CASRO+MRA = Bland Insights
Reflecting a shift in how applied research is being organized and used in businesses today, 2017 marks the end of two important market research industry groups, and the beginning of a new one. Gone is the Council of American Survey Research Organizations (CASRO) founded 37 years ago. Gone is the Marketing Research Association (MRA) founded 60 years ago. The two have merged into a new group called the Insights Association.
At Versta Research we were one of many who voted in favor of the merger. But I’m a wee bit down on the name “Insights Association.” Insights are great, and there are lots of companies that have re-branded their research teams into “insights” professionals. But it hardly describes what most of us actually DO. And indeed, that seems to be the point. In a letter last year encouraging the merger, the board chairs described the name as a shift “from a research process-focused name to one reflecting the outcome of research.”
It reminds me of the goofy shift that SPSS made fifteen years ago when it started selling nothing but “solutions” and temporarily dropped the name SPSS (which stands for Statistical Package for the Social Sciences). It became impossible to know what exactly their package components or modules did, because none of them were described as doing anything beyond offering me solutions. Presumably I could optimize my ROI, manage my risk, cut my churn in half, and make more strategic decisions. But I actually needed a tool for logistic regression. Good luck finding that.
I say that SPSS’s shift was goofy because every functional area in an organization (or consultant) who wants to jump on the business buzzword bandwagon can talk about (and unfortunately does talk about) how they boost ROI, help manage risk, and make more strategic decisions. “Actionable insights” and “analytics” are the latest additions to that buzzword vocabulary, which makes those terms increasingly hollow and bland.
I wish our industry association had resisted that urge to speak with that same hollow blandness. We do research, and that is something to be proud of. Great research, rigorous methods, detailed attention to process, and expertise in handling data are what generate the deep insights that everyone craves. Indeed, it is our process—our research—that differentiates all that idle talk from the true insights that really matter.