Over the years I have seen a lot of companies producing tons of useless market research mostly telling them things they already know or useless data collected using the wrong methodologies or not properly interpreted. In most cases they commissioned the research, simply because they had allocated the budget for it, so they do it on a yearly basis. I guess the research vendor simply take out last year proposal and updated it slightly. So data collection and interpretation are on autopilot.I think we should tax these market research companies for wasting too many papers, they need to buy some carbon offsets.
And in some cases they did not even know why they were doing the research in the first place, and in other cases, management could have saved the company a lot of money and get better output by just spending a few days talking and listening to the feedback from the front-line people or customers.
Market research can be an extremely valuable tool when properly designed and with a very specific goal in mind to support a strategic initiative. The important questions to ask yourself before undertaking any research are:
- What do I want to know? Can talking to customers directly give us the answers or we need alternative way to get those data?
- Why do I need this information? Are we exploring new unknowns or validating some strategic decisions? Can the results link to a direct decision or help us to enrich our insights and make educated decisions?
- Do I want a research vendor that has been doing this for 10 years with all our competitors and carry the same inertia and legacies as we do? Or we need someone with fresh perspectives and creative methods to help us to reframe the problems?
I remember an old saying that "50% of advertising is wasted, except we don’t know which half." It is probably fair to say 50% of all research effort is a total waste, the thing that is different this time is it is not difficult to know which half. Here’s an example. Some Harvard and Northeastern universities researchers wanted to know or ascertain just how happy Americans are. Because they needed to place their fingers upon every wrist of American in order to get a sense of that, they creatively turned to Twitter.
The researchers analyzed 300 million tweets to determine just when and where people are happiest and saddest in the US. And the result...very unsurprisingly .... that the highly civilized, caring, relaxed, open-minded, and more delectable West Coast is "significantly happier" than the miserable folks in the east.
OK that’s nothing new here, people living in the west are always happier. People who love ice-cream are happier. Those creative spirits and geeks living our west that are constantly thinking about bettering-the-world, and never have to worry about the ‘hows’, at the same time some of the world’s smartest engineers are working on some disruptive apps, but have no idea of how it will make money. If we don’t need to worry about execution, we will all be a little happier too.