FEATURE3 February 2021

Market research and the mainstream: How can researchers tackle assumptions?

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Brexit Election 2019 Features Impact Public Sector Trends UK

The EU referendum and the last general election betrayed a chasm in understanding between the mainstream population and the cultural elite. Elen Lewis investigates the role of research in breaking down assumptions.

IStock-96502189 Martin Barraud

During the height of the Covid-19 restrictions, a market researcher working on a financial services brief was shocked to hear an advertising agency planner claim: “Everyone seems better off in lockdown because we’re saving so much money.” Even though the daily news forecast a global meltdown, the Hackney ad-land echo chamber was telling them something different.

The research proved otherwise. Talking to taxi drivers, café workers and event planners revealed another reality about some of the mainstream population – their livelihoods had been devastated overnight and they were facing the breadline.

It’s more than four years since the EU referendum, and many of the soul-searching questions around echo chambers and filter bubbles remain crucial today. Has marketing forgotten the mainstream or are they being misunderstood – and how can market research ensure assumptions are avoided?

As one researcher says: “People don’t move outside their bubbles. But research can make the circles outside your echo chamber vivid.”

What does the mainstream look like?

The most ...