Recent discussions floated around on various market research blogs, social media, and member groups are comparing our profession to rocket science. While we’d all like to think our jobs mirror the rigor of the scientific theories and practices of aeronautic space travel and NASA experiments, we need to step back and ask ourselves “Is it possible?”
Perhaps. But, as I constructed my response in my head, I was faced with another reality of sorts. As the summer winds down and I think about the learning adventures students will embark upon this school year, I can’t help but think how similar their experiences in the classroom will parallel what we market researchers do every day.
Blessed to have taught for the better part of 10 years, I had the pleasure of conducting true “research” with children eager to learn. Each new unit began with a gathering of minds and the implementation of a K-W-L investigation. What’s a K-W-L you ask? At its most basic level, it stands for Know-Want to Know-Learned. Before we began to read, explore and inquire about a new subject matter, we created a running record of what we already knew about it – accurate or not. This collective brain dump created a laundry list of ideas, facts, and anecdotes, and provided the perfect backdrop for our inquisitive minds to ask: What else do we want to know? It was here that we asked the questions beckoning to be answered, from which we set the foundation for our pending exploration. The next few weeks were filled with reading books, talking to experts (aka parents), conducting online searches, and watching Magic School Bus videos. From this research, we compiled a list of facts, and better yet, answers to our questions. This usually included a few “Ah-Ha” moments when students realized what they thought they knew was maybe not so right – a true learning experience!
So, how does this correlate to market research? Quite simply, we recognize a yearning that needs to be satisfied. This involves isolating what we already know about a product, brand, audience, etc., and creating a hypothesis from that information. The K (or what we think we know). We then identify the research goals and objectives of the study. The W (what we want to learn). From there, we interact with people – our target audiences – and ask the questions that will garner the insights our clients desire. Our findings – or story – are then delivered in a report filled with what we learned. The L.
Rocket science? Perhaps not. But isn’t it comforting to know that the future of market research is bright, as education is cultivating the next generation of inquisitive explorers who will tackle the grand questions of consumerism? I’d say so!