This cartoon is part of a new series I developed with Motista to parody the state of traditional market research. Motista is giving away a signed print of this cartoon to the first five readers who share a comment or suggest a cartoon idea at the Motista blog.
A few years ago, I worked on a brand trying to mine the brand essence of a new product launch for kids. An outside expert was brought in. After months of intensive study (and a fair amount of our market research budget), he distilled the brand into two words: “benign rebellion”.
It cracked me up because the description was so academic (particularly for a kids’ brand), because it took so much effort to get there, and because it didn’t really tell us anything new. Yet, we accepted it as gospel because it had come from the insights guru.
By investing in an outside consultant to tell us what our consumers wanted, it left me feeling further away, not closer, to the consumer. We relied on an insight guru to tell us what would have been stronger had we drawn the conclusion (and developed the insights) ourselves.
Motista co-founder Alan Zorfas expands this topic on their blog on “internal enlightenment”:
“At a meeting just last week a marketing executive leaned over and remarked, ‘We’re just guessing most of the time, aren’t we?’ … To penetrate the unconscious mind and go deeper, we hire “the insight guru,” and embark on a long and expensive process to find out what consumers really want…”
7 CommentsJoin the Discussion
Mars Dorian says
hahah, nice one, Tom.
I’m very careful with the term “guru” nowadays, because it has the become a buzz word.
Some gurus get so high of themselves, that they completely lost the ability to connect with what they are known for – as for me, I’m always for intuition and trial and error.
Only Jesus had all the answers…maybe 😉
The typical market research answer: It depends.
As someone who works in the field, it always bugs me a little bit when people ask what the insights tell us. The insights are really just what we (hopefully) learn from interacting with the true source — what the consumers tell us. Rather than a guru, an oracle or anything of that type, the insights person should really, at their best, act as a conduit and (when necessary) a translator. I know I would personally much rather be viewed as a tour guide through the lives of the consumer than the detached guru on the mountain.
Dennis Moons says
I just don’t get it. Companies hire these gurus, then they leave them with non-actionable bullshit and the company will praise them for it, keeping the guru-ness in tact.
Do companies want to be fooled or why do you think this practice continues?
Jason Cross says
It’s all about deniability/ separability.
If (when) the resulting marketing/advertising doesn’t work, then internally everyone can blame the external consultancy… and then move on to the next project.
Have seen this happen at many levels, up to and including board level > the expertise and ability to deliver the same or better results (or plans/ strategies etc) often exists internally, but senior managers/ boards prefer to hear it from external “gurus” .. somehow it’s more believeable – or gives them the wiggle room to not be as directly responsible (and therefore to blame, and therefore have to take the consequences, like resign or be fired).