How Lowe's is adopting new market research techniques to understand its customers

Stephen Whiteside

Marketing research has been called many things – slow, incomprehensible and an obstacle to creativity among them. But these terms almost seem like a compliment when compared with the views of Kyle Nel.

"Let's talk about the indescribable, indestructible, nothing-can-stop-it blob that is marketing research," said Nel – the director of Lowe's Innovation Labs – in beginning his address to the 2014 Neuromarketing World Forum, an event held by the Neuromarketing Science and Business Association in New York during March 2014.

And his description of the industry didn't become much more flattering from there. "Marketing research is a disaster. You can quote me. It is an unmitigated disaster," he asserted. "We think we're going to this well of beautiful, pristine water … and getting this insight and this knowledge as we're asking people questions. What we're really getting is something like this: it's a big, gnarly cesspool full of junk."