What Went Wrong With Marketing Research And Why?

There was a time when marketing research was the first port of call for any marketer or researcher. 

But those days are gone, and the research industry is stuck in a rut. I’ve been researching this topic (literally!) and have compiled what I feel are the top reasons behind the decline in marketing research’s importance to brands. 

Before we get into it, though, let’s take a quick look at what marketing research really is: 

Marketing research is a discipline that involves gathering information on markets as well as their customers so that marketers and researchers can make informed decisions about what products their company should offer and how best to market them. 

Now that we’ve refreshed ourselves on what it means, here are the main factors leading to its downfall:

7 Mistakes to Avoid with Market Research – YouTube
1. Identifying key failures in marketing research helps prevent similar pitfalls in future projects.
2. Understanding the reasons behind research failures contributes to improved decision-making.
3. Examining failed research cases provides insights into the importance of methodology and data quality.
4. Learning from failures encourages a more critical and cautious approach to conducting research.
5. Analyzing failures can lead to the development of better strategies for effective marketing research.

It’s No Longer About The Consumer

In the old days, marketing research was all about understanding customers. 

We would ask customers what they thought, we would survey them about their preferences and lifestyles, we’d study their buying habits and test out new products on them before launching them to the wider world.

Today? Not so much. Customers have many stakeholders including employees, investors, partners and so on and information sources beyond simply those who purchase their goods and services. 

The customer role has expanded to include anyone who brings value (or otherwise) to an organization: shareholders; activists who seek to impact its practices; government regulators; competitors seeking information or technology through M&A activity; 

Suppliers looking for partnerships or collaborations that help improve efficiency/productivity/price competitiveness etc.; even competitors’ employees (who may be willing-but-unable participants in competitive intelligence gathering). 

All these people matter when it comes to shaping your company’s success yet most marketers are still approaching their work as if customers alone were their primary concern!

Building a strong foundation for your marketing research is essential. Learn about the Top 10 Rules of Marketing Research to ensure your strategies are built on solid principles.

It’s Always Been About Simple Economics

Marketing research has always been about simple economics. If marketers don’t know what consumers want and need, they can’t make good business decisions. If a company spends money on marketing research and it doesn’t work out, then it’s a waste of money. 

That’s why many companies are profit-driven they have to be in order to stay in business long enough for their CEO to retire on his/her golden parachute (it usually takes five years).

Unfortunately, in this day and age there are so many other things that require attention from the C-suite (chief executive officer) or even higher up than that things like quarterly earnings reports and stock price fluctuations.

Sometimes marketing research gets short shrift as an afterthought for some CEOs [and] CFOs (senior vice presidents).

Marketers Are Now Creating Their Own Data And Insights

The rise of marketing research has been an integral part of marketing success, but marketers have evolved to a point where they are now creating their own data and insights.

Marketers are moving away from research and becoming more agile, creative, innovative and data-driven by using tools like Google Analytics and Salesforce.

It’s hard for companies to keep up with the pace at which technology is changing and this doesn’t just mean new tech like drones or VR headsets but it also means the way people use technology is rapidly evolving.

Skepticism can be a valuable asset in the world of market research. Always remember to conduct your studies with a healthy amount of skepticism to uncover more accurate insights.

The Methodologies Are Flawed

The problem with marketing research is not that it’s been done wrong; it’s that it’s been done at all. 

It is an outdated, ineffective and inefficient way of gathering data from consumers. In today’s digital age.

There are many better ways of understanding consumer behavior and needs than asking them to fill out a questionnaire or telling them how they feel about something you’ve made.

Marketing researchers are well aware of this fact, but they still rely on traditional methods.

Because they’re comfortable with the status quo and don’t see any reason to change course or try something new until forced to do so by their clients or stakeholders who demand better results from their ad spend.

Research Is Too Slow

There are many reasons marketing research has become so slow. One is that it’s not a priority for most organizations, and therefore, it doesn’t get funded properly or well managed. 

Another reason is that there are multiple stakeholders involved in the process: researchers at different companies who have to agree on metrics and definitions; clients who have to approve the methods and results; 

Vendors who have to review everything before anything moves forward; then finally, you’ve got to wait on getting data which takes time and insights which also take time.

All of this means that research projects take longer than they should and churn out less-than-optimal results because most people don’t want to put their reputation on the line by making bold claims based off preliminary data with no context or explanation behind it all!

Research Is Not Applicable To Real Life

The research methodology that most people are familiar with is lab-based, which means that it’s conducted by researchers in a (usually) pristine environment. 

This helps to ensure that their results will be valid and unbiased. However, this doesn’t mean that the findings are applicable to real life:

A controlled environment can’t replicate the real world. For example, you can’t expect customers or potential customers to behave exactly the same way as they would if they were in a lab setting. 

In addition, there may be other factors at play which could skew your results (e.g., maybe everyone has had very little sleep because of an important deadline).

Your test subjects aren’t representative of your target market even if you try recruiting them from similar demographic groups (e.g., age group X), there are still differences between what drives marketshare success for young adults vs older adults; 

Therefore, you may not be targeting the right customers when conducting surveys or experiments with people who don’t reflect those who actually buy your products/services.

Experience is a great teacher in the realm of marketing research. Discover 13 valuable lessons that were learned while conducting actual research projects.

There Is No Innovation In Research

Innovation is the key to success. It’s what helps us to be successful in our careers and our lives. You can’t go wrong with innovation, but you can when it comes to research.

The problem with innovation in the world of marketing research is that there’s no collaboration between researchers and clients. 

The client doesn’t know all their needs when they’re asked what they want out of a study, so they give generic answers like “I want this survey to be quick and easy.” That’s not helpful at all!

