Richard Walker, director at Mustard, gets excited as Back to the Future Day becomes a reality.

There is already plenty of brilliant content about which predictions of the future the screenwriters got right – and which did not quite come to fruition.

This got me thinking about what the research industry looked like in 1985, what it looks like today, and what it might be like in another 30 years from now.

For context, I was just starting “big school” when the first Back to the Future was released. Back in 1989 when the sequel was launched, Ian Font (Mustard’s founder) was kicking off the first of a series of global service quality benchmarking programmes for industrial and chemicals giants such as ICI.

Looking back – what do I miss? I probably miss the greater reliance and focus there was on people talking to each other rather than defaulting to email. I certainly do not miss the nerves associated with doing my first debrief presentations using acetates and an overhead projector.

But there is no doubting that the last 30 years of technological developments have been kind to us, enabling faster, more cost effective and more insightful qualitative and quantitative methods – online communities, digital video, eye-tracking, even online surveys might have seemed fanciful back in the mid ‘80s.

As for the future, the medium to long term will undoubtedly be about getting further into the head of consumers and decision makers, the necessity of understanding needs and motivations will never go away. Even if technology makes it easier to understand what people do, the market researchers will be there to understand the why and the how.

As for the short term future, I am looking forward to getting my teeth into this hover-board product development brief we picked up yesterday…

Back To The Future