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How parenting has taught me to appreciate the value of market research

Posted by David Mazva on May 12th, 2013 at 8:21 pm

It dawned on me in the middle of a Barney and Caillou marathon with my two-year-old on New Year’s Eve … how priorities have changed!

Traditionally a time when people take stock of personal and professional successes and set goals for the next year, I found myself singing along to: ‘I love you, You love me …’.

At this point you might be thinking, ‘Is this blog now getting into what Barney, that ghastly purple dinosaur, can teach me about marketing or marketing research?’

No dear reader, I wouldn’t do that to you … I give you more credit than that. But you’re close!

What could parenting and marketing research possibly have in common?

Outside of work, much of my free time is spent figuring out how to be the best possible father, raise an adjusted child and a good citizen of the world. And that’s how I found myself enjoying the book Erik Erikson’s ‘Eight Stages of Life’, essentially about the development of personality from birth through death.

In reading about these stages, my mind naturally turns to my chosen field of marketing research, specifically as it relates to the role that research plays within an organization, and its stages of acceptance within that organization. As mentioned, Erikson’s eight stages go from birth to death, but I will focus on those stages from infancy to adolescence.

I’ve taken the liberty of modifying this work to make it more meaningful and relevant to this audience, and am providing my own thoughts and reflections as they loosely relate to each ’stage of development’.

Stage 1 : Infants learn to trust, researchers gain credibility

Infancy (birth to 18 months)

Erikson’s theory My reflection
Basic conflict Trust vs. mistrust Credibility
Outcome Children develop a sense of trust when caregivers provide reliability, care and affection. A lack of this will lead to mistrust. Those within an organization need to trust the integrity of the data, to use it with confidence and believe it can add value.

Marketers and others within an organization often doubt research. Maybe that’s because the data doesn’t agree with the story they want to convey, or worse, the data itself has quality issues.

It’s critical to get buy-in on the integrity of the data provided. It should be designed, organised, labelled and structured the way you like to see it.

Stage 2 : Toddlers crave autonomy, researchers seek control over data

Early childhood (2 to 3 years)

Erikson’s theory My reflection
Basic conflict
Autonomy vs. shame and doubt Control over data
Outcome Children need to develop a sense of personal control over
physical skills and a sense of independence. Success leads to feelings of autonomy, failure results in feelings of shame and doubt.
Researchers want personal control. With the right tools, being able to drill down into your data leads to a sense of independence and autonomy.

Having access to research data can be empowering. Some people within an organization may be data-savvy enough to really dig in and mine the data with one of the powerful data investigation tools around.

However, sometimes guardrails are appropriate and users won’t want full flexibility, so use a more appropriate option. Actually, being able to physically view the data is critical and provides a sense of autonomy.

This often frees up resources of the research function and can reduce costs to vendors for ad hoc data requests.

Stage 3 : Preschoolers take the initiative, researchers reduce silos

Preschool (3 to 5 years)

Erikson’s theory My reflection
Basic conflict Initiative vs. guilt Reduction of silos
Outcome Children need to begin asserting control and power over
the environment. Success in this stage leads to a sense of purpose. Children who try to exert too much power experience disapproval, resulting in a sense of guilt.
With the ability to manipulate and investigate data, individuals take ownership. Once siloed, information can be shared, it allows for decision-making that spans across various functions within an organization.

Often data sits in various places, rendering the information useless.

Being able to bring multiple data sources together to make informed decisions is invaluable, as is the ability to share information across different business functions.

Stage 4 : Young school children navigate social demands, researchers engage in group decision making

School age (6 to 11 years)

Erikson’s theory My reflection
Basic conflict Industry vs. inferiority Group decision-making
Outcome Children need to cope with new social and academic demands.Success leads to a sense of competence, while
failure results in feelings of inferiority.
Cross-functional decision-making leads to a more holistic approach at driving strategy and setting objectives.

Providing access to data, either through an analysis or data visualization tool, provides users with an opportunity to interact more and share information, making collective decisions.

The more people who have access to information, the better the end decisions.

Stage 5 : Adolescents become competent, researchers take action

Adolescence (12 to 18 years)

Erikson’s theory My reflection
Basic conflict
Identity vs. role confusion Action
Outcome Teens need to develop a sense of self and personal identity.
Success leads to an ability to stay true to yourself, while
failure leads to role confusion and a weak sense of self.
Conviction and courage to take action based on
consumer research insights data.

The propensity to act on business decisions based on research findings, varies by company. Research is expensive and the decisions that stem from the research and value received, is constantly under review. It takes courage to stand by research and act on its findings, to help move an organization forward with its business objectives.

Find inspiration - it's out there!

Inspiration for drawing insights regarding research can come from the oddest places. In thinking about the child development process, parallels can be drawn to understand how to better achieve success with research, within an organization.

Giving credibility to research data and providing people access to research data, sets an organizational culture that values and welcomes research. Further, access to data helps reduce silos and encourages group decision-making

Once consensus is researched, organizations must have the courage to act.

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