Can we stop the commoditization of research before it’s too late?

We have all been watching an interesting phenomenon unfold over the years and spoiler alert: it’s not pretty. As a community of researchers, we’re selling our clients, our products and ourselves short. It started slowly, and then it started to snowball. Before we knew it, we were trapped.

Why did we decide it was time to start offering “lite” versions of our products when we know the modified solution comes with significantly less value? Why did we decide that all solutions, regardless of the predictive inappropriateness, require an online option? Why did we decide that forced exposure results alone provide sufficient precision? Why did we decide to make many of our industry’s most trusted solutions available with a credit card number and an expiration date?

Question: If clients are coming to us with many of the same fundamental brand building issues that were previously addressed with more sophisticated tools, regardless of the methodology, – then why did we stop recommending them when we knowingly have better and more thorough solutions to meet their business issues?

My thoughts are not intended to be a slight against modern research approaches or digital in any way. I’m all for technology and advancement (trust me on this one, I just received my 119th patent); but I’m simply looking to acknowledge that some research objectives are better conducted offline. Perhaps through qualitative…maybe via observational research…or even simulated research. Whatever the case may be, I’m worried that we are allowing our talents, solutions and deliverables to be watered down to solve a straw man argument because in the end, who is truly benefiting from poorly executed Quick Serve Research (aka: QSR)?

Some may argue that client budgets are being reduced so research suppliers are being asked to serve up more for less. Perhaps that’s the case in some instances; however, along the same lines, why don’t home buyers ask home builders to forgo the bathroom or the kitchen? Sure it will save money and time, but what kind of final product will you have?

I would argue that we’ve trained clients into thinking that we can meet their needs with overly simplified versions of our most respected offerings. It’s ok if we can’t meet all of the objectives in an RFP with a 10 question survey and access to a normative database. Good research can be complicated, and sometimes it’s costly, but we shouldn’t shy away from this reality. Some decisions are too big for QSR. Clients can’t afford to make a mistake, and we can’t afford to give bad advice. Let’s make a pact that we should only offer clients our very best solution to meet their individual needs. Only when we trust ourselves to do good, valuable work will we be able to stop the commoditization of research. Who’s with me?

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