We are in the middle of creating some market research and consumer insight content for this website. Anyone working in marketing gains some experience in this area. But not everyone visiting this site will have worked in marketing. So how do you explain market research and consumer insights to non-marketing people? How do you go about working with market researchers and research agencies? And why is that when you work with them, very often market researchers drive you crazy?
So first off, there’s that name – consumer insights. Most non-marketers probably know the subject better as market research. Putting both terms in Google Trends shows that “Market Research” appears 60 times more often than “Consumer Insight” as a search term. So with the philosophy of marketing being about giving people what they want, we are going to use “Market Research” as the main way of referring to this subject.
People who work in consumer insights / market research often prefer the term ‘consumer insights’. It’s ironic that ;the voice of the consumer’ find it hard to use the term that their own internal consumer use.
Working with market researchers
This got us thinking. Why do ‘market researchers’ not like calling themselves ‘market researchers’? We see two reasons.
1. Market research has become associated with intrusive behaviours. The ‘on the street with a clipboard’ crew who get in your way when you’re running to catch that bus. There’s the ‘hey, we just calling right when you are in the middle of making dinner to see if you’d answer questions on home insurance’ bunch too. Consumers are suspicious these guys are using ‘market research’ as a way to sell you stuff right? The industry has got much better at weeding out intrusive behaviours like this, but the public perception of market research still persists. We can see this as a valid reason for wanting to be not be called “market research”.
2. However, there’s also the type of people who are attracted into working in consumer insights. We base this admittedly un-statistically verified perception on the experience of working with probably around a few hundred ‘consumer insight’ people over the years. Almost without fail, you’ll find that people who work in this area are smart and technically knowledgeable. It does take a certain amount of expertise and skill to do market research properly. But OMG, don’t they just love reminding you of how smart and knowledgeable they are?
Nine times out of ten, you’ll find smug cleverness that runs through market research professionals. “Oh no no no, you can’t possibly conclude that from this report” they tell you. Because some other report from 2 years ago stated something completely different. ‘Oh, of course, 3 months data is not nearly enough to mark this out as a trend, we’ll need at least another 9 months before we can confirm the assumption” they’ll tell you. With a slightly superior air like the teacher at school correcting you on getting something wrong. Thanks.
The 3 traits of market researchers that will drive you crazy
Well, actually, these are 3 traits of market researchers that drive us crazy as long-term customers of market research professionals. But we don’t think we’ll be alone in calling these out.
Long long long reports
50+ pages seems to be the norm. But we’ve seen reports (with appendices) reach up towards 300 pages in some cases – which end up getting filed in a drawer or a shared drive somewhere never to be read again. And why do you waste the first 20 pages / 20 minutes going over the methodology? That should have all been agreed up front and is worth about 5 minutes at the most.
Recommendations that fall into the ‘damn obvious’ camp – “this brand needs to grow awareness / consideration / trial’ etc” – well, duh. Or are meaningless. Our favourite ever when one very junior agency person told us “this brand needs to do more to grow sales” (er, what did you think we were trying to do?). Also, recommendations that are not actually connected in to the realities of the brand owner – particularly if connected to for example price/cost considerations or investments required in advertising or NPD.
Fear of committing to a decision
So many hypotheses but frequently, no actual commitment to a recommendation. This ‘might’ be the case, or that ‘could’ be true. Well, we probably knew that before you did the market research, wasn’t the point of the research to give us more certainty?
Now anyone working in market research reading this might be feeling a rising sense of indignation. You might be ready to throw back the ‘you can’t say that about all market researchers’ (of course, what they would actually say would be ‘you can’t say that about all consumer insight people’). And they’d be right. But we can say it about most market researchers. We’ll get back to you with the statistically robust sample later.
The one thing we wished market researchers did more often
That’s not to say, we haven’t met people working in market research who have been commercially savvy and decisive. But we’ve generally always found the best ones, have spent some time doing something else in their career other than being a market researcher. A few years as a brand manager or marketing manager, and then go back into market research. Those type of people are actually quite rare, but every one of them we’ve come across has been able to make much better recommendations back into marketing teams.
We don’t mean to beat up too much on market researchers, (though it’s fun). When they get it right, they fulfil a very important purpose for the business. Their insights can generate activities worth millions of dollars or stop ideas doomed to failure ever getting off the ground. But if only they could work harder on really talking like consumers, they’d have so much more impact on the marketing teams they work with.