Katie Aylward and Samantha Bond
In the past market research has suffered from a poor reputation and whilst the industry is evolving, it continues to carry some unfavourable misconceptions and remains a fairly elusive career choice that is difficult to define. That said, we are seeing increasing numbers of enthusiastic young graduates now actively seeking a career in the industry. The question is, what is it about market research that is inspiring prospective young researchers to enter this career? We believe that by unlocking the answer we can harness this knowledge to better improve our industry’s brand appeal and reputation and in turn, attract the high quality graduates that will be the industry influentials of the future.
As two young research professionals who set our sights on entering the industry and at times had to defend this aspiration, we believe we are able to shed some light on what inspires the next generation. As much as our role can be difficult to articulate in order to do it justice, we know first-hand that there is definitely ‘something’ compelling about a career in market research. Being industry brand advocates, we set out to pinpoint exactly what this ‘something’ is. Our conclusion; market research taps into our innate child-like desire to stay young.
We believe that a big part of the appeal of entering a career in market research is the opportunity to be an eternal student. For those who develop a passion for research during university, market research offers the opportunity to transfer and further develop the skill-set and methods used to research essays, conduct experiments and write reports.
Moreover, the thirst for knowledge and exploration that drove us to university is found within the DNA of the market research industry. Our industry incessantly aims to get closer to the truth and does so through idea collaboration, thought progression and rigorous self analysis. A significant part of developing our thought process and approaches involves drawing insight and influence from the academic sphere. Neuroscience, for example, is having an increasing influence on the industry, highlighting the importance of understanding implicit consumer behaviour and offerings ways in which this can be measured. Thus, as an industry, we strive to stay current and foster a culture of progressive thinking, which largely comes from both traditional and contemporary schools of thought.
A career in market research also provides the opportunity to learn about and become immersed in a variety of brands and cultures making for a very dynamic and varied career. Whilst one week we might be looking to understand what drives automotive consumers in the Middle East, the next we could be researching fashionistas in Seoul. In the process of honing our expertise we are also exposed to a range of industries, from marketing and advertising to design and engineering. What’s more, the skill-set of a researcher is multi-faceted and growing in breadth. In today’s context, being a good researcher is not enough, as to make an impact on our client’s businesses we must broaden our capabilities, encompassing such skills as design, storytelling, journalism and technological savviness. There is no doubt that working in market research offers a stimulating career involving continual learning and discovery.
Shiny New Toys
The market research industry has traditionally been stereotyped as being fairly static, uncreative and dormant. However, whilst focus groups and surveys remain our bread and water, parallel to developing our thinking, we work together as practitioners to evolve our practice. We understand the importance of keeping our fingers on the pulse, improving the way we access insight and enhancing our ability to engage consumers. Furthermore, there is no doubt that the industry is currently in an exciting period, becoming increasingly more innovative, creative and dynamic in what we do.
Particularly with the pace at which technology is developing, we are accumulating a lot of toys to play with and harnessing the opportunity to expand our methodology toolbox. Eye-tracking, face-decoding, social media mining, gamification and mobile are just a few of the methodologies which are becoming more prevalent within our industry due to the opportunities they present. Moreover, having grown up within our digital network society, young researchers are well placed to be involved in the exploration of these new research territories.
Furthermore, our industry is not only innovative in terms of how we access insight, we are also becoming more creative in the delivery of insight. As the importance and challenge of disseminating research throughout organisations rises, innovative strategies are being explored, such as cinema sessions, podcasts and infographics. This environment allows for greater freedom of expression and gives young researchers the opportunity to flex their creative muscles.
Me, Me, Me
As children we love to be the centre of attention and unlike most career choices, in market research, young professionals have the opportunity to speak up and be heard. We are encouraged to propose our ideas and are valued for bringing a fresh pair of eyes to the table. When faced with a brief, we arguably inject a new level of energy and can challenge the potential scepticism of more senior researchers who naturally behold a well-trodden path. We may be overly optimistic due to our lesser experience, but we can leverage this as an advantage.
Unlike other industries, we are also exposed to clients relatively early on and get to experience all elements of the research process. It is highly rewarding seeing a project through from start to finish and it instils the feeling that we are valuable team players – rather than being another cog in a machine.
Beyond a project level, we are also supported and promoted by the industry as a whole to put forward new thinking, implement our ideas and establish our presence within the market research sphere. This is exemplified by the R-net steer group, MRS Junior Researcher Award, the AQR Small Steps and Giant Leaps conference we spoke at last year and of course, the ESOMAR Congress. We are also encouraged to write articles for online industry magazines to promote and develop our independent thinking.
In essence, it is clear that far from being seen as ‘just a junior’, as the next generation, young researchers are encouraged to have a voice and help shape the future of our industry.
So, what’s not to inspire the next generation?
A career in market research truly has so much to offer its young professionals. Perhaps we just need to work harder to eradicate mainstream misconceptions and get better at selling our own brand, so people more widely understand what the ‘something’ about market research really is.
Our industry is a potential honey pot for those who want to want to satisfy their child-like desires and continually learn, discover, explore and be heard. Moreover, we have the opportunity to not only witness, but be part of the action as our industry evolves. As ‘the next generation’ of market researchers, this is what inspires us.
Katie Aylward is a Junior Research Executive and Samantha Bond is a Senior Research Executive at Northstar Research