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The New Face of Marketing Research Intelligence

June 2nd, 2011 · 41 Comments

Candid Thoughts on Industry Trends & 2011 MRIA Conference

The Annual MRIA Conference was held this week in gorgeous Kelowna, BC, Canada. This was the third time I’ve been asked to participate in an MRIA event. This time as part of the final panel on industry trends and challenges entitled “The New Face of Marketing Research and Intelligence.”

Bermie Malinoff, CEO of element54, did a great job moderating the panel which was to consist of myself and Angus Reid, CEO of Vision Critical; Gary Bennewies, CEO of Ipsos Canada; and Donn Mills, CEO of Corporate Research Associates. Unfortunately, Angus’ private jet decompressurized in mid air and he was forced to return to Toronto. Sounded like a pretty cool excuse to me. I may use that one my self in the future ;) . I was rather looking forward to meeting Angus and hearing his viewpoints as I understand we may share a few similar concerns in regard to our industry. However, Jean-Marc Leger, CEO of Leger Marketing, was good enough to step in on short notice and also had some very good points on where we are going and how to get there.

I’m not going to attempt to summarize the conference or even our panel session. I will however share some of my candid thoughts on a couple of the interesting questions raised by Bernie and the audience, even though we had an hour, we did move rather quickly across a wide range of topics.

How have client needs changed and how do we need to respond?

I think we all agree on the fact that clients tend to want insights faster. There’s also a desire for more DIY (Do It Yourself), in large part, I believe, because of a desire to control the speed and secondly cost of research. Many client side researchers seem to simply be asked to provide a lot more research projects, faster, and for less money. It’s becoming a volume game to some extent.

In regard to DIY Research, personally I don’t believe in fighting trends. This is part of the reason Anderson Analytics recently began our own software development effort (OdinText). I believe if researchers can put some of our tremendous domain knowledge into easy to use software we not only help our clients, but create something that is easier to scale and will have exponential value later.

As importantly, I believe many of our clients are being expected to and want to engage in more than traditional marketing research. Many already see the writing on the wall and understand that “insights” today really does mean a lot more than surveys and focus groups. By working with other data sources like CRM or web analytics, it becomes easier for them to measure ROI and move up the value chain in their organization, thereby avoiding the DIY “Do More with Less” cycle.

I think helping these clients climb the value chain in their organizations, by helping them understand how to leverage Big and Streaming Data are one of the best future strategies many researchers can focus on.

How do traditional research companies avoid becoming road kill?

This question was asked verbatim and it’s telling that many now seem to understand that probably well over half of the ‘research’ firms out there won’t be around 5-10 years from now. Evaluating our industry as it is currently using Porters Five Forces or any other method does not paint a pretty picture.

Other than looking beyond “research as usual” (focus groups and surveys), I do think all the firms in our industry, including mine, have a bit of a positioning problem. This is a problem you wouldn’t think market researchers who help other companies with positioning strategies constantly should have, but in fact we all say we do pretty much the same things!

This problem is even worse for some players like survey software firms who are not just competing with lower offshore labor in developing countries (allegedly offering the same quality service at 30% of the cost), no they are actually competing against completely free products like Zoomerang and Survey Monkey!

Most researchers you speak with will admit that over 90% of surveys can be conducted using one of these free tools. Clients certainly know it. Suppliers have been slower to adopt them on scale partly because they have been afraid to use free tools on client projects because it may question their value and pricing (same reason offshoring is not mentioned by those who engage in it).

However, several researchers I’ve talked to on the supplier side agree with what we’ve been seeing, most clients don’t care to see the details of the surveys (never mind know the source of sample for that matter). That means that more and more suppliers who have been willing to pay a lot more in some cases to use white label survey technology simply in order to make it look as if they have their own software running on their own domains (co. URL) will now start thinking a lot harder about the dollars they’re forking over for some rather high priced solutions which more or less do the exact same thing as the much cheaper or completely free options.

Whether a survey software provider and/or a panel provider, assuming these companies don’t want to become road kill, they will need to start thinking about adding features beyond what the free tools have (such as text analytics or other streams of data with analytics dashboards).

Just about all parts of full service research have now also become commoditized. Set aside the fact that almost anyone and everyone outside of research believes they can create a perfectly good survey themselves (especially true at more tech/engineering driven companies), even the last bastion of value, analytics is becoming a commodity.

