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The AMA GRIT Panel: Embracing Change in MR


Editor’s Note: Malcolm De Leo offers his unique perspective on the GRIT panel I conducted at the AMA R&SS. I’ll be adding to this with a summary of my own this weekend, but after this week of heavy involvement with the AMA, ARF, and IIR plus myriad conversations with industry leaders I tend to agree with Mal’s point below: market research has a cultural issue and it is not clear if there is any one industry organization in a position to lead the transformation. The fragmentation between the trade orgs and grass roots networks is extensive, so the drivers of change will have to be individual firms and market forces will dictate who is successful. Malcolm supports this idea in his post; I think you’ll enjoy it.

By Malcolm De Leo

I just returned from Orlando after going to the AMA Research & Strategy Summit.  Before I start, I want to thank my colleague Lenny Murphy for including me on a panel there for his GRIT report.  This report is a look at what the market research community is doing and believe will impact them in the coming year.  As part of the “pre-launch” I had the privilege of sitting on a panel along with Joan Triestman of the AMA Supplier Council and Michelle Adams of PepsiCo to discuss this report.

Frankly, it was a real pleasure. But what I thought was most interesting is something I have spoken about in the past:  the reality of culture change.  My colleagues on the panel did a great job of framing what they thought was important in the coming future in the market research industry; what I struggled with (not their thoughts or comments…they made some great ones), is how often functional based groups are haggling about what change means for them rather than just embracing it.  Change is something that is inevitable and many people are risk adverse when it comes to accepting it while others are not.  That being said, I believe that seeing change, accepting it and adopting it are three different things.  What I saw today as I looked again at the data of how providers and clients feel change is coming to the market research industry is that there is misalignment.  They don’t see the same things.  This is not bad, but is a reality when experts get together.

At one point during this panel I was asked to comment about what I thought about this misalignment and what it meant.  And frankly, as I hesitated to answer a bit (because I don’t see myself as a market research expert…merely an innovator who is championing a change in their industry), I put my culture hat on and stated that I wanted to see the differences that would ensue when these questions were asked to the functions that were not involved in the survey.  What would marketing think, or sales, or PR or R&D for that matter?  What new market research technologies do they believe are going to make an impact?  To me, if an functional group wants to ask itself questions about how they can find change they can believe in shouldn’t they ask their consumers?  Shouldn’t they triangulate their own collection of data to get a fuller look at what they see when they look in the mirror?  Lenny even acknowledged when I made my point that the the other functions would contribute further delta to the findings (which is what I believed when I asked the question).

This question and this observation continue to make the point I always make here:  the people within the culture drive the change.

Fear is the mind killer and being afraid of what is obviously coming (in this case technological advances in how consumer behavior is measured (and not just social media)) is what needs to be thought through more holistically.  When people cannot do things the traditional way they adapt.  For instance, how many 3rd world countries put phone lines in now?  They don’t. They put up cell towers and people use the towers.  In the retail food industry, where I worked, many retailers couldn’t afford traditional focus groups and ethnographies; they simply use e-panels and other new technologies.  Why?  Because they have too.  Those married to the past who refuse to learn from it are just a MySpace away from ignoring Facebook.

Don’t believe me.? You can call my pager…

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