BrainTrust Query: Six marketing research wake-up calls in 2009

Discussion
Jan 07, 2010
Joel Rubinson

Commentary
by Joel Rubinson, Chief Research Officer, The Advertising Research
Foundation

The
marketing research profession got six big wakeup calls in 2009.

1)
Online research panels proven to produce different results

The
ARF Foundations of Quality research compared results from the exact same
questionnaire across 17 online research panels fielded at two different
points in time (two weeks apart). We found that the test retest
reliability of each panel was high but that results differed across panels
by more than you would think based on sample sizes. This insight led
to the ARF Quality Enhancement Process, a series of metrics, planning,
and reporting templates intended to control for this effect.

2)
Cell phones are primary for close to 40 percent of U.S. households.

The
most recent CDC NHIS survey found that 23 percent of all U.S. households
are cell phone-only (46 percent of those aged 25-29) and another 15 percent
have landlines but are cell phone-primary. The Media Ratings council
has said that media research must have a solution for this, implying
that landline-only research can no longer be equated with probability
sampling. Nielsen, Arbitron and Knowledge Networks have all switched
to addressed-based sampling methods to restore probability sampling properties.

3)
Listening becomes a source of insights and marketing intelligence that
anyone can access.

Listening
is a way of hearing in real time what people want to talk about, rather
than what marketing wants to talk about. Google’s team of economists
proved that what people are searching for predicts many things, from
the geographic spread of the flu to auto sales right down to the brand. The
research team must embrace listening as well as asking (i.e. surveys)
to remain relevant and get to the front-end of marketing innovation.

4)
Marketing research still struggling to be recognized as having significant
impact

The
ARF research transformation initiative has brought many leaders together
and conducted executive interviewing in 2009 among 20 research leaders. The
consensus is that the research team is often brought in too late in the
process, viewed by many below the C-suite as an expense rather than an
investment, and as an impediment rather than an enabler.

5)
Media companies and advertisers form CIMM

The
leading media companies and advertisers came together to create the Coalition
for Innovative Media Measurement, making a clear statement to the industry
that they intend to turbo-charge innovation in media measurement. Why? They
believe existing media metrics are not keeping up with the fast-paced
evolution towards the multi-tasking, multi-platform, long-tail way that
people consume media.

6)
Shopper research takes center stage at understanding the effects of the
recession.

Numerous
studies about the effect of the recession focused on changes in shopping
patterns and increases in buying store brands. In other words,
shopper research became as important as consumer research this year,
especially on the big issue that was keeping marketers up at night.

Discussion
Questions: What wake-up calls do you think the market research community
heard in 2009? Of the points mentioned in the article, which represents
the biggest challenge for marketing research providers? Which ones are
most underestimated or which most overestimated?

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12 Comments on "BrainTrust Query: Six marketing research wake-up calls in 2009"


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Anne Howe
Guest
11 years 4 months ago

I think the biggest “aha” with the most far-reaching implications is about research that involves the shopper. The impact of shopper insights was important in 2009 beyond just understanding the impact of the recession. Recession or not, shopper insight across the full path to purchase is the critical link to being able to synergize all marketing efforts to make the wallet open, the register ring–and, most importantly–to keep the shopper engaged and satisfied.

Joan Treistman
Guest
11 years 4 months ago
The low value of market research in the C suite is not a new challenge but want that inhibits progress to overcome all the others. Engaging executives in a discussion regarding panel quality, for example, is very unlikely. However, there is a change coming that will make a big difference for all the challenges: CASRO sponsorship of ISO certification for marketing research providers. ISO certification is something that client companies understand as they require similar certifications for their organization. So when executives here the letters I-S-O, they will be alerted to a meaningful distinction. With the onset of ISO certification standards regarding panel quality, use of phone surveys, etc, will be acknowledged and the C suite will “get it.” For the present, there are many who consider thousands of interviews as sufficient data points, not realizing that quality of sample can influence the ability to forecast or simply to believe the results. ISO certification will separate those who understand the fundamentals of research from those who abide by cheap and cheerful solutions. The increase of… Read more »
Max Goldberg
Guest
11 years 4 months ago

Great article. Research is changing in many of the same ways that marketing is changing. The biggest challenge facing marketers is learning to listen. Marketers are so accustomed to pushing messages to consumers that they frequently forget to listen to what those same consumers are telling them.

Retailers need to learn how to listen to their customers. This can be accomplished by watching buying trends, collecting and acting on purchase data and actively engaging customers at the store level.

