Market Research Room 101: What Would You Banish?

6 min readMar 22, 2024

This year’s Market Research Society Annual Conference was filled to the brim with insightful seminars, thought-provoking discussions, and many opportunities to connect with new people, methods and mindsets.

With inspirational stories from insight experts, teams and agencies in a multitude of industries, rousing debates on the most pivotal and uncertain aspects of market research, and fun sessions actively connecting attendees in rousing debates — there were some productive conversations held and mindsets challenged. One such session was a panel debate in Stream 3.

Keen as Mustard Marketing and FlexMR created market research’s own Room 101 session, where two teams of insight leaders fought to convince the audience to banish their most-hated aspect of market research.

So, who did the audience back, and which aspects were banished?

The Debrief

FlexMR’s CEO, Paul Hudson, chose ‘The Debrief’ as his thing to banish to Room 101. Paul argued passionately that the connotations of ‘the debrief’ as the end of the research process is outdated and actively harmful to the insight industry’s aim of being a continuous presence in stakeholder decision-making.

Put simply, this perception of the ‘end’ of the research process isn’t true to form anymore, and this continued association of the ‘end’ with the ‘debrief’ pushes stakeholders’ understanding of the insights industry and the true nature of our research processes further away from the truth. The longer they hold onto this notion, the longer it will take to achieve synthesis with significant decision-makers across the stakeholder organisation.

Paul’s arguments were convincing, and this was the first aspect of market research to be banished to Room 101 by popular vote.

Data-Driven Decision-Making

James Sallows, who heads up the Global Marketing Effectiveness team at the Lego Group, shone the light onto ‘data-driven decision making’ for one very good reason: while data-driven decision making has gotten us so far, insight teams are more than just data producers and communicators. We are insight storytellers. Moving passed data-driven decision making towards insightful decision-making means a shift in the role of ‘simple’ market researchers to fully-fledged insight experts.

Although stakeholders remain reliant on data to make decisions, insight experts must find the story in insights and use that to engage stakeholders to act in the right way instead of letting raw data dictate actions.

James was equally as convincing, and the audience agreed to banish this to Room 101 as well! This brought the teams to one win each.

Two teams of insight leaders fought for their most-hated aspects of market research to be banished by a live audience — here’s what they wanted banished forever.


Next, Nicola Stevens, Head of Insight at the Close Brothers, brought her most-hated part of market research to the table — yes-or-no hypotheses. Nicola put forward her case, saying that these limit the way both insight teams and stakeholders think about market research. This was another case for the expansion of the role of an insight expert to insight translators rather than simple data generators.

Nicola argued that these hypotheses should be replaced with effective questions so that insight teams are more able to do their jobs properly without hindrance. However, this was the first aspect that the audience chose to keep.

Even though they do limit the scope of research efforts, the audience chose to side with the challenger team who pointed out that it was within the job description and capabilities of insight experts to challenge these hypotheses when they arose, and guide others to challenge them as well — in this capacity, these hypotheses still hold some measure of value.

A Seat at the Table

Then it was Danny’s turn to submit a market research pet hate — A Seat at the Table. FlexMR’s Non-Executive Director, Danny Russell, spoke about how he believes the industry will never gain a permanent seat at the top table in all organisations across all industries, and as such this objective is impractical in several ways.

The second part of Danny’s argument was that this objective isn’t the best way to influence decision-making across the organisation and that we need to shift our sights and objective to obtain a seat at all the tables in the organisation — having a voice and input into decisions made in all teams and departments at all levels of the business.

Despite Danny’s convincing arguments, the audience voted to keep ‘a seat at the table’ in their market research objectives, due to some market research teams still finding value in it. The success of this concept is very much dependent on the insight team and the stakeholder organisation they’re working with. In some businesses, it is still being used to great effect to influence critical decisions at the highest level.

Socio-Economic Groups

Shehnaz Hansraj, who is Head of Research & Insight at Viking Cruises, then stood up to speak about her most-hated aspect of market research: Socio-Economic Groups. Shehnaz posed a question to the audience, asking them to think about how relevant this actually is today? Arguing that it is based on occupations that are completely outdated, and as such this model is no longer fit for purpose.

These types of classification have been used in the industry for decades, but as the industry and the wider consumer population evolves, this classification doesn’t provide as much value (if any) as it used to to businesses who need to fully understand their customers.

Shehnaz’s argument was accepted by the audience, who voted overwhelmingly to banish socio-economic groups to market research’s Room 101. Although this classification can be updated to stay somewhat relevant, it doesn’t take into consideration other important factors that better represent different consumer groups.

What aspects of market research do you think are outdated? Which influences do you believe shouldn’t be influences? What would you banish to Room 101?

Market Research

Lastly, Lisa Hulme-Vickerstaff, who is Head of Research & Insight at Lowell, shared her most-hated part of market research — which was actually the name, Market Research! Lisa claimed that the name we have all come to know and love is no longer a true representation of what insight experts and teams do and the value they bring to both their own industry and others. The Insights Industry is about the process, outcome and interpretation, which Market Research doesn’t accurately communicate.

However, to correct this would require a huge global and industry-wide rebrand — a massive effort to correct and communicate a new more accurate name for our insight generation, communication and activation process.

Despite the hard work ahead of us, the audience agreed that the name ‘market research’ was no longer accurate, and voted to banish it to Room 101. Besides, other industries have undergone such a rebrand — e.g. funeral directors used to be called undertakers until a significant global and industry-wide shift!

What Would You Banish?

While there is plenty of debate around the most reviled aspects of market research simply within the six identified above, there will undoubtedly be more that you believe are worse than these. This panel has been regarded as a fun but thought-provoking exercise to evaluate the current state of the industry and our practices, the evolving mindsets and predominant influences. What aspects do you think are outdated, or need evolution to keep up with the times? Which influences do you believe shouldn’t be influences? What would you banish to Room 101?

This blog was originally published on the FlexMR Insight Blog and can be accessed here.




FlexMR is The Insights Empowerment Company. We help brands to act decisively, stay close to customers and embed agile insight at the heart of every decision.