Qualitative Market Research in Germany

Like the best things in life, qualitative market research crossed my path by chance. Since then I have become increasingly fascinated with its ability to identify and understand human motivations, attitudes and behaviours.

In my attempt to find out more about the industry I was working in, I realised a discrepancy: On the one hand qualitative market research is part of the everyday practice of brand manufacturers, on the other hand its physical and theoretical existence is relatively intangible. My impression is that qualitative market research in Germany has hardly developed an independent identity as a separate branch of the field of market research. This mainly concerns the following four aspects:

1. Generally, there is no systematic academic education for market researchers in Germany. They are recruited from fields like psychology, sociology and business management. Market research as a separate field of study and education hardly exists in Germany - only the Polytechnic of Pforzheim has started to offer comprehensive courses on market research.

2. The possibilities for further education (training) are even less developed. While there are some courses for quantitative methods, there are only few seminars on issues specific to qualitative market research.

3. Until recently, qualitative market research lacked independent organisational structures. Specialised forums for qualitative market researchers only existed in the UK (AQR) and the US (QRCA). However, with the founding of AKQua in 2005, Germany now also has such a forum and it has been very active to professionalise the industry and to bring qualitative market researchers together.
(www.bvm.org/AKQua_625_0_0.html) .

4. Furthermore, it is striking that German Literature on qualitative market research hardly exists whereas there are a number of publications on marketing, market research in general and brands. Books from the field of academic social research only partly help to fill the gap. However, qualitative market research suffers from the absence of a recognised and specialised standard literature.

It is a positive development that the publishing house Gabler has presented two books on qualitative market research in 2007. Naderer, Gabriele / Balzer, Eva: "Qualitative Marktforschung in Theorie und Praxis" and Buber, Renate / Holzmüller, Hartmut H.: "Qualitative Marktforschung". Both are now in the second edition.

I am very interested in the development of qualitative market research in Germany. I believe that improvements in the above mentioned areas would have an enormous impact on qualitative market research – for clients as well as for the individual market researcher. These could be summarised as follows:

  • Creation of a systematic communication and discourse culture
  • Formation of a scientific, theory-based research literature instead of the mainly oral passing on of knowledge
  • Promotion of innovative ideas for theory and praxis
  • Development and securing of professional standards through education and training as well as through guidelines
  • Image improvement within the market research community as well as within the broader business world
  • Increase in the methodological transparency for the client

I would like to contribute towards a debate about innovations and developments of qualitative market research, its theory and practice.

Eva Balzer