How market research can raise its impact in the marketing world

What did you want to be when you were growing up? A fireman? A pilot? A soldier? Or how about when you were preparing your university application form, a lawyer? A Doctor? What about a market researcher? The chances are, you did not want to be the last one. But why not?

In the right hands, market research provides the biggest companies in the world with a competitive advantage. Research can provide the inspiration required for a new product, a new tagline or a whole strategic plan. It should be at the forefront of every single decision made in a company, right? Who wants to make a billion-dollar decision on a hunch? To be fair, Steve Jobs did. He famously stated that “Our job is to figure out what they’re going to want before they do. People don’t know what they want until you show it to them.  That’s why I never rely on market research. Our task is to read things that are not yet on the page.”Whilst this did prove to be a successful approach for him – perhaps recent performances by Apple have suggested that not everyone has his talent for soothsaying. Also, let’s not forget that Steve Jobs made products that Steve Jobs wanted to buy. But what about senior marketers at companies where they are not their own target audience?

There are 14 categories. Only one of them is for market research. But there’s 6 for the different types of marketing. Why is this?

In Asia, research rarely receives the acclaim it ‘potentially’ deserves. In the 2016 Agency of the Year Awards – There are 14 categories. Only one of them is for market research. But there’s 6 for the different types of marketing. Why is this? We could easily break the research category down further beyond 1 generic lumping: Online panel, qual agency, statisticians, analytics, trackers, campaign research, strategic insight, and so on. Is the reason that Market Research is not cool enough, or perhaps it isn’t at the forefront of people’s minds enough?

The popular TV show Mad Men brought the glamour (and the drama) of the advertising world to the masses. This was not a show focused on market research professionals. Would that have been as interesting? Possibly not. Advertising, creative agencies, and media planners bring together the most engaging, outgoing and social people together to develop some fascinating campaigns. Some of the best market researchers that I have met, cannot speak to clients. Give them a set of tables, or lock them in groups all night and they will find patterns and similarities and draw sensible conclusions, but then this is not seen by clients. These are important people, fundamental to the industry, but they aren’t building the profile of research. What we need to attract are people who are able to showcase the best this sector has to offer in terms of projects, careers, quality of thinking and passion for the industry.

Time for a change

So how does the research industry start to attract the sort of talent that could be swallowed up by creative industries or consulting companies? Research needs to prove itself to big business in Asia, which in turn, will result in larger budgets, better salaries, and recognition that the discipline is integral to business decision making. In order to do this, research must:

  • Speak the language of creative agencies. We need to be able to showcase our insights, in an engaging and moving way.
  • Have the gravitas of consulting firms. We need to have the confidence and the conviction to engage with and gain the respect of the C-suite
  • Give the recommendations with the same fanfare and attention that other industries give their campaign pitches.
  • Ensure that the findings can be actionable. This may sound obvious but as an outside consultant, the researcher also needs to push the project sponsors to make use of the research and so demonstrate a value to the wider business.

Research may not be able to persuade people to give up their dreams of flying jet fighters or of saving lives but research can do much more to stand toe to toe within the marketing world.