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ESOMAR Congress Was A Pivotal Event For Market Research


Last week I had the great pleasure of attending my first ever ESOMAR Congress, which by a stroke of serendipity was right here in my hometown of Atlanta, Georgia. This was the 65th Anniversary of ESOMAR and their first ever Congress in the United States, so it was a pretty big deal on multiple fronts.

If you’d like a “blow by blow” breakdown of the conference, our own client-side blogger June WestHolland shared her perspective of Day 1 here. ESOMAR has extensive coverage via multiple bloggers on the RW Connect site here and Jon Puleston captured all of the buzz topics in his summary here. Of course, the “Newspaper of Record” for the MR Industry, has detailed coverage on their site.

My overall take was that it was an excellent event at all levels. ESOMAR knows how to produce exceptional conferences with high production values, great content, extensive networking opportunities, and first-class venues. But there were a few things that surprised me at this one and that I think, when taken together, will be looked back on as pivotal moments in the future course of the market research industry.

The first was the very fact that the Congress was in the US, and the acknowledgment that the United States now comprises the single largest segment of ESOMAR membership. Globalization is alive and well and it appears that ESOMAR is very much positioning itself as the global unifying organization for market research, a “United Nations” of MR if you will. I have my doubts about whether that is possible (there is an immense amount of politics involved between trade bodies) or even desirable since the conditions on the ground in various countries and regions can be so radically different from the European perspective that is ingrained in ESOMAR, but I applaud the effort to build some level of cohesive global framework for the industry. Ultimately I suspect more collaboration between organizations will happen, but not “one ring to rule them all.”

In the future the norm will be an increasing global and borderless focus for the industry as a whole, and this will be reflected in our trade bodies, media, and events.  It will be interested to observe how the needs of constituent countries will impact the agenda of these initiatives, and similar to the world stage I think we’ll see an increased tension between the priorities of the US vs. the rest of the world. That will most visibly play out around issues of privacy I think, which brings me to my next point…

I was privileged to be asked to be on a panel discussion called “White Hat vs. Black Hat: Ensuring the Future Growth of Market Research”. Here is an excerpt from the summary by Erika Harriford-McLaren:

Privacy in a changing world was the underlying theme of this panel session.  Opened by Judith Passingham, Congress Programme Chair, the panel session featured Dave McCaughan of McCann World Group, Lenny Murphy, GreenBook, Sjoerd Koornstra, Heineken International, Mike Cooke, Global Panel Management and Reg Baker, Consultant to Market Strategies International and the ESOMAR Professional Standards Committee.

Each panelist gave a brief presentation providing their unique viewpoint on how privacy regulations are pushing the industry to a focus on social science and stats in a time where new entrants are creating pressure to expand the sector to meet growing and widening client needs.

I suppose I was the resident “Black Hat” on the panel, but the reality was that none of us were very far from the same position: new competitors, changing technology and cultural norms, and most importantly evolving client needs are all massively transformational for the research industry. Where we differed was on how to deal with it. I chose to drill down into what the new competitive set looks like:


You can read the details on our positions in Erika’s summary. I maintain that issues around privacy will be resolved in an evolving terms of service agreement between the various mobile/social/e-commerce platform providers and consumers,  most likely through a VRM type consumer data bank model. It is the role of trade bodies to understand regulatory issues as they pertain to our industry, but the new players in this dialogue simply have unprecedented reach, influence, and money to mold this debate and ultimately our position on the issue will be a very small concern in light of the global fiscal considerations inherent in it. I trust that the Googles, Facebooks, Amazons, etc… of the world will adapt to create open value for consumers, dragging brands with them, and when the value is proven governments won’t have a leg to stand on. When that happens, what role will trade orgs have?

I also believe that the way we think of sampling and representativity will fundamentally change as a result of “big data” analytics driven largely by non-MR centric data sources, allowing for a greater focus on the micro vs. the macro and forcing research to shift away from broad descriptive statistics of groups and instead to be the keepers of insights on the hearts and minds of individual consumers. It’s a brave new world for our industry, and one that we need to begin to adapt to now.

