I don’t sell windows, but I do have them and I have researched them!

Mustard’s Anthony Shephard-Williams (Research Director) discusses some of the misconceptions about market researchers and how a recent experience with windows may go some way to explaining the bad reputation researchers sometimes get.

Last week I was working at home when I heard a loud knock on the door, as is usually the case this means my 3 dogs go absolutely crazy and I run around trying to shoo them away from the door so I can collect my post.

On this occasion though it was not post. I was greeted by a man who asked me whether I would be interested in getting a quote for having new windows fitted.

Caught completely off guard I told the man that I was already in the process of arranging for them to be sprayed with Grey UPVC paint (it’s much cheaper than a brand new set of windows and just as effective!) and then he said he would give me a quote for replacing them fully with grey windows rather than the spray painting option.

Apparently, it would be a great price! I agreed (mistake) and was then shown an ID badge to validate where he was from. To my horror, the badge said ‘MARKET RESEARCH AGENT’.  I thought he was going to give me a rough quote there and then but low and behold that was not to be – the “Market Research Agent” had barely left my driveway and I had someone on the phone trying to arrange a time to come out and measure up, again with the promise of a good price.

I explained that I just wanted a rough quote at this stage…. 6 more phone calls over the next few days to try and arrange a home visit and I finally lost my cool. Anyway, after that, they did not ring me back again! It did get me wondering though – as a professional market researcher, do some people think I sell windows for a living?


I asked a few of my colleagues whether they also had any experiences or stories related to misconceptions in our industry and others masquerading as researchers, and here are a few of their responses:

  • Researchers spend most of their time on the street with a clipboard:

“Someone once asked if I didn’t get bored walking around with a clipboard all day asking people about things such as baked beans and nappies. When I said I’d just returned from Japan where I’d been talking to engineers at Honda about the use of advanced materials in future car designs their jaw dropped.” (Ian Font)

We do sometimes get out and about meeting people face-to-face but this is just one methodology available to us (and a clipboard is optional!). There are many other ways of conducting research and the chosen methodology will largely be driven by the research objectives, budget and timings.

  • Confusion with other marketing disciplines:

“Whenever I try and tell friends what I do they always assume it’s advertising or actual marketing rather than market research. So, I constantly have to explain myself and what I do over and over.” (Hannah Barnsley)

We do often work closely with all kinds of discipline related agencies though, such as PR, Advertising or Digital Agencies etc. – a few examples of the kind of work we do are in helping them to develop and inform their marketing strategy, to assist them in understanding and segmenting their target market, to assist them in generated new product ideas or innovations or to track awareness and assess perceptions of a campaign. Our focus and specialism though is very much on the research.

  • More window sellers masquerading as market researchers

“It happened to me quite a few years ago now. It was in a shopping centre, I was approached by a man who assured me that he was carrying out market research, he showed me a badge, I answered all his questions, he asked me for my landline number, but I refused. But with a unique name in the phone book we were easy to find and two days later I was called by someone trying to sell me new windows and they started the conversation by saying I had agreed to be contacted!” (Jo Iaconianni)

Just to clarify, all bona fide researchers must follow The Market Research Society Code of Conduct – this means we will never try to sell our respondents anything at all, even windows!

Have you experienced any misconceptions or misunderstandings related to market research? If so, get in touch. We’d love to hear about it!