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The 15 Most Innovative Market Research Clients (GRIT Spring 2015 Sneak Peek)


Editor’s Note: The newest edition of the GRIT report will be published at the end of May. It’s all new in many ways: a new design of the report, new sections, new data, new commentators, and of course, new insights. I promise it will be worth the wait!

One of the new sections is part of the sneak peek we’re offering today. As part of the “GRIT 50” section, for this wave we decided to expand from the supplier-centric questions to ask all participants (nearly 2000 globally!) who they considered to be the most innovative client-side companies!

Like the GRIT 50 Suppliers ranking, the questions are straight forward verbatims:

Q27. Now we want to switch gears and think about innovative client-side organizations. A client-side organization is defined as: an organization that commissions research or data analysis projects using external suppliers. When thinking of market research client-­‐side innovators, which companies come to mind? Please rank your top 5.

Q28. What factors make your first pick firm most innovative?

The goal here was to uncover not just which clients are driving innovation in the marketplace, but in fact which are leading it by words, actions, and spend. We’re also looking for the overlap between what these client organizations are doing and how it might relate to the GRIT data on emerging methods and the 50 Most Innovative Suppliers. We’ll reveal those results in the final report.

GRIT authors Amber Strain and Ray Poynter led this analysis, and here is an except from the upcoming report on the responses to this question area. It’s compelling in many ways, not least of which is validation that these leaders are increasingly taking an active role in the industry dialogue via events and public partnerships to engage with the market (for instance, almost all of these brands are also IIeX Corporate Partners and regular participants at our events).

The essence here is that despite all of the shouts that innovation in MR is supplier led, the truth is much more a reflection of traditional demand-side economics: clients are stating a need, and suppliers are working to try to meet that need. These are just some of the clients leading that charge.


By Ray Poynter & Amber Strain

New in the GRIT study this year is an investigation of the most innovative clients. We performed a slightly different analysis based solely on the follow up question to the verbatim exercise:  “Please rank your top 5?” Although we do not consider this to be the definitive ranking (that will be published in the upcoming full GRIT report) since it does not capture all brand mentions, we think this secondary analysis is interesting.

The table below shows the top 15, with P&G being ranked as number 1.

1          Procter & Gamble

2          Coca Cola

3          Google

4          Unilever

5          General Mills

6          Lowes

7          Apple

8          3M

9          Microsoft

10        PepsiCo

11        Mondelez

12        ESPN

13        Intel

14        L’Oreal

15        RedBull

This table is based on 1,871 brand mentions (with over 600 unique brands) from 787 respondents.

Using this framework the ranking changes for anything below the Top 5, but the leaders remain the same, proving that any way we look at the data, these Top 5 companies are considered the leaders in driving innovation.

Who’s on the list, and who is missing?

There are two interesting things about most lists, who is on the list and who is not, and this is very true of this list.

On the list

Business sectors that show themselves to be innovative include:

  • CPG – P&G, Unilever, General Mills, Mondelez, and L’Oreal – with Kimberly Clark and Nestle just outside the top 15.
  • Non-alcoholic Beverage – Coke, Pepsi, and relative newcomer Red Bull
  • Tech – Google, Apple, 3M, Microsoft, and Intel. With Google being the only company to be in the top 15 for both supplier and buyer categories.

Less innovative

There was only one media company in the top 15, ESPN, and only one retailer (Lowes). Note, Lowes performance was particularly strong given its North American focus and the global nature of the responses – quite possibly a result of Lowes track record at speaking at and being involved in international MR events.


Major buyers of research who did not make the top 15 include:

  • Auto
  • Finance
  • Pharma
  • Consumer durables

What’s driving innovation?

Decooda analyzed the open-ended reasons for selecting innovative choices and identified three core themes:

  1. Using novel technologies.
  2. Delivering impressive products and services.
  3. Cutting edge and taking risks.

Here are their notes about the top five brands in the list.



#1 Procter and Gamble

P&G was perceived as being innovative because of its effective and useful methodologies, their cutting edge research, and their future-thinking mindset. Specifically, P&G was acknowledged for focusing on human emotion and its correlates to behavior, learning new methodologies for analyzing qualitative data instead of relying as heavily on quantitative data, and for hosting webinars and conferences in order to share their methodologies and insights with others.



#2 Coca-Cola

Coke was recognized for its commitment to staying at the forefront of technology, techniques, and methodology. Commentators applauded Coke for its innovative ways to understanding consumers at a deeply emotional level and to then engage with them at that level. They also admired Coke for its willingness to take big risks that pay off in the long run. For instance, it was highly risky to release the “America the Beautiful” spot at the Super Bowl, but despite the detractors the spot was still a big success.


#3 Google

Google was lauded at being one of the most cutting edge companies in the field. People reported that Google is so far ahead of the game that they are able to give answers to problems before anyone even realizes there is a problem. “First to market” was an expression that was commonly used in reference to Google. This indicates that respondents view Google as an industry leader that brings forward new ideas that are often rapidly adopted by other companies.



#4 Unilever

Unilever was recognized for its smart, fast, and effective methodologies, use of novel technologies and techniques, and cutting edge work. Unilever was applauded for being the first to make significant discoveries, and for then sharing their discoveries with others in a collaborative way. Respondents mentioned that Unilever also has a unique and special ability to challenge their business partners. Unilever is forward thinking and has high expectations, which causes them to have high expectations for those that work with them.



#5 General Mills

General Mills received the unique distinction as being a company that not only utilizes new technologies and techniques, but that also helps to establish the benchmarks that need to be in place for other companies to use those techniques and technologies successfully. They were also applauded for being bold and risky in their approach, something that many respondents reported as being an important facet of innovation.

The full list and additional analysis will be revealed in the upcoming GRIT report. Stay tuned!

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3 responses to “The 15 Most Innovative Market Research Clients (GRIT Spring 2015 Sneak Peek)

  1. Hi, I was just wondering where I could find the full top 50 list of most innovative companies from 2015? I was specifically looking to see if Affectiva made the list this year and where I culd access that info, Thanks,

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