Beating the Dead Horse and Comparing Apples

Posted: January 27, 2011 by Ben Smithee in Market Research, Research Evolved
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

(I have had this post half-finished, and was inspired to finish it after seeing @Frankie_Johnson’s recent post)

Enough with the Henry Ford references!

I get the point.  I really do, but it just doesn’t resonate very well with me.  True, if Henry Ford asked the people what they wanted, they probably would have said they wanted a faster horse or something of that nature.  But, equating that with MR and its “irrelevance” is somewhat shortsighted.  Though, maybe it is not totally inaccurate.

The essence of research is not to ‘parrot’ what consumers say in front of the glass.  The clients have ears, and the A/V and FocusVision tools provide that ‘insight’.  Isn’t our role to take the commentary from people and then apply our skills and knowledge to turn it into meaningful impact for the client?  Frankie’s discussion of how the conversation would have gone down, if a good researcher was involved, is probably a much more likely scenario.  Though it does scare me that the opinion of MR is that we would have walked out of the room and wrote a report on how we could make the darn horse go faster!  Maybe we feed it more protein?  Super-natural hay?

Next up is Steve Jobs.  Apple doesn’t do research.  What that really means is that Apple does not hire researchers and consultants.  There is really nothing wrong with that.  Honestly, I think they are doing a great job and are one of the most innovative companies out there, but not everyone is Steve Jobs.  Apple’s core structure allows them to function successfully in this way as well.  Not all companies are fit to allow for truly organic innovation.  In fact, many companies have a structure that is detrimental to innovative thinking.  What Steve doesn’t tell you is that they think about the consumers in ways that other companies should be doing in the MR process.  They have an innate understanding for consumer wants and needs, and regardless of what they say, they are good listeners.  They do listen to the pulse of the people, and look for opportunities to grow and innovate.  They are pros at challenging the status quo.

Not to beat a dead horse (pun intended), but this goes back to an image problem.  How do we change this image of the MR world?  How do we continue to showcase the innovations and advancements we have made and continue to make?  There has been so much buzz around the MR/Consumer Insights realm recently, and it is extremely exciting!  How do we keep this going?  My “step in the right direction” answer is to cut out the roadblocks.  Push the limits and quit being afraid to fail.  It’s key to have a voice.  In this era of equality in media, why do we not have more of a representation in the digital space?  It’s growing; it really is, but not fast enough!

I personally promise to start blogging more frequently and more meaningfully (without just writing for writing’s sake).  I also promise that the efforts we put forward in creating good content will not be self-serving, and that we will do our part to help better the MR industry and its overall image.  But, a handful of companies can’t move the needle.  Spread the word, because as the tide rises, so do all of the boats!

Honest question.  Are you/Is your company a parrot?  Or, are you striving to continually be a mechanism of innovation?

As always, thanks for reading!

Each reader makes a difference 🙂

  1. Great post Ben.

    As a recipient of at least 2 Apple surveys, I can attest to the fact that they DO use consumer research for at least some part(s) of their business. Nonetheless, as an industry, our role is no longer as ‘secure’ as it once was. We are no longer the sole purveyors of insights … and we must work harder to earn our place in the C-Suite. The digital divide has breached our #MRX space too … and exciting changes will happen.

    Best wishes, Bernie.

    • Well put, Ben. And I agree – the image of the market research industry as old and dusty needs a revitalization and now. I hate to admit it, but sometimes me/our company is more of a parrot than an innovator, and I think we too often blame it on our clients in that that’s what they want us to be. So our task here is not just to be more innovative, but try to convince our clients that our innovation in helping them is for their best interest, and not just bucking the system. Easier said than done, my friend.

      But not impossible. Thanks for the kick in the pants!


      • Ben Smithee says:

        Michelle, thanks so much for stopping by! You are definitely right! Stagnation can be a result from many different variables…it’s a muti-sided offense you have to take!! 🙂

    • Ben Smithee says:

      Thanks, Bernie!! The definition and associated stakeholders for the #MRX world are changing!!

  2. […] have read several defences of market research recently, with articles by Spych, Frankie Johnson in the last few days.  As a passionate market researcher, I love to read other […]

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