Every year around this time, the insights industry is busy. Some clients are requesting last minute insights to help push critical decisions through before the year-end. Other clients are seeking insights to get a ‘leg up’ on their strategic direction for the upcoming fiscal year. Naturally, all of them want their final reports before they break for the holidays. 

Which makes me think… don’t you think that market research is a little bit like Christmas?

Let me explain.

First: Need

A great gift giver thinks long and hard about the recipient. They brainstorm what they already know about them, and then they explore all the potential avenues for more direction. They subtlety probe them for ideas, quietly text spouses for clues, and secretly peek through Facebook pages to discover what their unmet needs are. Do they need or want help in the kitchen, the garage, on the slopes, or in the gym? What would delight them? And very importantly, is it really a Christmas gift or a Hanukkah gift that would be more meaningful to them?

Likewise, a great researcher explores all of the hypotheses around the issue or problem that needs to be solved. What is the purpose of the research? What are we trying to solve? What must we learn to drive action? We first start with what we already know and, of equal importance, what we already think. Brainstorming hypotheses through stakeholder interviews will help to generate hypotheses and lead to better research.

Second: Anticipation

Once the data collection tool, whether that’s a discussion guide or questionnaire, is approved, it goes ‘in field.’ Though everyone wants the results yesterday, quality custom research takes time. Field lengths are one to two weeks to ensure opinions from both keeners and laggards are considered. Storytelling, the process of packaging vast amounts of data and wrapping it in an impactful and easily digestible story, takes time and talent. From field to analysis to storytelling, the client is oh so close yet oh so far from the gift of insight. They’re pumped to rip open a report and make some solid decisions. But they have to wait. The gift of insight takes weeks to complete.

From the gift giver’s point of view, we have to find the bubble wrap to package the gift safe and secure. We have to choose the wrapping paper that best encapsulates the gift giver and the gift receiver. And, we have to top it all with a perfect matching bow to make it just as enticing as all the other amazing gifts the receiver will have in hand. Then the gift sits there. Under the tree. Teasing. Taunting. Tormenting.


Third: Validation

Most of the time, whatever is inside that beautifully wrapped gift elicits sheer joy from the over-excited child – I mean research client.

Sometimes, the feeling is relief. The gift matches anticipated needs and comforts the receiver. Their needs and desires have been met with the Really R.A.D Robots MiBro that they texted to you a billion times. Or, it’s relief that the gift provides overwhelming consumer support for a product concept they weren’t really sure about.

In other cases, the feeling is confidence. The gift of Hoka One One Women’s Bondi 5 cross training shoes confirms that the gift giver believes in your commitment to be healthier this year. Or, the segmentation study shows your selected segments have depth and reliability, thereby confirming your strategic plan for the upcoming year.

This is the joy of a well-thought out plan, research or gift. The joy of confirming the chosen direction will propel decisions forward. The joy of knowing careful planning led to trustworthy decisions. The delight that leads to a happy and joyful holiday break.