No One Goes to College to do Marketing Research

That’s an overstatement, I know, but there only a handful of Marketing Research programs across the United States, and, according to Quirk’s listing, there are even fewer colleges which offer a Bachelor’s degree in the field. In a country with roughly 4,599 degree granting institutions that’s a scary reality.

In my last piece, I mentioned that we need to start trusting our employees at all levels, but a major part of that first step is figuring out how to interest quality employees — how to be more attractive as an industry. I don’t mean flashy cars or promising trips to Spain. I’m talking about finding a way to make Marketing Research more conscionable and more revolutionizing.  As an industry, I think we need to become more attractive to the next generations.

The Marketing Research pipeline is currently overflowing with young adults, right out of college, who can’t find work in their own fields, but they never stay here for long. We need to create a feeder system. Everything involving Marketing Research is “on the job training.” The classes offered in schools don’t actually teach applicable skills, everything you learn, you garner from experience in the industry.

Marketing Research shouldn’t be one class on a track towards a business or marketing degree. There isn’t a piece of the market, of the world even, that we don’t touch. Of course, changing the shape of education is a tall order, but we can work on creating a demand for the industry: we can offer valuable internships for real life experience and use them as a tool for educating schools and the students that will be leading our future.


But the buck can’t stop there. Once we get these bright minds in the door, we also need to find better ways to empower them and make them actually want to stay and grow here. Part of this problem comes from the structure of our industry:  there’s a destructive competition that causes cross-industry growth and education to stagnate, almost to a halt. We have this hesitation to teach the next generation for fear that our tips and tricks might be revealed. There’s even this real fear of working ourselves out of a job: instead of teaching every member of the team, adding value to the entire company, people get stuck hoarding jobs in an attempt to make themselves indispensable. Even the seminars offered by our industry associations, programs that should help the industry learn and grow, are often too obscure and not cost effective for companies, big and small. Instead of the “Unidentifiable Secrets behind Big Data,” what if I was able to hold a lecture for employees from every company on “How to Grow a Respondent Database,” or “New Strategies and Techniques behind Surveys?” Now those add value, not just to my employees but to the industry at large.

As managers and leaders in the industry we need to make sure we don’t hole the fresh talent in a corner. If they’re in one department, we need to work on cross-training them, getting them involved in lots of different parts of the industry. We should start showing them the professional ropes and get them client-facing and not just facing a computer screen. For every talented employee there are a hundred more, a thousand more, waiting somewhere else, feeling chained to the dregs of research. It’s impossible to enrich them all. But that shouldn’t stop us from trying. These young minds need to see the full sphere of Marketing Research. They need us to show them the life that’s kept us all here in this industry.

There’s this joke that Marketing Research is so great because it’s filled with a mix of artists and musicians and entrepreneurs. But it’s filled with artists, musicians and entrepreneurs that failed in some way. And I’m one of them. Lots of us had a different path in mind, something revolutionizing, but we found our home in Marketing Research. And I love this industry: I’ve been doing it for almost my entire adult life, it’s sustained my family and I have such a passionate group of friends here. Just because our dreams turned into something unexpected, doesn’t mean we settled for Marketing Research, and so we shouldn’t let the industry settle either. So many people go to college with a dream of doing something great, only to end up somewhere else completely, doing something they had never heard of before, living a new life with a new dream. Why shouldn’t Marketing Research be that dream?

Brian Parker

Brian Parker

CEO at watchLAB
Brian originally wanted to be an engineer until he encountered his first college physics class. While he can still do math quickly in his head, his real claims to fame are his seafood gumbo from scratch and hopeless addiction to golf.
Brian Parker

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