By Edward Appleton
The last week a couple of Market Research articles caught my attention and made me wonder if the term “New MR” has effectively lost its meaning as New MR practices seem to have become firmly part of the mainstream.
Both articles were by TNS – one of the driving forces of MR globally.
The first, entitled “Breaking the Habit Code” (http://bit.ly/16zHpg6), looked at the phenomenon of habit, distinguishing between quasi-automatically repeated behavior and brand loyalty, and suggesting the need for different marketing strategies for each. It’s a thought provoking piece, well worth a read.
The second – “The Trouble with Innovation” (http://bit.ly/X51rw7) – posits that innovation processes can be managed more efficiently, the flop rate reduced, by paying more attention to incremental sales potential in concept testing, and using individual (as opposed to aggregate-) based sales modelling for volume forecasts as a better predictor of future behavior.
Both articles were refreshingly different from so much of the “worthy” material to be found in MR journals, blogs, Social Media forums. TNS addresses highly topical marketing challenges such as NPD and loyalty; importantly, they focus on the Marketing application, the commercial benefit. Their intended audience seemed to be Marketing people, not Researchers – not a bad thing, I would suggest.
Both also built on insights from neuroscience and behavioral economics – the twin pillars of thinking underpinning New MR approaches – using them as springboards to offer Insights Consultancy. Great stuff.
Where does that leave New MR, I wonder? All the rather excited debates about New vs Old MR techniques? Has the tipping point perhaps been reached – New MR being merged into the mainstream, so to speak?
Do we need to refer to “New MR” at all in future? Has the Revolution silently happened, with the Big Guys simply adopting the techniques of the newer players, thereby eroding their positioning space?
More importantly, is MR shaping up to offer Insights Consultancy? I certainly hope so -here’s my take.
1. Research Gains Weight by Engaging Head-on with Business Issues
Much market research is still very much reported out in the context of the Survey Design – we report Results, often with reference to Insights Objectives. Research gains proper weight when it is integrated into a business context, suggesting how research findings impact directly on marketing programs or challenges.
We often leave this last part open for others to fulfill for us – Management Consultancies, PR Agencies, Marketing Consultancies, Advertising Agencies, journalists.
Regardless of our proposed methodology, our views on the pros and cons of “the Survey”, we need to re-frame our findings – as part of a top- or bottom line Agenda – and be unmistakeably identifiable as the folk who deliver impact. That in turn means we need to engage in Branding our output – something TNS did well in the articles I read.
2. New MR Has Way To Go.
The first wave of the “New MR” revolution is possibly coming to an end – a bold prediction, perhaps, but it’s Summer and why not 😉 Behavioral Economics and Neuroscience are slowly but surely being adapted by MR Agencies of all shapes and sizes; more and more marketing folk are being educated about the limitations of direct and overly rational questioning methods, the problems of recall gaps, overlong and tediously designed questionnaires, the need to engage respondents differently, use multiple data sources, multi-modal Research approaches.
I’d guess the future is going to be unpredictably innovative, even if this phase may be shifting towards its completion. Web-based technology will almost certainly continue to open up new opportunities for MR to tap into the measurement and understanding of sentiment. Google Surveys are surely just beginning on their MR quest. Mobile MR is only a year or two old, newer tools such as attribution modelling show promising signs of being powerful. Whatever shape it comes in, I am sure there is plenty more of the New to come for MR.
3. Insights That Add Value Should Cost More
One of the vexed issues of Market Research is remuneration. Compared with Marketing, Sales, not to mention Management Consulting, MR invariably lags behind in the salaries offered – a potential barrier to attracting and retaining talent.
If MR can add value differently – using data from multiple sources to advise brand owners on how to go about most effectively achieving their Innovation or Communication goals – then we need to ensure that the impact is documented, and the fees suggested are in line with the contribution made.
Charging more is admittedly an extremely difficult exercise for incumbents acting against a backrop of partially negative associations (slow, expensive, unreliable), and a context where MR DIY software abounds. It’s nevertheless something all of us should address – even (or especially) from the Client side: identifying where paying a premium makes good commercial sense, and exploring how best to make the argument to both Marketing, Purchasing and other Budget Owners.
Overall, my sense from the Articles mentioned and other Client side experiences over the past 4 weeks is that the leading MR Agencies are very much responding to the challenges posed by New MR thinking – and are equally leaning forward more seriously to help identify the opportunities and indicated Actions resulting from data analysis. It’s extremely refreshing – especially when the material is so well presented as was the case with the TNS articles.
It bodes well for us as an industry – even if some of the excitement and online noise generated by the “battle” between New MR proselytes and the increasingly invisible purveyors of “Old MR” may diminish. I’d say there’s no need to panic though if you’re maybe a little worried that the cut-and-thrust of MR online debate is about to diminish…no doubt the next “Big Thing” is just around the corner.
Curious, as ever, as to others’ views.