The Future of Market Research

Tom H. C. Anderson
February 26th, 2014

[Re-posted from the Next Gen Market Research blog at www.tomhcanderson.com]

Marketing Research is Changing – Human Psychology is Not!

In order to separate the wheat from chaff in the market research industry – and industry which until recently changed at a painstakingly slow rate, but which now seems to be grasping at any ‘innovation’ straws no matter how absurd – it is helpful to look to the past.

My colleague and President of the Insights Council at the American Marketing Association, Matt Valle just wrote an interesting article channeling David Ogilvy. There are several good points in the article which is pro ‘Next Gen’ Research. However, it also points out the problems we see with many “New” or “Innovative” techniques often born from those with less formal research training or experience within consumer psychology, economics and statistics.

I believe many of these new money changers in the temple of consumer insights research rightly need to be thrown out.

How do you determine whether a new technique is worth paying attention to? Matt and Ogilvy offer several points of advice, three of which resonated strongly with me. Quoting some of these points:

1. To be worthwhile market research must prove it’s ROI

“If you … want to win the award, devote your genius to making the cash register ring.”

I think so much of what we see today ties to indirect metrics, “Promoters and Detractors”, “Retweets and Likes”, “Sentiment”, market research should be tied to Dollars!

2. Data is not a substitute for knowledge and judgement

“I notice increasing reluctance on the part of marketing executives to use judgment; they are coming to rely too much on research, and they use it as a drunkard uses a lamp post for support, rather than for illumination.”

Too often data is chosen for analysis because a vendor or boss tells you it is important rather than a decision originating with the original research question to be solved. Arguably, nowhere is this currently more true than the pre-occupation with twitter analytics. Chosen because it’s free and easy to get to, yet representative of less than 8% of the population and severely lacking in signal quality.

3. Talent and Experience Counts

“We prefer the discipline of knowledge to the anarchy of ignorance. We pursue knowledge the way a pig pursues truffles.”

Make sure you know who is giving you advice. Look at their background carefully, how have they actually helped businesses? They should be able to give very specific examples while considering your unique situation. All their advice no matter what new technique is proposed should be based in the most sound and tested methodological considerations from the social sciences.

I encourage you to read the entire article on the AMA website here.

Importantly, before you pay much attention to that next blog post, market research conference talk, or advisory telephone call, look for the explicit evidence that you are talking to a real researcher. One who like Ogilvy would understand that a new technique is only as good as it is in helping us affect real human behavior!

@TomHCAnderson
@OdinText

[Full Disclosure: Tom H. C. Anderson is Managing Partner of Anderson Analytics, developers of a new patented approach to text analytics. The text analytics software platform is called OdinText]

2 thoughts on “The Future of Market Research”

  1. I agree with 2 and 3 wholeheartedly. But I think building ROI into an evaluation of the value of market research actually contradicts the other two points. Research is useful if it enables clients to make better decisions. sometimes they are empowered to make those decisions through research that confirms what they already believe. I don’t know how you attempt to put an ROI on research as ratifier

  2. I don’t mean that you have to provide exact ROI down to the cent, but the closer you can get to that the better. And if you leave people wondering about ROI then you’ve got a real problem.

    That said, the trend certainly is towards more direct tie to $ which is a good thing I think.

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