The Pendulum is Returning

Winter 2014 GRIT Report commentary by Brett Watkins, sharing his thoughts on the current state of the market research industry.

As I look at the MR industry, I am struck by the irony that despite our role in guiding the world’s brands on consumer wants and needs, we are proving how poor our own marketing skills are by not effectively communicating the value of MR to consumers. The continuing downslide of cooperation rates among consumers is not just a methodological problem. It is an awareness problem. The consumer doesn’t understand the value we provide in making the things they love... better. We are the scientists who study human behavior to create better marketing communications, and yet, we are failing to articulate our value to those whose cooperation we rely upon.

While the solution to this challenge is not easy, I have three recommendations to begin the process of motivating change: 

1. Seek out Gen Y and engage them to start a career in MR. Generation Y careerists are not built like their Generation X, Boomer and Mature generation contemporaries… As a group, they are interested in making a difference and being part of a team where they can be involved and leave their mark. Our industry offers tremendous opportunity to “connect the dots” between MR work and product and service improvements, providing a clear cut opportunity to see the full life cycle of the research as well as the results of that work.

2. Combine resources to improve cooperation rates. I realize that many readers of this commentary don’t have budget for a brand campaign for the MR industry, but we can
pool resources to advocate for our industry. Member organizations like CASRO, ESOMAR, MRA, QRCA and the like should be encouraged to educate consumers on the processes of market research and how their input matters. The lack of consumer knowledge on the product life cycle process hurts our ability to produce compelling research. If we combine our efforts and ask – even demand – that our industry associations provide this kind of support, we could work toward having a real impact.

3. Utilize MR as a marketing tool. Our training has cocooned us into believing consumers are subjects, and we are scientists. In the digital marketing world, we are missing opportunities to not only engage consumers long-term, but also to educate them on how product development works, and how vital their role is in it. Research participants are generally passionate about brands. If they were engaged throughout the product cycle, they could become a brand’s biggest apostles.

As we embrace new technologies and other innovations in our industry, let’s not lose sight of what makes our MR world go round: people. The new generation coming up is our future
– both internally and externally. If we want to arrest the backward slide in cooperation rates, we need to understand our consumers, including their goals, how they work, and the technologies that they use. This is a first step toward becoming thoughtful and effective stewards of our industry.

This content was originally published by L&E Research. Visit their website at

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