Amidst all the craziness that the end of the year can bring, it’s always refreshing to take time out from the madness and enjoy something a little more light-hearted. So, in reflecting on the mixed bag of craziness and joy that is the holidays, we’re dedicating our holiday blog to market researchers everywhere. Hope you are enjoying this holiday season with some quality moments with your family and friends.

We present to you: eight ways market research feels like the holiday season all year long:

  1. There is so much build-up to the big event. For Christmas, the excitement (and ensuing stress) leading up to the big day builds for weeks (or even months if you have children). This is the same with any big research project. Everyone eagerly anticipates the day when the results will finally be available and able to be unwrapped!
  2. Second-guessing yourself is second nature. After you’ve purchased a gift (or gifts) for someone, you probably wonder if the gift you’ve gotten is the right one. Are they going to like it? Was there something better? And, as you make your way through your list of gifts to buy, you wonder if you’ve mistakenly left someone off your list. The same happens once you put your survey into the field. Did you ask the right questions? Did you miss something? Will there be that awful moment when the data comes back and you say, “Shoot! How did I forget to include that?”
  3. The anticipation can drive you crazy.When you’re little, the anticipation over what Santa may deliver to your house in the middle of the night can easily consume hours of your waking — and sleeping — moments. Once you’ve aged and found yourself living the glamorous life of a market researcher, your thoughts migrate from toys and games to data points and target segments. Anticipating the results of a big project can consume as much brain space as the sugar plums that once danced there.
  4. Time is spread thinly. . . The holiday season is notorious for forcing you to creatively manage your time in ways you’ve never dreamt possible. Somehow you’re able to fit in gift wrapping, a trip to the in-laws, and five neighborhood parties all in one night, while still getting the kids tucked in before reindeer hooves start clicking on the roof. In the world of market research, we have to use these same time skills to maximize the available minutes on a survey or a focus group. We look to please as many possible parties with the little time we have available.
  5. . . . and money even more so. The holiday season is an expensive time of the year. With all the traveling to and from family, getting everybody meaningful gifts, and the host of parties to organize, there’s a lot of burden on the family budget. Market researchers can certainly anticipate this feeling — many of us manage more projects than the organization budgeted for. So, at the end of the year, we have to do some creative accounting, or find budget outside of the team, in order to continue to support the organization in a meaningful way
  6. There are always too many cooks in the kitchen. If you’ve ever tried to have a holiday party blending family members, you know that there is never a shortage of opinions on how things should be done. “We always open presents before we eat!” “You have to have turkey for dinner.” “I always keep my turkey moist by roasting it breast side down.” You get the picture. As the host, you have to listen to everyone’s opinion while filtering the comments to identify the ones that really merit any type of action and develop responses to the ones that don’t. This skill is essential to all market researchers who find themselves mired in other people’s ideas on how market research should be done.
  7. You don’t always (rarely?) get exactly what you want. As kids get older, it’s harder to fulfill everything on their wish lists — be it some sort of pet, the year’s “it” toy, or something that only exists in fantasy — but for the most part, kids can usually find delight in presents they didn’t even ask for. The same goes for market research, where some of the best insights can come from data that totally contradicts your hypothesis or from attitudes you didn’t even imagine showing up in qualitative work. For all the second guessing that market researchers do, we must also be flexible to make things work even when we’re hit with the unexpected.
  8. The day after can make up for it all. Not sure about you, but, come the evening of the 25th, I have often found myself a completely exhausted on the couch. Too much stress in the build-up, some old family arguments that bubbled up during dinner, or handling a sick kid while entertaining the family made it very hard to enjoy the day itself. However, there was always the day after: eating leftovers, kids playing with their new toys, and my husband and I enjoying a quiet day away from the office made up for it all. The same can be said of some market research projects: The project didn’t deliver the insight that was expected, and your internal clients aren’t really impressed with your performance. But then you take a step back, look at the data again, combine it with other insights from earlier projects, and suddenly you uncover a new insight.

We’d love to hear if we missed something. Where do you see a similarity between the holiday season and market research?

Happy holidays from the Forrester Market Research team!