This disconnect leads to ineffective research results because clients don’t understand how important their input is for studies. 

They end up giving vague directives instead of providing detailed specifications, which makes it harder for researchers on both sides: 

Newbies who need more guidance from experienced managers; experts who don’t have full creative control over projects because they’re following client requirements too closely (and those requirements aren’t always thought through).

Insights Come From Data And Analytics, Not From Research

What is the difference between insights and data? Insights come from data, and that’s it. There is no such thing as raw data is always processed in some way. 

Data doesn’t exist without an analytics application or tool to analyze it against a set of business rules, which have been defined by someone as part of their business strategy or process.

Insights are also different from things like research, even though most people use these terms interchangeably when talking about marketing research. Research is usually conducted on customers or prospects to gain insights into what makes them tick; 

However, many times this information isn’t put into action until later because there’s no easy way for marketers (and especially decision-makers) to see how exactly their actions impact sales results over time across multiple channels at once.

Which can lead to wasted resources on ineffective campaigns.

Too Much Power Given To Research Companies

Research companies are powerful, influential, and can be biased: In the past, research companies have been given too much power by marketers. This has led to some of them becoming self-serving and controlling, making it difficult for marketers to get their way. 

The reason for this is that these research companies are often paid huge sums of money from clients which creates a conflict of interest where the research company’s main goal is to please the client rather than deliver objective results.

Research Can Be Expensive 

In many cases, marketers will pay large sums of money upfront before they even know if their campaign will work or not – which means they have no option but to put their trust in someone else’s hands (the research company) who will determine whether or not it works!

Research Is Slow

It takes time for data collection and analysis so when you need answers quickly on whether or not something has worked – there’s no way around this issue unless you want to pay more money towards getting quicker results from another source such as Google Analytics, etc…

Online surveys might not always yield the desired results. Understand the reasons behind survey challenges and how to address them effectively for better outcomes.

That Value For Money Proposition Is Gone

Marketing research has lost its value proposition. It is no longer cheap, fast, or effective.

Research costs too much: In the past, you could get an answer for a small amount of money today. You can still get the same answers just not as cheaply as before.

It’s too slow: Companies used to have time on their side and could afford to wait days or weeks for data so long as it was reliable but now they don’t have that luxury anymore because competition is fierce and consumers are fickle; they need answers yesterday!

It’s not applicable in real-life situations: The tools provided by researchers may work well in controlled laboratory settings but fall short when applied directly to real-world problems where there are too many unknowns that cannot be accounted for using traditional methods.

Such as surveys or focus groups simply because these approaches rely heavily on human judgment without any objective metrics.

Such as numbers which need careful consideration before making decisions based on them alone, especially when dealing with large datasets (e.g., Facebook ads).

No Real-Time Data Flow At All Within The Company

Here’s a scenario: you’re a marketing manager for a large retail brand, and you’re working on the implementation of a new loyalty program. Your research team has conducted an extensive conjoint analysis to identify the values and behaviors of your target audience. 

You’ve looked at the demographic slice of your market, examined their online behavior, and identified key touchpoints where people interact with your brand. Now all you need to do is test some ideas out in the real world!

Hang on there your first mistake was assuming that this would be easy. There are many reasons why this might not be feasible at all:

  • Your data may not be available in real-time
  • You might not have enough resources or funding to conduct field experiments (or even gather enough information)
  • Your organization might not have any knowledge on how to run such tests at all

The Research Industry Is Stuck In A Rut

Marketing research is stuck in a rut. This is because the industry has been relying on outdated methodologies and processes for years, causing many research companies to fall behind the times.

For example, most marketing research reports are written after the fact (and sometimes months or even years later). The information isn’t current or up to date, which means it can’t be used at all times. 

When you do get access to real-time data from your customers and prospects through social media channels, you’re still left with only a limited snapshot of what people are thinking about your brand.

And that doesn’t come close to providing true insights into how your business should evolve.

Gathering information through interviews is a common practice in research. Explore the most commonly used interview question and its significance in uncovering insights from participants.


Marketing research is not the problem. It’s how we use it that needs to change. If we continue on this path, I believe marketers will be in danger of losing their jobs to more data-savvy colleagues who can tell clients which messages are working, and which ones aren’t. 

That’s why we need new thinking about marketing research so that marketers can lead the way with confidence again and gain control over what they are doing rather than just following blind data algorithms without being sure why they should or shouldn’t do something.

Further Reading

Explore more insights on why market research can sometimes fall short:

Top 5 Examples of Market Research Failure: Delve into real-world cases that illustrate the potential pitfalls of market research.

Why Market Research Fails: Discover the underlying reasons behind market research failures and how to mitigate them.

Why Market Research Fails: Common Mistakes and Solutions: Learn about the common mistakes that can lead to ineffective market research and explore potential solutions.


How can I learn from market research failures?

Studying instances of market research failure can provide valuable lessons and insights into what went wrong, helping you avoid similar pitfalls in your own research endeavors.

What are some common mistakes that lead to market research failure?

Market research failures often stem from inadequate planning, biased methodologies, inaccurate data interpretation, or ignoring changing market dynamics.

How can market researchers overcome biases and ensure objectivity?

To overcome biases, researchers can employ rigorous sampling techniques, use double-blind studies, and apply diverse research methods to ensure objectivity and unbiased insights.

What role does inadequate data collection play in market research failure?

Insufficient or poor-quality data collection can lead to skewed results and erroneous conclusions. Comprehensive and accurate data collection methods are essential for reliable research outcomes.

How can market researchers adapt to changing market trends?

Market researchers must stay agile and continually monitor changing market trends. Regularly updating research methodologies and staying informed about industry shifts can help researchers maintain relevance and accuracy in their findings.