The DIY Research Debate

We can likely credit The Home Depot with developing the “do it yourself” (DIY) mentality for home maintenance and repair. DIY can be a good option when the task is not too daunting, and it needs to be done quickly and affordably.

Now jump on over to the still growing DIY trend in marketing research. For this, we can credit a multitude of online survey tools, the emergence and rapid growth of social media, and the easy access to technology that ties it all together. And like the DIY method for home repair, DIY research is an acceptable option when the objectives are simple and uncluttered, and when budgets and time constraints are tight.

There has been much debate over DIY research. Some say it is not “real” research. I say that sometimes it can fall into a gray area, depending on how it is handled and executed, but sometimes gray area research is better than taking a completely blind leap of faith.  And sometimes, not.  For example, online concept testing for a new packaging format, something that is not familiar functionally, can lead you running full speed down the wrong path.  I'm sure many of us can recall at least one item we bought thinking, "Gosh, it looked so great on TV."

The caveat for DIY research is that just because the tools are available, the task does not have to be taken on alone. It is always best to consult a professional researcher for, at minimum, a review of the questions and methods, screening criteria, and even how to interpret the response. There are many nuances that can come into play. The way a question is worded (in quantitative and qualitative methods) can completely change the meaning or perception. Sometimes responses need to be understood in context – looking for what a person means beyond what was said – and there is the benefit of an objective third-party perspective.

Remember, DIY means “do it yourself” not “do it alone”. It is not an all or nothing proposition. After all, Home Depot has its experts on call for you as well.