What is the future of individual (CMRP, PRC) and corporate (ISO) certification?

From the outset, I’ve said that the ISO certification push driven by ESOMAR and more recently, very unsuccessfully by CASRO in the US, has had the intended purpose of further commoditizing the research process (from design to fielding and even analysis and reporting). Certification like ISO is the ultimate differentiation killer. More useful for factories where everyone follows the same recipe to get the same result (a 9 millimeter widget +/1mm).

It’s obvious why the ISO certification is being pursued. A highly un-proportionate amount of ESOMAR’s and CASRO’s income is from the “Honomichl” Top 5-10 research firms, almost all of which have had a quiet but ambitious offshoring (cost cutting) agenda. ISO certification would partially serve as a protective veil, allowing these companies to say “don’t worry about what’s being done, where, under what rule of law, etc., we’re following the same recipe, it’s the same quality everywhere.” Bullshit!

[If you agree with me check out FTO, a completely free organization founded on transparency]

I urge all researchers to carefully consider the benefits they receive from any trade organization and more importantly to question how their dues and donation of time are used. Ask, who really benefits from the initiatives being pursued, is it really your industry as a whole? I hope in the near future, research trade organizations (those that remain), will pay more attention to the “long tail” of their membership rather than focusing on just the top few firms.

As for individual certifications such as CMRP and PRC, it’s a bit tougher to disagree with as I do understand the underlying desire to create some barriers to entry and prestige in our profession. However, partly for the same reasons I had a problem with ISO, I tend to disagree with these certifications as well. I work hard to position myself and my firm and its members as better, much better, than the competition. If I were to seek such accreditation for myself or my co-workers, we would de facto be saying “look we’re just as good as EVERYONE else. We are AVERAGE.” Thus we would simply be further commoditizing the research that what we do.

Now if PRC and CMRP were only awarded to the top 1% brightest market research professionals, I might be among the first in line to take the exam! Unfortunately, we know that’s not going to happen… There’s no money to be made by the certifiers in such a certification scheme.

What is “Next Gen” Market Research?

Business needs, methodology, and technology are the three areas researchers need to build greater expertise in. Arguably, this is easier for the client side researcher who can reach out to forge relationships and mentors in other parts of their organizations than for supplier side researchers who are more specialized. Reverse mentoring (looking to learn from someone younger) or cross mentoring (sharing knowledge and data with those in other departments or professions) are two good strategies for development.

Importantly, the goal for all of us needs to be to resist further commoditization and cost cutting. Instead let’s increase the value of insights. I believe part of this will have to do with positioning.

We will never be able to convince the masses again that the skill of survey design is extremely valuable and warrants the investment of a lot of time and money. Certifications won’t help here. Instead look to your clients, clients, clients to really understand the information which is most valued. As you move in that direction you will help make your client more valuable. You may even see more opportunities to measure ROI of your work, assuming you are on the quantitative side. If you are on the qualitative side the goal will be greater creativity, more ‘marketing’ in both cases.

We need to become more than traditional researchers while retaining the methodological principles which have served us well for many years.

Dissenting views, research trade organizations and the MRIA

During the panel in Kelowna, I mentioned Dr. William MacElroy, Chairman at Socratic Technologies, Inc., who recently presented at The Tech Driven Market Research Event conference I took part in. His presentation was entitled “Are You Scared of Change?” and proved how the biggest firms in our industry have stifled innovation because it has been in their best interest to do so.

I want to say again what I said at the conference. I am very happy and impressed to see that the Canadian market researchers and their MRIA are progressive enough to allow and encourage active debate and dissention even on topics they may be pursuing. As always, it was a great pleasure to be with you this week.

Thank you again!


[Special thanks to Jeanette and Tony Hoft for managing the wonderful event. Below photographs courtesy of photographer George Dimitrov]

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41 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Rajan Sambandam // Jun 2, 2011 at 5:51 pm

    Well said, Tom! Hard to disagree. Indeed we should look to increase value/creativity rather than help the cause of commoditization. I would add that a valuable but underused resource in this effort is marketing academia. There is so much intellectual firepower there, that if properly channeled, can provide great benefit to practical market researchers and help us provide better value.

  • 2 Megann Willson // Jun 2, 2011 at 5:52 pm

    Well done!

    And we agree that certification is just a way to say “we’re all the same”. Meanwhile we spend our time trying to teach our clients to be unique, distinctive, relevant, and special…hmmm.

