Columinate’s co-founder, cat lover, coffee aficionado, and closeted Curling cognoscente Elna Pretorius recently wowed audiences at the annual South African Marketing Research Association’s (SAMRA) conference. She won the “People’s Choice Award” for her presentation, because much like Columinate, it was modern, fun, and refreshingly insightful. (Read more here)

What was it all about?

Elna has been cultivating a concern in her heart for a while now – if we don’t do a better job of marketing ourselves as marketing researchers, we (marketing research) may share the same fate as the dinosaurs. It is critical that we enliven the prospect of becoming market researchers among South Africa’s youth, and demonstrate the value we add not only to society, but to our own economy.

But we don’t jump to conclusions based on assumptions. Elna and the Columinate team developed a digital survey and gleaned insights from 400 South Africans, 200 of whom were students. At first, the results seemed promising, with 70% of South Africans, and 67% of students, being aware of the existence of Marketing Researcher as a career choice. Confidence quickly deteriorated when only 14% of students considered this to be a viable career path. The team’s research quickly determined that this was due to two factors:

  1. A lack of information, and
  2. Too many misconceptions about the profession

(Although we would like to highlight one respondent’s answer, “People don’t really like to answer questions, especially face to face”; we wholeheartedly agree with the latter half of that statement, which is why we do everything digitally)

Armed with a fresh understanding, Elna set forth building her presentation. Her approach was as elegant as it was simple: share insights and feedback with her audience in a relatable, fun manner. Her delivery mode? Memes!

Through a carefully constructed series of messages conveying the various learnings (the memes), Elna communicated what she learned from her engagements with various South Africans, and how we, as marketing researchers, can potentially future-proof our industry, simply by doing a much better at marketing ourselves:

  1. Word of Mouth:

Tell people what you do and how it ultimately affects them. Be excited and proud about your career choice

  1. Greater cooperation between SAMRA, Marketing Research companies, and the academia

We should be presenting at High Schools, Universities, and career fares much more frequently (and preferably in a manner that appeals to the audience – numbers numb, jargon jars, and no one ever marched on Washington because of a pie chart)

  1. More Graduate/Internship programmes

Marketing Research organisations, their clients and vendors can create many fruitful opportunities for students, and these types of employment programmes can go a long way in creating more awareness of what we do

  1. Bring Sexy Back!

From our research, the general consensus seems to be that marketing research tends to be an enticing choice exclusively for ol’ stuff-shirts and nerds – we have to do a better job at marketing ourselves and breaking this misconception (for instance, at Columinate we have a pole dancer, a few models, a basketball player, and a pilot), SAMRA can’t do it alone.

  1. Take responsibility for attracting talent

Too many marketing research organisations rely too heavily on the industry body to do this on their behalf – we’re all in this together, and after working in marketing research for more than a decade, we can tell you that an innovation in one organisation eventually leads to a benefit for another. Same goes for attracting and developing talent.

Everyone who has spent some time in the marketing research understands the integral value we add, not only to the development of products and services, but in aiding our clients to build better businesses. Unfortunately, we get stuck on the “research” aspect, and not the “marketing” aspect. If we can get the balance right, our industry will not only survive, it will thrive.