All of this brings me to my final point on why this event may prove to be pivotal for MR. There were a host of new entrants to the marketplace participating at the conference: new tech suppliers were abundant (especially from emerging markets) as were thought leaders on topics like mobile research, gamification, behavioral economics, emotional measurement, neuromarketing, biometrics, etc.. What was really different was the participation of companies like Bazaarvoice, SurveyMonkey, Facebook, Google, and the introduction of a bold new vision from Toluna and Nielsen. The combined message from these firms was that the game truly has changed and our future will look very different from our past.

That message was delivered loudly and clearly during a panel hosted by Stan Sthanunathan of Coke that consisted of the firms I mentioned above,  minus Bazaarvoice, who had a stellar standalone session earlier on how shopper & marketing analytics are fueling new game changing insights for brands. Tom Ewing has a wonderful rundown of the details here. 

Why was this panel so impactful? Because it clearly showed that the market research industry as the primary conduit of consumer data, especially survey-based data, has been disintermediated. We don’t own the process or the access any more; it has been democratized via new technology platforms that can do much of what we do cheaper, faster, and yes even better in many circumstances.  Consider:

  • SurveyMonkey & Facebook demonstrated that their own polling data matches that of the most prestigious polling firms for a fraction of the cost and 10x the speed.
  • Google discussed how advances in virtual shopping, augmented reality, and social sharing are changing what data can be collected and how it can be used by both brands and consumers to drive value.
  • Toluna showed a great video on how VRM can be used by consumers to help them make better decisions, foster deeper relationships with brands who want to earn their business, and engage with the world around them in an interesting and impactful way driven by data.
  • Nielsen was focused on neuromarketing, cognitive science, image analytics, and even satellite based pattern mapping as the future. There was no mention of surveys anywhere in their future projections; they are already moving on.

That may all sound grim, but the panel was anything but and neither am I. If anything, the role of research in the world is likely to only increase in importance in this new data driven future. That said, the business model and value proposition is likely very different.

On the business model front, we will likely see a steady decline over the next 3-5 years in revenue generated by traditional quantitative research. The survey as the key driver of revenue is only going to decrease as a contribution to the top-line. For now that probably won’t impact those firms that own deeply client-side entrenched proprietary data sources like (insert Honomichl 10 Company Name Here), but even that won’t last much longer as the same forces impacting ad hoc research make their presence felt there and new ways to access more data that can deliver more holistic insights emerge.

That means that the future business models of suppliers will be largely driven by emerging approaches and qualitative research combined with the “insight consultancy” position. That is good news for many small to mid-size suppliers but not so good news to larger players. It will be a sea change for us all and the shake-up is starting already.

I suppose the best summary of why I think ESOMAR Congress was so important is because it was the first event by a trade org that seemed to really explore and embrace what the future of market research is going to be like: global, driven by non-traditional technology suppliers, and focused on delivering understanding and strategy, not data. In many ways I suspect that suppliers will become much more like client-side researchers; focused on the business issue not the method.

Non of this should be new to regular readers of this blog; we’ve been talking about this shift for years. Now, it finally seems like the rest of the industry is accepting the reality of the change and getting down to the hard, but rewarding, work of transforming ourselves to be competitive and relevant in the new paradigm. I don’t know about you, but I find that to be the most exciting development in our history!

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24 responses to “ESOMAR Congress Was A Pivotal Event For Market Research

  1. My turn to wear the black hat. As much as I like ESOMAR congresses, and I’ve been to a fair number of them, they are never pivotal or game-changing – and your summary points out an interesting paradox, knowing how you like non-representivity in research (you radical, you). What you saw was not representative of what the industry is thinking or where it was heading. Instead, you saw what the program committee wanted you to see. If the committee had decided that the theme should be “Back to Basics – Making What We Do Better” (feel free to steal this idea, if anyone wishes), the conference would have been fundamentally different. You would have seen companies explaining why mobile research yields bad data, Nielsen would have been talking about the spiffy things they’re doing with store and household panel data, and many would be talking about why two questions on a Google survey is useless and dangerous.

