Win internal buy-in for robust market research

This is the second Mindlab interview in a series of three with the renowned author and leading expert in consumer behaviour, Philip Graves.

For insight, strategy and planning teams who want to gain internal buy-in for a thorough, scientific approach to market research, Philip recommends:

1. Understand the psychology

“The same psychology that helps you understand consumers is true within the consumption of market research as a product. It’s easy to see why it’s purchased. People are massively keen to avoid using cognitive resources to make decisions. As human beings, we take shortcuts. In this case, the shortcut is to carry out research in the same way as it was done last time because it requires less thinking and feels like it entails less risk than doing something in a new way.

“People are capable of believing all sorts of things that aren’t true for long periods of time. Some of the things we’ve moved on from believing, we look back and think: ‘Really? A God of the Sea? How ridiculous! That’s just tidal currents, the moon, the weather.’ History is dotted with it and it continues to be the case that people believe in ideas which are demonstrably not provable. Change makes people feel uncomfortable and you need to recognise this at the outset.”

2. Find advocates

“It’s ironic that the strongest believers are the people who are closest to the commissioning of research. As you move away from the epicentre, there is a lot more scepticism within commercial organisations about whether asking people questions is the right tool. Find influential people internally who are interested in experimentation and ask for their thoughts and support.

“People coming into a team or a business can mix things up by bringing in new tools and techniques and previous evidence of success. When people have an endorsement from someone else, that is always a comforting thing.”

3. Recognise the roots of successful organisations

“I would argue that what fuelled the success of many technology companies was their ability to innovate around genuine insights. It was easy and natural for them to collect behavioural data. Even most established non-technology businesses started small and learned the fastest when they were trying to grow because they were more sensitive to what worked and what didn’t (and were far less reliant on asking consumers questions to guide their path).

“Unfortunately, many businesses, even ones that used a lot of behavioural data and experimentation initially, reach a point where they start to behave like traditional businesses in terms of the insight they reference in decision-making. They bring in people with traditional insight backgrounds and old ways of doing things because they think these methods are a part of a larger organisation’s success. Instead, these approaches distance the company from the understanding of behavioural data that made them what they are.”

For more insights from Philip, read our other interviews on:

Philip Graves is the author of Consumer.ology: The Truth about Consumers and the Psychology of Shopping. He is the founder of research company Shift Consultancy which, for the last decade, has worked with clients as diverse as Abode and the BBC. Mindlab is proud to have worked with Philip on a number of projects for clients including innocent, Lloyds Bank and Diageo. Philip is also an associate at leading economic consultancy, Frontier Economics, where he specialises in behavioural economics strategy work.


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