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The State of Marketing Research Innovation

The transformation of the insights industry, including new technology and rapid generation of ideas, was clearly showcased at IIeX North America 2018.

Walking the floor at the Insights Innovation Exchange (IIeX) for a day and a half with our new CEO, Andy Greenawalt, we spoke to several friends, client and supplier side partners, and ducked into quite a few exciting startup sessions.

Three things struck me this year:

Insights technology is finally getting more innovative

By that I mean there are no longer just the slight immaterial modifications to existing ways of doing things, but actual innovation that has disruptive implications (passive monitoring, blockchain, image recognition, more intelligent automation…).

As expected most of this innovation is coming from startups, many of which, while they have interesting ideas, have little to no experience in marketing research – and have yet to prove their use cases.

A few market research suppliers are picking up their consulting game

Surprisingly perhaps, in this area, it seems that change is coming from the qualitative side. For a while, qualitative looked like a race to the bottom in terms of price, even more so than what was happening in quantitative research. But there are now a handful of image/brand/ideation ‘agencies’ whose primary methodologies are qualitative who are leading the way to a higher value proposition. There are a couple, but I will mention two I’ve been most impressed with specifically, Brandtrust and Shapiro+Raj, Bravo!

The opportunity

I think the larger opportunity if there is one, lies in the ability of the traditional players to partner with and help prove the use cases of some of these newer startup technologies. Incorporating them into consulting processes with higher end value propositions, similar to what the qualitative agencies I noted above have done.

This seems to be both an opportunity and a real challenge. Can the old help the new, and the new help the old? It may be more likely that the end clients, especially those that are more open to DIY processes will be the ones that select and prove the use cases of these new technologies offered by the next generation of startups, and therefore benefit the most.

While this too is good, I fear that by leaving some of the traditional companies behind we will lose some institutional thinking and sound methodology along the way.

Either way, I’m more optimistic about new marketing research tech than I’ve ever been.

Keep in mind though, Innovation in marketing research should be about more than just speed and lower cost (automation). It should be even more about doing things better, giving the companies and clients we work for an information advantage!

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