Update: Edward Appleton recently interviewed Deborah Ancona on the future of qualitative research, expanding upon this piece. Read more here.
There’s been a lot of discussions recently about how best to describe our Industry – are we market researchers, marketing researchers, Insight experts….?
I suspect that our preoccupation with titles and descriptors stems less from an identity crisis, and more from an underlying resentment that we don’t feel that we get the respect and recognition we feel we deserve.
Above and beyond what I’d call the Ugly Duckling syndrome, I wonder if there is a real difference between Insights and Research? And whether there are intercultural differences at play.
Here’s My Take
1. There are bucketloads of research out there. Drawerfuls. There’s much less real insight.
2. So – what is an insight? An insight to me is an interpretation, a “reading” of a given situation/behavior/ belief state that explains the dynamics of that situation in a different way, that allows marketing and business to approach and influence the end-state differently.
3. Research sounds respectable, scientific. Insights sounds of-the-moment and consultative.
4. Research delivers on Research objectives, Knowledge needs – Insights does that too but strives to recommend Actions from the data reading.
5. Insights is a business partner to marketing, research delivers to marketing.
6. Insights invariably delivers a narrative. Research delivers data that can be summarised and forms the basis of a recommendation.
7. Insights look to add richness to a topline opportunity (or threat for that matter), often putting forward a POV, evaluates, recommends, whereas research often is comfortable at a descriptive level. I think insights are looking to the Why/What next? and not just the What?
Are there differences in geography? I think yes. Anglo-American Marketing is invariably infused with Insights. Large pockets of Europe still haven’t really got there yet – and it’s more, in my view than just a translation challenge, with Market Research translating simply and Consumer Insights really posing a language challenge.
One possible reason for the slower uptake may relate to how strongly different economies are reliant on manufacturing vs service industries, at least for Western European countries. Arguably, if you have such a strong manufacturing business proposition, have a competitive advantage baked into your product, then Marketing, Consumer Insights, Communications or any number of added value components aren’t so critical. Having said that, a counter-argument would be that creating an advantage in mature markets invariably relies on superior marketing/customer/consumer understanding – insights.
I’m off the fence already. I think Insights is where we need to be as a body – consultative partners, without denying our crucial empirical, unbiassed credentials as researchers. Are insights professional evolved researchers?
What would you prefer – to be referred to as “a great researcher” or “a great Consumer Insights professional”? Or – to muddy the waters – “a great researcher that delivers killer insights”?
Curious, as ever, as to others’ views.
Oh – and enjoy your New Year’s celebrations, whatever you’re doing!