Traditional market research is dead.  I’ve heard this multiple times in the past and I’m betting you have too.  To be fair, traditional market research (often simplified as surveys and focus groups) isn’t without its challenges, but to say it is dead is carving its headstone a little prematurely.

So why have so many people signed its death certificate?  Well, some have had a bad experience with market research (it didn’t provide the answers, provided the wrong answers, etc.), while others have a stake in its death (think life insurance).

How can you sell the next greatest thing in marketing research if there is nothing wrong with traditional market research?

In the past few years I’ve read about how data mining, online video, social media, and neuroscience are all driving the nails in the coffin of more traditional methods, but do they solve all of our problems as often claimed?

  • We just need to mine our existing data because the answers are already there…But what if they’re not?
  • Video gives us more depth than surveys can…But is it quantifiable? Projectable?
  • Social media is telling us things we never thought to ask…But is it telling us the things we are asking? And from the right people?
  • Neuroscience is the key to unlocking what we really think…But what are people really reacting to?

I don’t (generally) fault the companies for taking the stance they do – they have a product to sell, and often times it’s even a good product.  However, the truth is that these new tools are just that – tools.  And saying one tool can solve all problems is just inaccurate.

Think about this way – it would be like saying all I need to build a new house is a hammer (good luck when you need to cut a board or do wiring).  A hammer is a great tool to build a house, but it is made better by all of the other tools in the toolbox.

What do you think? Is traditional market research at death’s doorstep or just going through an awkward stage at puberty?