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As an Industry, We Need to Unite! Or Do We?


By Kevin Lonnie

Dramatic speeches, lively debates, predictions of an impending Armageddon for traditional MR have all been met with a collective yawn.

There seems something noble in the idea of an umbrella organization that would lead/protect and strengthen the MR industry.  But nobility doesn’t always take into consideration practicality and most importantly; need.

Personally, I think we’re doing just fine.   Which is a good thing because I don’t see how any one organization can take on a Lord of the Rings approach to rule them all.

The rise of big data, text analytics, behavioral data, co-creation, neuromarketing and don’t even get me started on mobile have splintered our industry beyond recognition.

That’s why I think it’s damn near impossible for one organization to put a universal arm around all this chaos.  And that’s not a bad thing.  Niche organizations should focus on the concerns of their members and stay on top of issues for them.

Organic flow is happening all the time.  We see it all the time in our client’s industries, whether they’re in media, energy, pharma, CPG or transportation, the business model is constantly evolving.

For my fellow researchers, the only constant is the essence of our mission; providing customer intelligence to inspire, inform and make better decisions.

The larger trade orgs have to accept the fact that they can’t simultaneously stand for change while at the same time serving the current needs (e.g. quality control, government lobbying) of their core base.  Therefore, they will toe the line and try to serve both factions by providing a vision for the future while at the same time securing a safe haven for those who chose to slog it out with yesterday’s toolkit.

This will open the doors wide open for more and more niche orgs to emerge.  Not to mention the proliferation of niche news sources which seem to pop up every few months.

In another 20 years, we’ll still be talking (and talking) about the same crisis.  There will be a group advocating for the quick adoption of the latest tools.  There will be a larger group using the tools of the mid-21st century researcher, all of which were considered cutting edge way back in 2015.

Maybe some cutting edge Silicon Valley firm will figure out a way to do virtual man on the street interviews using pop-up holograms.  Which simply means a century of breakthrough technology will allow us to achieve exactly what George Gallup was doing in 1935.

In the words of “R.E.M”, it’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine.

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3 responses to “As an Industry, We Need to Unite! Or Do We?

  1. In a similar vein, one might ask: are customers ready for everyone in the market research industry to be adopting new market research methods faster? For those organizations working with large tracking studies (when tracking studies are coming under fire for not giving data fast enough), until that organization is ready to let go of such methods of data collection, they’re still going to need groups who can deliver. It feels like this boils down to the age-old business question: who is your target market? I agree – not every MR organization should (or can) try to do it all for everyone.

  2. Above all there are specialists – specialists in markets and specialists in techniques. Both of which bring added value to the client. We are specialists in both – we are in the niche B2B customer satisfaction survey sector and we use our own unique tool. I have turned down a brand awareness survey for the world’s largest manufacturer of cranes (which in turn, and I think it was because of this, brought in a lot more customer satisfaction survey work). And I’ve had a call from a chap who liked what he’d read on our website and wanted to know more. I asked his name and where he was calling from. When he said “Toyota” I said that I was sorry but we only work in B2B. He said that was OK, because he was calling from Toyota Material Handling – the fork lift truck company. Again we got the work.
    This morning I’ve been looking at the idea of a Survey Comparison website, if anyone is interested.

  3. This needed to be said. MR, like most industries I imagine, is quite inward looking and we often fail to recognize that disruption (real and chatter) has been occurring elsewhere too. Medicine, accounting, finance, legal and the music business are just a few that are being torn apart (or not) by change. Our clients are busy – perhaps we should think of them first.

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