By Kevin Lonnie
Would that be a trade association (e.g. ESOMAR, CASRO, The MRA, ARF, AMA, QRCA, etc.)? Can we name an association that clearly speaks for a majority of researchers? No, they’re all too myopic.
What about conferences? Is there a single must attend event? Well every association listed above will tell you their annual conference is a “must attend” event. But beyond the associations, we have IIR’s TMRE (The Market Research Event), the IIeX (Insight Innovation Exchange) Events held globally as well as the recent entry of the Quirk’s Event. And that’s just to name a few of the larger conferences.
If a single association or event doesn’t speak for all of MR, what about thought leaders? In my opinion, the vast majority of thought leaders are suppliers (e.g. Jeffrey Henning, Tom Anderson) or blogger/journalists (e.g. Lenny Murphy, Bob Lederer, Ray Poynter, etc.)
The problem with thought leadership originating from suppliers or journalists is that it doesn’t emanate on a high enough level to effect change. The MR industry has its own caste system with corporate researchers viewed as the top of the food chain. Well then, what corporate researcher leaps to mind as a recognized thought leader? Would anyone gather more than single digit recognition? My expectation is the top candidate would show support numbers similar to George Pataki, who I had forgotten was running for US President until he held a news conference to announce he was dropping out.
Speaking of a splintered industry, why do we still hang on to the term “The Market Research Industry” when significant portions of our reach/spend have nothing to do with marketing?
Until we find a unified voice and successfully advocate for our industry, we will continue to rely on brick & mortar focus groups and ridiculously lengthy surveys. In other words, we will reactively give corporate clients what they ask for instead of proactively suggesting alternatives that are more in touch with a 21st Century reciprocal society.
We can offer more. We can be creative and strategic. But first we need to speak up for ourselves. We need to be the guardians of our own future. And that means speaking with one voice.
- Instead of a survey well after the actual shopping experience, how about offering customers a five question mobile survey when they enter your store, with a discount waiting at checkout?
- Instead of passively asking customers what they think of a new concept, how about asking them to create alongside your R&D team?
- Instead of a 45 minute tracker survey, we can answer all the “what’s” via behavioral data so that a much shorter survey focuses exclusively on the “why’s” of consumer behavior
I don’t think it’s the inertia of existing business models that is limiting our ability to change. I think it’s an absence of leadership. Real change will take place when we can collectively speak for our industry. Until that happens, we’ll just keep yapping to ourselves.