INNOVATORS VS COVID 19
Listen + Learn Research: Putting the Human Centre-Stage in a Post-Pandemic World
Jeremy Hollow of Listen + Learn Research, a social insight agency that provides consumer insight.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Listen + Learn Research.
Jeremy Hollow: I’m the founder and MD of the social insight agency, Listen + Learn Research. What started as an idea born from a run in the woods has become an award-winning agency. Success has come from helping brands really understand the people who matter to them and applying this knowledge to help create growth.
The idea behind the business is very simple. Consumer insight is vital, but traditional market research is limited – because people don’t talk to researchers the way they talk to each other. So, if we want to properly understand what our audiences are thinking, feeling, and doing, we need to listen to them in another way.
How does Listen + Learn Research innovate?
Jeremy Hollow: Social media has been around for years but using it for consumer insight is relatively new.
So, we’re part of a rapidly growing Social Intelligence industry, one that’s characterized by constant technical innovation. From emerging platforms like TikTok to developments in social listening capabilities.
For our part, we’ve been busy carving out a unique space – fusing automation with deep human analysis, empathy, and sensitivity – to create richer, more impactful insights.
We’re giving brands next-level audience understanding by creating greater breadth and depth into consumers’ lives, which is giving them the insight they need to develop better strategies, create the right products and experiences, and help them communicate more effectively.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Jeremy Hollow: Thankfully, we’ve all been well.
Practically, we’ve been remote since day one, so when the pandemic hit, it is was business as usual (despite the homeschooling…) – we even shared some tips about what works best for us.
Like most people, we saw a short-term contraction in marketing budgets as firms raced to work out how the pandemic would affect them.
As the dust settled, we found demand increased significantly. Our clients needed to understand what was happening amid such rapid change. Social is just great for that. It’s where people go when life changes, to work out how to feel, what to do and how to make sense of it all. All-powerful insights for brands to work with.
Some of our most important work has been to help brands understand how behaviors have been changed by the pandemic, how these differ by market, and how consumers are responding. We also published some eye-opening thought leadership about people’s attitudes towards a Covid vaccine.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Jeremy Hollow: With so much uncertainty caused by the pandemic, we decided to become much more transparent about the health of the business. We wanted everyone to see how well we were performing and the forecasts so that if we needed to make hard choices down the line, they would understand why. It’s not a level of openness I’ve seen in many other businesses, but our team has appreciated the honesty, which has brought us all closer.
We’re now lucky to be dealing with another challenge, how to grow quickly to meet demand, but in the right way as to keep the magic alive in what we do. We’ve needed to push start times back while at the same time looking to recruit and onboard new members of the team – all on Zoom, of course.
The north star for us in all this is quality. Quality of the people and the quality of the work. Having this as a clear principle helps us navigate between short pressures and long-term objectives.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?
Jeremy Hollow: We’ve all got all the tools we need to work successfully remotely. Many businesses have been doing it for years. In our toolkit are familiar services: Google, Mailchimp, Basecamp, Miro, etc.
For us, it’s more about managing culture and energy. When you can’t get together, you need to find other ways of bringing the energy and team spirit. This is something we care about and continually work at.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Jeremy Hollow: We’ve got tons, but most are indirect.
The Social Listening platforms (like Brandwatch, NetBase, or Meltwater) are what most people experience. But, for us, they’re input into the work, not the end. So, we’re on a mission to educate and excite the market about what’s possible when you add human insight into the mix.
Then we’ve got the traditional market research world, which is huge. I do not doubt that Social Insight will become a significant part of this market, but we need to fight for our place at the table.
Lastly, and thankfully, there are a few agencies like us out there doing some great work. It’s good to have some company when you’re trying to build a new market!
Your final thoughts?
Jeremy Hollow: I’m an optimist by nature. We’ve ridden out the worst and are likely to see an economic up-turn and the steady easing of restrictions. Both are things to feel excited about, professionally and personally!
I end by wishing the best for anyone who’s struggling through this time and encouraging them to see this as a challenge to become the best you can be so you can grab all the opportunities that will come to your way post-pandemic. Don’t give up!
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