  2. Lenny, ARF, MRA, AAPOR and CASRO, as well as research trade associations, in Canada, Mexico and South America have for many years been concerned about the future of Marketing and Public Opinion Research. These organizations for a long time have been concerned about the representativeness of cell phones, online panels,, etc. and such issues as Privacy, and the validity of eye-tracking and brain scans, etc. Where you have been in the industry for a decade, some of us, have been in the industry for four decades or more. Indeed, ESOMAR wants to compete with all the above organizations, and seemingly would like to be the preeminent research trade organization in the world. They think they are a better leader and more knowledgeable than the others. Good for them! As for me, I will take my lead from many research trade associations. They all bring something to the table and each have their own expertise.

  3. I have also been to many ESOMAR events and like Steve Needel feel that the subject matter and the speakers are basically going to give attendees the perception that there are some hot new trends in the industry. It is however nice to see ESOMAR have gotten over their tendency to use academics rather than practitioners in the speaker content and have seriously reduced their Euro-centric attitudes of the past. Now back to the conference. I think Lenny that you will find that there are a lot of us out here who would argue pretty strongly that the standard quantitative model will not be impacted too much by a lot of this technology driven stuff. Your reference to democratization of information is very accurate. But democratization’s weakness is that everyone has a say and in your case you reference lots of social media and analytical tools as sources that are almost certainly subject to age and income and therefore attitude biases. In my view, the day that anyone hangs a marketing strategy on a Google survey or biased online and mobile panels will be when hell freezes over. Most of these tools are just cheap solutions that give some directionality, but not anything a marketing director would treat as valid input to a million dollar decision. And lets nail the head on big data as well. Big data has been around for years with lots of practitioners not delivering much excitement, so why the new found buzz? The tools haven’t really changed!. The reason why big data is going to be useful is not because it is “big” but because it is close to real time nowadays. So forget big and say “big timely data”. That is where all the success will be seen, being able to analyze data closer to the purchase moment. A big issue that is going to soon put a damper on social media is going to be the eventual recognition by this mainly younger audience that they are giving away too much. Just watch as the desire for anonymity and less socialization starts to work its way down the age scale. But then we can always fall back on old time quant, can’t we?

  4. @Chris old time quant died out in large parts of the MR world during the first decade of the current millennium. Old time quant pretended that it used representative samples that approximated, albeit loosely, to random probability samples.

    Now, in many markets, and for many purposes, quant research is based on using a self-selected convenience sample, i.e. the online access panel, and that is being challenged by the rise of river/sewer sampling.

    It is possible to do good research with online access panels, but the model has changed, in a process that was facilitated by technology (the internet and software improvements) and driven by price and speed.

    If mobile were cheaper than online panels we would already have seen a major switch to mobile for quant. People who can provide answers that are cheaper and good enough, and fast enough will grow share.

    A couple of years ago at the UK MRS conference I said that in 20 years there would be no surveys. I need to modify that to say there will be almost no surveys, and we are on track, IMHO to get there in less than the 17-18 years remaining.

    1. Thanks for all the comments and feedback folks. Unfortunately I don’t have time to reply in depth right now @chris and @Steve; you see, I am at a client-side strategic planning retreat (the third time I’ve been asked to attend one of these things this year) learning about their needs and objectives when it comes to insight as a core driver of their business. I’m not alone though; Google, Rand Corporation, and Microsoft are here too, although unfortunately this company didn’t invite their traditional MR suppliers. Good thing they didn’t; man am I getting an earful on the failures of research suppliers to “get it”. I wonder if I should suggest they read my blog to underline that fact? Oh, and insight for this multi-billion dollar global brand isn’t driven by traditional quant surveys; they want to get to the hearts and minds of consumers and predict behavior so their budgets are increasingly going to other approaches (including their own “big data” efforts) to meet that business imperative. This same message is repeated over and over again with just about every client I talk to, read about, or listen to them speak. Not all for sure, but more and more. Perhaps it is time we start listening?

      @Ray: yeah, what you said, except I think you underestimate the pace of change. I give it 5 years.

