Is Market Research really a Career?


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To compete for the best young talent, the Market Research industry has to increase its attractiveness as an industry.

To understand the perception young graduates have of our industry, Fringe Factory has set up a quantitative study with the support of InSites Consulting, SSI and ESOMAR Next. Together, we surveyed over 1,800 graduates across 9 countries to understand and assess how attractive Market Research is as a profession.

This report highlights 5 eye-catching insights and recommendations to make a change as an industry. The time is now!

Published in: Career, Business

Is Market Research really a Career?

  1. 1. IS MARKET RESEARCH REALLY A CAREER? What are young graduates looking for in an industry and what is their perception of Market Research?
  2. 2. ON A QUEST FOR TALENT What is the image of the Market Research (MR) industry amongst young graduates (grads)? What makes them tick? Is our industry considered a successful career path? To compete for the best young talent, the Market Research industry has to increase its attractiveness as an industry. To understand the perception young graduates have of our industry, Fringe Factory has set up a quantitative study with the support of InSites Consulting, SSI and ESOMAR Next. Together, we surveyed over 1,800 graduates across 9 countries to understand and assess how attractive Market Research is as a profession. Screenshot of the visual survey: the industry awards This report highlights 5 eye-catching insights and recommendations to make a change as an industry. The time is now! Thomas Troch & Lizet van de Kamp, Board members of Fringe Factory Countries: US, Brazil, UK, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Russia, India, China
  3. 3. FRINGE WHO? Fringe Factory was set up in 2011 by a small group of young researchers who work passionately within the Market Research industry across the world. And no, we are not a subsidiary, research agency, political party or recruitment agency, but we are working closely together with ESOMAR. Sarah Cunliffe MESH, UK SKIM, UK Will Goodhand David Gailey TNS, UK BrainJuicer, US Lizet van de Kamp Thomas Troch KAO, Germany We work in partnerships with universities where we regularly speak at career events, we arrange competitions to attend ESOMAR for graduates, and casual and fun events where graduates can meet industry experts (yearly during ESOMAR Congress). Chris Wallbridge InSites Consulting, Belgium Kyle Nel Tanmay Dhall Lowe’s Home Improvement, US TNS, South-Africa Get in touch with Fringe Factory! We appreciate your interest and would like to get in touch with you!
  4. 4. 1 Young graduates are inseparable from their smartphones and cannot imagine a life without social media. They are digital natives. But how are these skills relevant to Market Research?
  5. 5. TECHNOLOGY THUNDER Pew Research Center researched the reasons spontaneously given for what makes individuals from different generations feel distinctive. Notice the evolution from stating work ethic as a prominent identity claim to the technology use, confirmed by the social media thunder on the right. Generation Y Generation X Boomer Silent 1 Technology use (24%) Technology use (12%) Work ethic (17%) WWII/Depression (14%) 2 Music culture (11%) Work ethic (11%) Respectful (14%) Smarter (13%) 3 Liberal/tolerant (7%) Conservative (7%) Values/moral (8%) Honest (12%) 4 Smarter (6%) Smarter (6%) ‘Baby boom’ (6%) Work ethic (10%) Clothes (5%) Respectful (5%) Smarter (5%) Values/Morals (10%) 5 Pew Research Center, Jan 2010. 189 million Facebook users are ‘mobile only’ 1 in 5 couples meet online every second Young graduates, aged between 20 and 30 years old are part of Generation Y, a generation with a distinct identity. But what makes them different from previous generations? 2 new members join LinkedIn every minute 72 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube Social Media has overtaken porn as the #1 activity on the Web Sources: & SocialMediavieo 2013
  6. 6. FROM THUNDER TO BLUNDER Market Research isn’t even featured in the top ten of industries to be considered! Marketing, Management Consultancy and Advertising are leaving market research behind: only 13% of graduates with higher education would consider it. Q: Imagine the sky being the limit and anything being possible. Which industries would you consider working in? n = 1877 | f= None Speaking to personal interests, Travel and Entertainment & Media, Publishing and Broadcasting are popular industries. As digital natives, it’s no surprise graduates are attracted to Computer & ICT. But they are however also very interested in the security provided by governmental jobs. The attractiveness of the Government does vary from country to country. travel & entertainment 27% the government 26% media, publishing & broadcasting 26% computer & ICT (soft-hardware) 21% fashion 20% marketing 19% financial services, banks & insurances 17% food & beverages 17% management consultancy 16% The industries that speak most to the imagination of grads are very different. But what is driving their ambitions? What is guiding their choice? 30% advertising
