Language matters. When you speak a certain way or use certain words, it means something. It creates an impression. Then why is it we are not mindful of the impressions we create when using jargon or specialised vocabulary during our professional life in market research.
My example today is the verb we have been using to talk about buying a research project: we commission it. Talk about keeping us in a restrictive and claustrophobic frame of mind.
If you asked a person what they thought of when they heard the word ‘commission’, they would probably tell you about 18th century portraits, architectural blueprints, luxury yachts or even haute couture. Because commissioning implies a great deal of formality around the purchase itself, a longer time span and an association with artisanal craftsmanship.
Back in the old days when market research was the main source of consumer data, there was a sense of formality and connotation that longer timescales could only lead to unquestionably impeccable results.
Those days are gone and the pace at which businesses operate today is crazy. Nowadays, insights are closer to a commodity and there is about as much formality to purchasing them as ordering a takeaway. Any suggestion of commissioning work implies that time is not important and makes the user look ignorant of the need for speed.
Not only is this vintage jargon disconnected from current dynamics in our industry, it creates an old fashioned impression of participants in these processes and fails to acknowledge the pace of evolution in the market research value chain.
In no way do I mean to say that there is no craftsmanship or skill in our industry. There is tonnes. However, I believe that for most research, the real value lies in the design of methodology and strategic consultancy – where, for the majority of research projects, the ‘supply chain’ in between can be powered by technology.
There is little value or craftsmanship in the operational side of research. Here we cannot compete with the machines. Now the challenge of leveraging tech to deliver speed while retaining quality is our problem – not the client’s. I say out with the sweatshop practices and in with the KanBan lean supply chain approach to produce raw insights.
When speaking about our industry and the dynamic between clients and agencies, we should use language that empathizes with a client’s need for results today and be a data navigator to guide them based on the insights generated.
Let’s stop commissioning research and starting running a study.
You can find the original version of this post on research-live.com