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When Everyone Wants to be a Brand, Why Would Anyone Want to be a Market Researcher?

We’ve all seen and read the stories of our favorite celebrities who had dreams of making it and pursuing their love of acting, or being an athlete. While money was likely a key driver in some of those dreams, being well known, famous and popular was likely just as top of mind.

Wanting to be famous is not a new dream, but today, the prevalence of that desire has reached an all time high. In a 2021 YPulse study, more than half of 13-20 year olds stated that their top ambitions and career choices resided in the possibility of becoming social media stars. According to an Influencive report, 58% of Gen Zers want to own a business eventually, and 14% currently do. Compared to previous generations, Gen Z is seeking the limelight at increased rates, and, given the earning potential for doing so, with good reason.

Influencer Khaby Lame is a great example for how the future of our workforce hopes to be plucked from obscurity and into fame. The 22-year-old creator from Senegal gained notoriety through his comedy skits, and is now the most followed person on TikTok. Thanks to his newfound fame, he has become the new global brand ambassador for Binance, the largest crypto exchange by trading volume, and will likely have many more opportunities to come.

If today’s instant gratification-led young professionals are heavily considering fame-infused career trajectories, it should be no surprise that industries like market research and insights are struggling to find, attract and retain promising, diverse talent. Not only do people rarely know this industry exists, but the fundamental way we conduct business keeps us hidden and out of sync with how the incoming generation of young professionals desire to be seen and recognized throughout their career journeys.

A career in marketing research and insights often results in practitioners being locked behind contractual NDAs and working across teams where your individual voice and contributions may or may not be heard and seen. Additionally, if we are rewarded for our inputs, it is often done internally or through a competitive lens with many others seeking the same accolades. Very rarely is there an opportunity to publicly highlight small wins in a way that effectively lands with our peers. In fact, unless we are established, senior thought leaders, rarely will anyone outside of our cohort be aware of the work we do, or the extent to which we are involved in some of today’s most culturally relevant brand activations; the very same activations that often build & inform the strategies for how influencers become brand ambassadors in the first place.

For a generation that is increasingly enticed by fame and notoriety, the market research and insights field has failed to evolve for the new class of incoming professionals. This is ultimately putting our industry at risk of failing to attract the talent it needs to sustain itself.

So how do we fix this?

In a previous article, we addressed some key ways to fix our industry’s appeal to a wider audience, but there are other, larger elements that need to be considered.

1. Be realistic about the competition

First, there is a need to recognize that we are not only competing against other industries for talent, but we are also competing against the idea of sustained wealth and fame. Even for those who are not into being “insta-famous,” social media still plays a role for individuals with traditional 9 to 5 occupations. For this newer, more entrepreneurial generation, creating a personal brand is no longer a novelty as having the right online persona can dramatically improve your digital presence and earning potential.

Young professionals are not shy when it comes to bragging about the work they do, which is a stark contrast to most market research departments and agencies. Not only do they desire to be acknowledged by their friends and colleagues but they also have a goal of looking like the “bawse” their platforms proclaim them to be. Due to the legal implications of sharing work that’s still in the R&D phase, a clearer, less murky way needs to be mapped out for Millennials and Gen Zersto be able to talk about the end results of the work they spend half their days completing.

2. Create transparency

When you search “careers in advertising” it is fairly easy to ascertain a type of “map” to guide new professionals into the space in a way that allows them to figure out where they belong. This is a fundamental step that the market research and insights field is missing. Knowledge is a leading form of currency with today’s generation, which means they need to be able to see a clear career path and trajectory in order to better understand their options and to inform their career choices.