  • 3 Tom H C Anderson // Jun 2, 2011 at 6:22 pm

    Agree completely @Rajan, Anderson Analytics has been leveraging academia since day 1 in business

    @Megann not everyone was happy about my stand on certification, specifically the CMRP. From what I’ve learned it may be slightly more well thought out than the US equivalent (PRC). Still, I see little value in it for the reasons stated above.

  • 4 Rob Petersen // Jun 2, 2011 at 8:15 pm

    This is an incredibly thoughtful and complete post that describe some central issues facing market research of “open source” platform, value and what client really want. Thanks for the summary Tom.

  • 5 Jasper Lim // Jun 2, 2011 at 8:32 pm

    Tom, agree. My position is still the same, ISO may be obsolete and marginalizes smaller firms. Goodwork!

  • 6 Tom H C Anderson // Jun 2, 2011 at 9:02 pm

    In research it was obsolete before it began.

    But this is about much more than certifications. It’s about allowing us to be pulled backwards by the few in the name of “quality” and “progress” for their own benefit, not the industry’s.

    It’s 2011, it’s not the way. We don’t need to do it this way anymore!

  • 7 Leonard Murphy // Jun 2, 2011 at 9:13 pm

    Tom, this is one of the most cogent and well constructed breakdowns of some of the core issues impacting our “industry” that it’s ever been my pleasure to read. I’m actually pretty jealous; you have done a far better job than I ever have in pulling all the pieces together. Bravo, well said, and keep fighting the good fight my friend!

  • 8 Rick Hobbs // Jun 2, 2011 at 10:22 pm

    You are always welcome to come to Canada and present views. It was great to meet you and sorry the only time I seemed to have to chat was when a band was blasting in the background.
    Any certification worth its salt has to be able to withstand a bit of criticism. However, the CMRP was created as a measure of knowledge in applied marketing research priniciples, it is taught by practitioners (some academic/practitioners such as Chuck Chakrapani). As a result experience is an important element. It is very difficult for inexperienced researchers to pass the exam.
    It doesn’t stiffle creativity, it encourages it. Once the rules and methodologies are learned, then they can be challenged and possibly broken. DO you need it? No it was never intended for people such as yourself. Do I need it? Yes. It is an additional proof that I know my discussion guide from my ANOVA and in my market that is sometimes necessary.

  • 9 Tom Anderson Describes The New Face of Marketing Research Intelligence | GreenBook // Jun 2, 2011 at 11:19 pm

    [...] shared focus comes to light in Tom’s latest post prompted by his attendance at the MRIA conference this week. In it he writes one of the best [...]

  • 10 Ramy Ghaly // Jun 3, 2011 at 4:12 am

    Tom, great discussion and thanks for sharing

    Alternative views of strategy

    The two main views of strategy is one, discussing the model of the past. The other one is discussing a sustainable competitive advantage of the present till the near future. Lets take a look at both models.

    The Implicit Strategy Model of the Past - ISO -

    Aggressive outsourcing and partnering to gain efficiencies.
    One ideal competitive position in the industry
    Benchmarking of all activities and achieving best practice.
    Flexibility and rapid responses to all competitive and market changes.
    Advantages rest on a few key success factors.
    1. Core Competencies:
    2. Critical Resources

    Sustainable Competitive Advantage - Next Generation -

    Activities tailored to strategy.
    Unique Competitive position for the company.
    Operational effectiveness is a given.
    Sustainability comes from the activity system, not the parts.
    Competitive advantage arises from fit elements across activities
    Clear trade-offs and choices vis-à-vis competitors.

    In the final thoughts understanding what strategy is in today’s global business environment, one can say the improving operational effectiveness is a necessary part of management, but it is not strategy. In confusing the two, managers have unintentionally backed into a way of thinking about competition that is driving many industries toward competitive convergence, which is no one’s best interest and is not inevitable. Managers must clearly distinguish operational effectiveness from strategy. Both are essential, but the two agendas are different. The operational agenda involves continual improvement everywhere there are no trade-offs. Failure to do this creates vulnerability even for companies with a good strategy. The operational agenda is the proper place for constant change, flexibility, and relentless efforts to achieve best practice. In contrast, the strategic agenda is the right place for defining a unique position, making clear trade-offs, a tightening fit. It involves the continual search for ways to reinforce and extend the company’s position. The strategic agenda demands discipline and continuity; its enemies are distraction and compromise.

