Strikethrough-A Perspective on Marketing and Market Research

Posted in Marketing & Strategy Articles, Total Reads: 1342 , Published on 12 November 2013

Do you remember the game ‘Lego’! a seemingly constructive game where blocks are placed over and adjacent to each other to create a master piece, and hold on, the master piece is not an abstract that looks like a vague piece of modern art but something simple, colourful and of interest to the kid like an engine, a super hero, a hut, a war tanker already given as an image to the kid on a paper.

It’s really not just about putting the right shaped block; it’s about maintaining the colour consistency and going through it. But making a new master piece required scraping it off and beginning afresh. As I have grown up and gotten closer to the avenues of being a marketer, it is fun to draw analogies that are more heart felt, much more engraved in the Lizard brain (as neurologists call it).


Now imagine if you were left alone in a room only with the lego board and the blocks, and you had to imagine something and create it. How would you begin? Probably, by picturing how something in particular would look like and start with it, unmindful of the dimensions, the colours, you might alter and improvise as you go through. That’s almost how I think about market research. (Oh wait is it Marketingresearch?)  You begin with a probable picture in mind which becomes your hypothesis and then based on what you have experienced/witnessed so far, you initiate it.

Market Research Vs Marketing Research

Before we jump on two the necessities or un-necessities of the two, lets understand what is exactly the meaning and the difference in the two. Market Research is essentially research related to markets .i.e digging into the market trends like political, economic, social, technology trends, a comparison with direct & indirect competitors. Marketing Research deals with researching about marketing channels/techniques which aid in developing the profile of the customer who would most certainly buy our product. Now they are obviously not exclusive fields of research .They over lap when it comes to product pricing, competition analysis and product attribute detailing.


Is Market Research really needed  ?

As an MBA student , almost 10% of your inbox is filled with survey requests by friends, by  class mates, far acquaintances, and old friendships suddenly pop up  with a “Hi, how are you?” and then are diverted to “ Can you please fill this survey for me?” Today Market Research is a well-defined course in the curriculum, what is often lost in studying the course  in-depth is the why of the course? Is it an optional contemplated step or is it a mandatory prequel.

I am convinced by the need of Marketing research since the results of it are to be applied in answering the question – “How to best reach the potential consumer?” but what lies outside the purview of my understanding is relying  solely on  market research to conclude what product must be created by the company ?

Had there been a focus group discussion conducted to understand if the customer needs a bulb, the answers would have been myriad, humans love to form opinions and convince everyone about them, they would say it will generate heat , it might blast and harm someone, it might draw huge power etc. If their opinions had become the underlying opinions, we could have never literally seen  light of the day bulb?

Does that mean a research may not always be a mandate? Well , if we revisit the most amazing inventions and discoveries , not all of them had been a derivation of someone sitting through and mapping the market , finding the need gap and thus telling the scientist /developer to work on it because that is not how high intellect individuals work. Hollow constraints generated by seemingly imperfect survey results might just block the thought process of the scientist/developer.

Is Marketing Research foolproof?

And if at all marketing research is what is finally resorted to for understanding which marketing technique should be adopted, what still creates a gap in survey results and actual acceptance of a product by the consumer is that there is a lot of difference in being the real user and being just a respondent .There are a lot of tangents in the human behaviour which do not let him being his real self when he/she is answering for a questionnaire.  Anonymous online surveys do not gauge everything. Exceptions include tapping their first reaction to something that is aesthetically pleasing or their impulse buying behaviour.

A distant dream ?

So then are we aiming something ideal, something that is impossible to achieve through Market Research?  Is it a waste resource?

Well, the answer is no. What is needed is to strike through the old methodologies used in conducting both market and marketing research. In my opinion marketing research literally needs a dose of its own medicine. It needs to reposition and develop itself. It’s objectives don’t need an alteration. What probably needs to be altered is the approach towards achieving the objective. A shift from asking to observing, from questioning to an informal discussion, from insight to foresight ,from quarterly reports to 24*7 insights, from gauging purely rational reactions to partly emotional reactions because not all choices are logic or aesthetic driven, sometimes all it takes is to identify the connect a product might have with its audience . What is needed is to ‘Strikethrough’ the set procedures, step in to the unexplored because ‘inking new is always in’.


The article has been authored by Shalini Chhabra, NMIMS.


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