5 Responses

  1. Frankie Johnson
    Frankie Johnson at |

    Thank you for writing this, Edward. I always enjoy your writing and perspective on our business. Since I am the first to comment, I can ask “why doesn’t this post get the recognition it deserves?”

    All your points are spot on. I’ll add one more. The qualitative business is small, fragmented AND predominantly female. Women have not often assumed leadership roles in market research – I won’t dabble in theories of why. But I do think that the lack of recognition for qualitative reflects the lack of recognition for women. For instance, the AMA Parlin award for excellence in marketing research has been awarded to just one woman in 66 years, Faith Popcorn. Most MR conferences tend to have an abundance of male speakers despite attendees being split fairly evenly by gender. And only about 10% of the CEOs of top MR companies are female. I could go on with dozens of examples. This is in an industry founded and staffed by many women, unlike tech where the lack of women leaders tends to reflect the low proportion of women throughout its ranks.

    I’m not casting blame here. But there is an obvious connection between the lack of recognition of the contribution of qualitative and the downplaying of the role of women in market research.

  2. Stephen Cribbett
    Stephen Cribbett at |

    Well done Ed for capturing the current feeling toward Qualitative Research. I do, however, feel that the discipline and rigour of qualitative research has been snatched from the hands of researchers and massaged into co-creation – the emperors new clothes!

    Working ‘with’ the consumer rather than simply trying to ‘understand’ them is the result of technology-enablement and where ultimately qual has ended up. But it’s not being ‘owned’ by the MR industry, leadership has been assumed by brand strategists, product design and innovation professionals, and those who ultimately have a louder voice and a clearer line into the marketing director.

  3. Steve August
    Steve August at |

    Edward – this is an excellent post on the triumphs, tribulations and opportunities of qual in the quant/big data world. Qual uncovers the ‘Why’ that lies at the heart of the quantifiable “What” – and it is really only when the “Why” is understood that effective decisions can be made.

    I would also add that while the big data headlines work somewhat against qual, there is a new appreciation of qualitative information, since so much of the big data in the social media space are really small bits of qual data.

    Ultimately, the holy grail is to be able effortless drill down from quantifiable data that maps what is happening into the qual information that shows why.

  4. Edward Appleton
    Edward Appleton at |

    Frankie – thank you, for commenting, and for the kind words. Do you think that qual. would be taken more seriously if more major MR companies were headed up by women? If I am not mistaken, Phyllis McFarlane was head of NOP/Gfk for some time, and is now very senior within the UK MRS. Just an example, and perhaps the exception, I have no overview.

    Stephen – do you ever feel that MR overall was ever actually not dominated by those driving eg innovation, product design – those closer to a) sales b) Marketing directors? I would think qual. could do worse than bask in the reflected glory of co-creation?

    Steve – I think Big Data will pan out as relevant for some industries (finance, health, telecoms for example) and for certain purposes, but it will probably raise more questions than answers. I would suggest the holy grail for MR is to drill up from qual. to the quantifiable – we simply need to find ways of putting a humanist agenda back on the map, that is not swept away by the “certainty” and safety of stats, science….;)

  5. Alan
    Alan at |

    First I should say I know next to nothing about Qual. Nearly all my experience is in home F2F Quant.

    Just a couple of points –

    The natural attraction of Business people to big numbers is a possible reason for an unconscious bias toward Quant. This is coupled with the fact that Statistics may be cruel but they are reliable and repeatable, ample reason for a conscious preference.

    Where do you find the people that engage in Qual research, and without the Quant how can you know that they are (nominally at least) representative? Self selection is inevitably going to result in a more articulate and open character coming forward.

    The way I deal with this on the doorstep is to emphasize the Quantitative and Inclusive nature of the research, that “You don’t have to be Einstein or even interested in the subject of the research, you are a like pixel on a tv screen; its not the end of the world if you don’t participate, but we wont have a perfect picture without you” – This draws in many otherwise shy or disinterested participants.

    The responsibility of getting involved in Qual will put many otherwise sound and useful respondents off. Likewise, online methods accentuate the selection bias.

    I particularly like the idea of “drilling (or synthesising) up from qual. to the quantifiable” – it has long been a bugbear of every decent F2F interviewer that the 20 minutes of quality time spent in a Quant interview is boiled down to a few hundred bytes of data; all nuance, extraneous and contextual information is lost. Note in the margins will only take us so far.

    If there was a way to deliver better quality questions and record more detail in the response that would be a huge step forward in bringing Quality into Quant. Qualitative training for individual ground level Quant Interviewers combined with intelligent scripting could very easily multiply our value.



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