When I was growing up, I always wanted to be an astronaut. I made the mistake of sharing this little known fact with my kids a few months ago. Big mistake! They have hounded me relentlessly ever since. "Why would you want to be an astronaut?" I attribute it to my innate sense of curiosity; they attribute it to Dad being a "nerd".
The discussion usually ends with me lecturing them about how they should appreciate this "nerd" a little more. After their eyes roll back into their heads, we stop the conversation altogether.
It is that same sense of curiosity that ultimately led me to marketing research. Where else can you spend all day asking questions? Oh, and get paid for it, too!
I'll never forget the first time a new product I tested made it to the store shelf. It was blueberry-flavored rice cakes. We had completed a TURF analysis to determine the right mix of flavors for the brand, and blueberry-flavored rice cakes were the next best option. I don't think they are still on the shelf, but I will never forget seeing them there.
Not too long ago, the questions I was asking ended up pushing me out of a job. There was a time when people would use a "payphone" to make calls when they were out of the office or on the road - I was working for one of those payphone providers. Mobile phones were only available for the rich and famous, not average consumers. In the late 1990s, the price of mobile service started decreasing, and decreasing fast. I was asked to figure out what the inflection price would be when mobile service would overtake the use of payphones. After designing and executing marketing research, I learned, much to my chagrin, that the industry had already reached that point. Within months, the company was disbanding its payphone unit altogether.
More recently, these questions have become even more complex, focusing on the customer experience and business landscape. Who is my customer? How do I make them loyal? How can I improve the experience? What is the return on investment for making these changes?
To answer these questions, I have been forced to stretch my brain and become more creative... more observant... more analytic... more global... and more consultative. Ultimately, I find myself even more curious.
I have had the privilege of asking and answering many questions over the last 20+ years. It's this same sense of curiosity that keeps me excited about marketing research after all this time. I am always wondering what the next questions (and answers to them) might be.
I may have never made it to the moon, but I guess the "nerd" in me never really let go... Please don't tell my kids, they'll never let me live it down.