  7. 7. IS TECHNOLOGY THE DRIVER? Ask young graduates what’s important for them in an industry and ‘income’ is mentioned the most when asked unprompted. But is it really that important? What if they had to select the most defining criteria? It is striking to see how demanding they are! As a Market Research industry we know consumers are more demanding than ever, we notice the same evolution in the job expectations of graduates. Important to very important criteria influencing the preference of an industry to work in. n = min 1798 | f = Excluded ‘Not applicable’ match with your personal interests 79% career opportunities 79% work-life balance 77% salary 76% job security 73% lifelong learning 71% More intrinsic motivators like personal interests, career path and work–life balance outperform the importance of money. Although salary remains an important decision factor, the real needs of grads go beyond the transactional. It is crucial to anticipate the changing needs of graduates. Understanding the ‘pull’ factors will help us to understand what they are looking for. 80% match with your field of study 69% fun culture 68% social responsibility 67% innovation level 57% external visibility & client contact 57% opportunity to work and live abroad 56% travel opportunities 50% contemporary image
  8. 8. GENERATION PC Overall the Government and ICT sectors are considered to be the best places to work, both awarded 12% of the votes. This can be interpreted from a generational perspective, we can actually talk about Generation PC. Short for Personal Computer and Perpetual Crisis. Personal Computer because they grew up with technology and recognize the technological advancements and opportunities in this field. The computer & ICT (soft-hardware) scores consistently highly (top 3) on important criteria like ‘match your personal interests’, ‘career opportunities’ and ‘work-life balance’. Perpetual Crisis because young graduates are concerned about finding a job in a period of ongoing recession. This atmosphere can lead to rather conservative choices, like the ambition to work for the government. “Computers and technology is something that's constantly changing and evolving. If you start in that field and are computer savvy, there's no limit to what you can do in the field of technology.” “Two words. Job security. In a struggling economy, government jobs can offer their employees a bit more stability. Oh sure, you'll never get rich, you'll be comfortable.” “In China, working in the government is fantastic as it provides you job security, facilities, authority, social respect, work satisfaction as you can be able to serve many people.”
  9. 9. 2 How to convince graduates who are considering a career in Market Research? It’s in the mix! They expect a healthy work-life balance, competitive salary and bright career opportunities.
  10. 10. TO MIX OR NOT TO MIX? Let’s now focus on potential MR talent. We know what drives the general population of young graduates, but how are grads who consider a career in Market Research different? They are ambitious, but don’t live to work. Important to very important criteria influencing the preference of an industry to work in. n = 123 | f = Considers working in, or likes to work in Market Research; excluded ‘Not applicable’ 85% work-life balance 85% salary 83% career opportunities 81% match with your personal interests 75% match with your field of study 74% job security 73% lifelong learning 72% innovation level 71% fun culture 64% opportunity to work and live abroad 4. Take responsibility for your own life 64% social responsibility 5. Live life to the full and be passionate 60% travel opportunities 6. Keep your promises 58% contemporary image 54% external visibility & client contact This is an important characteristic of Generation Y, and is confirmed by the ‘Ten Commandments of Youth’, featured in How Cool Brands Stay Hot (Van den Bergh & Behrer, 2011); 1. Have faith in yourself 2. Respect your parents 3. Be honest 7. Work hard to succeed but not to the detriment of others 8. Be tolerant of others’ differences 9. Be happy and optimistic, even in adversity 10. Create, don’t destroy (yourself, others, the earth, values)
  11. 11. WORKING NINE TO FIVE A healthy work-life balance is a key job selection criterion to decide which industry to work in. The Government is seen as the best industry to provide this and even industries matching personal interest like Travel & Entertainment and Computer & ICT score highly. Q: The Industry Award for ‘Best Work-life balance’ goes to… n = 213 | f = Evaluated at least one criterion as (very) important, and judged ‘Best Work-life balance’ as third most important criterion travel & entertainment 11% computer & ICT (software-hardware) 6% fashion 6% retail telecommunications 6% management consultancy 5% financial services, banks and insurances 4% marketing 4% media, publishing & broadcasting cosmetics 3% food & beverages 3% pharmaceutical / healthcare 2% “A good analysis can help us make the right decision and often promises a brighter future of a company while a bad one can even lead to bankruptcy, such work also means a lot of stress and too much stress will make people feel tired out.” 13% 3% “I wouldn't say it was the most stable industry to work in - lots of research companies fighting over the market.” the government 6% Market Research has a bad image in terms of a healthy balance. Graduates seem mostly to articulate the daily challenges of researchers instead of the benefits. 20% catering 2% market research 2% automotive 1% advertising 0% chemical
  12. 12. 3 The Market Research industry consistently underperforms on key decision criteria. If we make the comparison with Advertising, Management Consultancy and Accountancy, the true positives and negatives surface.
