In our high school and college years, most of us has no idea that market research was a career, let alone a career that could be fascinating and personally fulfilling. We magically discovered it when we saw a job listing that needed our skills and that job happened to be at a market research company.
Along the way, however, as we got more comfortable with what we were doing and learned a broad range of new theoretical and technical skills, we realized just how fulfilling market research as a career is.
When I think about what I love doing at work, it’s impossible to pinpoint one single thing. There are so many unique and challenging aspects of the work. But, I’ll give it a whirl just the same.
- I love that every single project is a Nancy Drew mystery, albeit minus her extraordinary sewing, boating, and bridge playing skills. We’ve got a strong hook – a SKU isn’t selling, a brand is dying, a company might close down. We’ve got brand managers, marketers, and researchers chasing down clues before the data is lost in old reports, 404 Page Not Found websites, and memories of months and years long past. We’ve got conflicting data points from transactional data, social media data, questionnaire data, focus groups data, and eye-tracking data that suggest different guilty parties and conclusions and need to be wisely compiled. We’ve got red herrings all over the place, variables that seem to be important but are actually confounds, correlates, and multi-collinear. And the SKU murderer refuses to confess to the crime until someone puts together all of the clues. Du du duuuuuh!
- I love The Mystery of the Unarticulated Problem. It’s really satisfying to untangle vague conversations with brand experts who know that something is wrong but can’t articulate their specific concerns and then convert those puzzle pieces into detailed questionnaires and discussion guides that clearly and accurately address every concern the client didn’t know they had.
- I love The Mystery of the Double-Barreled Question. It’s gratifying to take a deep dive into questionnaires I’ve written to discover where people will struggle with my complicated questions, unclear wording, and personal cognitive biases. It’s always a challenge to pull myself out of the market research frame of mind and become a naïve research participant who doesn’t know the hypotheses, the client, the buzzwords, the framing, the objectives, or the desired outputs. The corrections that come out of this work make for vastly better questionnaires that are more accurate, more valid, and more user friendly.
- I love The Mystery of the Best Sample Target. Sure, we want Canadian data and we definitely want French-Canadian data. But wait, doesn’t this hypothesis relate to the US population as well? And are we concerned only with people using the brand or do we also need to understand how competitive users or nonusers feel about the brand or the category. It’s intriguing to watch the target group diverge and converge as each potential outcome is evaluated.
- I love The Mystery of the One-Way Mirror. Long heated discussions about the technical pros and cons of internal and external validity are quite fun. Yes, we need a shelf test. But will a speedy digital test using two-dimensional imagery do the trick? Or do we need a lab test so we can manipulate specific components of the physical environment and apply strict controls? Or do we need an in-field shelf-test to incorporate every aspect of sight, sound, sensation, and scent of the real world? It seems there is never one simple, perfect research method but there is always one that is best suited to the job at hand.
- I love The Mystery of the Numbers That Don’t Add Up. But I love it more when every key data point is dropped into a table and all the row and column sums add up to precisely 100%. It means that errors were averted and data are trustworthy.
Perhaps if Nancy Drew had embarked on a market research project, more of us would have realized as young people what a great career could lie ahead of us. Perhaps one of us ought to write market research book for kids. It might be the next Harry Potter series!
If you’re ready to solve another marketing research mystery, please get in touch with us!
You might like to read these:
- Conducting research is easy… if you understand hundreds of cognitive biases!
- 9 Essential Checks for a Questionnaire Pilot Test
- What are the key features of a perfect package test?
- From field to lab to virtual research methods: How to choose the right degree of external validity for your product shelf-test
- How to design market research telephone interviews that generate top quality data