Where Have all the Marketing Researchers Gone? (A Recap of QRCA/AQR and TMRTE 2012)
The winds of change are clearly a point of focus in the industry right now. As technology integration and “new” methods become a staple in the industry, people are looking for direction and guidance. Ben Smithee feels change is often met with adversity and resistance (at least at first), yet the marketing research industry IS making a shift, and a focus on evolution is prominent.
I just wrapped up a whirlwind trip, speaking at the 2012 Worldwide Conference on Qualitative Research in Rome (QRCA/AQR), and then chairing the 2012 The Market Research Technology Event in Vegas, which both were phenomenal experiences! Now that the dust has settled a bit, I wanted to share some of the key learnings and thoughts that I cultivated over the course of a crazy two weeks.
The winds of change are clearly a point of focus in the industry right now. As technology integration and “new” methods become a staple in the industry, people are looking for direction and guidance. Though I feel change is often met with adversity and resistance (at least at first), I feel like the marketing research industry is making a shift, and a focus on evolution is prominent.
During the QRCA/AQR conference in Rome, I was fortunate enough to participate with two other young researchers (Tom Morgan from Razor and Sara Sheridan from Firefish), in an “Apprentice-esque” pitch competition, where we all spoke about the future of the industry and what we have learned thus far in our respective careers. Some common themes included:
- Escape the fear of speaking up
- Learn from your mentors, but educate yourself on how to build on that base of knowledge
- Embrace technology
- Humanitarianism matters – It’s easy to make a buck, but hard to make a difference
Not only was this exciting for the three of us as participants (Congrats to Sara!), but it really came as a positive signal regarding the future of our industry. I even put a challenge out there to researchers to conduct at least one decent sized pro bono project each year, for a non-profit or other meaningful cause. It is extremely fulfilling to be a young researcher in this time period of evolution, as we are also seeing a tremendous amount of focus being placed on succession planning, and engaging bright young individuals in the field of research. It is great to be a part of an industry where mentoring and coaching is so abundant!
After a week in Rome, a trip to Vegas was honestly a bit scary to think about, but it was entirely worth every ounce of missed sleep! It was clear to see the parallel focus on hot topics of Mobile, Behavioral Economics, Big Data, and Data Visualization, but I was truly impressed in the level of sophistication each speaker brought to the table! Great content, great speakers, and a nice look at what the client-side researcher is looking at right now from folks like Stan Sthanunathan from Coca-Cola (click here to see his slides). People were not afraid to stand up and challenge the status quo, which is exactly what we need! Google really knocked it out of the park in their presentation of Google Consumer Surveys, which are a lot more “legit” than folks originally gave them credit for upon launch. I would really check out what they are doing!
All of this did bring me to one question, though! Where have all of the marketing researchers gone? I love that we are focusing on new trends, tech and methods, but why do the new kids get the sex appeal and shine, while “marketing research” still is perceived by others as tarnished? When I think of things like behavioral economics and neuro-marketing, I think of them as more specialized methods of marketing research, not a distant cousin. How do we do a better job of putting the “marketing” in marketing research, and make sure the image of marketing research gets its “swagger” back? Would love to hear your thoughts, and see you at the next conference!