Beware mediocrity…it's punishable by irrelevancy!!

By Finn Raben, ESOMAR Director General

These are reflections on the first of the Future of Market Research webinar series hosted by ESOMAR. This webinar was aimed at setting the scene of the series, focusing on initiatives and views on defining the future profile of market researchers and what the next generation of market researcher looks like. Webinar presenters were Elizabeth Norman (Elizabeth Norman International), Lucy Davison (Keen as Mustard) and Simon Chadwick (Cambiar), moderated by Finn Raben (ESOMAR). The series continues – register for the next one!

I thought it was a really interesting discussion, and highlighted (for me) five very important trends that we must bear in mind as we recruit the next generation of researcher into our profession.

We must shout louder about what we do…

From a survey conducted amongst new entrants into our profession, the three strongest emotions reported were:

a) people’s delight at being involved with highly strategic projects

b) the wonderful diversity of products/industries being examined, and

c) Their dismay at how little respect our profession gets, despite real contributions being made

We must become better influencers…

I think this was one of the strongest points discussed; no data – now matter how big, smart or representative it is – can speak for itself.

We have always been the “translators” of data, making it “speak” to the business or societal challenge.  If we cannot make the information relevant to our clients (internal or external), then no wonder that our profession is losing respect.

This has also been one of the cornerstone messages of ESOMAR’s Growth 2017 initiative: We must be fantastic influencers, analysts & catalysts for change….master “sense makers” as David Smith of DVL Smith puts it.

Data Science is NOT the ‘new’ Market Research!

Data science is a component part of the new skillset that a researcher will need to have, but it is not the replacement of MR….the ability to fuse and synthesise different data sets will become increasingly relevant, but that is NOT the ability to determine WHICH data sets need to be fused.

As someone recently (and wryly) said to me….it is quite ironic to consider that “data science” evolved primarily from the availability of “big” (read: social) data, which many believe removes the need for sampling or representativeness….considering that those are a primary part of the “science” linked with MR, why call yourself a scientist if you’re removing that aspect of your work? Many might argue that the bigger the data, the less science is needed!!

We need to go “Back to the Future…

I became a market researcher in order to help my clients solve their business issues/challenges. I did NOT become a market researcher to sell a certain quota of telephone surveys each week.
This emphasis on being a partner in solving a problem has been steadily eroded in the past number of years, and must be re-instituted….it does, after all, lie at the heart of every research project that is conducted.

The complexity of data sources and application today mean a lot of information is held and managed within different silos of the organization, and few have found a way of taking ownership of the whole area.  It’s only by finding the solution to this that it’s possible to be a true information partner.

It also however, raises a challenge to how we recruit and train the next generation, and what skill-sets we seek to develop.  One interesting evolution on recruitment was recently shared by Heineken on YouTube…for those of you who are interested, the link is:

We must recognize the needs of Millennials

This is almost a no-brainer – primarily because those of us that are older than millennials are NOT digital natives, we are digital immigrants.

Noting the need for technology to support what we do, in an environment of ever-increasing data sources, means that we MUST be technology-empathic, not anti-pathetic.  For millennials, collaboration, networking, creativity and communication are the order of the day, with a skill-set that is probably broader than ever before….embrace it – it IS the future!

“Never again will the pace of change be as slow as it is today”.

– Stan Sthanunathan, SnrVP of Consumer & Marketing Insights, Unilever.

Thanks again to everyone who participated in this session…I can’t wait for the next one, and what it will put forward!!

A reminder for your diary:

10 May


The future of market research

The agency vision