Do Companies Still Benefit From Having a Market Research Department?

What’s your gut response to the title question about Market Research Departments? Yes? No? Being Swiss I would say it depends!

I am probably in the third camp. Yes, if it is a department that integrates and analyses information from multiple sources, and then delivers actionable insights and recommendations to the organisation. No, if it is the traditional market research department, whatever that is.

I first asked this question a few years ago and it generated a lot of – sometimes heated – discussions. Now after so many changes in the past couple of years, I thought it was worth revisiting. Please add your own perspective into the comments below and let’s get those discussions started again.

Thanks to social media and websites, the IoT (Internet of Things) and smart products, companies are inundated with information these days. Who better than market research to help in its analysis? But in order to become this new business decision support group, new skills are required.

Insights 2020 by Kantar-Vermeer ran some interesting research into the future of market research and insights. In their report, they spoke about the need for researchers to have five critical capabilities:

  • Research & analytics mastery
  • Business acumen
  • Creative solution thinking
  • Storytelling
  • Direction setting

The fieldwork is now a few years old but I still think it makes good background reading to make companies think about their own needs in terms of data analysis. Also, the world and business environment has changed dramatically in the last eighteen months.

Another study by BCG and GRBN resulted in an Invest in Insights Handbook to help organisations report on the ROI of the insights function. They reported that those who measure the ROI of their information have found a seat at the decision table, increased budgets, and more control. Those are the department objectives that the FMCG world in particular desires today, be they in a manufacturing or retail environment.

As the handbook mentions:

“Architecting a world-class Insights organization requires executive, cross-functional commitment/engagement”

To do this, the report mentions the following six points:

  • Vision & Pace
  • Seat-at-the-table and leadership
  • Functional talent blueprint
  • Ways of working with the Line
  • Self-determination
  • Impact and truth culture

The analysis concludes that:

“The biggest barriers to experimenting with innovation in CI are resources, both time and money. A lot of times there’ll be [a need for] an innovation project but it can’t find a home.”

Invest in InsightsThis seems to suggest, at least to me, a chicken and egg situation. Resources are insufficient because the business doesn’t see the benefit of investing in market research and insight development. But the Market Research Department is struggling with insufficient budget and personnel to provide the support that they should – and often could – provide.

In the GRBN report, they mention the largest barriers to the measurement of the ROI of market research and insight. These were found to be:

  • Difficult to do – studies are used in many different ways
  • Difficulty in isolating impact of consumer insights
  • Time lag between insight delivery and business results

The secondary concerns are:

  • Consumer insights distant from business decision-makers
  • Business objectives not clearly defined
  • Insufficient staff to measure
  • Lack of alignment on important metrics

Looking at this list, it is clear that the market research profession is in need of a significant overhaul. Continue Reading

Five Brilliant Ideas to Boost your Insight Development

Insights are the pot of gold that many businesses dream of but rarely find. Why is that? Are you one of them? If so then I have some practical ideas on how you can get much, much better at insight development.

 

#1. Insights rarely come from a single market research study

Management often thinks that insight is “just another word for market research”. I remember one of my previous CEOs saying exactly that to me just before he addressed the whole market research and insight global team at our annual conference. I’m sure you can imagine what a panic I was in as he walked up to the mike!

Insights are demanding to develop and are rarely, if ever, developed from a single piece of market research. Each market research project is designed to gather information in order to answer one or more questions. Whilst it may enable a business to make a more informed decision based upon the objectives, insight development is quite a different process.

Insight development involves integrating, analysing and synthesising all the data and information you have about a category or segment user. Then summarising it into knowledge and turning that knowledge into understanding. Only then are you ready to develop an insight.

All brands should have (at least) one insight on which its image, personality and Big Idea (for communications) are built. For example

  • AXE (Lynx in UK): (young) men want to attract as many beautiful and sexy women as possible. This is one of their newer ads, where the seduction is a little less in your face and more subtle – but still there.

 

  • Haribo Starmix: There’s a child inside every adult. This “Kid’s Voices” campaign has been running for years and manages to surprise and delight with each new episode. Which is your favourite? Please add a comment below.

 

  • Dulux sample paint pots: I love to decorate my home, but I don’t want to look stupid by choosing the wrong colour. Although these are now a standard offer for many paint brands, Dulux were the first to understand the problem facing potential home decorators.

 

Dulux sample pot example of insight development

 

Insight development will provide the basis on which you will define the actions that are needed to change the attitudes and / or behaviour of your target audience. It also provides a solid framework on which to build your Big Idea for your communications’ strategy.

 

#2. Insight development is based upon a desired attitude and/or behavioural change

When your sales, marketing or management look to improve their business results, their real objective is to change the attitude and/or behaviour of your current or potential customers. For example:

  • From buying a competitive brand to purchasing yours.
  • From using your services once a month, to once a week.
  • Moving customers’ beliefs about your brand from a traditional or classic brand, to a more modern image.
  • Changing customers’ perceptions about the price of your brand from expensive to good value for money.

