Top 5 Books You Must Read if You Work in Market Research

Over the years, I've really enjoyed reading books related to my passion and career in market research. The books that still sit on my bookshelf today collecting dust have helped me learn about perspective, new ways of thinking, and have even offered me tactical changes to improve how I do work at my market research company.

Market research is a niche topic and there are not a lot of authors out there writing about it. So when I find a book in my travels that touches on the principles of market research or consumer psychology it immediately becomes a must own. There are a few books I've read over the years that stand out from the pack.

The post below highlights a few of the key takeaways from each book that were of interest to me as a person who has spent his entire career in market research. The reviews are small snippets from each book. If one interests you, I encourage you to read the whole book. They are only a search away on Amazon.

Consumerology, by Philip Graves

This was one of my favorite books because it touches on one of my passions: consumer psychology (all blended into one fantastic word). The two main points that the author focuses on to discredit market research are: (1) most research is done in an artificial environment and (2) most research is conducted well after the purchase or other experience takes place.

He points to error in artificial environment because asking consumers to make choices and rate an experience while sitting on a laptop or a phone on their couch is different than asking them in-the-moment, while at the store, deciding upon 2 brands. Market research conducted in a different environment often leads to the conscious mind dominating the decision-making process wherein at the time of purchase, the person may be impacted by many unconscious factors which influenced their decision.

The second point speaks to issues with waiting too long to conduct research. Asking a person about an experience hours, days, or even weeks after it took place is likely to result in a more cloudy version of their true emotions or feelings at the time the experience took place. Capturing in-the-moment data is crucial in market research and with advances in technology this is becoming easier nowadays.

“What the conscious mind thinks it wants may well be over-ridden by the agenda of the unconscious mind when the time comes, at which point habit, emotion and impulse may well determine behavioral outcome.” – Philip Graves, author of Consumerology.

McDonald's or Burger King can be a difficult decision. Illustrated above.

Buyology, by Martin Lindstrom

Similar to some points made by Graves in Consumerology, the Author Martin Lindstrom talks about other subconscious drivers which impact consumer decision-making. Some are so nuanced that the human brain could not possibly recognize or convey in a follow-up focus group, survey, or in-depth interview (IDIs). These factors include things like cultural biases, upbringings, and other subconscious thoughts.

The other part of this book that struck a cord with me was the author explaining the famous Coca-Cola versus Pepsi taste tests. Why does Coca-Cola continue to dominate the market share battle over the years but Pepsi wins out when any taste tests are done? The answer might be more simple than you thought.

Pepsi offers a sweeter taste. So during a taste test it often scores higher because smaller amounts are consumed. However, downing an entire can of sweet soda is not as appealing. Therefore, Pepsi wins taste tests because a very small amount is consumed. However, Coca-Cola wins in market share because more product is consumed in bulk. There. It's settled.

Coca-Cola or Pepsi?

To Sell is Human, by Dan Pink

Although this book teeters more on sales psychology than market research and buying psychology, it is still one of my all-time favorites. The key takeaway I always remember from this book and use on a daily basis at our market research company in Syracuse is his view on perspective. He has an exercise where he asks his readers to draw a capital "E" on their forehead. Go ahead, yeah, you. Draw an "E" on your forehead right now. I'll wait...

Okay, done? Great.

If you draw it so other can read the "E" correctly (not backward) you are more likely to have a focus on other's perspectives rather than your own. If you draw the "E" so you can read it correctly, you are more likely to focus on your own perspective rather than others.

There is no right or wrong, but understanding other's perspectives is the foundation of market research. We collect opinions and thoughts of others and relay this feedback to our clients to improve marketing, operations, and strategy. Perspective is everything. Some people are excellent about seeing things from other's points of view while some are not. Perspective is one of our core values at Drive Research.

The other tip I picked up from his book is what is called the Blemishing Effect. When you try to sell your product or service, it makes total sense to focus only on the positives and ignore any drawbacks or negatives right? However, what the author proved is mentioning a small fault or limitation in the proposal or pitch about your product, service, or company helps amplify your positives, builds trust, and makes your approach more reasonable and real.


Try the E Perspective Test.

Slide:ology, by Nancy Duarte

This one is strictly for data visualization. The book talks about how to layout a presentation, organize slides, and place visuals on a page to make it as reader friendly as possible. I still find myself going back to this book and leafing pages for my presentations. Although it's a few years old now, the book has an incredible shelf-life and many of her design and illustration points stand the test of time.

Some of her key principles are "get to the point", "highlight what is important", and "keep it simple". I've seen far too many market research reports over the years which try to cram an incredible amount of information on to a page. This includes several charts and graphs, top boxes, call-out boxes, and footnotes - all on 1 page. Oftentimes the writer has to decrease the font size to even fit it on the page.

This is not how you want to design your reports in market research. The client is paying for insights and interpretation. You will be judged on how well you can quickly and effectively communicate key points so action and improvements can be taken. They are not paying per word or per chart or even per page. Keep this in mind for your next report.

Is your market research report a tidal wave of data and information? Keep it simple.

Secrets of a Master Moderator, by Naomi Henderson

Among all of the books we've listed in this post, this is likely the most tactical. Particularly, if your market research company manages any type of qualitative market research projects: interviews or focus groups. The book touches on skills and secrets to help you become a master moderator.

The author touches on several key tips and traits including things like: working as a consultant, remaining objective, creating a guide, having outstanding listening skills, and challenging assumptions. When combined and employed, readers have a better understanding of what it looks like to be a master moderator.

Training someone to become a moderator or looking to brush up on your skills? Try reading this book.

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