Carl Jung was a brilliant man. Somewhere around 1919, he published research that introduced a simple concept to the world of psychology and behavioral research. A concept that surprisingly to this day is scarcely explored by the commercial market research community.
Every human being has two identities.
The Persona: The public image we project to the world. This identity is a direct result of the social pressures we feel in a given situation and the cultural knowledge we've accumulated through our years of living. For example, when I'm in a room full of parents and young children, I behave very differently than when I'm just hanging out with a bunch of buddies (and of course even there, depending on who I'm hanging out with, different personas of mine will rear their head at different times).
The Shadow: Our repressed self - the one that holds all our deep routed beliefs and values. The part of our identity that we're not always comfortable talking about or sharing with other people. According to Carl Jung, the shadow is instinctive and irrational. And it is responsible for many of the decisions we make, that we can't always explain rationally.
Since Jung made this discovery almost a hundred years ago, the market research industry has done little to try and get at the shadow to truly understand the real motivations behind consumer decision-making. And that helps people like me who are looking to disrupt the research sector, not for the sake of it, but because it needs it.
Research has grossly underserved organizations.
Most research out there tells people that they're being observed. Heck, most research out there goes and blatantly asks people why they make the decisions they make. Others rely on putting people into weird, awkward social situations (like focus groups) to gather data. And of course the result is that they all collect rational data and end up with only an understanding of the persona. Unfortunately, this is the data that drives most business decision-making today.
That's why most businesses don't rely on market research for innovation. They've tried it in the past and failed miserably. Because all they get their hands on is more information about the persona. Which means the more they dig, the more manufactured the outcomes become, and the lesser value they receive.
I believe it's time we begin a conversation about changing the narrative around research and the way it is done. It's time we begin to find ways to get at the shadow, and begin to look at the Internet as the way to get at it. I believe that step one in that process is to acknowledge that maybe people aren't actually exaggerating or amplifying who they are online. Maybe they're actually the closest to being who they really are, hiding behind the perceived anonymity of the internet, exposing parts of their shadow.