TL;DR UX Design Research is a modern rebranding of Market Research
Back in my MBA days, I was doing a module with Deepak Jain at the Kellogg School of Management about market research. He stated, with a twinkle in his eye, “The first job of market research is to market, market research.” This stuck with me ever since. He essentially was saying that before the market research department can start doing their job, they first had to convince the company that market research was actually a valuable addition to their marketing budget.
If we fast forward about 15 years, a lot has changed in the marketing world, but one of the greatest rebrands of this time was the shift of market research away from its traditionally boring reputation into the sexy field of UX design.
Think about it. All of market research is now being incorporated into UX. Suddenly, everyone understands the importance of UX which is essentially market research with one fundamental shift: moving away from company-focused towards user-focused. Let’s take a closer look.
The Need for Rebranding
Market research, despite its crucial role, often found itself in the shadows. It was seen as a back-office function, crunching numbers and producing reports that didn’t quite resonate with the rest of the company. It was perceived as dry, a bit dull, and often disconnected from the vibrant, creative process of product development. It was clear that something had to change. Market research needed a makeover, a rebranding that would make its value apparent to everyone in the company.
I’m reminded of this early Mad Men scene where Don Draper receives a long and detailed market research report about smoking and he just takes it and throws it in the trash. What if the title page and executive summary were changed and it was a UX report? Would it have still been thrown into the trash?
The Rise of UX Design
Fast forward about 40-50 years as we enter the era of UX Design. It was like the new kid on the block, full of energy, ideas, and a fresh perspective. UX Design wasn’t just about making things look good – it was about understanding the user, their needs, their behaviors, and their experiences. It was about creating products that not only meet market demands but also provide an enjoyable and intuitive user experience. Suddenly, everyone was talking about UX. It was exciting, it was innovative, and it was crucial to product success.
But wait a second… Isn’t it essentially the same? Market research aims to understand the market (which is always made up of potential customers or, dare I say, users) and UX design aims to understand the users or, dare I say, market.
The Overlap Between Market Research and UX Design
The more I delved into UX Design, the more I realized how much it had in common with market research. The main difference that I saw was one of perception. One was cool and exciting and the other was dull and boring. Both fields are about understanding the user. Both use a mix of qualitative and quantitative research methods. Both inform strategic decisions. But there was one key difference: UX Design was all about the user. It was user-focused, not company-focused. It was about creating products that users love, not just products that sell.
UX Design as a Rebranding of Market Research
So, here’s my take: UX Design is essentially a rebranding of market research. Its market research made sexy. It’s market research that’s been flipped on its head, moving away from a company-focused perspective to a user-focused one. It’s a brilliant twist that has made the value of market research more apparent to everyone in the company. Chances are, there are significantly more jobs available to the UX design researcher than the market researcher and, they’re probably much better paying.
I’d be lying if I said that the thought of whether changing market research to UX design research was a conscious decision or a happy accident, and that it kept me awake at night. It’s more of a shower though. In any case, the rebranding worked.
The Benefits of the Rebranding
The benefits of this rebranding have been immense. Companies are now recognizing the importance of understanding their users. They’re integrating research into their product teams. They’re adopting a more user-centric approach to product development. And all of this is leading to better products, happier users, and ultimately, more successful companies. Most of all, though, I think our poor market research departments are now getting the love and appreciation they deserve! Market research is important.
Looking back, it’s clear that the ‘rebranding’ of market research as UX Design has been a game-changer. It’s brought the value of market research to the forefront and made it a key part of the product development process. And as we move forward, I believe that this user-centric approach will continue to shape the future of product development.
So, here’s to UX Design, the sexy new avatar of market research!