Because insights are based on a desired change in your customers, they usually contain an emotional element that is communicated through advertising and promotions. Continue Reading

Why Customers Are The Answer To All Your Problems (If You Ask the Right Questions)

Last week I asked whether it is employees or customers who are more important to an organisation. If you missed it read “Customers Care About a Product’s Value, Not How the Company Treats Employees” now and catch up.

I knew it would be a provocative question but I still didn’t expect quite so many comments! So this week I decided to be just as provocative and talk about the issues that challenge many businesses. And where the answer to whatever problem they have is actually quite simple. For me, customers are the answer! They can either answer or help you overcome any challenge or issue you may have.  Read on and then let me know if you agree.

 

How can I innovate more successfully?

 
According to an excellent article by Harvard Professor Dr Srini Pillay “Humans have a natural aversion to innovation because it involves a healthy dose of uncertainty and risk.”
 
 
Unfortunately, we try to reduce this risk by referencing past events to help us to predict the probability of our future success. Dr Pillay concludes that possibilities rather than probabilities are more likely to lead to better results.
 
I would concur with this statement, as the world is changing too fast to rely on past events as a predictor of anything in the future. This is why I say that customers are the answer!
 
It is only by getting closer to our customers and being constantly curious, that we have any chance of increasing our success in satisfying them.
 
It therefore makes sense that we involve our customers in helping us innovate. Not as a judge of concepts, which is what many businesses do. This is wrong because we know that consumers don’t know what they want, at least not until they see it.
 
However, they do know what their pains are; what is wrong with a product or service and what they would rather have. Co-creation and in fact ongoing conversations with our customers is the only way to stay ahead of the game.
 
In another article, this time in the HBRHeitor MartinsYran Bartolomeu Dias and Somesh Khanna from McKinsey shared the results of numerous interviews they conducted in Silicon Valley, the home of US (tech) innovation.
 
They conclude that it takes many skills and cultural changes for most organisations to become more innovative. These include:
  • Audacity and grit: The determination to continue despite failure. And I would add the acceptance of failure and the license for employees to fail too.
  • Strong leadership and true collaboration: An inspiring vision and the tenacity to make it happen – together.
  • Give employees autonomy. We all need meaningful work. The chance of helping an organisation grow is what motivates top employees. That and the freedom to make decisions based on clear goals but without directive processes on how to meet these objectives.
  • Build platforms, not products. This may be the hardest for many organisations to grasp.
Continue Reading

Does your Organisation Really Need a Market Research Department? And in the Future?

There’s been a lot of talk recently about New Marketing; how communication is now all about engagement, how the consumer is boss and such like.

But there has been very little said about a New Market Research Department! If you’re concerned by this situation, whether you work in marketing, market research or a completely different area, then read on for some thoughts on how this situation can and must change.

Earlier this year I wrote about the future of market research / insight departments and what researchers need to do within their organisation to improve their image and perceived value. This week I want to take a wider look at the profession in general. 

 

Current Perception of Market Research

According to  Wikipedia, Marketing is “The process of communicating the value of a product or service to customers, for the purpose of selling the product or service. It is a critical business function for attracting customers” The definition of  Market Research is “Any organized effort to gather information about markets or customers. It is a very important component of business strategy”.

What is interesting in comparing these two definitions is the difference in appreciation of the value to business of the two. Marketing is said to be a “critical function”, whereas Market Research is said to be “very important”. Perhaps this is why Market Research Departments continue to be hammered, their budgets are constantly under pressure and their value to the business is questioned.

Well, things are about to change, or at least there is an opportunity for this, if researchers take up the incredible chance offered to them in today’s world of information (over?) abundance. You can’t continue to do the same old same old when marketing, and more importantly the consumer, is clearly on the move.

 

What Business gets from Market Research

I think that one of the biggest problems that Market Research has (continues to have) is that Marketing and Management in general, find it too complex. What is often delivered from market research, BY researchers,  tends to be numbers and findings, not underst anding, insight and recommendations.

We no longer need market research to share the numbers and information today. More and more often, these are coming automatically into companies from an ever-growing number of sources, and a lot of it is even in real-time, something market research results never were! Think sensors on products, GPS on smart phones, retail purchases with debit / credit / loyalty cards, social media interactions …. DataShaka recently wrote in their The Lab an interesting perspective on data management and information sources which you might want to check out.

That’s a lot of data; indeed Aaron Zornes, chief research officer of The MDM Institute, was recently quoted in Information Management as saying that “a typical large company with (has) 14,000 or so databases on average”. And most of that data will be just sitting around in IT storage systems, rarely reviewed and even less likely to be integrated for meaningful knowledge development. Continue Reading

I hope you enjoy reading this blog post.

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