  13. 13. THE HEAT IS ON When comparing the perception of Market Research to Advertising, Management Consultancy and Accountancy by asking graduates to connect a set of statements to these industries, the negative perception of Market Research is nuanced, as you can see on the next page. But profound issues also surface… As an industry we are not visible enough, unlike Advertising, the outcome of a research project is not always tangible and the impact on a new product, service or campaign is not necessarily clear. In addition, there is a barrier between the industry and education. New techniques like social media analysis are rarely part of market research courses and little attention is paid to the rise of (online) qualitative research. Graduates simply don’t think of MR as a career.
  14. 14. THE HEAT IS ON Q: Please read the following statements and indicate which of these industries they most apply to. n = min 1439 | f = filtered out ‘Not applicable to any of these industries’ Market Research Shaping the world of tomorrow Working behind the scenes Dimension 2 (17,6% variance explained) Most people at university or college wouldn‘t think about this Industry as a career Management Consultancy Only validating and not collaborating Too academic and not about All about numbers and not about understanding real people creativity An Industry for nerds This is boring Accountancy Advertising An Industry with plenty of young and dynamic people Only thinking about commercial needs and not about the needs of users Dimension 1 (78,5% variance explained)
  15. 15. KEEP YOUR HEAD COOL If we can overcome these issues, there is a bright future ahead! Compared to competing industries, Market Research is highly associated with shaping the world of tomorrow. Q: Imagine we’re introducing every industry in a short presentation during the Award Ceremony. You have 5 minutes to talk about the Market Research sector. What would you say? What do you see as the pros and the cons of working in this industry? n = 1877 | f = None 10% Gaining insights 4% Innovative / creative 3% Access to new information and trends 2% Product knowledge 2% Observing Communication 1% First hand information on products 1% Quick-changing sector 1% “I feel that Market Researchers must have a lot of fun designing surveys in new and interesting ways. They also get the chance to learn a lot about our culture and what various sections of the population think.” Huge impact / Crucial for a company 2% “You would be constantly learning as you are researching new things and thus you would not get bored as your mind would be constantly active.” Determine people’s need / Connect w people 12% Graduates give surprisingly accurate and positive descriptions of Market Research, highlighting what the industry doesn’t emphasize enough; it’s all about people! It’s about understanding their needs, gaining insight into their expectations and inspiring innovation. 17% Young / modern 1% Newest technologies 1% Detail oriented
  16. 16. 4 Does validation and number crunching sound like fun? Let’s open the box and show graduates what Market Research is really about!
  17. 17. WHAT’S IN A NAME? quick-changing sector communication newest technologies first hand information on products crucial for product knowledge companies young / modern innovative / creative detail oriented understand people’s needs gaining insights access to new information and new trends observing Q: You have 5 minutes to introduce the Market Research sector. What would you say? n = 1877 | f= None Graduates have a clear vision of what Market Research is all about. Although this image looks very positive, it is not making the industry attractive enough for them to consider it. What’s wrong with it? The need for research is recognised, but the descriptions give limited insight into what the job of a market researcher is all about.
  18. 18. OPEN THE BLACK BOX While Market Research is all about opening up to the voice of the customer, it is not transparent as an industry. In comparison to other industries like advertising, the output of Market Research is unclear to young graduates and the process is still a 'black box'. The experience of young graduates with an industry drives their perception. While they are confronted daily with, for example, advertising campaigns, Market Research is not visible in their world. The first encounter is often from the participant perspective, and not all surveys or interviews are doing justice to the industry. A job as a researcher equals being stuck behind a computer for most graduates. There is little knowledge on any of the techniques apart from the traditional ones like street/telephone interviews and surveys. “Market research is pure sell of "wind" as there is no product, nothing tangible, only the price you pay the research and the cost of the failure that double characteristics tend to make.” “I think its very boring. No human contact etc. Others might think bad about this because of a lot of bad telephone research.” “There are a lot of absurd or not working surveys and dumb questions. Sometimes there are wrong conclusions or the person, who wants to answer, can/’t say her pure meaning, because the answer options are not logical or adequate.”
