Monday, May 19, 2014

Yes, Let's Think Harder

“Think harder.” That’s the tag line that welcomed me as I came into the opening session at the Future of Consumer Intelligence event today. For some reason, I have always looked at an event’s tagline as an indicator of the conference coordinators; understanding of what is relevant in market research. A wishy-washy tagline usually means a “kitchen sink” conference. A tagline along the lines of “evolve of die” (usually stated more politely but with that underlying message), tends to be heavy on vision, light on practical applications.
But “think harder” works for me.

It happens to align—and I swear it’s a coincidence—with a post I made on May 9th: Market Research is Hard Work.

The “Think Harder” theme also transitioned well to the opening keynote by John Havens, whose talk on personal data actually had a few specific implications for how we market researchers need to think harder about a couple of things. Most concretely, for me anyway, are the following two:

Think harder about how we refer to customers. And specifically, stop using the word “consumer.” If we are trying to market to, and presumably engage during research with, people who buy stuff, calling them “consumers” is a turn off. It has negative connotations. It’s kind of like how we researchers are often careful to refer to “research participants” and not “survey respondents.” Thinking harder about how we refer to people before, during and after the research process may help us improve research participant engagement.
Think harder about how we research customer behavior. John shared the example from “big data” and personal tracking that the important findings do not come from one-to-one data relationships. That is, if you were to only test the hypothesis that weight loss leads to happiness, you won’t get real insights. But if you track a wide variety of possible variables (heart rate, sleep cycle, exercise, etc.), you may discover a surprising item (or surprising amalgamation of items) predicts the outcome of interest. Focusing on one hypothesis at a time may be an example of not working hard enough.
While many of John’s interesting observations and anecdotes were much broader (his information on personal privacy was fascinating), in terms of “so what” for me as a market researcher, it was his connecting to “think harder” that truly resonated.
This post was written by Kathryn Korostoff of Research Rockstar LLC. Follow Kathryn @ResearchRocks or email her at

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