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Human Experience Takes Center Stage

As MR moves forward, it must realize that people control their interactions with brands, and as market researchers, we must tell their stories.

Editor’s Note: Many marketers and market researchers still have trouble grasping that because we live in a social and online world, they no longer control their brands’ meaning; they are in a “dialogue” with people, and that dialogue ultimately determines brand meaning. This fact has to drive methodology, not the other way around. Jamin Brazil gives us an interesting take on this new dynamic. 

Since 2014, the GRIT Report has been the curator of innovation in the Market Research industry. Over that time, many of the technologies it heralds have brought the consumer closer and closer to marketing. Having conducted 50 interviews on the Happy Market Research Podcast in 2018, I have one observation and two trends in our space that may warrant a few minutes of your mind.


Observation, Look Forward.

As an industry, marketing research needs to think about what we are going to do in context of 2019 and 2020, not 2015. This was perfectly said by Edwin Wong, head of insights at Buzzfeed, when he said, “We built one of the largest online communities by learning what people wanted to talk about and then going to where they are, Facebook.” This simple approach yielded over 23 million followers.

What does that mean for us market researchers? Be humble, use social media, accept the world as it is, try new stuff, learn from your Ls and your Ws, and be nice to yourself.


First Trend, Story at Scale.

Let’s not forget, at the core of tech-based innovation is the internet. While the internet has given marketers direct access to consumers, it has also flattened our social structure and removed all barriers between consumers, brands and the market at large. Now anyone with a smartphone can connect, for free, to anyone they wish, and…

…this is the important part…

tell their story.

It is no longer the case that brands are who they say they are. Instead, they are who their consumers say they are. This is the key reason influencer marketing has become a billion-dollar industry and one of the fastest growing budget items in the last few years.

At the core of each of us is a story. Our earliest days were depicted on cave walls. Over time, pictures gave way to the written word and over the last 100 years we have used a numbers-driven narrative to tell the consumer story. But, no one has 2.3 kids!

While charts play well in a board presentation, us mere mortals simply don’t connect with pie charts or data tables.

Thankfully, the AI-powered pendulum is swinging us back to our roots. Today, successful insight pros use story to connect organizations to consumer data. This punches through the abstract and tells a human-centered experience that we all can connect with. The better the story the larger the impact of research on the organization.

I witnessed this first hand at eBay 8 years ago. We created a chart which illustrated an attribute battery comparing Amazon vs eBay. After working with our marketing team for several days to create a killer infographic, we gave up. We simply couldn’t create a depiction of the data that conveyed the consumers’ perspective in a way that was human.

So, we decided to replace the chart with a verbatim and that was when we had our “ah-ha” moment. Turns out the consumers did a bang-up job of explaining their attribute ratings. In the end, we turned select quotes into a 30-second video read by an actor. This PowerPoint made it all the way to the boardroom in just a few days where one of the board members said, “This is the first time we have had the voice of our consumer in the boardroom.”

As our tools become smarter our reports will become simpler and far more impactful.


Second Trend, Democratization of Market Research.

Better storytelling is only the icing on the cake. As an industry, we MUST pay attention to the cake as well. By “cake” I mean respondents.

Have you taken a survey that wasn’t directly connected to a product or service you’ve purchased in the last 6 months? How about your friends? I bet you’ll be hard pressed to find someone that has. Yet, there are over 1-million of these surveys done daily in North America alone. So, who is doing them?

I’m not going to dive into data quality, there are many people smarter on the subject than me. However, in my recent chat with LinkedIn’s Head of Insights, Rogier Verhulst, he said:

“I predict that the industry will be moving away from heavy email-based type surveying towards in-product and text…completion rates are declining, and more and more professional communication is moving to slack like channels – some devs don’t even check email anymore.”

Integrating insights into the everyday workflows throughout the organization will eventually displace the dedicated department of market research. For example, one fast-growing tech firm I know has 5 internal market researchers and 40+ Customer Experience pros who do almost the same research just in lockstep with the product team.


Thank you!

It isn’t that market research is a dying profession. It is quite the opposite. Market research is thriving and has become part of everyone’s job. To that end, I’m immensely grateful to the GRIT Report and all of you who have contributed over the years. You continue to make a difference by expanding our view on how we can apply tech to our insights and tell a human story.


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2 responses to “Human Experience Takes Center Stage

  1. We’re currently experiencing a great example of the first trend – It is no longer the case that brands are who they say they are.

    Gillette has created an ad depicting who they believe they are, one focused on ‘The best a man can get.’ Within mere hours and days, millions of regular people told Gillette on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn what Gillette REALLY is about. Gillette may offer an image, but consumers determine reality. The social media sample may be biased but with millions of comments out there, anyone working on grounded theory has more qualitative data than they could ever use.

  2. Super interesting article. The real challenge is to decipher what voices in the social world are the ones that you should listen to. There will always be chatter but what voices will lead you down a dead end and what ones will help you improve your product or service?

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Jamin Brazil

Jamin Brazil

Chief Executive Officer, Happy Market Research