As the title says (and as everybody knows, obviously 🙂), Marketing Research is about taking pictures of consumers or, to be more precise, taking snapshots of certain aspects of consumers’ lives – habits, beliefs, needs and stuff like that.
Similar with what happens in Photography, finding worthy images quite often requires taking a lot of pictures, many of which will be discarded in the end after being deemed unworthy of qualifying for the final album.
Of course, this does not mean they are completely worthless – a blank image can tell you things are quiet on a particular front, but you wouldn’t point that out unless you know that area is of strong interest to the client.
“Nothing’s going on here” is a rather short and full story and we are all looking after captivating stories after all, right?
Churning the Photographs from the pile of pictures is just a part of the process, you also have to arrange them in a certain order so they can make sense to the viewer (the client).
The prettiest the Photographs (the Insights), the neatlier they are arranged in a lovely album, the nicer the Story (the Report) and the more powerful the impact on the client.
But I think we have to keep in mind there are more similarities with the Art of Photography. That doesn’t necessarily mean I’m just bragging that Marketing Research is also a kind of an art (although I secretly like to think so). It simply means as The Photography is not merely a simple reflection of reality, but a reinterpretation of reality, so is Marketing Research.
As Photography means playing with light, subjects and with various filters, so does Marketing Research.
Based on the clients’ needs, researchers are choosing subjects and are looking at them from a certain perspective/light.
Researchers are also applying various filters (such as market research knowledge and experience, methodologies, best practices etc.) on the reality. And those filters are interleaving with clients’ filters (industry & their market knowledge and experience, business requirements, strategy and so on).
Last but not least, you have to keep in mind consumers are applying their filters as well, whether we like it or not, and we, the ones higher on the “Food chain” (both clients and researchers) have little control over them.
And let’s not forget about the unconscious filters we are all always carrying around (the way our view of the world is shaped by our upbringing, environment, personality and general life experience).
Thus, I strongly believe it’s very healthy to take a humility pill from time to time – be always aware your pictures, no matter how pretty, insightful and useful you think they are, are not capturing the Absolute Essence of Reality.
Take a step back and break away from the daily Client -> Researcher -> Consumer routine, which is often unconsciously driving you towards a linear and much too simple perception of reality.
Remember that you, the researcher or you, the end client, are also a consumer.
Acknowledge all consumers are people just like you, not just mere buying machines as they are often portrayed in internal corporate communication and planning (and, to be honest, sometimes in research language too).
The distinction between “Us” and “Consumers” is not as clear cut as it seems but sometimes is taken more seriously than it should, unfortunately.
I’m convinced this way of looking at people increases the chances for you to avoid taking a dull picture, forgotten in seconds after looking at it, and rather making a Photograph the viewers will really enjoy and which you will still be proud of years after you created it.