You can tell a lot about a person by the area of the bookstore in which they spend their time: Whimsical types might have a penchant for the travel section; serious types might make a beeline to check out the latest science-related tomes. But market research texts may not be as easily categorized in your bookstore or library. At first glance, some of the best market research books aren’t specifically about research and analytics, but all serve to make you think differently about customers, products, and data.
Put a few of these books on your own shelf and they might change the way you think about market research (and all of its functions).
- Thinking, Fast and Slow; Daniel Kahneman.
Best for: Understanding psychology.
You don’t have to have your Masters to understand Kahneman’s book on customer and decision psychology: The way he frames choice mechanisms, reactions, and judgements can give anyone better insight into human behavior and why we react the way we do. The book breaks down the system 1 vs system 2 method of thinking. Consider a behind-the-scenes look at the brain and you’ll better understand why some marketing campaigns are more effective than others.
- Now You See It; Cathy N. Davidson
Best for: Learning about qualitative research.
Cathy N. Davidson’s book, Now You See It. Isn’t about close-up magic: It centers on the brain and why it pays attention to the things it does. Hinging her findings on neuroscience, Davidson discusses the importance of cognition and how it’s rapidly changing in an attention-deficit society. Compare this book to what you know about the fluid nature of qualitative research and you’ll find deeper insights into why subjects think, act, and react.
- Rock, Paper, Scissors: Game Theory in Everyday Life; Len Fisher
Best for: Splicing games with market research.
When people play games, interesting things happen. They’re more relaxed, they have a positive reaction, and they’re most themselves when their competitive side (or lack thereof) shines through. In Rock, Paper, Scissors, physicist Len Fisher discusses why games are such an accurate barometer of human behavior, and how to use game theory to solve problems, predict behavior, and get to know subjects even better.
- Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping; Paco Underhill
Best for: Understanding consumer behavior.
People are being marketed to in almost every aspect of their lives, from walking in a grocery store to playing a game on their tablet. Why We Buy discusses the fascinating psychology behind what motivates customers to open their wallets and become loyal to certain products and brands. Tapping into those motivations could be the secret to groundbreaking market research and even better results.
- The Wisdom of Listening; Mark Brady
Best for: Improving core research skills.
At first glance, Mark Brady’s anthology of essays on listening doesn’t seem like a market research book. But what is market research if not hearing what customers are saying? In this book, several thought leaders explain what it’s like to not only listen, but listen well. Too often, market research is distilled down to numbers and data. The Wisdom of Listening reminds us to step back and hear customers through the analytics.
Of course, it’s impossible to list all of the best market research books, but this list is a start. Lining your shelves with books that help you understand psychology, predict human behavior, and yes, even improve your own skills can help give insight into what data is really saying. And of course, your education would not be complete unless you read a bit about Charles Parlin, the father of market research.