by Roddy Knowles, Director, Product and Innovation Research at Dynata

I had the pleasure of chatting with Emmanuel Probst, VP Media and Content at Kantar, to talk about his new book Brand Hacks: How to Build Brands by Fulfilling the Human Quest for MeaningI’m excited to continue this conversation and learn more in the upcoming conference session Emmanuel will present at the GNY Fall Educational Conference on Sep 19th in NYC. As a preview to what he’ll share, below is an excerpt of our conversation. My questions are in old and Emmanuel's responses to my questions are in italics.
You have been in the marketing research industry for some time and have seen a lot. How did this affect how you approached the book? 
Having worked in marketing research for over 15 years, I have measured dozens of brands and hundreds of campaigns. I am often baffled, on behalf of my clients, to see how little impact some of these campaigns make on consumers, despite the millions of dollars advertisers invest in advertising. Also, a lot of advertising efforts these days are directed towards lower-funnel tactics. Surely, these drive sales in the short run but don’t significantly contribute to building brands. Simply put, my starting point for “Brand Hacks” was: there must be a better way.

While your book is geared toward marketers and brands, there is a lot in it that is relevant to researchers or insights professionals. What would you say the key takeaway/s is/are for insights professionals?
It is tempting for researchers to focus on quantitative insights and particularly near-real time metrics. I urge all of us to take a step back and devote more attention to “small data.” Big Ideas for our clients stem from ethnographies, casual interactions with consumers and observations (i.e. field trips and store visits), rarely from big data sets.
It’s a big topic that you touch on in the book and one we could spend countless hours on, but in brief, how do you define “meaning” and why is it so important to marketers all the sudden?
Meaning is something that has a deep impact on us. It is purposeful and fulfilling and is consistent overtime. In contrast, fads (e.g. diets) and trends (e.g. crossfit) are short lived and eventually feel hollow.
One of the meanings you investigate is “nostalgia”. I’ve been thinking about this as well, especially when I was at CES earlier this year and couldn’t stop seeing the intersection of nostalgia and new technology. Why should we care so much about vinyl records and neon signs?
Because we are overwhelmed with media and feel insecure about the present, going back to a time when things were simpler is comforting and reassuring.
We seek reassurance about the future. Surrounding ourselves with images of the past helps address our anxiety for changes.
Brands must tap into positive emotions from the past and foster meaningful connections between the past and the present.
As a parting note, what is one thing that can inspire us on our quest for meaning?
It is safe to assume all our readers/listeners are active on social media. Don’t get me wrong, social media is a great source for inspiration and insights. Although, being mere “followers” bother me. As students of life in general and insight professionals in particular, don’t follow, explore.
Interested in learning more about how? Register for the Greater New York Insights Association Chapter’s Fall Conference on Sep 19th to hear Emmanuel discuss strategies to promote brand growth and how research fits into the process.