      @Nick, I don’t disagree with you at all and thought I was clear about that. I don’t think any global organization will supplant local or regional bodies for many reasons. That said, the market always speaks and ESOMAR is very smart; if they are growing it is because they are listening to the market (or at least listening to some of it) and are working to meet the needs they see. There is a lesson there for us all.

      I’d also say that the same applies to the agenda at the event. Sure it was stacked, but it was stacked in response to a need expressed in the market, and it was successful because they met that need. I’d say if you look at conferences as “uber focus groups” of a population you can certainly get a heck of a lot of useful directional feedback. And like any good focus group, when combined with quant like the Cambiar study, the ESOMAR report, and the soon to be relaunched GRIT study as well as secondary research of existing and related data the pieces make for a pretty compelling picture.

      Taken in that context maybe we shouldn’t be so damn cynical (or myopic) and instead do what we’re supposed to do; listen, understand, analyze, and project outcomes. I promise you that if you do you’ll reach the conclusions that I have and might have a chance to reinvent your business for long term growth. Remember, that is what I did in 2009 when I decided being CEO of a traditional full service research company was a losing plan.

  5. @Ray – this is the fodder for an interesting debate or piece of research – preferablly the latter first. The topic – “Is Olde Tyme Quant Research Dead or Dying?” – I put the faux old English twist on it so you would better understand it 🙂

    In so far as the method of data collection is not tied to the method of analysis, I’d suggest that life has not changed that much for quantitative researchers. Of course there are new tools, both statistical and conceptual (structural equation modeling and max-diff scaling, neither of which are used enough or correctly enough). But the quant mission remains the same – map/model the sphere of buyer behavior in order to predict future buyer behavior. I still need a [reasonably] representative sample of my target group to do that, because we know that if I don’t have [reasonable] representivity my chances for statistical error increase. I don’t care whether I get the data from face-face, phone, internet, mobile, or the cloud – I’m still trying to model it. When those people who don’t think any of this is important make bad decisions, the post-mortem will point to research that led them astray and they’ll be looking for new jobs – front lines today, employment lines tomorrow.

  6. TBH content-wise I don’t even think ESOMAR was that radical – there were a few solidly traditional papers in the mix, and the topics under discussion weren’t *that* radical (aside from the avowedly futurist panel Lenny talked about). It reminded me a bit of the MRS events in London, which started to push for innovation and listen to their fringe a few years ago, and have been all the better for it. The difference is partly that ESOMAR have a bigger budget so could actually GET the companies – Google, FB et al – that other places just talk about.

    Re. full service companies – worth pointing out that the panelist on that future panel with the wildest and best ideas (IMO) was the guy from Nielsen!

  7. @Lennny – I know you’re busy being smart, so no rush to reply, if you want, to this. What you’re hearing is not a rant against old time quant or surveys or anything else substantive with regard to methodology. What you’re hearing, I suspect, is that way too many people in our business are not that good at what we profess to be good at – understanding and explaining what consumers want/need/will do in the future. If the folk you’re with aren’t happy with what they are getting, tell them to find new suppliers. You and I know lots of people who are good at research and good at explaining what they do, what they found, what it means for the client.

    1. LOL, Touche’ @Steve! Thank you for puncturing my ego my friend; Lord knows I need all the help I can get. And you and I both also know that I do have to work very hard to even sound smart, let alone being smart. 🙂

      The point I was trying to make in a too pithy way was that much of what I write about is through the lens of the client interactions I am privileged to be a part of, coupled with my own analysis of trends impacting the industry. It just so happened that I’m here at this engagement and it seemed like a good way to underline the point that perhaps we shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss what we don’t want to hear.

      I think the message we are hearing from most clients is exactly what you are saying, and they have just had enough and are putting us on notice that it’s not good enough anymore because we’re not the only game in town any more. If we don’t step up our game and go along on the same journey that they are on then we wont earn their business. It may take awhile for that to become apparent, but we’re talking a handful of years, not a generation. I wholeheartedly agree that there are many great folks in our industry that can deliver the core skills they are looking for and I am regularly asked to make those recommendations (which I do), but increasingly what I am hearing is that the skills you’ve outlined should be independent of trying to sell a method, especially traditional methods. That is a tough one for most MR firms, but it is nirvana to consultancies that simply partner with tech suppliers.

