The Fine Line between Passion and Pride

September 6, 2011

I spoke recently, on separate occasions, to a couple of colleagues now at major research buyers. Interestingly, both commented on what they saw as a ‘decline in passion’ from all but their most specialised (i.e. smaller or niche) suppliers.

Both felt that, as well as the harder times in the market economies generally bringing everyone down, the organisational changes arising from consolidation in the industry may also be playing a part in this emotional change. In particular, the increased prevalence of personnel policies, necessitated by organisational complexity, was thought to be a key factor. The structures imposed by such were driving the ‘star players’ upwards (to staff roles) or outwards at many of the larger companies in favour of safe but not necessarily inspiring performers. Read the rest of this entry »

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When Worlds Collide – Surviving M&A and Thriving

April 5, 2011

Arising and even resulting from the GFC, has been the rapid growth of dynamic small and medium sized research agencies. Most have innovative approaches and distinctive cultures, offering exciting workplaces to their staff who repay with high commitment. Yet this very success makes them prime M&A targets and many will, in the next few years, be bought out. Is this bad for their workforce, and how should these loyal employees react when acquisitions happen? A recent article from Asia-Pacific focused of the plight of researchers whose companies were sold on by management. In essence, the hapless researchers were portrayed as helpless victims whose utopian world was dissolved by forces of evil, represented by the faceless conglomerate. Read On..>


The NGMR Top-5-Hot vs. Top-5-Not: Our Pick of The Top MR Trends

March 8, 2011
Talk Nerdy To Me #2

Yeah Right. What's The Really Hot Talk? Image by Constantine Belias via Flickr

Last year there seemed to be such a plethora of posts (including some of ours) about the top trends in the market research industry that we thought it was time for a break.

But when Tom Anderson of Next Gen Market Research came up with the idea of a whole lot of NGMR bloggers simultaneously blogging on the top 10 issues the MR industry has to consider in coming years it seemed too much fun to miss. Here’s our views then — to be fair we’ve dropped out a few of the more totally obvious “top 10” and maybe elevated some we think are important but often overlooked — but we’ll be interested in hearing what you think (and do look up the others posts via Tom’s blog or on Twitter at hashtags: #NGMR #5Hot5Not).

Let’s start with our 5 “Not Hot”.

  1. Reining in HR. After years of imposing restrictive salary structures and job description demarcations along with their depiction of creative staff as being ‘high maintenance’, senior management finally abandons the tedious tenants of HR orthodoxy and starts treating imaginative and innovative researchers in the same way the top advertising agencies treat their best art directors and copywriters. In some cases, they even get a place at the top table again!
    Read the rest of this entry »

Skin in the Game – in Praise of Employee Equity

February 7, 2011

A recent Research blog by my ex-boss, Nick Sparrow, founder of ICM, extolled the virtues of offering equity to agency staff. In fact, it was Nick who taught me in the early 80’s how to sell research based on its benefits not its features (which given my statistician’s focus at the time was a revelation!)

Nick expounded his vision of a business “run solely for all the people employed” where a company is best run, and gives the best service to clients, when the people feel a sense of ownership. It’s interesting to note that two of the UK’s ‘thought’ leading agencies (both of whom have won Agency of the Year) Brainjuicer and Truth appear both to have embarked on similar ownership structures.

Although, ICM was owned by 10 shareholders before its sale, Nick was interested to see research businesses go further and make all employees shareholders. Here the clients benefited as their interests were best served and reinforced by the servicing team who in turn profited from satisfied, returning, regular clients. Read On..>


The Myth of Market Research’s Failure.

November 23, 2010
Head in Hands

Time To Get Over It - It's NOT that Bad! (Image by Alex E. Proimos via Flickr)

I am getting increasingly angry about the number of posts, books, You Tube Videos and articles – often by market researchers themselves – that imply “conventional Market Research” is a failure.

Here’s a good example, ‘futurist’ Patrick Dixon talking about why market research is “often wrong”: http://tinyurl.com/25kp34z .

These sorts of pronouncements tend to have several things in common:

  • Flashy style and grand pronouncements rather than reasoned argument,
  • Reliance on anecdote or case study (in Dixon’s case it’s his mother),
  • Lack of examples on the other side of the argument (when MR got it right),
  • A (false) assumption that the raison d’etre of MR is predicting “big” changes,
  • Failure to acknowledge that methods other than MR are not all that flash at predicting big changes or seismic shifts in behaviour either,
  • An assertion that “traditional MR” misses out on some extraordinarily key factor in understanding consumers, be it an inability to capture emotion, or failure to understand the role of Social Media or whatever uber-trend the author is fascinated by.

Let me counter this hyperbolic dismissal of the value of our traditional approaches with an equally strong counter claim. I strongly believe that good experienced, senior researchers can – in most markets – answer 70% of the key marketing questions of 70% of major research clients by means of a research programme consisting of not more than a few focus groups, a reasonable sized survey and access to some sales, retail or media trend data. There is an “if” of course – and this is sometimes a big if – they need to allocate enough time and thought to carefully design the study and analyse the results. This does not mean I am not a believer in many of the new MR methods, particularly some of the new neuroscience, customer panel and online qualitative approaches — let us ‘seniors’ incorporate some of those into the research programme and my success estimate goes up to 80 or 90%!   The core point I want to make though is that any systemic “failure” of market research is a failure to apply brainpower and thinking time – not primarily a failure of techniques. Read the rest of this entry »


Thought Leadership and Profitable Growth – How do they co-exist?

May 27, 2010

Recently, several articles and papers have been published bemoaning the dearth of talent in the research industry relative to its size and diversity. They focus on two key areas – the lack of basic ‘craft’ skills and the inability to deliver clear and concise insights in the client’s language. One of the root causes has been put down to the increasing homogenisation resulting from the concentration of the industry into fewer commercially driven mega-agencies, where increasingly more of the leadership (unlike in other fields) has a background from outside the profession itself.

As MR has become more business-like in the last 25 years, many would say that the average level of talent or product quality has not changed, which is at odds with the generally improved margins and overall ROI. Read On..>


Who Will Own Market Research In 2020?

April 12, 2010

Who will dominate?

Go easy with rough stuff - you can never tell who'll be on top in 10 years!

A few years ago it seemed that the big advertising and media groups were on-track to dominate the Market Research industry – Aegis with Synovate, and WPP with, well, almost anything they could get their hands on.

Recently private equity has also developed a strong interest in information companies, currently with ORC and perhaps most notably with the buy-out of Nielsen.   We’ll surely see more from private equity investors in the next decade, but I’m guessing that we’ll see some other interesting trends in the control of marketing research.

One will probably involve the growth and expansion of Asian market research companies. But I’d like to address a more dramatic scenario:  the likelihood that those who currently serve and partner with research agencies may come to dominate, or even own them.

Read On..>