That Light Bulb Moment

6th February 2017 11:21

This blog was written by Barrie Hawker, Research Consultant

After a long career in market research I’m well aware that its image has never been the most dynamic. Mention it to someone at a dinner party and you can immediately see the eyes start to glaze over. Tell someone you’re in market research and you’re working on a project about lamp posts and the eyes have the potential to glaze still further.That Light Bulb Moment

I’ve found this image of my profession a little hard to bear at times particularly based on my own experience of market research as an extremely rewarding and engaging profession. 

In essence, when considering market research few probably think ‘creativity’, fewer still probably think ‘inspiration’. But it’s these two aspects of my work which came together on ‘the lamp posts job’ and proved just how valuable market research can be. This not just from a personal perspective but also from a client perspective, the people who pay our wages.

So here was the brief: the world is moving apace; technology is helping to drive this pace; cities are becoming ‘smarter’; lamp posts are helping in the development of ‘smart cities’.

Our client was a marketing agency, The Marketing Pod, helping their client, Lucy Zodion, a leader in the design and manufacture of street lighting equipment in the UK, to find out more about ‘smart cities’ and more about how lamp posts might help in the future development of the same.

The challenge for us was to interview senior people within councils and find out their opinions and attitudes towards ‘smart cities’, as well as understanding their views on how lamp posts fit within this. We also wanted to know what they thought of some new ideas around technology, ‘smart cities’ and lamp posts.That Light Bulb Moment

Challenge is the best word to describe the recruitment process on this project but it’s one our in-house team rose to with aplomb. Not only did it prove difficult to track down the most relevant person to interview about ‘smart cities’ and lamp posts, when we did track them down, awareness and knowledge varied from person to person, from council to council.

Hard work and determination from our fieldwork team, however, eventually shone through. In the process we contacted nearly 200 councils and achieved our target when at times this felt unlikely.

As all good market researchers know, however, fieldwork provides our raw data, we as researchers have to interpret that data in order to provide clients with clear direction and sound conclusions and recommendations based on what we have found.

Cue the inspiration.

Long days and long nights finally led to ‘that light bulb moment’ which forms the heading of this blog. We came up with a way in which to tell the story of our findings and we did so in an engaging way, which was totally in tune with the project as a whole.

Our inspiration came from segmenting our data by those who were more aware of ‘smart cities’ and those who were less aware of the same. We realised that these different people were on a journey towards knowing more about ‘smart cities’ and knowing more about how lamp posts might fit into this both now and in the future.

And so to creativity...That Light Bulb Moment

To us this journey emerged as one that might be compared to the path to enlightenment. As people gather knowledge, they become more engaged with the ‘smart cities’ concept and this higher engagement leads to more potential for lamp posts to play a part within their ‘smart city’ vision for the future. Our report reveals how the lamp post could play an important role in our future cities. A publicly owned asset situated along virtually all roads and streets in every city in the UK, its ability to act as an antennae and post for enhanced connectivity and monitoring means it could serve a multitude of functions beyond a smart lighting system for improved security and energy efficiency.

The culmination of our inspiration and creativity came in the form of an infographic (featured on page 16 on this report), which helps to distil a major piece of work pretty much in one chart.

Using experience and interpretive skills to explain a complex journey in an engaging and simple way has helped make my career in research so interesting at the fieldwork stage and so enjoyable when everything comes together in a slide like this.

Here’s to a new image for market research, one based on inspiration and creativity. It’s what we do and it’s what’s kept me involved in the industry for so long.

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