Editor’s note: Edward Appleton is European consumer insights manager at a major multinational based in Munich, Germany.
Market research is undergoing an exciting phase of change – the survey is under attack as a shallow method of accessing people’s real opinions; many new tools are being actively promoted to provide different, more authentic angles.
Innovation is all around us, which is a healthy sign.
But are we in danger of assuming that just because something is new it’s better? Similarly, are we in danger of ditching the “MR baby with the bathwater” when we engage in what sometimes feels like radical renewal?
Here’s my take:
• We neglect methodological rigor at our peril. That’s what we’re respected for. Validation of any new technique is critical. To quote Andrew Ehrenberg (http://bit.ly/I2LwcF): “A result can be regarded as routinely predictable when it has recurred consistently under a known range of different conditions.”
Research-on-research is essential to understand what differences new data collection modes – such as mobile – make. I applaud those who engage in such efforts.
• It’s generally recognized that MR needs to shift from being a data provider to insights advisor, with an ability to create a compelling data narrative. This new skill set means that we are attracting people from outside the core industry – folks from marketing, PR and advertising are increasingly occupying senior MR positions on both the agency and client sides.
This is great. However, none of us should forget that a great narrative is only as powerful as the robustness of the data and the methodology behind it. Better be perceived as boring than wrong or misleading.
• There is a huge pressure on budgets on the one hand but on the other a recognition that gaining a balanced understanding of a given perceptual situation might well actually require more budget to handle a mixed-modal approach.
The onus is on us all to find ways to carefully reduce unnecessary cost and manage the understanding of risk.
• DIY research is a trend that’s in all likelihood here to stay. I view this positively – it allows more companies to do more research. However, bad DIY research can be very misleading.
Understanding what good research practice is versus bad is important and educational efforts such as those done by Kathryn Korostoff, Annie Pettit and Ray Poynter are to be applauded. I miss Jeffrey Henning’s excellent blogs from his time at Vovici.
• Many of the existing arsenal of tools in MR rely on direct questioning. Done sensitively, there’s definitely a role for that in my view – customer satisfaction, brand tracking, concept testing, for example. Access to historical databases and norms allows one to upweight or downweight sensitively and accurately as required.
As it becomes increasingly possible to introduce context into this equation – via mobile, for example – and we embrace ways of using visuals as a counterbalance to words in our survey design, then direct questioning becomes potentially even more powerful.
• Experts may not always (or often) be right – neither is an amateur perspective. It’s modish to attack expert opinion – it’s blinkered, doesn’t move with changing circumstances, narrow in focus. I’m indeed a fan of boosting the role of intuition, gut reaction and referencing broader audiences early on in any MR process – but as a basis for forming a hypothesis that requires validation, not as a substitution.
It’s commonplace to say that MR tools are becoming commoditized, that we should concentrate on the impact, not the method.
Yes, the days of black-box modelling seem largely behind us. But that doesn’t mean the role of advanced analytics is finished – on the contrary. The people who have the expertise and experience in helping marketing folk (and many in insights as well) leverage the power of sophisticated analytic techniques are extremely valuable.
I enjoy refreshing my fundamental understanding of both basic and advanced statistical and sampling techniques as much and as often as I can – it’s empowering and invigorating. It’s just not something I talk about much, in the interests of maintaining my current circle of friends…;) – which in a way is one of our conundrums as an industry.
Curious, as ever, as to others’ views.