Evolving Research in an Increasingly Agile World

Jeff Gothelf interviewed Farrah last year at Lean Day London. The discussion unveils how to cope with the broken parts of research and embrace the changes. 

The broken bits…

Market research firms continue to default to the “hand off approach": The people that do all the learning aren’t usually actively part of the creative team or client team.

A lot of calls to market research companies come too late - after companies are already deeply invested (financially and politically or emotionally) in the product or campaign. 

Even when research comes in upfront, there is still too much lag time between research and execution, leaving time for people to 'forget' what they learned or to demote the importance of what they've learned.

Marketing and internal research and insights teams remain skeptical of the ability of developers/designers/creative directors to be open to criticism and potentially bad news; gate keeper groups try to protect the creatives by acting as a criticism filter. 

Trends and changes…

The speed in which social media moves makes marketers question implementing marketing in real time - this is very trendy but not very practical.

CMOs are charged with more responsibility for the product (this is especially apparent in media, publishing and tech companies, but evident in other categories as well).

Companies are elevating their definition of marketing from merely a message to a service or something actually useful for consumers. 

KPI goal posts are shifting away from brand preference metrics toward increased usage or sales: "More product-like experiences call for more product-like metrics." 

More product-like experiences call for more product-like metrics.

Organizations are (or should be) implementing flexible, lightweight and participatory research efforts across teams, welcoming research into the design and development process. 

Approaches for surviving and thriving…

Combat objections to small sample sizes by remembering the purpose of talking to customers is direction and illumination - to quickly test hypothesis and generate new ones.

Match the types of questions to the method of asking. Stop asking “how many,” “how much,” “how often” when humans aren't very good at thinking about and recalling their behavior in this way.

Introduce the “SPF effect” of qual research (after 8 interviews you’ve hit 30 SPF or 85% of the protection you need) to make “less science-y", more iterative approaches less scary. 

Going forward…

Models for brands, communications, and behavior will probably be stripped down or reimagined as we realize the ones we have as an industry aren't that useful.

Tools for research will likely be reinvented, increasing their flexibility and level of customization.

Shifts in behavior will help research companies transform their attitudes and beliefs about how marketing works.

We'll get more realistic and more practical.