aspirations and professional experiences to readers with a view to dissecting the marketplace to serve it better, this series (Industry Speak) will interview research leaders and experts to offer deeper insights through their working contexts as we grow the voice of industry and the marketplace in Canada and abroad.

What is the biggest change you have seen in the research analytics and insights industry in your career?

Brian Lamar (BL): I would say the trend towards analyzing large amounts of data from different sources.  Early in my career, analysts primarily focused on data from a single survey where now we have the luxury, and challenge of combining data from multiple surveys, sales data, and various forms of third-party party data (attitudinal and behavioural) that may or may not be focused on the study objectives. Analysts and insights professionals must have a better understanding of the broader business objectives when designing and analyzing research and those that leverage large amounts of data to make the best business decisions.

How have you kept up with the pace of industry change in your career?

BL: I enjoy learning about trends and innovation advancements in the industry so the primary way to keep up is simply being curious and having a desire to learn about new ways to help clients succeed.  In practice, building a strong peer network, having conversations with new companies and new talent in the industry, being involved at the University level to understand what’s being taught and the new type of talent entering the workforce, learning about technology advancements and how they may help the industry, and attending conferences are all ways to keep up.  It definitely takes time and effort to put focus on it, so working at an organization that values innovation and agility is key.

What non-marketing research influences have improved your work as a researcher?

BL: I really value leveraging best practices from other industries to help us grow as professionals. I’m constantly reading books to help with leadership and communication and being better leaders. As a company, we bring in speakers from other disciplines and industries and try to leverage what makes them successful for our company. An example would be focusing your daily tasks by leveraging the Eisenhower Matrix and being as efficient as possible when working.

What kind of continuing education initiatives do you invest in regularly or not so regularly? If there is a course or training you want to take today, what would it be on?

BL: I’m fortunate to attend a lot of webinars and continuing education through the Insights Association, ESOMAR, and CRIC among other organizations. Also, at EMI, we are heavily involved with universities.  We routinely bring in experts to help educate the leadership team or entire company on certain topics with the goal being creating well-rounded researchers and coworkers. If I were to take a course today, I would love to “retake” advanced statistics and in a more practical focused manner to help elevate the research on research that we design and execute.

Where do you find the most need for advocacy in our profession in the world? 

BL: We certainly need advocacy in numerous areas as an industry. Howard Fienberg (Senior VP of Advocacy at the Insights Association) does a great job in the US but we certainly need more advocacy, given today’s complex environment.  While a primary focus is on understanding state privacy laws and how they impact research in the US, we need further advocacy for a national law that is fair for both respondents and research companies and doesn’t negatively impact small companies from a timing or executional standpoint.  Additionally, we need advocacy as an industry overall, i.e., anywhere in the world, in terms of promoting the industry to the general population. Marketing research and the feedback it receives from respondents helps improve products and services and should be positioned as a benefit to the masses.  Ideally this will garner more support in terms of participation.

What are some industry initiatives you really admire?  

BL: I have a lot of admiration for the committee that worked with ESOMAR that helped update the Questions to Help Buyers of Online Sample. This update was needed to modernize the document as well as update the document with more modern metrics so buyers can easily compare different options.  The CASE committee, led by Mary Beth Weber is putting brands and researchers together to tackle some of the industry’s biggest challenges and focusing on improving data quality.  There will be insights shared soon that should help the entire industry.

What is going to be the biggest research challenge for the next five years as you see it?

BL: Over the last few years, brands are beginning to combine various forms of data to help inform their decision making.  Combining various forms of data such as survey data, attitudinal data, behavioural data, purchase data, and many other third-party data into a single data source will drive the insights industry in the future.  The continued advancement of this along with maintaining privacy of respondents is the greatest challenge that we as an insights industry face over the next five years. The ability to exponentially add to survey data with these new data sources creates numerous challenges in terms of visualization, decision-making, brand strategy and will necessitate new skills in understanding broader business objectives rather than simply understanding the survey objectives.  Researchers must also have insight into broader brand strategy to help inform clients.

What are you most hoping for and looking forward to as a new CRIC member?

BL: The ability to identify others in the industry and learn from them.  Establishing a group of individuals and companies to allow for peers and networking and help improve and grow the industry.  We want to be involved and help lead the industry towards better insights and decision making.

About Brian Lamar:

Brian came to EMI (an Associate Agency CRIC member) in June 2013, and serves as the company’s Vice President of Insights. Before joining EMI, Brian attended the University of Kentucky and earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Marketing, and then received a Master’s of Marketing Research at the University of Georgia. After graduation, Brian began developing his strong research expertise by serving as a Project Manager at Harris Interactive and Parker Marketing Research; and as an Account Director at TNS, Synovate, and Ipsos. Besides his passions for market research and client assistance, Brian also enjoys traveling and watching sports, particularly the Cincinnati Reds and the Kentucky Wildcats. He also hosts the Intellicast podcast with producer Brian Peterson. 

If you liked this blog post, also tune into more of Brian’s insights in  CRIC’s July webinar on “The Role of Insights in Knowledge Management, Data Quality and Data Diversity” featuring a range of expert perspectives.

To learn why your organization should join CRIC visit this flier and / or write to [email protected].