Does the Market Research Industry Need a New Name?

Does the Market Research Industry Need a New Name?

When I read titles such as this one in articles or blog posts, I expect that the author’s answer is a YES, and I prepare myself to find “holes” in their arguments. So I invite you dear readers to wear the hat of the sceptic, and share your views about this existential question (in my opinion anyway).

I have always had a problem with the term “market research” because it is different but close to “marketing research” and it is not an all-inclusive term for what ESOMAR or MRS or CASRO consider our industry to be. Over the past few years and knowing what I know about the type of research made available through the use of technology (such as social listening and online communities) my concerns about this name being unrepresentative have only grown.

If the job titles of the people who carry out MR within Brand organisations are an indication then Consumer Insights or Customer Insights should qualify as new name contenders. “Market Research” is not (just) about the number of responses, it’s about the insights, so shouldn’t the name of the industry be more representative in this sense?

The limitation of market or marketing research as names is that they only go half way. What does that mean? Take a look at the following data operations that are involved in the full spectrum of market research activity:

  • Collection tool set-up
  • Collection
  • Cleaning/validation
  • Processing
  • Analysis/Synthesis
  • Action Discovery
  • Visualisation

Market Research sounds like it is over when the data is collected and maybe understood, but what about the rest of the activity that takes place in order to discover the elusive insights? We spoke before about ‘insights’ being a buzz word with different people understanding different things. Our definition however is very clear: an insight is a “nugget” that can usually be discovered by synthesizing information from more than one source and by adding a good measure of intuition; it is actionable and it delivers a positive result when actioned. It is not a number that can be extracted from a single market research report.

The need to rename our industry becomes more acute nowadays when a lot of data (Big Data) is easily accessible by organisations and thus commoditised. The use of Artificial Intelligence and specifically Machine Learning makes it so much easier to look for insights in big data-sets. We can get data by asking questions (traditional market research e.g. surveys), by “listening” on social media, by tracking behaviour through transactions, or by observation. The best approach is actually to integrate all of the above sources in order to increase our chances of discovering unique business insights.

It looks like the word “insight” is mentioned a lot in this post... Perhaps it’s a giveaway on the new name for the MR industry? Well ‘insight’ is good but ‘foresight’ is probably even better. Does the current market research industry have what it takes to be a player in foresight generation? Instead of using rear view mirror techniques such as what Business Intelligence prescribes, can our industry make the leap toward Predictive Analytics?

Maybe we as an industry are a bit late in the game; the IBMs and the TeraDatas of this world are already players in this space and have been for a few years now. In any case the first step toward any change is introspection and soul searching. What is the role of our industry? If it still is to gather data then we should continue calling ourselves market researchers but if it is going to be more than that, then here are some candidates to trigger debate:

  • Insight Management
  • Foresight Research
  • Insight to Foresight Management
  • Business Decision Support
  • Organisation Decision Support

Changing the name will be the first step towards accepting some of the real changes that are taking place; the new truths that define who we are.  Please feel free to tweet me on @DigitalMR_CEO if you have any other ideas to suggest on the re-naming of the MR industry, or to let me know if you disagree. I look forward to learning more about your views and opinions on the above.

Share this article: