The following lines by moweb Managing Director Herbert Höckel are taken from the regular marktforschung.de column. For the readers of the trade magazine, they are intended to broaden their perspective on the world of market research, to inspire and, of course, to entertain.
At the beginning of "Herbert's World," he takes a look back at a thoroughly exciting and eventful 2021, covering everything from pleasing developments in market research despite times of crisis to the scandal of manipulated surveys in Austria.
More specifically, I'll start with Austria's young-old-ex-Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and the role of demoscopes in last year's scandal. About the long known swamp of politics, media and economy I do not leave me now. No halfway interested connoisseur of the political epicenters can be surprised today. And that individual, morally-liberated elected officials all over the world manipulate polls in order to misuse them for their own purposes? Give it away. The world is an evil place.
But what happened in the Alpine Republic last year shocked me. Embezzling taxpayers' money for manipulated polls and then publishing them in media that were also part of the rope team?! Wow! But it's even harder to digest that market research institutes are prepared to act corruptly and allow themselves to be harnessed to the carts of power-hungry politicians.
A study conducted in 2016 for 155,000 euros, including personification, showed that Chancellor Kurz most closely resembles a dolphin or a squirrel. For me personally, however, fox seems more appropriate. (Read also (in German): Give me animal names!)
As a reminder, the Association of Market and Opinion Research Institutes in Austria, the VdMI, expelled the Viennese survey institute OGM from its ranks immediately after the scandal described above became public knowledge. Why: Because it conducted the regular "Sunday survey" for Austria with a purely online sample - instead of using the mixed-mode method, as required by the VdMI in its statutes.
So you make a "mistake" and are immediately chased out of the village? Seriously??? In plain language: the market research industry suffers catastrophic damage to its image in the Kurz affair, and the first "offense" committed by a reputable institute is immediately made an example of in the weeks that follow. Without a warning, without a hearing, without anything. Sounds to me like a purely political decision and above all as much too harsh. Why didn't the association first ask OGM boss Wolfgang Bachmayer to calmly and objectively explain why he did what he did?
Bachmayer has long been regarded in Austria as a pioneer of modern market research and played a key role in shaping the mixed-mode method that is now established. In the meantime, he rightly complains, in my opinion, that there are and were good reasons for his decision. Nobody must necessarily share his opinion but what is this merciless way of the association? A sign to the remaining members? Whoever drops out flies? Pure protectionism? A rogue, who thinks evil thereby...
Also in view of the pandemically disrupted new social order, the question arises for me:
"How, then, if not online, is our industry still supposed to produce representative surveys today or in the future, when there are fewer and fewer households with fixed-network connections and the willingness to be surveyed in person continues to dwindle?"
It was a damn close call in September. In the end, there was a new election winner, but a few years ago, both "people's parties" would have slapped their hands over their faces childishly for such figures and hoped that no one would see and find them. A true winner gave it for me nevertheless: The choice-researching institutes!
After years with partly considerable wrong forecasts, much gloating and doubts, most demoscopes were almost frighteningly close to the actual result in 2021. And this despite the fact that the election campaign was accompanied by two powerful special factors: the Corona crisis and the effects of the flood disaster. A nightmare for all forecasting professionals.
Therefore, I would like to praise my colleagues in the country. Lessons have obviously been learned from past mistakes, and it is good to see that domestic election research is working so well and reliably.
Did the German market research scene tend to have too few events at the beginning of 2021? Not really! Events, initiatives and impulses galore! Only our beloved Research&Results unfortunately did not survive Corona and was canceled.
In contrast to this, however, there was an absolutely sensible consolidation at the end of the year and a certainly worthy successor in the top class of our industry events. The operator of marktforschung.de, Smart News Fachverlag GmbH (SNFV), has joined Succeet as a shareholder. A "smart" move in the truest sense of the word. And I say that at this point expressly NOT for the purpose of sucking up. I know, it still sounds biased, but what the heck! I think it makes sense and has a promising future.
Great editorial reach is now allied with great organizational talent. The new powerhouse can put its clout to the test right away. In the spring at the hybrid "Market Research Week" and definitely at succeet22 in the fall! My opinion is already clear: Top! We are there!
Does our market research industry have to be afraid of the future at all? Of digitalization, economic crises, political upheavals or an endless pandemic? A clear no! All of these crises have been shocking us for a good two years now, and yet our industry has faced up to the resistance and continued to develop. That's what we call resilience. The best proof of this is the various takeovers - e.g. Gapfish by Cint, Respondi by Bilendi, Link by YouGov and above all Lucid by Cint. The latter even on "Unicorn level", because the billion hurdle was exceeded. This is just ONE of many indicators of how much our field of work is currently appreciated. By this I mean, above all, our survey, data and analysis expertise, as well as our consulting skills. By the way, I assume that the wave of acquisitions and mergers is far from over. Growing or dominant market players always trigger further development. In other words, it usually doesn't take long for talented and ambitious young researchers to break out of structures that are too large and inflexible and found start-ups for their part. These then occupy market niches, produce genuine innovations and throw old conventions overboard. Sounds like rebellious behavior? I think that's good, too!
I was just praising us market researchers for our resilience and all that. Nevertheless (or perhaps because of this?) here's a little water in the wine. Unfortunately, resilience is often as fleeting as a shy deer: You're barely happy about its appearance before it runs away again. That's why it's important to stay dynamic and not stand still. The world is constantly changing, so we have to do the same.
Goalkeeper Oliver Kahn used to say, "Onward and onward!" And he should know.
So stay flexible!