Marketing Research and Insight Excellence Awards finalist Steffen Schmidt, director of marketing science and agile insights, LINK 

Editor's note: Steffen Schmidt is a finalists of the 2022 Researcher of the Year (Supplier) Award which is a category in the Marketing Research and Insight Excellence Awards. To find out more about the awards click here.

What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out in MR?

If you're just getting started with marketing research, here are some important things to keep in mind.

First of all, it is important that you really understand your client's management problem, i.e., what kind of insights they really need to solve their management problem. Take the time to think about it, and then choose the appropriate methods accordingly. Here I like to quote the law of the instrument attributed to Abraham Maslow: “If the only tool you have is a hammer, it is tempting to treat everything as if it were a nail.” Don't nail down supposedly simple findings with just one method.

Second, make sure your research sufficiently addresses the three most important quality criteria of marketing research: Reliability, validity and objectivity. In other words, generate findings that are as unbiased as possible, because that is the key reputation of our profession.

Third, don't just focus on the data. Most data is useless but easy to create. In fact, it's about generating evidence-based key insights from the mass of data that provide an actionable value to marketing management in solving its problems.

Fourth, remember that marketing research is an ongoing process – so always be prepared to adapt and change when necessary. Don't be foolish enough to think you've already earned the truth. In this context, I like to quote another great scientist, Sir Karl Raimund Popper: “Our knowledge can only be finite, while our ignorance must necessarily be infinite.” Always question your existing insights and approaches to knowledge.

Finally, always stay curious and be aware, but also proud that you can improve intelligence for marketing management so that the insights you gain have a real impact on business performance. Who else can make such a bold statement? 

How do you see the marketing research industry changing in the next five years?

The marketing research industry is evolving at a rapid pace and is expected to continue to do so over the next five years. Emerging technologies are revolutionizing the way research is conducted and analyzed, making it faster, simpler and more accessible than ever before. This means that marketing research firms, as well as all clients of marketing research firms, need to keep up with the latest trends and technologies in order to remain competitive.

One of the biggest changes we expect to see over the next five years is an increased focus on automated data generation from multiple sources, advanced data analytics and evidence-based management interpretation. With so much data available today, marketing research firms must be able to make sense of it and deliver actionable insights to their clients. This requires hiring people with strong business and analytical skills, as well as implementing new technologies into their own research process to generate insights.

AI and machine learning are already beginning to dramatically change the landscape of marketing research, and this trend will only intensify over the next five years. In fact, over the past two-to-three years, we've seen fascinating progress in terms of the capabilities of AI technologies for marketing research purposes. As these technologies become more sophisticated, they are increasingly being used for tasks such as brand profiling, brand tracking, customer segmentation, advertising testing and more … and more without the need to recruit and interview participants from a sample. So instead of running a campaign test in five-to-seven business days, we can now apply AI and get a full insights report in just 10 minutes.

In short, the marketing research industry is changing rapidly, and those who don't keep up with the latest trends will lose touch after just a few months.

What has been your favorite part of being a researcher? 

There are many great things about being a researcher, but one of my favorite aspects is the intellectual challenge it provides. I enjoy the process of researching a topic. It is tremendously satisfying to solve problems and improve our understanding of the world we live in.

It is also very satisfying to see my research approaches being used by others, and to know that I am making at least a small contribution to the advancement of knowledge, both in science and practice.

But the best thing about being a researcher is the opportunity to learn new things and investigate different problems. I love that I can constantly learn and explore new areas of interest and that my work can have a real impact not only on my clients' business results, but also on people's lives and society in general. When I walk around the beautiful city of Zurich, Switzerland, I see so many marketing activities, from outdoor advertising on the street to new product launches in the nearest supermarket, where my research team and I have provided evidence-based insights for each marketing implementation.