Pre-MRMW North America 12 Interview: Dr. Steve Needel

Monday, June 25, 2012

Interview eleven in the pre-MRMW North America 12 interview series carries on a similar theme of caution when jumping into new tech solutions.  Dr. Steve Needel of Advanced Simulations reminds us of our role and purpose as market researchers, helping to provide hope and perspective for the future.  Here’s the interview.

RM: What are you most excited to share about with us at MRMW and why?  What difference could it make for your audience if they were to implement what you’ll be talking about?

SN: I’m hoping to get the audience thinking a bit more about what they’re doing when it comes to research, rather than looking at everything that is new and different as “better”. I’ll talk about the weaknesses of tools like eye-tracking, neuromarketing, and facial imaging – not that they shouldn’t be used, but that they need to be used properly, in the proper context. If the audience implements some of my thoughts, they should end up doing better research for their clients.

RM: It can be easy to bemoan the state of market research today.  Instead of us talking about what you’re against in the traditional MR space, I’d love to hear about what you’re for – what you stand for – in the MRMW space.  What makes this something you’re willing to stand up for?

SN: I’m at the opposite end of this continuum – I don’t think that we, as an industry, are in trouble. I just think we’ve lost sight of what it is we’re supposed to do. We are not the executives in charge, nor are we the marketers who must live with the decisions they make. We are the researchers – our job is to give them the best information possible, given time, budget, and knowledge constraints. Sometimes that means we are identifying opportunities, sometimes we are reporting on the state of the market, sometimes we are testing marketing ideas. Complaining that we don’t have a seat at the table is both unproductive and often untrue. Those of us who are helping clients make more money or avoid wasting money or getting more out of the money they have are getting that seat at the table. I stand up for doing good research that helps the decision-making process.

RM: I think that your belief that we, as an industry, are not in trouble will be an encouragement to many folks.  How do you utilize new technology to secure your seat at the table in this era of market research in the mobile world?

SN: It depends on how you want define new tech. I do virtual reality shopping (and was one of the originators some 19 years ago). I don't think of it as new - but some people do. More important, I believe in using the "right tool for the right job" (Mr. Natural - sometime in the 1960s). When mobile research can give us a better answer than an existing tool (better meaning closer to reality), then it's the right tool. When your question is "what are people looking at when they look at my website?", eye-tracking is the perfect tool. When your question is what do people look at when I show them a virtual shelf set, it's pretty useless. So I keep my seat at the table by being an expert at what I do and giving clients great advice when VR is not appropriate.

RM: Thanks, Steve!  See you in July.


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