Okay, so that’s not exactly what Helen Edwards meant in her excellent, and once again relevant, article from last July on the election prediction errors. (Marketing 1.7.15) However, this paragraph did make me laugh.

“The research industry likes to think it suffuses our decision-making with the light of understanding, but the reality is more like pinpricks of light emerging into our cave of ignorance. If there are enough of them, and if they come from different directions, then we can pick a few features out in the gloom – all the while reckoning that it could look very different tomorrow”

Mind you? Even if you ignore any insinuations about the members of the research fraternity, it is so semiotically loaded with images of dark caves, gloominess & ignorance I do wonder whether there’s a hidden message in it for us?  I’ll resist the urge to commission a poll to find out.

The core message in this article is spot on. It advocates use of multiple avenues of investigation and eschews reliance on a single source as definitive evidence.

 “At best, it means embracing the academic ideal of ‘triangulation’, where different methodologies are interleaved to help identify underlying themes. If, say, co-operative enquiry, ethnography and conjoint analysis all seem to point to a common motif, you might be on to something”

In our experience, market research rarely delivers an absolute answer. And no single method approach ever delivers an absolute answer. Certainly not the default 4 groups in Birmingham approach.

Good research is about piecing together a strong point of view derived from multiple sources.  A forensic analysis that seeks pieces of evidence to build our incremental knowledge.  It uses what we already know and adds what is missing.

This is why we created The Forge. Because insight isn’t found. Insight is forged. Forged from from a combination of relevant sources and methods.

For example, we were recently asked to make an assessment of the risk of people changing their behaviour towards a certain type of product in a category.

Predicting the future? Never a simple undertaking!

We used qualitative & quantitative research to understand & size existing beliefs and behaviours. We hypothesised groups with different likelihoods to change and with different triggers.

We explored factors likely to influence those beliefs & behaviours in future by looking at comms and social media & the cultural relevance of the issue under investigation in different countries.

We cross checked hypotheses with case studies that modelled consumer reaction to similar scenarios in other categories.

An example of multiple sources of evidence coming together to create a model that categorized risk by segment & country and gave the client confidence to act.

The article did prompt one final thought that brings this post nicely full circle…

I do actually wonder whether the market research industry might benefit from a bit more ‘pricking’?  You know? A bit more challenging, a bit more provocative, a bit more making stuff happen….

Image from Shutterstock

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