I think 2010 will be a watershed year in listening, as many marketers are forced by the marketplace to learn how to listen.

John Boccuzzi, Jr.
Guest
John Boccuzzi, Jr.
11 years 4 months ago

2009 continued to prove that Market researches need to be sure and combine their findings with other data sources to reach what I call the “One Truth.” Often researches become so excited and enamored with what they find in a survey or panel, they forget to review and analyze other data sources for validation and a more accurate picture “One Truth.”

Perception of value seems to be one of the largest challenge researches faced in 2009. By delivering more accurate actionable insights that lead to results in 2010, this challenge goes away.

Pamela Danziger
Guest
Pamela Danziger
11 years 4 months ago

I am increasingly concerned about survey respondent fatigue. We are surveying too much, too often, and people are getting tired of being asked and asked and asked over and over again. In my work I see a growing number of respondents just checking off the boxes willy-nilly in order to get their reward. I’m afraid that our industry will suffer as more garbage goes in, and thus more garbage comes out.

Andrea Learned
Guest
Andrea Learned
11 years 4 months ago

A few little words in point #4 seem key to me: “brought in too late.” Marketers have long had access or the ability to address all these wake-up calls, but the order in which they proceed in product development and strategies tends to be backwards. They start out with their usual processes/ways of doing things, and then, if they see a bit of an issue with product or strategy, decide that maybe it WOULD be worth research and listening, for example. (By then, the process may be too far along to really change, of course).

Perhaps organizational behavior and change management (to better train thinking processes for decision-makers) are the overriding wake-up call. If the humans who are doing the thinking aren’t motivated or inspired to change the way they’ve always done things, the very important tools noted in this list aren’t worth noting at all.

Li McClelland
Guest
Li McClelland
11 years 4 months ago

Number 4 is the biggie. We all know that the management of a great number of corporations uses market survey results in internal and external PR when the results agree with their already pre-conceived notions–and ignore or bury the results when they do not fill that bill. Listening to the customer or assessing competitive weakness is often not the true intent of the survey being contracted in the first place.

Mike Miller
Guest
Mike Miller
11 years 4 months ago

I believe the most concerning issue is the low recognition of the added value of market research. We help marketers become more efficient by supporting marketing mix models, price elasticity models and advertising testing. We also monitor the marketplace and their competition to ensure that their brands remain competitive. We also help drive customer leadership by supporting the new, emerging shopper insights research.

We are a great investment and companies should be investing more $ in our area to get a competitive advantage.

Bob Phibbs
Guest
11 years 4 months ago

I think a lot of “research” is in fact designed to prove a point. Witness all the breathless reporting of “fundamental changes” with shopping, discounts, no one buying, that have been proven wrong in many sectors with today’s shopping results. Couple that with the fickleness of customers who say one thing and do another; I’m not sure what insights can truly be gained other than, “Oh, that’s interesting.”

Jonathan Marek
Guest
11 years 4 months ago

Great article–very interesting. With the rapidly changing economic conditions in the past 18 months, the gap between what consumers say and what consumers do has only increased. In other words, we see that research in general has gotten less predictive of actual behavior. Thus #6–by getting to the shopper and especially into the store (or channel of sale), researchers get one huge step closer to actual behavior. This also explains the value of the Google flu-type research, which is consumers pushing their interests, rather than getting pulled by questions.

Ralph Jacobson
Guest
11 years 4 months ago

Remember that this consumer research can be “spun” into demonstrating most any point you wish to make. Also, the motives of “shoppers” versus “consumers” still needs to be identified by most retailers. I think research will be getting more comprehensive this year, however we will not reach nirvana for quite some time, based upon how long we have all been talking about this. The technology is available, but the human factor still gets in the way.

Gary Edwards, PhD
Guest
Gary Edwards, PhD
11 years 4 months ago

Of the six marketing research wake-up calls that Joel indicates, No. 2 and No. 5 stand out as truly significant 2009 events. The others are broader, ongoing industry concerns.

Mobile technology has been big in 2009 and retailers have been trying to learn how they can bring this into their own business. The primary challenge is to identify how mobile technology can benefit your specific brand. Is it simply a matter of optimizing your Web site for mobile use, or is it more about actively engaging with consumers via text surveys? Retailers must learn how their core audience uses and wants to receive their information.

Using cell phones in conjunction with CEM surveys also means asking the right questions in order to receive the most valuable feedback.

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