      @Tom, agreed that there was a lot of great traditional representation at ESOMAR as well (as there should be), but I bet you’ll agree that the “New School” stuff outweighed the “old school” stuff in the agenda, especially in terms of interest levels from attendees. And yes, Nielsen was doing some very cool stuff, but they are one of the few with the resources to go there; it will be very hard for others to match that. And, as I said in the post, it’s telling that Nielsen is embracing new approaches and establishing a path to shift from their traditional revenue generating activities to new ones.

  8. That warm breeze from hell was always going to happen because at the end of the day clients are looking for low cost solutions. The problem will be when the marketing decisions turn out to be badly made, the cold winds will indeed return. Lower costs, not methodology advantages have always been what has driven the trend towards online solutions. The supplier side has responded with all sorts of justification about the similarity between online results and that captured by offline data. This has puzzled me for some time because I have had a lot of experience in the banking sector with the move across from offline to online with tight and matching quotas and let me be very clear here, the results are never close. I am talking basic awareness and usage measures, don’t even go near attitudes and imagery data. It would seem intuitive to me that there should be a difference. Anyone pre-disposed to participate offline or online will have marked attitudinal differences. I have seen studies where the online response may actually be more honest in some study areas e.g. personal hygiene, sexual activity, drug use, etc. In our experience the online respondent is more communications involved and certainly look like a sub-set of the total market. In other words they tend to over-state the effectiveness of marketing activity. Let me however raise another concern because it addresses some comments about old time comment, not being strictly randomized or representative. Whilst this is true, the way this has been dealt with has been interlocking quota controls as a minimum, designed to represent some population criteria. Now those of us who work in countries where ethnicity and rural/urban coverage is an issue have seen the problems with online. If you would spend the time looking at the sample statistics provided by online panel companies you will start to see the problem, huge biases to younger age (basically 50% plus of the sample under 35 about 1.5 times the actual incidence!) and singles. Your response is no doubt, so what, we can always use the same interlock methods as in the offline. Well as a practitioner you will soon discover that this is no solution because most panels have few people over 45 years, have very poor coverage on non-major cities, etc. This should already make you wonder what possible attitudinal factor would make panels biased towards the young and singles and urbanites. In Malaysia for example, which has huge ethnic divide, major urban and sub-urban cities, trying to get an interlock quota fulfilled is never going to happen. This is the nub of my argument. There are real differences between online and offline data at every level, not just demographic representation issues. Ask any panel supplier what his greatest problems are and he will tell you two things, the inability to get adequate samples outside urban centres, to get older aged participants and to get second tier city coverage. Secondly they will tell you they are running into problems of maintaining panels as the first signees start to drop put through lack of interest. The point many of you have missed is related to this last point. I believe the major trend that will start to be obvious to all research practitioners is that online respondents are losing interest because of a growing awareness of security and more important anonymity issues. We can see it now in declining Facebook numbers in many early usage countries. In my view the whole social media thing is going to hit a brick wall, albeit very soft and very thick, but eventually over the next ten years you will see less people willing to share where they are and who they are. Ask any adult around 25 plus about usage of social media and you will find the willingness to participate in these media is declining. Mobile surveys just make me seriously concerned. Just put your thinking caps on and ask yourself would you “waste” even 10 mins on a mobile survey. The point is when you get older, more incomed, with more serious decisions about family and work, the desire to participate in these “frivolous” things declines rapidly. So you have to ask who is participating at these age groups and how different are they from you? I have no doubt based on a mountain of experience that any online research that is product focused and targeted to an older age segment (here I mean 35 plus!!) e.g. banking, will return different results from the offline across all important measures, despite major quota controls. This is not some old fuddy duddy bemoaning the end of Old Quant, this is real, current and a concern!

