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Inside the 2015 A.C. Nielsen Summit

by Rob Kelly Tuesday, April 28, 2015

More than 160 Wisconsin School of Business alumni and industry partners gathered to discuss insights-driven innovation, social science-based analytics, technologies that expand qualitative research, and techniques that measure nonverbal feedback at the 2015 A.C. Nielsen Center for Marketing Research Alumni and Friends Summit. 

“The Summit is our pinnacle of applied learning and industry inspiration for our students,” says Kristin Branch, director of the Center. “It supports alumni connections and lifelong learning and demonstrates to the industry Wisconsin’s leadership in marketing insights. To see so many alumni and hear students rave about the event makes it all worthwhile.”  

 “It’s all about the power of insights—understanding consumer pain and asking the right questions,” Barry Calpino, former vice president of breakthrough innovation at Kraft Foods Group, explained in his opening keynote.


For A.C. Nielsen Center Executive Director Neeraj Arora, the Summit provides an opportunity to build on the partnerships that are having a direct effect on how he and his colleagues prepare the next generation of marketing research MBAs.

“As a faculty member teaching in the classroom, one thing I personally value a great deal is the opportunity to engage in research partnerships with companies,” Arora says. “Our conversations with board members and alumni help guide the way our curriculum evolves. The most recent class that I was teaching in the marketing analytics area included several topics suggested by our alumni and board members. Data velocity, volume, variety, unstructured data, multivariate Web experiments, machine learning—all the cool new stuff that’s redefining our industry.”

One of those cutting-edge topics, nonverbal response measurement, was covered in a keynote panel at the Summit. Aaron Reid, chief behavioral scientist at Sentient Decision Science, cited research that shows what people say doesn’t always accurately and completely represent how they feel. “I don’t care how good your focus group is or how long you talk to people; there are just things you’re not able to tap into because we’re just not wired that way,” Reid says. 

Reid and his fellow panelists talked about the use of facial coding, eye tracking, and neuroscience to measure unconscious emotions that traditional marketing research methods can’t. “When you quantify the emotional response, as well as the conscious response, you’re able to more accurately predict sales,” Reid says. 

“The Summit brings together all the top leaders within marketing research and consumer insights,” says Tanya Schooley, Center alum and chair of the Center’s Executive Advisory Board. “It offers a chance to hear about what’s most interesting in the industry as well as connect and interact with others in a variety of roles across the United States.”

Learn more about the next A.C. Nielsen Alumni and Friends Summit.