Before I start this blog, I would like to thank all those who read my last blog and shared their observations on the problems in data collection. It was interesting to hear from professionals working in India, Turkey, Canada, Australia about their take on this issue. While some agreed, some decided not to. Some agreed but counter-questioned asking for solutions. While I firmly believe that pointing at problem is one step that needs to be followed by solutions, my blog was intended to bring this problem to the attention of MR(Market Research) community which has otherwise stopped talking about this issue or has accepted these pitfalls as a part of life. Yet moving on, I will try to present some relevant solutions.
Last Monday, Adam (RWC Editor) wrote an email to me asking for my next blog. Not sure about what I will write next and with a Dracula film running on my TV, Adam flashed in my mind as a Dracula ready to bite me if I didn’t send him a blog soon. With his picture in mind, I woke up next morning. With shower gushing from above, I finally had an answer trickling in my head to avoid being bit by Adam! Hence this blog is dedicated to my shower for saving my life!
Two days later I attended a conference dedicated to technology for marketers and advertisers organised by UBM. Common themes explored were SEO (search engine Optimisation), social media marketing and big data possibilities. Big data has become a common term nowadays. Everywhere you go you hear the same story: “BIG DATA is coming” or “BIG DATA has come”… But do we actually understand this so called BIG creature who is ready to bite us? In the MR world, either we fret about big data or show a rosy picture about possible futuristic insights from Big data. Very few actually talk about something that we need to do today to equip ourselves to handle big data. Being someone who is working on such datasets, I feel that we as an industry are quite ill equipped to handle this deluge of data. Even if we create the IT backend to maintain huge databases, analysing it requires a different skill-set and more importantly a different mindset. In my opinion, cross-knowledge of market research, technology and statistics/mathematics and more importantly a passion to push the envelope is a pre-requisite. We need to go beyond our comfort zone (surveys) to regain our dominance in market intelligence; this may mean recruiting people of diverse academic backgrounds, betting on unlikely innovative ideas and being ready to fail and then re-emerge from those failures.
Moving on to the other topic that often comes up in conferences is innovation. I agree with Twitter’s @Angry_MR_ client that how can MR agencies consult companies on innovation when they themselves don’t innovate. In last 40 years,I believe that industry has not done anything which is a game changer. We still do the same kind of surveys and focus groups, may be the medium has changed in some parts of the world but core methods are the same. These techniques were useful in an era when people didn’t have a parallel life in the matrix; in an era when people didn’t shell out a lot of info in social media without being asked and a time when technology was not powerful enough to decode complex patterns in huge purchase databases. Our clients’ requirements have changed in this hi tech world. They need us to help them know their customers better and we appear to be incapable due to our self-created inertia.
Several MR companies are positioning themselves as consulting partners to clients which is a great idea but I believe that we need to strengthen ourselves in our core capabilities too, i.e. data collection. I believe that market research needs to be like a shadow following consumers (while respecting privacy concerns). People talking about big data in MR often forget passive techniques. While I really appreciated that ESOMAR dedicated an entire workshop on this topic in summer of 2012, a quick look at ESOMAR’s Linkedin post on this topic shows that acceptance about such techniques is less or mixed . I feel that passive techniques enabled using technological advances in social media, online sphere etc are the way forward; either we embrace it or accept the gloomy future.
I also believe that ESOMAR needs to give more emphasis on giving a stage to demonstrate lab experiments in methodological innovations. A quick look at ESOMAR conferences show that more than 90% of research papers showcased have a strategic focus; great research which did some wonders in real business world. While it’s important to hear about such success stories, ESOMAR also needs to give opportunity to showcase new “budding” ideas which are not yet ready to be implemented in real world but can bloom out to be a game changer. This will help in creating awareness about some budding new ideas being tried while also inspiring people to innovate beyond the set boundaries. Industry might end up giving rise to home-grown ideas rather than embracing techniques from other fields.
Closing this blog, I would say that we are in serious need of creativity. May it be big or small idea, even if we start doing our regular work with some shades of creativity, we can re-invent our industry.
PS –Feel free to agree-disagree on my opinion. Plus feel free to correct me on any stuff you feel am ill-informed or biased. Views expressed are solely personal and do not reflect views of TNS or associated companies.