Market research in 2020

Recently I enjoyed the pleasure of participating in a debate on the future of market research, organised by MOA. Apart from myself, Carola Verschoor (BrainJuicer), Govert van den Bos (MWM2 &, Mieke van Os ( and Marco Drenth (KPMG) also gave their vision on the future role and relevance of the profession. What should we remember from that discussion?

Respect for the basics

If we do not make any changes, market research is signing its own death warrant. Consumers are the crude oil of the sector, but we do not treat them with respect, we treat them lavishly. There are alternative sources of information, but we can never do without consumers: “Perception is reality” is valid pre-eminently in marketing. Furthermore consumers can have a much greater meaning for market research than the limited role they have been attributed so far. They can help us better understand their world, refine ideas, create new products or services, help brands grow, beta-test concepts etc.

Looking forward

We have to look ahead rather than to look back. Market research often only aims at limiting risks or justifying decisions. Instead we should try and predict consumer behaviour, offer inspiration and specific solutions. We should more frequently consider emotions rather than make rational considerations, e.g. starting off from behaviour economics, social sciences and psychology.


Researchers are not open enough to internal challenges of their clients and think too little as marketers. If researchers want to become consultants they will need to develop various capabilities and competences which are mainly lacking today: interest and understanding of their clients’ business, strong presentation and persuasion skills, focus on integration and storytelling, etc.

Experimenting, but also focusing

Too many researchers simply say yes to everything. Build a network of structural partnerships with other parties and aim for things you can excel in. But then again, many other researchers do not spot new opportunities. Many of them missed the boat of immense options offered by new media and technology. This does imply, however, that they have to be open to atypical market research profiles.

No Calimero

Given the increasing power of the consumer and the fact that market research traditionally is closest to that customer, the future’s perspectives in the sector are positive. The time has come for the market researchers to escape their ‘Calimero’ complex by putting themselves in a subordinate position. It is a unique chance to lift market research to a much higher strategic level. Who knows, there might soon be a seat available for a “Chief Consumer Officer” in the boardroom.

‘Winston Wolf’ speed and action
Some of you may remember Winston Wolf from the much rewarded Tarantino-film ‘Pulp Fiction’. Speed, passion for action and integration become much more central. New methods such as research communities act upon this to perfection: the support a continuous dialogue with consumers, they help to see the full picture rather than fragments, they ask questions we had not thought of ourselves, they offer a 24/7 help line for the marketer and ensure a joint vision by gathering various parties around the consumer.
This column was originally published in MarketingTribune.

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