July 2013 – On my sofa, Hampton (UK), watching…
OK, I admit it, I’ve done it again…I’ve watched the whole series, every single episode. Cringey as always and no need to get too serious about it. But, I can’t help thinking that someone needs to tell those wanna-be apprentices about market research.
I don’t know how many times they’ve said “but the market research tells us…”, and then still lost the task. Why? Because (a) talking to a random bunch of consumers, asking them leading questions, isn’t research. Simple as that. And because (b) what the consumer tells us is not what the research tells us.
Market research is not about blindly following consumer advice. It’s about listening to what consumers are saying, with an open mind. It’s about understanding why they are saying it, in the context of their underlying needs and expectations. Finally, it’s about analysing what they’ve said to spot opportunities and identify the barriers.
So, when Lord Sugar’s hopeful apprentices say “but the market research tells us…”, what they really are saying is “but what we heard consumers saying is…”. That’s why it isn’t working.
A common criticism of market research is its failure in spotting trends and inability to aid the development of ground-breaking products. This perception isn’t helped by the way market research is portrayed in The Apprentice.
In those episodes of the show where candidates failed the task because they were “following the research too closely”, the solution is not – as suggested by Lord Sugar – to ignore the research and follow their own gut feel. Instead, the solution would have been to design and use research to understand consumers’ real desires and develop a product that meets these needs. So it’s not the research’s fault, it’s the fault of those who conduct it (in a bad way).
If ever the apprentice candidates would like to have a crash course in market research, boutiK would be happy to help. But then, they might not fail their tasks quite so dramatically and wouldn’t that be a lot less fun. So let’s keep watching them fail and the next time one of them mentions “market research”, I – for once – will try my best NOT to listen.
Author: Karin Heath