Having chosen to study Marketing and Advertising at university, I wasn’t prepared for the compulsory market research module. I faced every seminar with dismay as my classmates and I dreaded the endless dry statistics and spread sheets. The projects set were dull, the teacher unenthusiastic and applications to real life situations minimal. It didn’t take me long to form negative opinions about market research – research was boring, irrelevant and involved a lot of number crunching. Here lies what I consider as the most significant threat to market research. Too many people are put off by a job in research due to the same misconceived perceptions I had.
What I failed to realise, along with many others, is how varied research is and how far it is from the impression I had been given at university. I had no idea at the time how nearly everything we consume – from the adverts we see and the products we buy to the prices we pay for them – has been a direct result of customer insights. Research is impacting everything around us and influences thousands of business decisions, so why is it still so often recognised as being dull and uncool?
Over the past couple of years, two key themes have become apparent. The first theme is that many people in the industry seem to have ‘fallen into a research role’. Like myself, a number of colleagues and peers I speak to had no intention of following a career in research. Research opportunities are vast and varied, local and global, from online to offline, quant to qual. Because of this, I believe there are endless opportunities for people to ‘fall’ into a research role. Whether leaving university with a degree in Mathematics, Business, English or History, the roles of a researcher are so varied; it means there is something for everyone. But with research industry often being perceived as being ‘dull’ or ‘boring’, why would people want to actively pursue a career within the field?
The second theme, is the increasing importance of young researchers to the industry. As a relatively new graduate, I appreciate the significance of encouraging those who are at the start of their career- they are enthusiastic and keen to learn whilst not yet restrained by bad habits and entrenched ‘best practices’. Change is both inevitable and necessary in the research industry. This is a great industry for young graduates to unleash their creative side. Of course, they should be given guidance but at the same time, we should harness the enthusiasm of young researchers to increase innovation, imagination and passion within the industry. The world and research, are changing fast, so we need more people who are willing and able to develop new skillsets and to embrace the attitudes of next generation researchers.
Both these themes highlight a key opportunity for the market research industry. If the industry was marketed better, if it was taught well at university and if its importance was communicated more widely in the media, people would be more likely to actively pursue a career in a research role. We should be not only encouraging young researchers, but promoting research much more actively at an under-graduate level. University courses should highlight the importance research plays in businesses and showcase the range of creative techniques and methodologies that research uses. If I had been made more aware of research at university, I would have been much more active in pursuing a role in the industry.
We need to inspire people to want to join the industry rather than just fall into it by chance, and then encourage them to demonstrate their passion in a creative and innovative way. Research provides something for everyone, it enables you to make a difference to businesses and customers around the world, but if young people don’t realise this, how is the industry ever going to get the talent and recognition it deserves?
Hannah Mumby is Sales and Marketing Executive, Vision Critical, UK