Opportunities and Threats faced by Market Research – Rosie Campbell

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Rosie Campbell

Posted by Rosie Campbell, Director at Campbell Keegan, UK.

So, what I guess I’ve always marvelled at in the industry which happens to have chosen me, is its remorseless ability to shape-shift…to turn itself into an apparently newly-hewn, ready-buffed, more relevant version of itself. Market Research version 13.11.

It’s a combination of survival instinct, business savvy ingenuity… and – yes, I do mean this – playfulness. When I first started as an idealistic and somewhat intellectually-vain quallie, I honestly thought I would know all there was to know about the human mind in a year or so (five at the outside…) But, pleasingly, the human mind has remained slippery to the last, and, more to the point it turns out that understanding how an individual ticks (for commercial exploitation) isn’t really the point anyway.

Just when we thought we had methods for our goals, it dawned that the goals were flawed – or naive, or both…

This has been the pattern down the years…

A circular and evolving interplay between focusing on the goal, the method; new goal, new method; changed goal, changed method and so on…

And it is but one version of the wonderful dexterity and agility of commercial research…

Exactly ‘what’ it is that we do as researchers is also a case of constant Darwinian mutation – we’ve worn different clothes almost every year as far as I can see. To name but a few, we’ve been the cronies of R and D; in the Motivation game, the Relationship Management business; we’ve been Data Managers, facilitated TQM (if you have to Google this acronym you are definitely the right side of 40); we’ve been Trends Analysts, Futurologists, Psychometricians; we’ve been Inward-looking, Customer-focused, Outward-looking, Brand-Focused -…and, of course, most prominently in recent years, we’ve been Mr and Mrs Insight..

Well, I like variety, and an industry with a weather eye to its future is well advised to bend and flex and stay gymnastic in the face of obsolescence, or worse, irrelevance.

We maybe fear that ‘new clothes’ (“yes, I know I was Insight Head last year, but I’m Chief Integrated Customer Imagineer this year…..“) suggest frivolity – but why? And why fear frivolity anyway? We are much better at doing imaginative work if we act playful, feel ‘light’ headed, juggle and tease a little.

Yes, shape-shifting and recalibrating what and how it is we do, helps us stay in good, business-relevant fettle.

To this extent, market research has as many opportunities as it has guises.

And threats? Well, I’d say researchers are their own worst enemies when it comes to self-flagellation (and I’m not thinking Christian Grey here). We are often to be found selling ourselves short, defining ourselves by our limitations (” ….well I can’t promise you any answers..” “..its only washing powder, I don’t save lives..“) or simply putting ourselves down. (“I’m afraid I drifted into this – obviously I didn’t choose market research“)

Well if these are the ways you feel about your work then – guess what ? – others will too! Our apologetic, back-of-the-queue attitudes don’t help us sell business, nor feed our self-regard.

And both of these are of increasingly importance for a researcher in 2013/14.

In a sense the ‘threats’ have, and will, come from noisier, more confident, or more self-possessed business players who find themselves flirting at the same parties; indeed sometimes these are our parties; we are a breed of ‘organisers’ and brokers of network opportunities – too often, for other people.

And our competitors’ weapon of choice?

Big Data. Interpreted in a simplistic and damning fashion, our enemy uber-consultants will breathe out knowingly as they talk us down (while we nod) as merely the purveyors of Big Data…or worse, the pawns of Big Data.

The only way to steer out of the “what are you going to do now there’s Big Data?” trap is clearly to steel oneself, stop ‘agreeing’ we’re done for, and remind any nay-sayers of something from our ‘Relationship Management’ days…
…Actually I was never married to Big Data I only use him for his convenient size….on an ad hoc basis…..it’s very much on my terms…

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One thought on “Opportunities and Threats faced by Market Research – Rosie Campbell

  1. Rosie – brilliant post, congratulations. I have never thought of Research as Mephistopholean before, with many guises – chameleon-like perhaps is a better metaphor. So do you think that the abiltiy to permanently re-invent onesself with little sense of a “core” is the biggest MR opportunity?

    On the threat side: somewhat surprised about the strength of feeling you express about Big Data? Surely, having listed all the trends you have witnessed come and go….there is a degree of shoulder-shrugging that might be more appropriate?

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