  • 11 Tom H C Anderson // Jun 3, 2011 at 6:48 am

    @Rick, Thanks for the open invitation; wasn’t sure I’d be getting invited back. I am hoping to get less conference invitations next year, but perhaps my strategy backfired ;)

    Curious though, what do you mean by “it was never intended for people such as yourself”?

  • 12 Tom H C Anderson // Jun 3, 2011 at 6:50 am

    @Lenny, Thank you so much for your kind comments and for sharing on your blog as well.

    Yes, I know there’s now quite a few of us engaging in “co-opetition” online to varying degrees. But I think this is a very different type of co-operation/competition than has been the norm previously among the various traditional trade organizations.

    I think social media has really helped equalized power across the research community and is finally allowing dialogue that has not been encouraged before.

    I can’t help myself often agreeing on some of the blog posts and tweets by others like yourself, but whom I have even less in common with, because in the end what many of us do seem to share is a desire to change the status quo and make research a bit less ‘Pay for Play’, more egalitarian, and more transparent.

    Again, thanks for your comments!


  • 13 Edward // Jun 3, 2011 at 9:25 am

    Great piece. Scary, but a call to action. From a client perspective, I would add to one of the things I believe research has to get better at and that’s developing narrative abilities. I also would say that research is in the enviable position of being able to point to numerous innovations in its arsenal of tools - could you say the same about a related marketing service discipline? MR isn’t the only discipline that periodically/frequently doubts its own status and stature - take a look at some marketing journals over the past 10 years and pick out all the articles worrying if marketing is taken seriously in the board room. I think MR is well placed - but as an industry, we have to get smarter in the way we capture actual value in a reputational sense. Others will do it for us if we don’t

  • 14 Rixk Frank // Jun 3, 2011 at 10:02 am

    All in all I’d have to say I agree with about 75% of what you say (which is as good as you can expect between to Market Researchers) :-)

    Yes, we need to resist the race to the bottom scrabbling for ever diminishing budgets. The walmartization of research is not a good thing.

    Yes, in some respects what we do is a commodity, but it’s not like a bag of peanuts where one is much the same as the next.

    In some respects this is the industry’s own fault, in trying to pretend we were science, we gave up a lot of the art in the business, and the art is what differentiates us from one another more so than the hardware we use.

    The push to standardize as in the ISO & like measures is homogenization and is never a good thing in intellectual endeavours. We do not manufacture nuts & bolts, this can’t work in our context & is only even viable by the really big companies that have the excess human capacity to document the unnecessary and the valueless.

    To say I do exactly what you do, is not going to win me any business. What I do, I do better than you do and documenting the process isn’t helpful to anyone & is harmful to my productivity.

    I disagree on the end result of trend to DIY, I think in this age of specialization the DIY trend towards generalization runs counter to that, and will crash and burn when the VALUE of doing this is realized. The ROI on DIY by an idiot is zero.

    Sure the simple things can be DIY. I never see those. But the truly complex research questions and designs will never be done with free software & inexperienced practitioners.

    Like a gung-ho guy thinking he can race his car at 200+ mph , this will hit the wall when inexperience meets reality.

    Sure the industry is changing, but not so much that more than 1/2 will disappear in 5-10 years, others will replace them.

    We are in the business of solving problems for others. If we can’t solve our own, we’re not very good at our jobs are we?

    I think I’ll have to blog this :-)

  • 15 Steve Yudin // Jun 3, 2011 at 2:23 pm

    Rick, I agree with your DIY comments. Maybe that makes the ‘cmrp’ing’ of Canadian researchers all the more concerning.

    We are better off to leave ourselves free from these labels and embrace a perception of an industry of creative, independent, free thinkers. Much as people abandon conventional medicine for homeopathic etc. it will be all the more difficult to convince wannabe DIYers to use our industry if we pigeonhole ourselves as an ‘establishment’ rather than a diverse group that can be flexible and accommodate their needs.

    As Megann so well points out above we should be practicing what we preach when we advise clients to differentiate themselves/their products.

    Tom, I thoroughly enjoyed listening to you at MRIA and the rationale you articulated against CMRP and ISO standards.

    I come at it from a slightly different angle but your take on it as commoditizing is bang on.

