We at GreenBook are proud to present our first Global 150 Research List!
Before we dive into the list though, first a disclaimer:
The list below is wrong.
But it’s mostly right as well.
Sorta. But not really. Maybe…
Confused? Yeah, so was I, for years now. That is why I undertook this exercise, because not only are our industry definitions all over the place, but getting a solid read on company performance to evaluate how the industry is doing (whatever your definition!) is challenging.
I am a huge fan of the iconic AMA Gold Top 50 Report (formerly the Honomichl Report) and the variation of it used in the ESOMAR Global Market Research Report, MRS ResearchLIVE Report, and RFL Communication’s Global Top 50 Research Organizations report. All give a unique perspective on the industry that is valuable and I applaud the work that these organizations put into them.
These reports have evolved over the years to encompass an ever-expanding definition of what constitutes market research, but have left some critical gaps by not including sample companies, technology platforms, and organizations such as Google, Facebook, Equifax, etc… companies that fit within other categories but yet have active research divisions that are players in the market. So although incredibly useful and important, I think they are incomplete views of the industry, and that is a significant issue.
Here is why: for many years the need for data-driven insights has generated adjacent categories to research that have very different business models to MR, and very different capital structures. Business Intelligence, EFM, CX, Big Data, AI, Analytics, Data Visualization, Biometrics, Web Analytics, Social Media Analytics, etc… are all examples of defined categories that are largely based on the fundamentals of market research, and all claim “insights” as one of their primary use cases. All also have very different valuation formulas for their businesses and access to capital vs. traditional MR. In many cases, companies that should rightfully just be considered research companies (Qualtrics and SurveyMonkey come to mind) bend over backward and twist themselves in messaging knots to avoid being considered research companies and position themselves as much sexier “Enterprise Feedback Management platforms” or ” consumer intelligence data platforms”. And no wonder; those two companies alone have a combined market cap of around $4 Billion! Similar companies that have embraced the market research categorization and have great financial fundamentals can’t claim the same.
The crux of the issue is this: if we cannot develop a comprehensive view of the value of our industry, how can we convince the rest of the world of our value? Clients, investors, VC firms, Private Equity groups, strategic acquirers, even prospective employees use industry reports and rankings to validate their decisions to engage with companies. We as an industry have a very hard time delivering on this for a variety of reasons, but we need to get a lot better at it quickly.
I make a big part of my living advising the stakeholders I just listed on this space and helping to identify companies to work with, and even I, perhaps one of the most well-connected individuals in our industry, struggle to define the category and identify companies that are attractive to engage with based on their financial performance. The needed info is often very hard to come by.
These reports are not exercises in collective navel-gazing or bragging rights: they are vital information resources that play a critical role in facilitating the growth of the industry.
At IIeX in Atlanta Simon Chadwick presented his view on the structure of the industry as well as an analysis of the flow of capital related to the industry. It’s a great piece of work and helps to underline the challenges MR has in redefining itself (and the companies in it) in order to be better positioned for growth.
As an industry, we could far worse than adapting Simon’s structure as the basis for analyzing the industry. In fact, I hereby challenge ESOMAR, the MRS, Insights Association, the AMA Gold Report and RFL to use this model for all future reviews of the industry and in developing industry company rankings.
We need a consistent view definition of the industry and a consistent means of evaluating the companies in it that not only is comprehensive but also can support the argument that the research industry is the core of all marketing insights-related categories and the companies that participate in it deserve serious attention as growth opportunities.
And that brings us back to the list below. As mostly an exercise in information curation, I combined all of the most recent reports from the four sources above and then added my own list of companies that I thought needed to be included, primarily sample providers, data collection technology companies, and various research suppliers that I suspected were large enough to fit.
In my seemingly contradictory opening for this piece I said it was both right and wrong. Kind of. Here is why. I’m quite sure it’s missing companies that should be on there, especially at the lower levels. In some cases, the revenue for these companies was estimated when I couldn’t find an accurate source. I did not include all of the companies that Simon listed simply out of time constraints, but it’s an aspiration of mine for the future to perhaps re-work this list with that goal in mind. If and when I do so, it will look VERY different than the one below.
