Insights for a time of uncertainty.
What are the biggest challenges facing our industry – and where is the opportunity for insights leaders? C Space’ Global CEO, Jessica DeVlieger, weighs in on the standout trends, most significant industry developments and best insights work of ’23.
by Jessica DeVlieger, Global CEO, C Space
At the end of 2023, Jessica DeVlieger, Global CEO, C Space, sat down with Research Live to discuss AI in insights, implications for brands in the Cost-of-Living crisis, her resolutions for 2024 as an insights leader and her take on the next US and UK general elections. You’ll find all of the questions and her answers captured below.
What has been the most significant industry development of 2023?
Undoubtedly, it’s AI.
But considering it further, it’s been fascinating to observe the broader questions it raises for insight leaders.
From a research perspective, efficiency and speed can’t always justify overlooking real conversations: How do you ensure you’re engaging with actual humans? How do you comprehend emotions? And from a brand standpoint, are you clear on when human interactions are the primary channel for building meaningful customer relationships?
In my 20 years in insight, I’ve noticed that rapid technological disruption often prompts a return to basics: a good, old-fashioned real conversation with real people to capture real stories.
What was the standout trend for 2023?
While our industry rightly focused on adopting more inclusive practices in recruitment and research, there’s still much to be done in stepping outside our ivory tower.
The human impact of the cost-of-living crisis is just beginning to be understood. Poverty, especially child poverty, is reaching alarming levels. Sometimes, even those in the insight industry can be oblivious to these realities. Yet, these realities significantly influence people’s choices, shopping habits, and emotional interactions with brands.
Businesses that ignore this, staying silent and relying on business-as-usual and stringent financial management, are in for a rude awakening. What makes them relevant today won’t necessarily make them relevant tomorrow.
What was the best piece of research or insight?
I was incredibly proud that our EMEA office won the Quirks Qualitative Impact Award for reinventing travel loyalty with Global Hotel Alliance. Within months, it became an industry-leading program with phenomenal business results. It embodies everything I cherish: a community of travelers exploring future needs, rich face-to-face interactions and business modeling and design. More importantly, it was pure co-creation: a process involving numerous brands and stakeholders.
I’m amazed by the work we’re doing with McDonald’s (also shortlisted for several awards, including winning the Better Why Insights Champion Award) in creating a documentary series with Gen Z that delves into significant topics to bring the business closer to the next generation — creativity, depth, empathy. Witnessing work like this fills me with pride and energy; it epitomizes the power we possess in insight to drive meaningful change.
Pictured: Stars of McDonald’s Gen Z documentary series, Up Close.
What’s your New Year’s resolution?
To be bolder. C Space has a long history of disrupting our sometimes sluggish and very traditional world – co-creation in the mid 1990’s, communities at the century’s end.
We work with the world’s biggest brands on their most significant challenges. We have the most extensive platform to guide the insight world through a third wave of disruption, and I want us to be bolder about it.
Our responsibility is to ensure businesses remain connected to people.
Jessica DeVlieger, Global CEO, C Space
What are you most excited about for the industry in 2024?
Our responsibility is to ensure businesses remain connected to people. Today’s context is compelling forward-thinking CEOs to rewrite the relationship playbook, as yesterday’s winning strategies won’t work tomorrow.
And how do you accomplish this? Through your customers. Thus, I am hopeful that insight leaders will increasingly become strategic partners to the board in defining future directions. Less evaluation, more proactivity. Fewer data discussions, more action. Bring it on!
Pictured: Jessica DeVlieger, Global CEO, C Space, revealing the ’21 Better Why Award winners
What is the biggest challenge for the industry in the New Year?
The flip side of my previous answer: CFO-led cultures focused on the bottom line pose challenges for insight leaders who will, once again, be asked to accomplish more with less.
Also, when humans are in crisis mode, they tend to adopt a fixed mindset, believing they have all the answers and blaming others.
Companies may also follow suit, risking increased belief within marketing and innovation divisions that they have all the answers, isolating themselves and forgetting the most critical aspect — putting the customer first.
Ahead of the next US and UK general elections, what would you like to see from the candidates and parties?
Both countries are increasingly divided, divisions reflected within our company. As a business leader, I have the challenging task of setting aside personal opinions to ensure a fair and inclusive discourse that doesn’t alienate anyone.
But what I wish for is universal, I believe.
Less conflict, more dialogue. Fewer entrenched opinions, more openness. Less ego, more empathy.
The good news is that we don’t have to depend solely on politicians to drive this change; we all have the potential to be a bit more human, curious and generous.