    The CMRP issue began years ago as a debate on whether or not we market researchers are ‘professionals’. This raged for awhile before culminating in the decision to embrace an emblem and cmrp was created.

    For God’s sakes! To me at least it was like something out of a Jonathan Swift book. Are we professionals in the sense of doctors and lawyers? Uh…….no. But we are professionals if we have pride in what we do and we do it well.

    We all believe market research is important in our society and we should be judged on our quality of work and integrity. That’s enough for me. Do we really need affirmation?

  • 16 John Tabone // Jun 3, 2011 at 3:59 pm

    It was nice speaking with you at the conference and discussing the merits of the individual certification programs. As the person who founded the CMRP (and a current member of the MRIA board), I have a different perspective on the value of the CMRP and I thought I’d add my thoughts to the discussion here. I would compare a CMRP to a certified accountant (CPA/CA), doctor, or lawyer. While I wouldn’t choose an accountant, doctor or lawyer only because they are certified, I also wouldn’t choose one who hasn’t passed their certification process. Like these professions, a CMRP must pass a challenging barrier to entry (including a 7 hour comprehensive exam), and must adhere to standards and keep on top of changes to retain their certification. The CMRP, like these other certifications, is only one point of differentiation and it is up to the CMRPs and their companies to demonstrate their other advantages. As a client side research, I’m certainly reluctant to use or hire anyone who hasn’t at least obtained their CMRP.

    I know some who say we are not like these other professions because we don’t have a core body of knowledge. As the marketing researcher for the leading professional accounting body (CICA) in Canada, I’d beg to differ on this point. Like those professions we do have a core body of knowledge and standards, and like those professions this body of knowledge and standards is regularly changing. For this reason, CMRPs like those other professionals are required to maintain currency. The only difference that I see is that we don’t have the same level of professionalism because we don’t have a long standing, established certification process like they do but I hope that will change over time.

    As for the PRC offered by the MRA, I’m not very familiar with it but it looks like the exam is based on true and false and multiple choice questions. I find it difficult to see how those could properly test the core body of knowledge in marketing research because for many research problems there is more than one correct solution. Having not seen their exam, I won’t make any judgments but will add that the CMRP exam, which is open ended, emphasizes the rationale behind a response and not just the final answer.

    I’ve noticed that much of the criticism comes from established researchers. They have less to gain at this point in their career by taking the exam and they believe they have a lot to lose should they take it and fail. I understand their concerns but I do know that the MRIA keeps the lists of writers confidential and only announces those who passed. I believe that research professionals with broad experience and a good understanding of the fundamentals of research will do well on the exam. As I noted earlier, I’ve come across many individuals who have been in the industry a long time who somehow never gained those skills. They would certainly have a lot more work to do to pass the exam.

    I’ll end my comment by pointing one other important benefit of the CMRP. When I ask most researchers how they became researchers, most will say they fell into it by accident. Unlike other professions, there is no clear career path to entering the field. Certification programs provide a defined career path that help to attract the best and brightest students to the profession which is something that would greatly benefit the future of our profession.

  • 17 Rick Hobbs // Jun 3, 2011 at 4:56 pm

    What I mean by that Tom is you are already well established and well known. Beyond the career stage intended for an intro CMRP.

    Do I need affirmation? You bet. I needed it when I was getting my degrees, I needed it when I was applying for jobs, I needed it when I was asking for promotions, I need it now that I am arguing with some of the best in the industry. I am constantly striving for affirmation of my ability. Whether it is winning a proposal, being selected to speak at a conference, or even getting an attaboy from my CEO.
    And I got it when I passed the test. It is a challenging exam and passing it gave me additional confidence in my abilities and knowledge. It is about showing that I have knowledge, skills and experience to conduct most marketing research projects. Yes quality of work and integrity are important, but so much harder to show.

  • 18 Rick Frank // Jun 4, 2011 at 8:30 am

    Re: Rick H & John T.

    I don’t think anyone is saying the designations like the CMRP are useless for new practitioners. Any leg up to get established in a new industry is prudent & a worthwhile endeavour.

    And yes if you feel the need for personal affirmation by all means indulge. In medieval days the devout wore hairshirts & flogged themselves to give themselves a boost of belief. Personally I’m not one for hairshirts, they’re itchy I hear and we get enough floggings from clients that self-flagellation seems overkill :-)

    Getting accreditation for the sake of accreditation when one is well established is not a profitable use of time.

