Is marketing research breaking down internally?

Discussion
Feb 29, 2016
Joel Rubinson

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is an excerpt of a current article from the Joel Rubinson on Marketing Research Consulting blog.

In 2009, as chief research officer at the Advertising Research Foundation, I reported that 85 percent of client-side marketing research leaders were neutral or dissatisfied about research’s impact on the organization. We found that 40 percent did not claim they had strong support from the C-suite, and that regardless, in all companies represented, skeptics existed.

We concluded that clearly the organizations that research teams served did not have the belief that marketing research was like oxygen to their decision-making.

Seven years later, marketing research’s “broken tools” problems are getting worse in a digital, data-driven marketing age. Marketing departments can now promise more efficient and effective media spending and hyper-relevant communications. And yet they are voyaging towards unknown lands with a broken compass and overcast skies because marketing research has not integrated survey results with the digital data actually used for media tactics.

Among the adaptations needed for our digitally-driven marketing age:

Embrace action. It’s not enough to just deliver accurate reports. Establish a “marketing productivity practice” that uses real-time, fully integrated data systems and demands accountability for marketing results.

Stay grounded in the rigor and process of research. Establish standards for integrating digital profiling data with survey results at the user level and then modeling findings back onto the DMP. Create standards for social media listening.

Be future focused. Get ahead of consumers’ use of media technology and tell marketing what’s coming next and how to leverage it.

Be the runway connecting the brand and the consumer. Recognize the dramatic changes in how people consume and interact with media so you can connect brand ideas and consumer desires in the most relevant ways possible.

Be a thought leader. Anticipate the future, predicting what your internal clients will be reading in Ad Age three months down the road. Better yet, make news yourself!

Conduct an honest self-assessment. How do you think internal customers would rate the marketing research “brand image” on these criteria:

  • Provides timely consumer response data for agile marketing;
  • Is a trusted advisor for digital, social, and mobile marketing questions;
  • Provides metrics I look at every day for guidance;
  • Tells me about what is coming next in consumer media behaviors.

 

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you agree that internal marketing departments and c-level execs at brand companies doubt whether their market research teams are producing actionable results? What adjustments need to be made to adapt to the use of digital tech by consumers and marketing teams?

Braintrust
"If the C-level execs doubt whether their teams are producing actionable research, it is my guess that it is because the research is disagreeing with the positions of the C-level management."

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12 Comments on "Is marketing research breaking down internally?"

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Joy Chen
Guest
1 year 9 months ago

The role and need for market research teams have changed as the marketing tools have evolved. The first step would be to define the role of market research in the company. Secondly, the role change will likely lead to changes in how research is collected and the tools that are used. Simply said, the way research has been done may need to change to be consistent with the new research role. Finally, companies will also need to recognize the limitations of research as it provides a direction, not a clear-cut answer in most cases.

Ian Percy
Guest
1 year 9 months ago
Only when you see your highest possibilities and then align ALL your energies toward those possibilities, do you become unassailable. The problem in most organizations is two-fold: 1. Corporate myopia makes seeing the highest possibilities an impossibility and; 2. There is rarely any alignment of energy, the team motto being “every department for itself.” Basically this article says many are failing on both counts. “Research” can be a good thing but it is largely a mechanistic exercise. This is much deeper than a “digital” problem. Until research results are turned into an energizing and emotional possibility it is not likely… Read more »
Gene Detroyer
Guest
1 year 9 months ago
Wow! The discussion suggests not much has changed in the last 40 years. I found that one of the most frustrating aspects of the use of market research in my early years was how management (marketing, in particular) used market research. It wasn’t what I learned in business school. Oh, I assure you they always talked a good game regarding research, but in the end it was hardly that. The reality was that market research was used to confirm ideas or strategies of management. If the research didn’t confirm it, it was ignored. There was a huge bias toward “gut… Read more »
Ralph Jacobson
Guest
1 year 9 months ago
The old adage, “50 percent of our marketing is working. We just don’t know which 50 percent” still rings true today. Data isn’t the problem. It’s the answer. Market research teams generally don’t capture the data, primarily. In fact, 80 percent of marketing data is literally invisible to most marketing organizations. If these groups do see the data to analyze, then getting those actionable insights is also a challenge. The days of being able to do this manually or with traditional spreadsheets is long gone. There are enough tools in the marketplace today to take advantage of very focused initiatives… Read more »
Gordon Arnold
Guest
1 year 9 months ago