  9. Seems like that cold wind may be a blizzard: Google And Harris Interactive Team Up On Self-Service Market Research

    @Chris, I get everything you are saying and don’t disagree with the scientific principles behind your argument. For some types of research that is a big deal and there will be a place for that level of rigor, but for the vast majority of commercial research done today understanding the limits of the method doesn’t detract from the effectiveness of the method; we just have to understand the context. In a world of Big Data (which really hasn’t been around for many years: the concept was, but not the capability to actually harness that volume of information and apply the level of analytics needed) traditional sample theories get turned on their ears due to sheer volume and survey research no longer is the sole domain of MR. Couple that with an increasing focus on understanding the digital path to purchase, marketing ROI, social media engagement, brand tracking, emotional measurement, mass qualitative, etc.. and really much of this becomes moot. We need to adapt my friend; our clients already are.

    And by the way, when Facebook and SurveyMonkey can duplicate the results of a Gallup phone study and a Rasmussen poll (which uses listed sample and is conducted via IVR) without ever weighting the data, then I’d say that the online populations IS representative of the general population, wouldn’t you?

    Lastly, I have to say that since online survey research accounts for the vast majority of all research being done today (and has for several years now), lots and lots of multimillion dollar decisions have been based on that method for a long time and those brands seem to be doing fine. At Rockhopper we conducted hundreds of global studies among B2C and B2B populations, many for the banking and financial services industries, all online and that data helped propel many home run projects, including modern 3G networks.

  10. Lenny doesn’t need me racing to his aid, but this conversation prompts me to do so nonetheless! This is not about whether ESOMAR tweaked the agenda of its Congress to promote the “changers” among us, but about whether the change that we are talking about is actual and real and now. I heard that Eileen Campbell was quoted as saying “I’ve been in this business for decades and we are always on the brink of change”. I don’t know whether she was quoted accurately but, even if she was, I doubt it was in full context as she has given tons of presentations on change herself. Far be it from me to disagree with Steve and my old friend Nick, but I do think it is time that we looked at evidence here. So here are a few pieces of evidence:

    1) The Cambiar Future of Research Study 2012 shows incontrovertibly that clients believe that we are in the middle of significant change; fully 66% of them believe that the leading supplier of research in 2020 will not be one of the existing leaders of our industry. It also shows that clients are way ahead of their suppliers in recognizing the need for change – and are embedding new approaches (DIY, social media monitoring,MROCs, big data analytics) into their routine toolboxes. Synthesis of multiple sources of information is also now embedded but, guess what? regular suppliers are not invited to this particular party! Finally, the study shows clearly why so many new entrants are coming into our field – because regular MR agencies are completely misunderstanding their clients’ needs.
    2) Lenny does a lot of consulting with clients and he is hearing loud and clear not just their frustrations but also those of their bosses – which is exactly what we hear as well. we consult with client MR and CI departments and hold regular symposia with clients throughout the year and we can back up precisely what Lenny is saying. Change is being forced on MR departments by C-Suites and CMOs who need them to deliver much more with less. Accordingly, those clients need much more from their suppliers – and are not finding it.
    3) It is no coincidence that the large multinationals are seeing their organic growth stall; or that mid-size, independent companies are stuck and cannot seem to grow; or that smaller, traditional research agencies are dying. Research agency death is not such great news as new companies or investment in new suppliers, but it is happening nonetheless. Our agency clients fall into three buckets: new and early stage companies that are growing like weeds; mid-size companies that realize they need to change fast; and smaller companies that are dying and realize all too late that the market has passed them by. Twice this year, our advice to these types of firm has had to be “close down”.
    4) $1 billion came into the research and analytics industry last year. Aside from the money IPSOS raised to buy Synovate (not looking such a great idea right now), only $15 million went into traditional market research.

    Steve and Nick, the need is to wake up now, so that you don’t wake up later and ask “how did it come to this?” This is not about change that is coming. It’s about change that is all around us right now.

    1. Well said Simon, and thank you for the validation.

      Guys, don’t shoot the messengers here; the process of change can really suck. The process of irrelevance and eventual insolvency sucks even more. How many more signals do we need here?

  11. @Chris I suspect we’re both saying the same thing from different points of view. I’m client side at an online gaming company. My audience is naturally, well, online, youthful, and heavy tech adopters. For my particular case, online surveys or GCS are trustworthy (with certain conditions). At the same time, we’re a global service, and I would NEVER use the same approach while doing research in China or southeast Asia.

