An open letter to Dominic Cummings: 10 reasons why market researchers ARE competent


I was a bit disappointed to learn about your public condemnation of the market research industry. I’ve been in this industry all of my working life and your assertion that we are not competent flies in the face of my experience. I have worked with a wide range of fantastic market researchers on a broad range of commercial and public sector projects and have found them to be committed to excellence. We are not perfect. Mistakes do happen. And like any industry it is possible to point to some blemishes. But, down the years I’ve often reflected on how eclectic, rich and powerful the skills of market researchers are, compared to many other professions.

It occurred to me that if you were looking for a team of professionals to help you run the country you could do worse than reconsider the traits, characteristics and benefits that market researchers provide.

So perhaps you could give us one more chance to put ourselves into your good books by looking at my 10 reasons why market researchers are more than competent.

I know you like snappy catch phrases so I’ve given each a kind of super-power title – together with a few words of explanation.


Market researchers know how to make sure that they are always working on the right problem. They know how to apply rigorous clear deep thinking in order to unearth the true phenomenon underpinning an issue. They don’t fall into the trap of just working on the symptoms.


Market researchers know how to make sense of multiple sources of complex evidence. They know how to weave together secondary, qualitative and quantitative evidence into an integrated picture that tells us what is really going on. They have good panorama skills.


Market researchers have always known what it is that makes people tick. Long before it became fashionable, and enshrined in behavioural economics, they’ve known that in a straight choice between emotion and reason, emotion wins. Market researchers are totally on the case with how cognitive biases influence how people think and act.


Everything market researchers do is grounded in the school of harsh reality and common sense. They know what’s really happening on the street. They’re close to what people and customers really think and don’t live in some theoretical ivory tower. By working with market researchers you’re going to get some great insights. They are in the business of helping organisations seize opportunities in a timely way.


You can rely on market researchers to apply business acumen. They know the killer questions to ask to get to the heart of whether an idea is viable, will fly and drive growth and profitability. They’ve got the same kind of business antennae as the Dragons in the Den when it comes to separating a sensible business idea from some kind of fiction, fantasy or vanity project.


Market researchers know that creativity isn’t always about ideas drifting down from the muse. They know that creativity is a very disciplined business – it is essentially about solving problems and coming up with creative design solutions.  


Market researchers know how to tell evidence-based stories. They turn data centric problems into intuitive to understand solutions. Gone are the days of researchers presenting their research process. They’re now in the business of making messages stick through their knowledge of the storytelling craft.

Decision framer

Business leaders tell us that decision-making is easy once someone has framed the decision choices for them. So market researchers will frame the different decision options, provide supporting evidence, map out the risks, outline the opportunities and make an informed assessment of the likelihood of success, whilst also outlining the consequences. And if asked, they will provide their own informed recommendation on what they would do if it was their own money. So, they are not afraid to make the leap from the data to the decision. They know that they are very reliable and competent admissible evidence.

Energy radiator

Market researchers are high energy problem simplifiers who are good at working in teams to make things happen. Energy drains and problem confusers are thin on the ground in this industry.


Researchers have a pretty good inkling of how things are going to work out in the future. This isn’t because they are future gazers with a crystal ball, but because they understand the accelerating present. They are good reading the shapes and patterns in the emerging evidence. They can look at data, turn it into themes, identify trends, then fashion strategic foresights. They give their clients a sound reading on how things are going to turnout.

So Dominic, not a bad CV for the market research industry after all! It sounds pretty competent to me. And if you decided to work with our industry we will throw in a bonus offer.

This is that, not only do market researchers bring these 10 powerful characteristics to bear, but they also do this with honesty and integrity. The industry has a longstanding set of codes of conduct, principles and guidelines that underpin everything it does. Honesty and reliability is in the DNA of the market research industry.  

If you’d like me to explain any of this in more detail just get in touch and we could drive to somewhere nice to discuss it!

David Smith
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