It is no secret that business executives are struggling with the content and use of marketing information they receive to make critical business maintenance growth decisions. Since the early part of this century the use of audio, video and social media to communicate with a new or necessary demographic is stifled by what little is known by these industries about the consumers they serve. Being the victim of believing in the social media dream and owning a bag of nightmares is only the fault of the investor that is searching for sizzle instead of the steak.

Laura Davis-Taylor
Guest
Laura Davis-Taylor
1 year 9 months ago
I loved seeing this piece written by Joel, as he’s the most enlightened and forward-thinking research guru I’ve met. He’s seen a lot of trains coming long before we heard their approach, and this is certainly one of them. It’s not the data, it’s what you do with it. Thanks Joel for hitting us between the eyes with this (yet again) while also offering up the key principles to beat on a drum. I see some clients that understand this and have set up internal processes and planning accordingly and they are all fairly successful. I see others that (sadly)… Read more »
Jonathan Marek
Guest
1 year 9 months ago

There are two fundamental trends that are indeed undermining the value of traditional market research. First, there are so many more ways to listen to consumers, from real-time kiosks gathering data on chain restaurant tabletops to analyzing social media threads. Second, the cost of real-world testing has gone way down — obviously online and in apps, but also in physical stores. Real data (what consumers actually buy/do in a real world test) always beats “research.” What they do is much more important than what they say they’ll do.

Herb Sorensen
Guest
1 year 9 months ago
I think “market research” is a misnomer. I’ve spent more than 40 years associated with it and long ago recognized that most “research” is spent pawing through piles of numbers that THE MARKET produces. And when “the business” moved online, you could shout questions into “the cloud,” and the cloud would whisper back, at MUCH lower cost, and much faster, than in the past. That’s just the tip of the iceberg on a lack of science in the C-suite that “necessarily” relies on gurus with more skill in relating to THEM than to actually finding out that what “everyone knows.”… Read more »
Joel Rubinson
Guest
1 year 9 months ago

I want to thank all of you for your amazing thoughts and insights on this topic. In particular, I love the additions of the need to redefine the contribution of research and what activities are within its scope, and the thought that the research team should be an energizing force — not something research is great at today. I also see that the voting on satisfaction is consistent with what I heard when I spoke with marketing research leaders. Keep these great thoughts coming!

Kai Clarke
Guest
1 year 9 months ago

This is true, or at least partially true when we try to assign a direct line between results and research. Most companies don’t even use the data that is available to them, let alone have quantifiable metrics in place to provide a link to measure performance or results.

Greg Mueth
Guest
Greg Mueth
1 year 9 months ago

What’s missing from most research is inspiration, especially in this Big Data age. A regurgitation of demographics, data points and behaviors is neither insightful nor inspirational. If your goal is to inspire shoppers to think and behave differently, your research itself must be inspiring. It is inspirational insight that allows everyone involved from CMOs to agencies to align swiftly and execute boldly.

Ron Larson
Guest
1 year 9 months ago

Marketing researchers need to build a reputation of complete, trustworthy analysis. Too often marketers just want research that supports actions that they did or actions they plan to do. If marketing research does not report to marketing, it can help audit the performance of marketing for the C-suite. However, this independence limits the immediate influence they can have on marketing. A happy balance, supporting marketing and evaluating marketing, is needed.

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"If the C-level execs doubt whether their teams are producing actionable research, it is my guess that it is because the research is disagreeing with the positions of the C-level management."

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