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Should DIY Be A Dirty Little Word?


By Ray Poynter

DIY – is it the word we don’t like?

Earlier today I was speaking with a conference organizer who was looking for client-side researchers to speak about DIY research and she is meeting quite a bit of resistance. As we talked through the issues, I identified two possible reasons.

1)                  In terms of classic DIY, for example SurveyMonkey, the main users within client organizations seem to be non-researchers, for example managers, NPD, and even C-suite people. In quite a few organizations the insights team are often the ones preaching against the methodological risks of people using SurveyMonkey. (BTW, the risks are usually nothing to do with the software, the risks they worry about are colleagues asking the wrong people, the wrong questions, and drawing the wrong inferences. Something which, some, market researchers feel is rare in ‘real’ market research, and common when research is conducted by others.)

2)                  Where insights teams are doing the research themselves they seem to be averse to using the term DIY. For example, many companies are using communities as part of their insight process, they are scripting surveys, they are running online discussions, and setting ethnographic-type quests. However, client-side researchers and managers seem loath to refer to this as DIY, as if DIY implies something cheap and nasty. This is perhaps not so surprising, if we think about people who are, genuinely, very good at building, gardening, car repairs, most of them would not describe themselves as DIYers, even when working at home.

The pejorative tone that many people associate with DIY raises three thoughts in my mind:

a)      The MR industry could try to weaken the encroachment by non-research companies by referring to their survey and social media tools as DIY – something that already seems to be happening.

b)      The organizations selling the tools should perhaps move away from a basic/premium split of their systems into a two brand approach, a DIY brand and a craftsman approach – which one or two seem to be doing.

c)       If the product is cheap enough, easy enough, and good enough, the DIY brand might change people’s view of DIY or category – in the way that cars morphed from being a 99% service industry (people had chauffeurs) to a 99% DIY industry (most of us drive our own cars).

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2 responses to “Should DIY Be A Dirty Little Word?

  1. I do think that the term DIY is widely misused and abused. In-house research can be just as excellent as research outsourced to a market research firm. Alas, some people use the term DIY to refer to any in-house, client-side research–which is clearly ridiculous. Our goal–no matter which side of the desk at which you sit–is quality research. Great research can be done client-side or agency side. And I have seen my share of awful research come from both sides as well–even without the use of “DIY” tools. I wish I could say it was rare, as Ray suggests–but it is not.

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