    I’m not looking for “cheap,” I’m looking for “maximum ROI.” That ROI is both in terms of dollars and time. GCS solves for both, for some situations.

  12. Love the discussion guys. Keep it going….Just wanted to pull out a quote I saw above and respond–>> “Big data has been around for years with lots of practitioners not delivering much excitement, so why the new found buzz? The tools haven’t really changed!”…If you really think this is true, I’m sorry. My research agenda focuses squarely on Big Data and Business Analytics and I can tell you there’s a ton of money coming this way because Big Data tools and analytics are delivering BIG VALUE…Just take a look at start up companies like Datameer, Opera, and Numenta. Look at the public earnings from TerraData/Aster and Splunk. Look at the 90K+ participating in DreamForce this week in San Francisco. Look at the use cases everyone has posted on their sites. These are mostly startups, but all the majors are participating as well (sans HP and RIM). This is amazing stuff that is going on and I’m just not sure traditional Market Research firms get it (or they just don’t know what to do, sort of like a deer in the headlights; or they just don’t have the cash position). I think the big companies are in trouble because they cannot tell the truth- their entire existence is built on manufactured data (read: data collection), but the future is in organic data….I generally hate quad charts, but I love the one above! In the market research shadow industry, firms like MuSigma, and AbsoluteData are living large. Why? Because they are driving their service model into the data center. They’re pulling together mulitple streams of multistructured data and analyzing it. With Amazon cloud deployments, other market research firms could do this as well for not that much money, but they are not. Why not?…Anyway, I agree with Lenny, market research departments don’t seem to be participating in the important dicussions these days- I see the same thing in my client discussions- $$$ flying from market research into big data marketing analytics budgets. It’s too bad because a lot of the market research skill set (dealing with data quality, integration, quant analysis) is a seriously in-demand skill set.

  13. Great way to start my day reading the comments here. Just a couple of thoughts to add.

    I agree that there’s nothing new about big data. It’s glorified secondary research and secondary data has been around forever. The big different is that it’s now available in real time and far more interactive than ever before. Hence, why do a survey if you can find the answer in big data.

    My second observation is that there seems to be some conflict over change taking place on the client side. Despite the pleas of senior management for powerful insights delivered via compelling story telling, we find we also have to meet the needs of our traditional MR clients. And in those cozy cubicles, I would argue that a majority of client side analysts still want that 95 slide PPT deck (at least added to the appendix). I am concerned that our well meaning MR client analysts (A.K.A. gate keepers) are setting themselves up for a hasty exit to the obsolescence bin. Because if ADD top management can’t get what they want from MR, they’ll find it elsewhere.

    A 2011 MREB report that was cited by Scott Christofferson in the September issue of Research World cites that only 5% of decision makers rely on market research to inform customer related decisions. I find that number appallingly low. And it makes me wonder, if decision makers have such a low regard for MR, then what are we trying to preserve? If 95% of decision makers find our work marginal at best, why would we not run full speed towards substantive change?

    I do share a bit of Eileen Campbell’s cynicism but this time, I do feel the tipping point has passed and we will barely recognize our industry before the decade is out.


    Ask any panel supplier what his greatest problems are and he will tell you two things, the inability to get adequate samples outside urban centres, to get older aged participants and to get second tier city coverage. Secondly they will tell you they are running into problems of maintaining panels as the first signees start to drop put through lack of interest. The point many of you have missed is related to this last point. I believe the major trend that will start to be obvious to all research practitioners is that online respondents are losing interest because of a growing awareness of security and more important anonymity issues. We can see it now in declining Facebook numbers in many early usage countries. In my view the whole social media thing is going to hit a brick wall, albeit very soft and very thick, but eventually over the next ten years you will see less people willing to share where they are and who they are!

    1. I agree that the current panel model is deteriorating, but don’t believe that is indicative of an issue with social sharing. If anything, the evidence is that consumers are becoming more open overall, although also selective via the channels they use, to share information on themselves in return for a value exchange. That consumer empowerment trend will only accelerate and it will cause a radical shift in the value proposition of how brands engage with consumers for all purposes, including research.

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