Confidence in market research lies with researchers

If one word could sum up the Market Research Society’s (MRS) annual conference, it’s confidence.  

Mindi Chahal

The industry needs to have confidence in its own abilities in order to instil confidence internally within organisations and in brands looking to conduct research. 

At the conference, the new president of MRS, Camelot chief executive Dianne Thompson, backed up the industry by stating “any good customer-facing business must have a brilliant insight team at its heart”. 

Thompson went on to say that as a client, Camelot doesn’t take decisions and validate it with research but uses research and get insight to take decisions. 

Researchers should take this boost and run with it. 

Jane Frost, chief executive of MRS says: “It may be that we are getting to a point in the industry and the economy where people are prepared to challenge. When you are in recession you are hunkering down and hoping that the next day you are getting the right amount of commissions and the right amount of budget. The confidence is starting to come back now, but it’s how we grasp it and allow clients to take risks.”  

One internal brand research team is taking up this challenge. Waitrose pushed research into the minds of the entire organisation with its Pulse programme.  

The programme involves a series of events to help unlock business growth whereby senior mangers go out to stores and follow customers to get insight from their shopping behaviours; they then feed the learnings back to the rest of the business.  

Waitrose’s strategy was echoed in a speech from Procter & Gamble’s Roisin Donnelly who said: “It’s not just a specialist job to understand the consumer, it’s everybody’s job to understand consumers”.  

Being increasingly tactical in the way market research is conducted was also a key theme at the conference. 

Heinz, for example, used Conquest Research’s Metaphorix method to capture emotional and social response to Heinz Beans – where respondents show how a brand makes them feel through avatars and animation. As Heinz is a well-known brand, the technique allowed the brand to see beyond the obvious associations. 

The Heinz and Waitrose case studies were just two examples of brands seeing research as a vital element in understanding customers and building the brand. 

The researchers attending the conference were able to see the effect market research has on the industry rather than worry about its place in those organisations, and as Frost told me, she wants people “to stand up and take action and not go back and act on worry, but to act on confidence”.