"Research tools are being democratized and external consultants are becoming more data-driven. The field has more players."
As a lead-in to the upcoming Corporate Researchers Conference (CRC), MRA conducted a brief Q&A with some of the experts scheduled to appear. We got some great answers, which should help you get to know the speakers a bit as well as whet your appetite for more.
Today’s insights are from Bob Moran, Partner at Brunswick Insight, whose CRC session will pinpoint “Corporate Researcher Skills of the Future.”
MRA: People get into marketing research in so many different ways, sometimes by accident. How did you end up in this field and what attracted you to it?
Bob Moran: I got my start studying the old University of Michigan (UofM) public opinion datasets for my undergraduate thesis. This was back when UofM mailed the data in a “data tape” format. I would then put that data on floppy discs and run it on SPSS in DOS. How times have changed! After college I went to work at Public Opinion Strategies and have been in research ever since. I was attracted to the filed for the same reason most are: curiosity about why people think and behave the way they do. And, I would argue that innate curiosity is the best marker for a strong researcher.
MRA: What do you think is the biggest threat facing corporate-side research today? How can the industry deal with that?
Bob: The biggest threat is the accelerating rate of change we’re all experiencing as people living in the early 21st century, and whether we can get ahead of that disruptive change to identify emerging threats and opportunities for our companies. These disruptive changes can best be summarized by what I call the “10 Ds” in our age of disruption. Some of these are disruptive technology, digitization, disintermediation, dematerialization, demonetization, democratization, DIY and demography. I’ll be talking about this more in my presentation at CRC. But, to give you three examples, (1) 3D printing turning consumers into producers, (2) an emerging collaborative consumption ethos and (3) a back-to-basics consumer interest in DIY and craft. On this last point, I was just reading Andy Hines’ book Consumer Shift where he discusses the trend of “enoughness,” or “voluntary simplicity with an edge.”
On a more parochial level, the biggest task for corporate-side researchers is getting ahead of the overall evolution in market research.
MRA: What’s the biggest opportunity for corporate-side research? Is there anything in particular that stands in the way of exploiting that opportunity?
Bob: There are a number of opportunities out there. Two of them are (1) open innovation platforms like Spigit and (2) pushing our insights into future-leaning scenarios that help us game out critical business decisions. The first is democratization and the second is anticipation. Both are critical trends in market research today.
MRA: Since you began working in research, do you think the institutional value/reputation of corporate researchers has increased, decreased or remained the same? Why?
Bob: I think the value has increased, but the competitive marketplace has expanded to include new functions, players and vendors. Research tools are being democratized and external consultants are becoming more data-driven. The field has more players.
MRA: Thinking of your day-to-day work and responsibilities, what is one important element of your job that’s “broken” or dysfunctional? Assuming you had necessary resources, how would you change that?
Bob: We should always look at how we allocate our time. Are we allocating enough time to explore emerging consumer trends and new research methods? I ask myself this question all the time.
MRA: How can corporate researchers better sell the value of what they do within their organizations?
Bob: I could give a laundry list, but I’ll cite just two. First, I think we need to do a much better job pulling current insights into the near-future and presenting them in terms of potential scenarios. This is why I’ve invested a lot of my time in the futurist community. The second is leveraging infographics in order to spread our findings virally through the organization. Images are replacing text. This is a trend we need to get ahead of.
For example, in March, Ipsos MORI announced that they are forming a partnership with The Design Laboratory at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design. Why would a market research supplier partner with a design school? Here’s what the director of the Design Lab had to say: “We believe that communicating information and data is not just about numbers but also the stories attached to them, and are looking forward to helping create new and original visual narratives to better communicate those stories for brands.”