A shock of the new: MRS conference 2013 review


Our review of the best bits at the MRS conference 2013

Last week, TBP trundled over to the Grange Tower Bridge Hotel to attend the annual MRS conference entitled ‘Shock of the New’. It was a grand affair with over 500 delegates, principally from the world of research, media and academia (although TBP did manage to meet the inspirational Olympic rower Katherine Grainger, and quirky fine artist David Shrigley). Find below a review of our conference ‘best bits’:

How semiotics can inform design and change
How semiotics can inform design and change

‘The Business of Change: research delivers the reinvention of space, retail and brand’. This session began with Simon Carter (marketing director UK & Ireland of Fujitsu) outlining how change is a key ingredient to success, and that good research is at the heart of such change. Halfords, the bike, car and ‘everything else in between’ emporium,  then took us through their recent journey to improve their in-store retail experience. Using qualitative research techniques, Halfords began to unpick some of the negative views consumers had of their store layout. They then used this to inform some new concepts for their in-store experience, and settled on a winning ‘route’ which provides consumers with an experiential environment as opposed to purely transactional. In the same session, we also heard from the InterContinental Hotels Group who are in the process of redesigning their hotel rooms following an insightful semiotic study on sleep (conducted by our friends the Space Doctors).

The future of research?

Another immensely enjoyable session was Jeremy Rix’s creativity challenge on ‘The Future of Research’. The workshop involved a series of meditation and relaxation techniques to help uncover what the future of research may look like. The results? Well, mass market brain scanning was deemed one possibility (!!), whilst running organizations on intuition and ‘gut feeling’ was another.

Fiction is the creative fuel

Not one to miss out on the action, our very own Research Exec Owen McAleer presented his piece on The Hobbit at the MRS Book Club session ‘Fiction for Fuel’. Owen’s reading was all about how imagination is the key to creativity, and he implored us to conjure up our own images of fictional characters, rather than leaving it up to Hollywood to do so. Inspiring and insightful, it came as no surprise when the session won the Best Contribution to Conference Award.

The research merits of ‘structured reality’

Finally, we listened to ‘Tales of the unexpected: narrative techniques that drive new understanding’ where Darren Hanley and Amanda Anderton from Hope + Anchor told us about their new research technique called Structured Reality. Taking inspiration from the likes of The Only Way is Essex, the technique involves asking consumers to role-play their decision-making processes on camera. The idea is that by acting out decisions, consumers are less likely to rationalize and over-think their responses or behaviour. Genius!

Overall, the MRS conference 2013 offered us a smorgasbord of new-thinking, some of which was shocking, some of which encouragingly challenging. We hope to see you there again next year!