… it would be an appropriate time to look at what we might have learned thus far.

The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.

Albert Einstein

We have learned something, right?   As you look through this list, you’ll see that much of what we’ve learned could also fall into the heading of “what we still know to be true”.   So… maybe the real learning here is that while things change, they change more slowly than we think, and possibly even more slowly than we would like.   What do you think?

Five Things We’ve Learned in Two Thousand and One Five

1) The questions don’t change.   If you were to review and quantify the questions we’ve received from clients over the years, you would see remarkable similarity over the years.   How is my brand/product/service performing versus my competitors?   What changes should I make to said brand/product/service?   How should I position my brand/product/service in the marketplace?   Who are my customers?   Who should be my customers be?   How should we target these customers? At the root of our research projects today are the same questions that have been there for many years.

2) Clients (still) want their answers to be easily understood and digestible.  This has always been an important issue for end-users of marketing research.    Regardless of how complex a study design may be, or how complicated and rigorous the statistical and analytic elements of the research may be, it’s all useless if the client does not understand the results – or how to activate them.    While in the past (and in the present too) we may have used mapping approaches for example to display a lot of information in one “space”, we now leverage things like infographics, which clients have become comfortable with through interacting with them outside of the research world.

3) Technology advances are sometimes more trouble than they are worth… at least early on. As an industry we rely a great deal on technology across all aspects of our business. In this digital age, where everyone it seems has a smartphone, it sounds easy to say, “Let’s deliver surveys on their phone! Mobile research… In the moment… It’s perfect!”   Well, that’s until we realize that we need to re-think how we design the survey so that it not only renders properly on a phone, but is also short enough to keep the attention of the respondent.   And, by the way, are any design changes we have to make hindering our ability to compare these results to the same survey taken on a laptop or PC?   To be clear, technology advances are a good thing, it just takes more time than we’d like to realize all of the benefits that they bring.

4) Data is everywhere. No surprise here. Data collection, in the traditional sense, is becoming a smaller and smaller percentage of the marketing research function.   The data we need to help guide us with business decisions is seemingly ubiquitous. This has created a new skill requirement for the data analyst.   Which data is worthwhile and which is just extraneous?   Determining the signal from the noise has always been a job requirement but it is now even more critical and takes up a greater percentage of the researcher’s time.

5) Relationships (and people) matter.   Ironically, with all of our advances in technology, relationships and people are still at the very core of what we do.   We need to have the trust of our clients to provide quality research. They need to know that when we give them guidance with their decision making, it is based on the best possible information that we had available.   And at the end of the day, it is people that are putting all of the learning and insights together.   Without solid client relationships we wouldn’t have very much work to do. And without quality people, those relationships would be impossible to maintain.

So there you have it…  five things that we’ve learned so far this year.   Even though these may not be surprising or earth-shattering, it might be interesting to reflect on how our roles as marketing researchers may – or may not – have changed in recent years.   This can only be beneficial as we move farther into the future.


~ Marketing Workshop