Often when I tell someone what I do, immediately he or she will be frightened by the word "research". For some reason, this word typically brings up associations of nerdy, science, boring. Marketing research is so much more than the word suggests and I hope to give you a little insight.
Research is about discovery. If you consider yourself a curious person who loves to find the answer to questions about human behavior, then marketing research is for you. My favorite part of the job is getting to be a storyteller. Being able to take complex research and find the nuggets that can build an engaging story is an art.
Here's a typical day: I walk in to the office, drink my coffee, wade through email and check out my day and see how many "free" hours I get to actually work (that is , outside of meetings and people stopping by to ask questions). I glance quickly at my "To Do" list and see where to start. I am lucky, in that I get to work with both syndicated research (research done by other companies that we purchase a license to use) and primary sources (conducting our own research to do with as we see fit).
I typically use syndicated research (e.g. Simmons, MRI, comScore) to answer common questions from advertisers such as what are moms doing and where are they spending the most time online? Is it consuming lifestyle content or checking email? What are they consuming on their mobile phones? I scour my brain to figure out what sources would be the best to answer the question, then go about thinking of interesting answers. Of course, sometimes these questions can be answered with a straight pull of numbers, but often times it is much more about crafting a story around the question in order for the client to not just get their question answered, but to be enlightened.
While finding stories in someone else's research is fun, I find the most pleasure in doing my own investigations. A recent example is a study I worked on called "Home Hosts" and it is all about home entertaining and how the internet currently plays a role in that . The idea came from some questions we got from advertisers around recipe searching and the economy. Since times are tough, are people staying in more and having their own parties in order to save money? Advertisers who spend a lot of time and effort on recipes including their food items, such as Unilever, Proctor & Gamble and Kraft were very interested in the results.
This process starts with a simple question and blossoms into a larger discussion. Part of this process is figuring out the best method for finding the answers to our questions and working with the right vendor. We then work to write a survey, all the while thinking of the end result and the possible stories we could create with the results. The implementation is quite easy and once we get the data back, we work very closely with the vendor in digging out the story. Often times there are tons of stories in one data set, but we find the one most interesting and the one that will most suit both our advertiser's needs and ours.
From there, it is all about figuring out a proper design in order to bring the story to life. Research is not about numbers, it is about visuals and storytelling and the design of the presentation deck is very crucial in how well all your hard work will be received. With my "Home Hosts" deck, I found inspiration from one of my favorite cookbooks that reads like a storybook. I got all giddy in taking a simple idea and seeing it come to life in visuals through presentation form.
I have simply scratched the surface at this point, but I hope I have shown you that there is SO much more to data than just numbers. Research is not scary; in fact, it is exciting! Think of it as strategizing a plan to find answers to questions by digging out cool stories and bringing them to life. It's about transforming data into insights for advertisers. Finding a nugget of information that can move the needle in helping your advertiser understand their end consumer better. Oh, and it might only be a teensy bit nerdy.
About the Author
Sarah Elliott is a senior marketing analyst at Yahoo!, responsible for the implementation of audience-centric research solutions, including 'mom research' and insights around women and consumer package goods. Prior to joining Yahoo!, Sarah was involved in the digital industry for several years, with experience not only on the publisher side but also on the digital agency side; strategizing with the likes of MediaCom and Carat on audience segmentation analysis. Outside of work, Sarah recently completed her first triathlon. Sarah holds a bachelor's degree in advertising and marketing from Drake University and currently resides in New York City.