Market Research

Does Market Research Jargon Create Negative Perceptions?

We are market researchers. And we hate our own jargon. We feel constrained by our semantics. Even imprisoned. And perhaps for good reasons; maybe some of the words we use are simply ineffective for conveying our messages. Let’s take a look at perceptions of some key research-related phrases:

Research. At the AMA’s 2010 MRC conference, Stan Sthanunathan (Coca Cola VP) said he doesn’t like the term “research” since it suggests searching for stuff that already exists. I am not sure I agree with him, but it is an interesting perspective.

Survey. The word “survey” also has negative associations. On the LinkedIn MRB group (one of my favorite LI groups), Jasper Lim started a related discussion, about the word “survey.” The discussion has many viewpoints and is worth a read.

Vendor. An attendee at the conference told me she thought the phrase “market research agency” was odd (upon hearing me use it). She thinks of market research “firms” as “vendors.”  That strikes me as quite limiting, since a full-service research provider does make strategic recommendations, which to me makes it an “agency.”

VOC. How many of you, over the years, have had clients use “voice of the customer” but not “market research” when describing their needs?  VOC just seems to resonate more with some research buyers.

“Marketing” versus “Market.” Why is “marketing research” 30% more popular as a Google search term than is “market research”?

I am not offering a solution. I just want to raise the point: market researchers often lament lack of respect for the function, but perhaps part of the challenge is language. Perhaps the words we use are too laden with negative, or just limited, connotations. Perhaps the language we use to define what we do is simply out of touch with current needs. What do you think? Is there a way to tackle this issue without trying to force contrived language? Is there a way to change associations with existing language?

[BTW, have you seen my latest white paper? Get “Social Media Meets Market Research: A Compendium of Views.]


Kathryn Korostoff

Kathryn Korostoff is founder and lead instructor at Research Rockstar. Over the past 25 years, she has personally directed more than 600 primary market research projects and published over 100 bylined articles in magazines. She is also a professor at Boston University, where she teaches grad students how to analyze and report quantitative data.

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