In the light of this year's annual ESOMAR congress in Montreal, Canada it was suggested by some AIMRI members that a one day meeting in the previous week could be convenient for many members. A telephone survey conducted by at random international established that a significant number of members would be attending ESOMAR and most would also be interested in an AIMRI meeting in advance

Thus, on Friday September 19th 2008 AIMRI hosted its first member conference outside of Europe on the topic of 'completing difficult research assignments'. The conference was very well attended and proves that the world is globalising at an astonishing pace. International markets are becoming ever more important, even for predominantly European focussed research agencies.

Montreal

Montreal served as the ideal location for the conference, combining both the hectic busyness so inherent to North American metropolitan cities whilst at the same time maintaining the flair and charm of France. Montreal is vibrant, culturally diverse and is inhabited by some two million citizens. Whether you are enjoying a Café au Lait at one of the many street cafes in the Old Town, waging a gamble in Montreal's Casino, enjoying the fantastic scenery at one of the many vineyards in the Laurentian hills or having dinner in the penthouse of a 747 foot skyscraper in the heart of downtown, Montreal will have you experiencing the excitement and energy that pervade the entire city. The truly international flair in Montreal is evident in the vast availability of fine restaurants and sizzling nightlife, not to mention the shopping. And even if Montreal is freezing cold in winter life doesn't come to a standstill - thanks to the underground city which includes over 30 kilometers of pedestrian walkways, is accessible from 178 entries, links 10 subway stations, 62 buildings, 8 major hotels, 1,615 apartments, 200 restaurants, 1,700 boutiques, 40 movie theatres and exhibition halls, 2 bus stations, 2 train stations, 2 universities and 1 college.

But enough about Montreal - there was some work to be done as well. AIMRI's one day conference on Friday allowed us to attend highly interesting and unique papers on the perils and dangers of international research focussing on 'completing difficult research assignments' with a specific focus on research in difficult markets and hard to reach target groups. Abstracts of all papers presented in Montreal can be obtained from the authors directly or by contacting the AIMRI offices (info@aimri.net).

The morning sessions were started off by Stephen Bairfelt of Purple Market Research, UK speaking about 'when wider sources are needed' and the importance alternative data sources such as web2.0, internally available data and observations play in today's insight generation. Stephen pointed out that in order to provide added value services and to stay at the forefront of customer knowledge many market research agencies need to learn new skills and look at new or untapped sources of information.

The second morning paper was presented to us by John Mackay of Sample Answers, UK focussing on the difficulties associated with 'finding the perfect B2B sample' and what to look out for. Sampling difficult target groups can be harder than finding the holy grail and there are many things along the way a thoughtful research manager needs to heed. In essence, John concludes we need to understand the target audience fully and provide clear and complete specifications. We need to obtain realistic sample counts, verify all details and ideally conduct pilot surveys with subsamples to gage feasibility. And when we have checked everything and contemplated all eventualities, we need to double check!

We then heard a paper by Alan Grabowsky of ABACO Marketing Research, Brazil on possibilities and limitations of 'conducting market research in Brazil'. Whilst learning interesting and amusing facts such as Brazil being the worlds number one exporter of soccer players, top models and chickens we also saw an impressive presentation on the need of localised research services and the importance of local market expertise. Rigid project specifications or methodological limitations can often lead to poor research results when conducting research in Latin America. Alan concluded it is vital for research to be 'tropicalised' if it is to be successful, productive and insightful and that a plan B or even C is advisable…

Neil Sandin for SIS International Research, USA presented an insightful and very informative paper on the possibilities and dangers of 'research in Africa & other developing countries'. N's paper presented the obvious cultural, technological and infrastructural barriers facing market research in emerging markets, but he also went on to point out some of the lesser obvious issues and gave actionable advice on how to conquer these. The bottom line being, when coducting research in Africa you need to key in to the local culture and be flexible in order to get the job done.

After a delicious lunch in the conference facility of the Maritime Hotel, Montreal we went on to be the audience for an interesting paper about 'researching attitudes & media behaviour in Muslim societies' presented by Dr. Haleh Vaziri, of InterMedia, USA. Haleh explained the importance and effect of tragedy, trepidation, taboos and Taarof on conducting research in Muslim societies. Haleh goes on to point out that there might not be a perfectly scientific way of conducting research in restrictive or post-war societies, but it's better than doing none at all and if we listen closely and embrace the unexpected, we are able to give a voice to the voiceless.

Finally, to close the day, Pieter Paul Verheggen of Motivaction International, Netherlands spoke about 'reaching Muslims in the Netherlands'. With the Netherlands being the most multi cultural society in the Western world, it seems self explanatory that a Dutch market research agency places importance on listening to ethnic minorities, urban youngsters and first generation immigrants. Pieter Paul provided valuable insights on what can be called a truly representative sample.

After so much intellectual stimulation the day was concluded by a delicious 9 course dinner at the Europea restaurant, which had us enjoying extravagant inventions of modern cuisine such as liquified green salad or a beef espresso machiato. The restaurant itself is the result of the shared vision of two French chefs who have worked for some of the finest four-star restaurants in France. The charming and intimate setting provided the perfect location for a delightful evening of interesting conversation along a culinary journey. With such a wealth of professional insight and culinary extravagance amidst the vibrant multiculturalism of Montreal what more can I say than 'La Belle Vie' 

Herbert Höckel

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