FEATURE5 July 2021

Dec Harvey-White – Research Hero

Features People

The Market Research Society has launched the Research Heroes programme to celebrate the sector’s unsung heroes. Dec Harvey-White has been named one of the Research Heroes for summer 2021. 

Dec Harvey-White, Director (Custom Research – Media and Entertainment), MarketCast

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Dec Harvey-White was nominated as a Research Hero “for his flexibility and pragmatic thinking on a key project during the Covid-19 pandemic”.

While working as consulting team manager at Mintel, Dec worked with HSBC on a piece of research to support its ‘green product proposition’ for wealth and personal banking during the pandemic. Research began in the first quarter of 2020. With multiple stages, markets and stakeholders, Dec led the team while it transitioned to home working. He also worked to adapt the proposed methodologies by market to account for the stage of the pandemic each market was experiencing.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced during your career?

I was lucky enough to become a line manager right at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, and pretty much went from looking after my own workload to helping four (and later six) others manage theirs too – all while online and anxious about the world. I’d always worked best when I could get really immersed in a project – the trends, the data, the story... the text box alignment.

Suddenly I had to be OK with pulling myself out of that all the time for line management catch ups and joining different client calls, and I started to worry projects I was leading would suffer. Luckily I had a genuinely incredible support system at Mintel, including shockingly talented direct reports and a fantastic line manager who was happy to do either half of the job while I was wrapped up in the other. Over time, I guess I just learned to trust that (unfortunately) my intense involvement at all stages wasn’t needed for a project to be a success.

What will be the next big trend or development in the research industry, and why?

A couple of years ago I worked at C Space, and in hindsight I see it was way ahead of the curve in treating participants as smart, emotional, trustworthy people, not laboratory subjects. To stay current, brands need quality, ongoing input from consumers – not just one-off input from ‘respondents’ cynical of market research. I know if I were taking part in a study, I’d be more likely to share how I really felt if I was invested in the process.

I think this is all becoming more important as consumers across the board recognise their power to influence social and commercial change – static surveys, flat discussion guides, that’s all a big turn-off. 

Who inspires you as a researcher?

Alice Spencer (now at Flamingo) who was my boss a couple of years ago. The first thing I noticed was she was just a total natural with fieldwork, particularly in building immediate rapport with consumers and making them feel comfortable enough to chat openly. The most impressive thing was how she was able to deliver insights rather than reportage. So often in downloads we can vaguely say  ‘yeah... that is interesting’, feel like we’ve achieved something, and then it go precisely nowhere. Alice was just brilliant at joining the dots, sorting the meaningful from the red herrings, and immediately spotting implications. Also, what a style icon.

View the full list of Research Heroes for summer 2021

Research Heroes is an ongoing programme throughout 2021, with a second tranche of Heroes to be published in the autumn.