    We are in businesses after all and if one has to choose between earning a living and seeking to pat yourself on the back for an academic job well done, any business owner will do the former.

    And it’s not a case of being afraid to fail, it is simply — what’s the ROI on my time investment?

    We have finite hours in a day and I believe that learning more about such things as psychology, human cognition or any such field that will help you get insights into human behavior will be a much better use of intellectual free time than certifying yourself in a discipline you already practice effectively.

    It’s a choice.

  • 19 Tom H C Anderson // Jun 4, 2011 at 3:54 pm

    @John & Rick

    I only know a few Canadian researchers, few of any which I believe have the certification in question. I just asked Annie Petit on Twitter whether she had one and she answered “I do not have CMRP or PRC. I have PhD in experimental research methods” though she was careful to say “I am highly in favour of all researchers getting relevant, current high quality research training”

    I agree, and wonder about the reason as well as how the certifications are being marketed. Many advanced degrees require methodology courses and/or research which go beyond what the average marketing research professional has been exposed to. This is the case with myself and most of those I work with.

    As Rick Frank also pointed out above, I have absolutely no problem with additional training and certifications that accompany such training. Who would? As I’ve mentioned several times, I myself and some of my employees have taken various Burke Institute training courses in multivariate analytics and choice techniques.

    What I am weary about though is trade orgs are offering up certifications for reasons other than increasing skill sets for those who feel they need it. While I think various certifications are fine for individuals, I do not believe they are something that our industry needs. If these are/become a significant source of revenue for trade organizations, which I believe is a part of the reason they are being pursued, then I start wondering about who really benefits.

    As Rick pointed out, no certification, no matter how trivial comes without some cost in time and or money. In my case, just like Annie, I feel I’m all set with two graduate degrees and several outside courses in advanced analytics.

    The end goal though of the trade organizations in question is that everyone should get (THEIR) certifications. For marketing purposes and acceptance, I understand several researchers were initially ‘grandfathered’ with little or no effort (thus decreasing credibility in my opinion). But let’s take it forward, IF (big if) everyone were certified, which is the goal - what would be the actual benefit to anyone?

    It would possibly create a very small barrier to entry (though this is doubtful). If such a barrier to entry was actually successfully achieved, those standing to gain the most from it would be the large firms who, with the invention of online, have now lost almost all these barriers.

    If you are looking at certifications because you think it helps our industry, then I feel your efforts are misplaced and your perspective is somewhat backwards looking.

    If on the other hand you want to improve your knowledge, and show others that you have such knowledge, then there are several choices depending on whether you want to pursue more qualitative training such as RIVA or quantitative training and certification such as Burke Institute (my personal favorite).

    Either way, such training should be your own choice, not something mandated in any way on those who don’t feel they need or want it. That simply won’t work, especially not today ;)

  • 20 Rick Hobbs // Jun 4, 2011 at 8:30 pm

    Good, we are making headway, we agree it is not a waste of time for some. Training is always your choice, and here the Canadian market is much different, as our institutions have been slower in developing quality training. That is where CMRP came in, to provide practical training in the industry.

    Right now the goal is not to have everyone certified, 26% of MRIA have the designation - what’s the magic number?

    Not sure, something we are struggling with. As to the grandfathering the majority of CMRPs were grandfathered in. That is a whole different can of worms, one we are addressing.


  • 21 Tom H C Anderson // Jun 4, 2011 at 8:31 pm

    To summarize that:

    Of course we’re not against various education and certification, nor against quality. That’s just silly, who on earth is? But I am Pro-Choice!

    I.e. I think education/certification is best handled outside of the trade organizations and I think it should stay that way. It’s simply too tempting for trade orgs to use certification as a way to gain more relevancy and power, usually to the detriment of the smaller firms in the industry.

    Now, how about that discussion about not commoditizing our industry and ways to increase our power and value instead?

    I know all about surveys and groups. Most of the really cool things I’m working on today really isn’t covered under the body of knowledge known as “marketing research”. Rather than changing my title and the description of what my firm does, I’m asking how do we move up the value chain and gain more power by stretching across into other disciplines? Now that’s what I’m far more interested in!

