Is “MR Transformation” Essentially Wishful Thinking?
By Edward Appleton
As many of you who have read my bi-weekly MR blogs over the past couple of years will know, I’m a firm believer in the power of Market Research – it invariably delivers invaluable insights, with transformational potential, but hasn’t managed (yet) to achieve the broad recognition it deserves. Yes, I I am biased, but hopefully self-aware to a degree.
I’ve written about the need for re-shaping perceptions, expanding our toolkit, getting better at the Actionable part of insights and much besides – essentially, retooling MR for the future.
I’ve used the word “should” a lot. I wonder if my hopes and wishes for MR, and thereby the word “should”, are in fact misplaced.
Maybe I should just face “reality”, recognize Research for what it is – solid, needed, often unexciting, and often upstaged by more exciting “stuff” or people with better commercial acumen, communication and networking skills.
Here are some of the things making me question the value of raising MR re-positioning issues in Social Media, at Conferences and elsewhere:
1. Client-side MR Voices aren’t creating Dominant Narratives
How many Client-side Researchers are pushing for “better” research, not just “quicker” and “cheaper”?How many are engaging in debate about the need for New and Better?
We often hear about Agency innovations – but less frequently from the Client-side, angry or otherwise….. No doubt for good reasons, although I sometimes wonder and worry.
Visibility counts – and if Client-side MR folk are as reticent internally as they are in more visible spaces, that has consequences for the industry as a whole. I hope I’m wrong.
2. A huge percentage of Research work is repetitive quant. work – Brand Tracking, Customer Satisfaction.
I have read a few of Vision Critical’s Ray Poynter’s Social Media contributions over the past few months with concern. Ray suggests – I hope I give the sense correctly – that the vast majority of bread and butter MR Agency work is neither innovative, creative or fun. This, it seems, is the spec. that MR is briefed to in many cases.I find this worrying – the Zeitgeist is very much about fulfillment and meaning rather than repetitive, boring tasks. Attract talented graduates with a motivating picture of MR and we put one brick in place for a healthy, energized MR future.
3. Research is often not present at C Suite meetings – our voice lacks Influence at the highest levels.
How many Companies do you know that have a Chief Insight officer? Where Research really is a Foresight Discipline? I’d love to hear from you.
4. Are we moving to a commoditized future – quick, cheap, tactical?
As DIY options become more and more sophisticated, and access to databases gets increasingly easier, the option to do a “quick this”, a “quick that” will become an increasing temptation. This is a volume trap.
5. Budgets: flat or decreasing?
ESOMAR has recently published annual MR growth rates 2011 vs 2010 – overall, very modest, even in markets such as Asia Pacific or Latin America. Europe showed a small decline.
My (European) perception is that MR budgets are under ongoing downward pressure; we continue to struggle for a decent share of the Marketing Expenditure pie. IT, Internet Marketing and analytics enjoy higher ROI confidence, purse strings are correspondingly looser.
Maybe the above view is unbalanced and overly gloomy. There are plenty of exciting developments in new market research – facial reaction measurement and online communities are a couple of my favorites – not to mention the ongoing power of intelligent research of any type to deliver transformational insights. But: how widely is the “new” being adapted?I’d certainly prefer not to see the MR world through a glass darkly – equally, nor do I want to continue writing the word “should” in future with a slightly uneasy feeling that I may be whistling in the wind.
Curious, as ever, as to others’ views.