Is consumerism ruining our planet?

Day One Podcast: Insights Room 101
Episode 02: Jem Fawcus

On The Day One podcast – Insights Room 101, hosted by Hannah Mann, our guests describe three of their worst insight industry pet peeves and aims to lock one of them away forever in Room 101, much like the popular British TV show. In the second episode, Jem Fawcus—co-founder and CEO of FIREFISH—walks through three trends in the insights industry that he laments enough to banish forever. He describes each of the three and offers guidance toward how we could actually solve these cultural problems. The main pet peeves Jem describes are: 1) the use of the word “consumer” to describe people, 2) the siloing of different research methodologies, and 3) the resistance for companies to move toward renewable energy. For each of the three pet peeves, Jem describes his own experience and suggests some solutions. He believes brands can be more successful and make more sense of their customer bases by thinking about: who “the consumer” is as a person, how to bring research interests together, and how to prioritize running businesses in a healthier world.

The first item Jem decides to banish forever in Room 101 is what he calls the term, “consumer.” Jem’s key issue with the word “consumer” is that it is too narrow and dehumanizes the people that support your brand. Hannah likens its usage to the word “patient” in the healthcare space, where “patient” is used so often that people aren’t really seen as people anymore, but merely “patients.” The problem with this is that it restricts the vision of a brand. If they cannot see that the people they need to target are more than mere consumers of their product (be it soap, or streaming programs, or sports), then they will never be able to fully understand them. This theme of understanding the people that make up the market base is strung throughout Jem’s discussion of his Room 101 peeves.

The second peeve Jem wants to obliterate is what he calls the “siloing” of different research methodologies. Both Hannah and Jem understand this most simply as the spearheading between quantitative and qualitative research (quant and qual), and how, although they are both necessary, their differences are perceived to be so great that proponents effectively “silo” themselves against sharing insights. If quantitative data reveals insights about statistics, then qualitative data reveals insights about words and their meanings. Jem’s key point here is that both of these approaches to understanding market insights (and all the many other methods) really don’t benefit the company all that much if they’re shut off from communicating with each other. Jem argues that what’s more important than individuals specializing is individuals knowing a great many things deeply. The world needs more polymaths, he says. If not that, then the world needs more people who are eager to understand the full picture of what market research provides, including the full picture of the market, the public—and the world we share.

The third and final peeve that Jem tosses into oblivion is what he sees as the corporate world’s hesitance to adopt a bold environmentalist strategy. Sick of seeing companies dance around the issue, Jem believes that a business has to be stewards to the earth. But it’s more than just understanding what your target demographic wants and delivering a quality product. Jem points to the fact that customers care about more than that—they care about equity, human rights, ethically sourced goods, and commitments to protect the environment. Jem urges companies to start developing environmental strategies now if they haven’t already, including how to begin to adopt renewables as a part of the net-zero 2050 plan. There are no excuses to not try to find ways to do better today. It will help business and help the world.

In the end, Hannah and Jem meet in the middle to throw two peeves in Room 101 forever: the dreaded “consumer” and scant green policies. Jem is certain the world—and market research—will be better for it.

About Jem Fawcus
Jem Fawcus is the co-founder and CEO of FIREFISH, a UK-based insights agency. He is an expert in using insights to drive brand purpose, communication developments, and innovation. When not moving the needle for the best brands in the world, Jem enjoys fly fishing, football, and his chickens.

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