Podcast Ep 116: Charlie Butler from Bounce Insights believes the market research industry as we know it is stale and brands are looking for faster, more precise insights on what consumers want.
“Market research is one of the oldest and most traditional industries there is. It has been plagued by slow, inefficient and high-cost solutions that have left many companies either overpaying for a below-par solution or completely avoiding it altogether.”
Bounce Insights co-founder and CEO Charlie Butler laughs in recognition of his words from an interview he gave ThinkBusiness in 2020. “I think that is probably a young and bullish Charlie Butler before the pandemic coming out with a comment like that.”
“We enable brands to get the answer to any question in a matter of hours from any consumer in the world”
He said that for context that view was the result of spending more than a year and a half talking to brands about what they wanted from market research.
He may wince at his own bullishness, but Bounce Insights has struck a chord with marketers who want to validate their decisions in a faster and more credible way than traditional market research has provided thus far.
Bounce Insights was founded by a group of Trinity College Students (now graduates), from both business and computer science backgrounds who started working as a team back in January 2019.
More than just knowing
The young Dublin company is moving the dial on market research, changing the narrative from “we think” to “we know” directly from the Bounce Insights dashboard.
“Once I got an inclination that something was wrong I spoke to everyone and the prevailing theme was that people hated doing [market] research. It was the bane of their lives for most people in the branding world. Market research was really being done as almost an afterthought to validate decisions that were already made.
“The more I dove into the industry I felt incredibly excited by the problem. Now, three and a half years later we have gone in so many directions to solve that problem. The one thing that has remained consistent is that the problem is slow, high-cost and fraught with outdated solutions.
“What we do is quite simple: we enable brands to get the answer to any question in a matter of hours from any consumer in the world.”
I put it to Butler that the “how” of this is quite intriguing. The answer? Bounce assembles its own panels or audiences of consumers from various age groups and geographies around the world. Account managers work with brands to make it possible to glean relevant insights from these panels within hours of the decision being made to extra insights.
“We work with some of the largest consumer-facing fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) brands. They are obsessed with how they can serve their customers better and are always getting new data.
“What we do is very simple; we deliver insights rather than data. Because there’s a lot of data in the world, we try to deliver insights to improve decision-making, increase sales and have a tangible impact on any given consumer-facing business.”
Authentic engagement matters
The past three years have taught Butler and his co-founders that one of the reasons why market research was slow and inefficient was the neglect shown towards people actually participating.
“They would spend months building the survey without thinking about holding the attention of a person for 25 minutes in a world characterised by attention deficit where people watch seven-second Instagram reels or 15-second TikTok videos. What was happening was less and less consumers were answering surveys.
“The methodologies that were used for the past 100 years do work, but fewer consumers were answering surveys; there was less participation because the experience was so bad, the incentives were bad and the industry wasn’t adapting to the changing consumer psyche.”
Instead, Bounce Insights puts the thought-work into recruiting panellists and offering incentives that keep them engaged. “It could be anything from a free coffee to donating to a charity of choice. The 19 year-old female student in Galway is going to react very differently to a 54-year-old male executive on €150,000 a year if asked their opinions on Guinness, for argument’s sake. He might happily give his opinion. But every time they get an incentive, he or she can donate it to their charity of choice. So it’s this understanding that if you want to get authentic, good data and opinion from people in a fast and efficient way, you need to understand why they would do that.
“We push hard on the transparency piece as to why we actually did it.”
Butler describes how Bounce works as somewhere in the middle between a traditional marketing agency and today’s online, on-demand self-service platforms.
“Our account managers draft up the questions, recommend sample size and suddenly that marketing manager has gone within two hours from ‘should we research’ to the research is ready to launch.
“We try to avoid using words like ‘research’ and ‘market research’ because really our platform is a decision-making platform to allow brands to make consumer-centric decisions.”
The next phase of Bounce Insights’ journey is to move into the frenetic UK market and across Europe.
Butler reveals that the journey to create Bounce Insights began with rejection. The young founders, mostly then still in their teens, joined the Launchbox accelerator at Trinity College.
Buoyed by their education in business and computer science and confident in their wonderful ideas, they pitched their initial idea to a ‘Dragon’s Den’ panel of seasoned entrepreneurs who tore them to shreds.
“We got completely ripped apart and were laughed out of the room – no research, no validation, we hadn’t spoken to any consumers. We walked away with our tails between our legs but we were motivated and our next idea was that we were going to do so much research that we would blow these investors out of the water.
“As we did our research, we realised that no 18-to-35 year-old bothered to participate in traditional market research. So how are brand owners like Diageo and Coca-Cola doing this? That led us to explore the market research world and from speaking to various agencies we found out that no one wanted to do it; it was too expensive and too slow.
“Because we were still students we didn’t care about making money and we spent the first 18 months building, iterating, testing and building and tweaking. By the time we launched the pandemic had arrived but we had something with which we could deliver value into the right people’s hands.
“Our growth has been shocking. It’s something that in my wildest dreams I never thought would happen. If you told me when we first got laughed out of the room that a few years later we will have grown to 15 people and are about to raise €2m. We’ve done 500% growth quarter-on-quarter since last year.
“It’s because of that mentality of test, learn, change, test, learn and change.”
Butler believes that by focusing on the process of delivering valuable insights to brands within hours rather than weeks or months, Bounce Insights will create long term waves in the marketing industry.
“I want everyone who interacts with Bounce Insights to go ‘wow, that was an amazing experience’.
“I believe we can make a huge difference in how brands connect with consumers. But ultimately I want to build a good company with good people who are obsessed with solving this problem around market research.”