  19. 19. THE NEXT GENERATION Surveys and street/telephone interviews, is that all Market Research is about? Of course not! The GreenBook Research Industry Trends Report (2013) sheds light on the adoption of new research methods among research providers and clients. What if graduates knew about online communities, mobile surveys and social media analytics? Q: What use of these techniques and approaches do you see ahead in your future?
  20. 20. 5 Are you up for team work? Would you like to collaborate with smart people? Then why not consider Market Research?!
  21. 21. MIND THE GAP Only 13% of young graduates would consider working in Market Research. What is the gap between what they’re looking for and what they associate with this industry? The most appealing topic in the list on the right is ‘Innovation’ (69% appealing to very appealing) and fortunately innovation is also associated with MR. Q: Hit the space bar as quickly as possible when you see a word related to Market Research. n = 1877 | f = None Marketing 34% Innovation 32% Consulting 30% Social media 27% Numbers 26% Big data 25% So where does it go wrong? Next up in the most appealing topics is ‘Team spirit’ (65% appealing to very appealing) and ‘Smart people’ (64% appealing to very appealing). Collaboration with inspirational people is clearly something young graduates are looking for and don't think they'll find in Market Research. 46% Big brands 24% Team spirit 23% Smart people 22% Awards 18% Co-creation 14% Stories 14% Cool people 13% Parties 7% ESOMAR
  22. 22. PUT THE MR IN MARKETING While 13% of young graduates would consider a job in Market Research, only 3% list it as the best overall sector. The market research industry is mainly losing talent to the Marketing sector. Those considering a job in MR mostly give the award for the best industry to Marketing; 15% in comparison to 6% of the total sample. Q: And the Industry Award for Best Overall Sector goes to… n = 1877 | f = None Computer & ICT (soft-hardware) 12% The government 7% Financial services, banks and insurances 7% Pharmaceutical / healtcare 6% Marketing 6% Media, publishing & broadcasting 6% Travel & entertainment 6% Fashion 4% To convince both graduates who are already considering Market Research and those who are not, it will be important to emphasize the driving force of Market Research in the world of Marketing. 12% Telecommunications 4% Food & beverages 4% Management consultancy 4% Chemical 3% Automotive 3% Cosmetics 3% Market research 3% Retail 2% Advertising 2% Catering 5% Other
  23. 23. ! And now what? What can you do to help revamp the perception of the Market Research industry and attract young talent?
  24. 24. Open the ‘black box’ and prove the impact of research on Marketing To increase the visibility of the industry and the awareness of careers in Market Research, we have to open up. Connect with marketing and share successful research stories behind successful products, services and campaigns. Emphasize emotions of fun, dynamism, creativity and adventure to attract grads. Move away from boring reports and make the outcome of research something that’s shareable, creative and sexy, like an infographic.
  25. 25. Demonstrate the use of digital and social media tools There’s a direct connection between the technological evolution and hot topics like social media, the internet of things and the quantified self. The Market Research industry can find the match with the personal interests of young graduates by increasing the awareness of areas like community research and big data.
  26. 26. Communicate about the variety of jobs and career opportunities There are not a lot study fields that directly lead to a career in Market Research. This can be negative, as there is a lack of awareness, but it can also be positive, as there is inflow from different study fields. Increase internship and training opportunities and share how teams are composed; highlighting multidisciplinarity and career opportunities. Highlight different functions - like qualitative research, quantitative research, analytics, interviewing and data processing to attract grads with unique backgrounds and distinct skills.
  27. 27. Cross the bridge between the industry and education There is a gap between a Market Research course and the reality; new techniques and the rise of (online) qualitative are rarely part of such courses. These can attract a new audience to the industry, looking for a people centric approach, innovation and creativity. Increase the presence of Market Research at career events and bring MR professionals into the classroom to paint a realistic picture of the industry.
  28. 28. Get in touch with us!