Beyond Market Research #1. Mutual Marketing

Here's a funny thing. Corporate researchers (as embodied by the Market Research Society) are seeking new ways to tap ...

August 8, 2003

Here’s a funny thing.

Corporate researchers (as embodied by the Market Research Society) are seeking new ways to tap into the subconscious of customers so as to sell more powerful and eloborate brand dreams. According to the blurb for their annual conference, they want to promote and accelerate ‘The dream economy’. No, seriously.

Meanwhile, corporations’ ability to fufil even our basic requests seems to become more and more fragile each day. Can these all-powerless corporates really expect to implant dreams in our heads – without creating a social nightmare? The whole thing is a daydream. A Mitty-esque delusion.

A core tenet of the ‘Beyond Branding’ movement is that power is being rapidly decentralised from corporations to the communities they serve – and brands must therefore be nurtured to respond to the transactional and relationship needs of those communities.

But what does this mean for market research?

Well, consider what happens if we really acknowledge the inverted power-balance here. As human beings, we all know that real markets are not communities of prospective buyers, we are just visitors. Real, live markets are full of stalls, piled with mechandise and charming one-eyed cockneys. Markets are where consumers go to buy things, aren’t they?

So ‘market researchers’ should actually be researching market stalls, checking out the corporates, not the other way around. Consumers should be forming collectives to investigate and tap the dreams and aspirations of corporates. Then, we’d really know how to exploit them, get our CRM (corporate relationship management) programme aligned with our values, and really begin to exercise some true democratic power (see my blog on mutual marketing below).

So-called market researchers could do worse than listen to what the genuine consumer advocates are finding. They could start by listening to the consumers’ association. Listening to epinions. Listen to corporate watch. Watch ‘Rogue Traders’ and watchdog even, and listen, rather than merely medi-training their paranoid spokespeople. Start by talking, without an ‘agenda’. All this, of course, but so much more….

The MRS should actually be promoting genuine ‘market research’, by consumers, for consumers.

It’s no use the market research industry closing its eyes and chasing the money. Only by ‘going with’ this ebbing power-flow will the market research industry stand a chance of adding sustainable value – by building mutual comprehension between corporates and their customers. In short, the role of market research is in building a platform for trusting relationships – not by creating better segmentation! Say it with me. I am not an orange!!

(NB. Brands, by contrast, may well be oranges…see Brain Patten’s poem ‘When I went out, I stole an orange’, below).

For the avoidance of doubt, this rant isn’t about introducing more mystery shopping or mass observation though. that’s just not good enough. It’s about acknowledging that marketing flows both ways. Acknowledging and embracing symmetry. Market researchers are not fact-finders, and certianly not power-brokers. But they could be; should be, trust-brokers. Market research as active engagement. Market research as transformation. That’s where we’re heading.

The future of market research is about embracing buyer-centricity, and customer-managed relationships and customer collaboration and all those other good progressive things which challenge organisations to learn emotionally, as well as functionally.

The future of market research is the brave new world of mutual marketing.

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