Can we not bluff?
I was cleaning out my notes and found a stack of journal articles and textbook chapters from way back when I did my masters (criminology). One of the courses I did was juvenile delinquency where I learned about youth identity and culture, and their deviant and criminal behaviour. As in all criminology topics, we do not take deviance or crime as a given — they are social and political constructs.
Out of curiosity, I flipped through the notes and found this page about how adolescence was socially constructed: “In particular the concept of adolescence constructed within the rapidly developing disciplines of social psychology and child psychology gave traditional concerns about young people ‘both a more profound substance and a new legitimacy’.”
Some market researchers talk about tapping into the “human nature” to find insights (indeed the use of this term in the insights context was started by William Bernbach of DDB) and how this would give their companies the distinctive, competitive edge over other research agencies. As we all know, the market research/insights industry has been heavily criticised for producing no insights. Instead, you often see 100+ PowerPoint slides of charts with descriptive commentaries only — 80% of men xxx, 60% of consumers from high income group yyy, 30% of consumers who are aware of the brand zzz…
Market research reports make their readers Zzzzzzz.
I was not impressed when I heard the “human nature” sales pitch because, as someone who come from a sociology background, I remember the first question my professor asked on my first sociology class on my first day of starting university was: “Nature of nurture?”
When I read examples of how the aforementioned market research agencies have tapped into human nature to find killer insights, all I saw were nurture not nature — e.g., gender stereotypes are clearly nurture!
What goes on behind the scene is researchers trying to impress by beautifying their words to make them look insightful, breaking away from the usual descriptive reports. But what researchers should have done is to start from the root cause and change it. Wearing designer jeans will not make average Joe Brad Pitt or Keanu Reeves. We should change our mindset and start from how the end-users will use the insights to do their jobs.
My reflections on the market research industry: