Plants growing on a stump

The purpose of this short series of blog posts is to challenge whether market research is an obsolete discipline or if it is evolving and can still provide useful insights when defining a marketing campaign strategy. Hence the question: is market research dead or reborn? Based on few hints here and there, my personal answer to the question is easily anticipated.

Before embarking on writing this blog post, I did some research online (1st hint) to assess the current view on market research; what people are saying, writing, sharing about it. It appears that its obituary was published some time ago…

But is market research really dead? Or is it more the case of clever marketers and agencies using sensationalist headlines to provoke a reaction, achieve top rankings on Google and ultimately advertise its rebirth? (2nd hint).

As an agency that specialises in technology, we should know better than anyone else that “Nothing is created, nothing is destroyed, everything transforms” (3rd hint). In fact, many new inventions are a logical evolution of a pre-existing technology that address issues that the previous one wasn’t able to solve. And isn’t the same, therefore, applicable to market research? The answer is yes, in my opinion.

What used to be called market research is gradually going away and is being replaced by a concept that might be called marketing insights (or something equally trendy). However, market research – as a concept – isn’t dead, it’s just evolving. Its methods and its role are changing rapidly. As one of the analysts at Forrester predicted a few years ago: “Not only are traditional, prevailing methodologies challenged by technological innovations and changing consumer behaviour, but also the need for traditional market research data is decreasing. In fact, organisations are drowning in data. And all parts of the organisation have their own sources of data, from what sales hears from the customer to what customer service fields in calls and email, and let’s not forget about the chatter on the Facebook fan page or other social outlets”.

Because research professionals and companies have done such a good job of integrating techniques and approaches into every aspect of marketing, research has become so ubiquitously embedded in the marketing process that often it is hard to find. Data collection has evolved from in-person to all the other marketing channels and in the future, with the rapid spread of the IoT, will most likely include behavioural and sensory perception data captured by, among other things, our fridges, cars and smart watches.

So market research is struggling to reclaim its relevance in a time when data is a commodity, insights are power, and disparate sources of information are producing different versions of the truth. Yet the best business decisions are made not through data but through insights: the context that comes from understanding what data means in the bigger picture of the business objectives and market trends.

Is there then a dichotomy between market research and Big Data? Or are the two complementary and does actually the latter characterise a new form of market research (4th hint)?

More hints and the unravelment of the secret to follow in the next post…