  • 22 Bernie Malinoff // Jun 4, 2011 at 9:45 pm

    Tom, terrific piece … and for those who were not at the MRIA conference, my introduction of you included the line:

    Tom steadfastly advocates issues that he believes are central to the future success of our industry …

    So, as I have done on other issues, let me state publicly that:

    (1) I have a CMRP designation from the MRIA - I was grandfathered with 15+ years experience when the program was launched. I don’t know if I would go through the full process myself today, but I have seen those go through it (both client and supplier) feel a tremendous accomplishment for what they have achieved. If this helps to stimulate more thoughtful research, design & discussion - and is more than a token diploma, I’m all for it.

    (2) Corporate Certifications (eg ISO). From the limited exposure I have to this, I cannot see the benefit to small-medium size organizations. I am not sure what the benefit is for even the largest research org’s, and adhering to those rules/processes will be difficult, costly and distracting from the real challenges facing our industry.

    And like you, what gets me most excited about broadening my business scope and generating client insights are all the things outside the ‘classic training’ offered by certifications.


  • 23 Tom H C Anderson // Jun 4, 2011 at 10:51 pm

    Thanks Bernie, I searched your LinkedIn profile for it and didn’t see it so assumed you didn’t have one… Grandfathering explains it. Though I never questioned your expertise, a few minutes speaking with you, and looking at your LinkedIn profile makes that clear ;)

    Speaking of LinkedIn and ‘certification’, in my opinion at least I think there is probably no greater certification of someone’s value than their profile. Testimonials on LinkedIn etc. aside, I am highly skeptical of anyone I think about hiring either as a consultant or vendor if they do not have a profile on LinkedIn.

    It still happens, especially among tech employees/developers (ironically enough). If someone doesn’t have a LinkedIn profile I wonder who is this person, what are they trying to hide? Nothing speaks more to me than the fact that someone has 100+ fellow professionals who simply by being connected to a person are implicitly speaking for that person saying that they are who they say they are and can do/have done what their CV claims.

  • 24 jr // Jun 8, 2011 at 7:00 pm

    I question the believe that the DIY trend is unstoppable and should be endorsed, embraced and assisted. As some have pointed out, an idiot doing DIY market research will likely not find “insights”. Garbage in- garbage out. The belief that there is no skill (or knowledge) required for effective market research–of any form–is utter rubbish, sorry. My #1 problem nowadays? Clients are clueless about research and just not willing to learn a damn thing. A number is a number to them and the concept of “sampling” might as well be from Mars for all they know. They have Survey Monkey, a blog and a community…what more do they need? Not to mention that in many cases the research function has been turned over to purchasing and commoditized. Insights? Good luck to us all.

  • 25 Santosh Kumar // Jun 9, 2011 at 6:22 am

    Dear Tom,
    Liked your article, and was concerned about my future in market research. I

  • 26 Santosh Kumar // Jun 9, 2011 at 6:30 am

    Dear Tom,
    I am Santosh kumar from India. Liked your article, and was concerned about my future in market research. Hence seek your suggestion. Currently i am employed with exevo as a qualitative research associate. exevo handles projects outsourced by Copal partners. The clients are big names like Harris interactive , Synovate etc. i want to know whether there is any scope for me to work with a non outsourcing market research company using my current work in the future. I am on linkedin by my name only. please suggest me . i am waiting to hear from you. Thanks

  • 27 Snorri H. Gudmundsson // Jun 9, 2011 at 8:05 am

    Very good read and timely. I haven’t really given this angle much thought in recent years as I’ve been involved with statistical analysis more than hands-on implementation, so I’m consuming this kind of material like a sponge at the moment.

    I agree that firms in our industry have a bit of a positioning problem. Actually, it seems to me that this is even more widespread than that. It is as if the world is rushing ahead in some form of frenzied state and not giving itself time to take a breath and think things through. Possibly a panic reaction to the economic shock. It is VERY easy to get derailed right now; the world is simply moving at a pace never before seen.

    “I am highly skeptical of anyone I think about hiring either as a consultant or vendor if they do not have a profile on LinkedIn. ”

    Couldn’t agree more. LinkedIn is my #1 resource for projects, clients, outsource partners etc etc etc.

  • 28 Harry Henry // Jun 9, 2011 at 11:34 am

    Tom - someone directed me to your post here - - good summary & discussion of the issues come at the research industry.

    One good example from this week — the US Army guys using YouTube and Delta’s immediate response. In the connected world … surveys? C-sat? NO immediate interaction, company monitoring and darn near instant fix.

    Traditional research won’t go away in the flick of a switch but the function needs to think broadly about all forms of customer and prospect activities.

