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  • Writer's pictureEngland Marketing

What can Marketing teach Market Research?

Aside from learning how to market it's value more in the marketing mix...there is a lot a lot for researchers to learn from those marketers that we work alongside...

I spent over 10 years working in marketing before becoming a market researcher. I trained, learned and studied ways to get people to part with their money through advertising, creative copywriting, nudges, messages at just the right time and strong calls to action.

I studied my audience, targeted them and made sure that what I did resonated with them so strongly that they put their hands in their pockets and spent their cold hard cash on my promises.

Ok, so it wasn’t quite as merciless as that…much of my marketing was in the charity sector, so I can sleep at night knowing it was for a good cause.


I have always felt strongly that following the move to market research, it was all a bit…well…transactional.

Values-based messaging and participation have no place in market research, or at least it has been forced out.

Recently, there has been a wave of industry leaders talking about issues in participant recruitment, panel quality and data validation. The reason is that where there is money to be made, a profession is to be had.

Professional panellists, those people who complete multiple surveys, lie or ‘tailor their answers’ as one market research participant coach put it (yes there are coaching courses out there to teach you how to get selected for paid research – total professionalisation as it’s come full circle when the participants are paying to take part in paid research).

We started a little experiment a few years ago because panel data quality was a real issue in the work we do as we need people who care about stuff rather than people who want to get paid to talk about things they told you they care about.

The traditional model is broken and it’s getting overrun by professional scammers and bots – it’s a losing battle and the panel companies are really up against it.

Prolific had a great model and we find the data is ahead of the curve in terms of quality, but could there be better?

We started a panel of about 300 people, who we worked with because they cared about food and how it made it to their table. We didn’t pay them, we still don’t pay them per response.

It kind of went from there and we grew the whole thing organically, with no advertising spend at all and without doing a points mean prizes approach to panel management.

Three years in and we fluctuate at around 10k people (we are pretty strict about engagement levels) and I don’t think I want any more. We have a close community of panellists who take part in research and we pay them when they have demonstrated that they are a good fit for the service, product or concept we are testing.

I don’t even mean that they fit the demographics – we look at behaviours before we look at demographics. We use AI and more qualitative responses to gauge if they are a good fit.

Especially helpful when my in-house AI expert tells me that she has a group of AI agents working collaboratively to produce thematic analysis and quality control to produce thematic codes for a dataset with 2500 respondents to use in predictive neural networking…while she has a lasagne.

If you want to get into the tech side what out for our podcast with the Oh For Food’s Sake team where we explain more….or give us a call.

Anyway….where were we….

Ah yes.

Marketing and Market Research.

The future, I believe is not in finding the right audience in a sea of hundreds of thousands of people who are looking to make a quick buck. Those people won’t buy your stuff so why ask them how to make it better, how to improve it or what they would pay? Escape this transactional relationship of paying for opinions.

The future is in smaller, more managed panels with values at their core.

Values are proven to be a massive driver for behaviours and behavioural change. All cite all the studies you want for this but if you want a starting point, go and listen to some TED talks by Rory Sutherland. My favourite is the one about behavioural change in improving recycling rates and what moved the needle there.

Of course, some studies need a nat rep sample…but then I would argue if panels are really offering that. I don’t know anyone who is on a panel (other than mine) do you? It is nat rep or representative of an audience in name only – matching up your demographics and your screeners…but there is a pretty strong argument that there will be very little difference in mindset or behaviours.

Maybe it’s because we work in food and environment, and I am lucky to be able to easily find people who care enough to share their opinions because of their values. Perhaps if I worked in loo roll or toothpaste it might be different.

But for now, I will be enriching my research with qualitative data that I know is written by a human, by someone who has thought about their answers and is interested enough in the topic to give me more nuggets of insight because they care than the monosyllabic answers I have dealt with because I am paying for them.

Next time I will share some of the marketing tricks I have learned to keep a panel engaged without paying them.

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