Consumer Insights Grads: A Whole New Breed!

From the desk of Chris Efken

Today’s Marketing Research and Consumer Insights graduates have skills, talents and overflowing toolboxes that reflect the massive changes taking place in our industry.

It’s hard to believe that twenty years ago, I started teaching an Intro to Market Research class at Columbia College Chicago.  Back then I was challenged to find a textbook that covered both quantitative research and the breadth of qualitative research.  Most books either included a short chapter entitled “Focus Groups” or didn’t want to cover qualitative research in any way at all.

Just as the field of Market Research has evolved overtime, so have my courses and marketing research materials.  Hooray for e-books, digital resources and dedicated qualitative textbooks.   Today, my curriculum reflects the shift from “Research”—the attitudes and opinions collected in the past—to “Insights,” those elusive Ah-Ha’s gleaned from observation and conversation that assist in propelling brands forward.  (Even “insights” has been further advanced, and is now further segmented into either “Consumer Insights” vs. “Shopper Insights.”   Not to mention, the means in which we connect with our consumers has also shifted from in-person conversations to now connecting with shoppers via mobile devices, webcams or through social media.

Students’ skill sets have also progressed over time. This year, my Consumer Insights and Account Planning graduates need to possess skills beyond study, screener and discussion guide design.  Today’s insight specialists need to be:

Though the above are not necessarily titles I earned while in college, they are the titles required to address today’s ever-changing business environment and clients’ ongoing need to better understand their consumers.  As seasoned researchers we need to take a good look at our skills, and ask “am I keeping pace, or is it time for a tune up?”