In her leader for the 10th anniversary issue of Impact magazine, Katie McQuater reflects on how the insight industry can offer clarity in an increasingly complex world.

Past and future evolution progress change_crop

Certain moments call for reflection, and in this issue of Impact, as we celebrate 10 years of the magazine, a look at the decade that has gone seems justified.

Launched in 2013, Impact’s original guiding philosophy was to look through the lens of the marketer and consider how evidence and insight can make a difference to their work.

In the leader of the first issue, then-editor Brian Tarran wrote: “We’ve had years of discussion about how research is having to change – how it’s becoming more commercially driven, more strategic in its recommendations. How ‘nice to know’ isn’t an option anymore. The ‘need to know’ is all that matters.”

Later, when Jane Bainbridge took up the editor’s role in 2014, she observed how world events meant the general population often viewed data collection and tracking as “dark and Orwellian practices”, noting: “It will fall to our industry to demonstrate that it’s not always about the loss of something like privacy, but also about the gaining of relevance and saliency.”

Today, the ‘need to know’ of the insight function is still paramount, as pandemic pressures, budget constraints and wider economic and business challenges have made all the more evident. Years after Bainbridge’s words, it is still incumbent on the industry to step up and prove the value in data collection, always remembering that people are at its centre.

I believe the original philosophy of the publication has evolved as, over the years, insight has gone beyond the remit of the marketer. During the pandemic, we saw how important insight teams became in managing how businesses responded to the crisis, from understanding consumer fears about crowded places to using foresight to inform scenario planning. As part of our anniversary feature exploring some of the trends that have shaped a decade in research (page 16 ), for example, we observe the growth in research in-housing, with multiple decision-makers involved.

We’ve also dedicated space to thinking about the future, as feels appropriate for our first issue of the year. On page 20, we have asked young researchers to share their thoughts – their hopes and dreams, if you will, for the industry over the next 10 years.

When I became editor in April 2020, the country was in the first few weeks of Covid-19 restrictions. In the time since, we have seen: two further lockdowns; no fewer than three sitting UK prime ministers; Russia’s invasion of Ukraine; an energy crisis; and strikes for better workers’ rights in several sectors. Oh, and the start of a new economic recession. It’s no wonder that ‘permacrisis’ was recently added to the dictionary.

Businesses are increasingly taking into account this wider context, and its influence on people, in their approach to insight. In this issue’s report (page 22 ), the Co-op’s Sarah De Caux outlines how important this is to the organisation, particularly during a cost-of-living crisis, noting that it is the job of insight to “bring real people into the business”. It is the role of researchers, she says, to challenge how stakeholders think and help them to understand people “beyond simply seeing them as a sales prospect, a number on a spreadsheet or in a chart”.

In keeping that purpose in mind, those working in insight can set themselves apart. If the past 10 years have taught us anything, it is that it’s healthy to expect the unexpected – but insight can and should lead from the front as we start a new year.

Katie McQuater is editor of Impact, published quarterly by the Market Research Society, and

The January 2023 issue of Impact can be found here.