Is ‘Immersion’ A Threat To Traditional Market Research?

Nigel Hollis, reflecting on P&G’s so-called call for consumer immersion, asks what such a trend means for marketers’ understanding of their customers, and if immersion will proliferate at the expense of traditional market-research methods. Nigel concludes:

[M]ost of us would benefit from combining the shallow view provided by most traditional research with the much more in-depth view provided by participating in peoples’ lives. However, the two are not substitutable. Without the context of professionally conducted qualitative and quantitative research, the risk of an insight from immersion turning out to be trivial, biased or just plain wrong is high. But equally, we should admit that without the context of experiencing the lives of real people, our research may run the risk of being opaque, uninspiring and unappreciated by those that need to use it. 

I agree and commented:

The ultimate question is: What is the connection between participative insights and traditional quantitative research? Where do they meet, and how should we frame them relative to one another? How do we make them sing together?

Certainly, they both play a major role. The argument for participitave, immersive techniques stems from questions about how in-touch traditional quant methods are with our ability to deconstruct decision-making processes. Then again, with immersive, qualitative techniques, one needs to achieve dimension and categorize data, which are often richer, spontaneous and unstructured.

I think there’s a powerful undercurrent, which is critical to growing interest in immersive techniques for collecting consumer insights. It was actually the final of ten top trends impacting marketing measurements, which I wrote about in a recent MediaPost colum:

Reevaluating relationships with whom and what we measure. As consumers become more empowered, the disciplines of measurement and research will increasingly cater to them (just as marketers are doing in general). Top-down, “people-are-subjects” measurement approaches will need to evolve toward greater propositions of relationship, loyalty, value, trust and reciprocity.

The market research industry is prone to talk about how consumer empowerment is changing the rules of marketing. But consumer empowerment also is changing the rules of market research, and the irony is that most market researchers don’t acknowledge it. I think Nigel’s question about immersion is one of many important discussions we’ll increasingly probe as consumer empowerment’s impact on market research becomes ever more apparent and unavoidable.

Published by Max Kalehoff

Father, sailor and marketing executive.

Leave a comment