It was 1993 and I fell into qual research by accident.
After getting my Masters in French and Russian at Edinburgh, I was all set to embark on a very linguistic career path to becoming a fully-fledged interpreter. Then I got a phone call from a friend asking if I’d like to help open a market research company in Moscow. I told him I didn’t even know what market research really was, but he assured me that my Russian was enough and I ‘would learn on the spot’.
Next thing, I’d packed up my life and moved to Moscow in one of the most turbulent periods of its history. The Berlin Wall had only fallen a couple of years earlier, and the place was a pretty chaotic, lawless mess. My first few months were spent not speaking to consumers, but to police precincts, trying to explain that our interviewers were all legit and above board. You see, under communism, people were never asked for their opinion, and if they ever were questioned by someone, they usually disappeared shortly afterwards….
But as the years progressed and I learned the ropes, it was one of the most rewarding and exciting times to be a qual researcher – witnessing consumerism in its infancy, and moderating focus groups about products, brands and services that we in the West had taken for granted for years.
The most fascinating thing for me at the time was observing the Russian consumer’s understanding of brands and communications in ‘fast forward’ mode. How initially most communications were around functional superiority over the competition, and how very quickly people learned to decode more sophisticated, brand-led messages: it wasn’t just about which prestigious country a product came from anymore or how ‘reassuringly expensive’ it was, but also the level of aspiration people had to the whole world that brand operated in.
I’ve been back regularly (the picture above is from a 2007 visit), and as well as a feeling for Russia & its people, that experience developed my passion for brands and communications that I still have to this day, and at Marketing Sciences those are the types of projects I tend to work on.
I’m based out of our Soho offices if you want to practice your Russian!
Tell us something not everyone knows about you…
I was a competitive gymnast until the age of 14
What / who couldn’t you live without at your agency?
A bit boring, but definitely the VPN connection!
What’s your best or worst feature?
I can keep a secret
What would be your alternative career?
Where were you last Sunday?
Having a sauna at the gym
Scott Harwood-Ramsay is the Head of Qualitative Research at Marketing Sciences Unlimited & a specialist in brand & comms research.
Image source: www.rt.com/news/parliament-siege-yeltsin-timeline-691/Subscribe