The total annual sales revenue attributed to the company is based on several sources, usually the original report I combined. For those that I added, some sales revenue data is directly pulled from financial statements or other filings (actual data), while other data is estimated or modeled based on a host of sources.
Similar to the model used in the GRIT 50 Most Innovative Companies, we have rolled up branches, subsidiaries, divisions, etc.. into the parent company, while also attempting as best we could to only consider revenue from “marketing intelligence” operations, which generally meant the revenue came from a few key activities:
- Access to consumers for research purposes
- Data collection services and/or technology (quant, qual, behavioral, and syndicated)
- Data Analysis and Reporting
- Insights-based consulting or advisory work
If you are the CEO of a company that looks at this and says “Hey, my company is $20M, why am I not listed!” hold your righteous indignation: the reason is that neither I nor the original report authors I built off of, knew that information. Update your Hoovers, Techcrunch, CB Insights, Owler, or even LinkedIn profiles or better yet join one of the relevant trade associations and disclose that info when asked. Transparency is the key to efforts like this.
Finally, I can’t iterate enough this is an intellectual exercise more than anything. While “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts” is true here for sure and I think the revenue is pretty close even when estimated, there is much room to argue specifics and it is not complete. It is only as complete as the knowledge of myself and the authors of the four reports I based it on.
However, that said I do believe it is the most comprehensive view of the players that make up the research industry as loosely defined today.
Now, without further ado, here is my take on the Top 150 companies in Market Research. Congratulations to all the companies listed and take pride in the fact that your company is kicking butts and taking names!
|Rank||Company||2016 Revenues ($Mil)|
|3||Video Research Ltd.||$6,288,000,000|
|14||Experian Consumer insight||$563,000,000|
|22||Informa Financial Intelligence||$393,000,000|
|27||Simon-Kucher & Partners||$266,700,000|
|30||Research Now Group, Inc||$238,100,000|
|32||Information Services Group||$216,500,000|
|36||DRG (Decision Resources Group)||$178,000,000|
|38||Survey Sampling International||$167,900,000|
|40||LRW (Lieberman Research Worldwide)||$144,400,000|
|47||National Research Corp||$109,400,000|
|49||PRS IN VIVO||$97,000,000|
|58||Google Analytics 360||$80,412,750|
|59||Blueocean Market Intelligence||$80,400,000|
|61||Periscope by McKinsey||$80,000,000|
|66||Market Strategies International||$65,400,000|
|71||Service Management Group (SMG)||$53,300,000|
|73||LRA by Deloitte||$46,800,000|
|74||Focus Pointe Global||$46,200,000|
|76||Precise Media Monitoring||$44,012,000|
|78||MARU / Matchbox||$40,400,000|
|80||De La Riva Group||$40,000,000|
|82||Phoenix Marketing International||$36,200,000|
|84||Radius Global Market Research||$33,600,000|
|89||Fors Marsh Group||$31,100,000|
|91||Isobar Marketing Intelligence||$30,000,000|
|93||Hall & Partners||$29,500,000|
|98||The Link Group||$28,000,000|
|100||MMR Research Worldwide||$25,980,000|
|108||The Research Partnership||$21,814,000|
|113||Chadwick Martin Bailey||$18,800,000|
|115||Frost & Sullivan||$18,280,000|
|124||Hay Group Insight||$15,050,000|
|125||Amazon Mechanical Turk||$15,000,000|
|132||Incite Marketing Planning||$12,926,000|
|134||Adelphi international Research||$12,100,000|
|135||Q Research Solutions||$12,000,000|
|141||Business Research group||$10,974,000|
|144||Marketing sciences Unlimited||$10,618,000|
|147||iCM Research Unlimited||$9,963,000|
|149||The Planning shop international||$9,633,000|