  • 29 This Week in Brand Strategy & Marketing - PSFK // Jun 10, 2011 at 7:11 am

    [...] The New Face of Marketing Research Intelligence [...]

  • 30 Jeffrey Henning's Top 10 #MRX Stories: Ipsos Factos, MR’s New Face & Text Analytics | GreenBook // Jun 10, 2011 at 7:06 pm

    [...] The New Face of Marketing Research Intelligence – As covered earlier on this blog, Tom H.C. Anderson recaps the comments he made in a panel discussion at the annual MRIA conference, held this year in British Columbia. Tom has never been accused of being a shrinking violet, and in his remarks he shares his candid views of issues facing the market research industry. He touches on how client needs are changing and what this means for the relevance of MR companies in the future: “Many understand that over half of the ‘research’ firms out there won’t be around 5-10 years from now.” Tom shares some of his plans to make sure that Anderson Analytics doesn’t end up as “roadkill” on the information highway. [...]

  • 31 Jeremy Hawes // Jun 15, 2011 at 12:47 am

    One unfortunate side to SEO and online marketing is the element of failure… or at least perceived failure. I say it that way because in research even failure is gain - it’s learning what won’t work in most instances, which is a valuable lesson. However, most employers (especially if you’re just a contractor) do not like this one bit. Patience, in this field, is scarce.

  • 32 navin williams // Jun 20, 2011 at 12:19 am

    hi tom,

    thx for that. many of your points touched very very close to home. especially the how to avoid road kill and the last section on the big boys keeping us jogging on the spot.

    “the biggest firms in our industry have stifled innovation because it has been in their best interest to do so”

    how do you think this is going to play out? many are banking on either goliath leading & actively participating in innovation OR rolling over and being sent 6 feet under :).

    any thoughts for the little guy?

    ps - lenny’s compliment to you is huge :). he’s been doing consistently awesome work with his posts on greenbookblog.

  • 33 Rick Hobbs // Jun 22, 2011 at 9:31 am

    Thanks again for posting this discussion - just made my LinkedIN top news. And I can’t dispute your claim about knowing Canadian Researchers, but apparently they know you. Recent studies show 50% of your top fans are canucks. :)

  • 34 Tom H C Anderson // Jun 22, 2011 at 2:44 pm

    @Rick Wow, it was trending on LinkedIn, that is cool. Didn’t know that.

    Yes, I have more Canadian friends than I realized. Like you guys cause you’re so smart ;)

  • 35 Rupa A Raje // Jun 23, 2011 at 4:14 am

    Hey Tom,

    Absolutely agree with your thoughts.. specially on the certifications…I too believe that these are mostly used as marketing jargons and nothing else. Most of the companies or individuals have this spoken out loud as a selling point and as you rightly said it is all piece of s….

    Would love to hear you in person some day!!! You will dissapoint a lot of people if you get your jet decompressurised in the middle…dont do that ;-)

  • 36 Stu Hemerling // Jun 23, 2011 at 3:41 pm

    Unfortunately, i think that the reality that 95% (a guess but i’d be shocked if it were lower than that - does anybody know the real percent?) of the CMRPs were grandfathered undermines the designation’s legitimacy in a significant way. The designation obtained in this way conflates experience with education. Alternatively, those who actually had to do courses, pass tests, etc. to “earn” the CMRP should be commended, and proudly carry their letters.

  • 37 Sean Copeland // Jul 12, 2011 at 11:20 am

    Just posted Rick’s story in response to this blog post:

    Let’s keep the discussion open!

  • 38 Tom H C Anderson // Jul 12, 2011 at 5:02 pm

    Thanks Sean, I see you posted it to NGMR board as well and that there is already some discussion here

    Not sure it really addressed my main issues with certification though

  • 39 Three New (Old) Reflections on Data and Analytics « Practical Discovery // Aug 1, 2011 at 4:28 pm

    [...] quote from “NextGen” market researcher Tom Anderson reflecting on the 2011 MRIA Conference: “We need to become more than traditional researchers while retaining the methodological [...]

  • 40 Politics, Market Research and Social Media // Sep 13, 2011 at 2:32 pm

    [...] and politics should find today’s post interesting and timely. Recently when speaking at an MRIA conference in Canada I was fortunate enough to meet Brian Singh, Managing Director of ZINC [...]

  • 41 Top 10 Blog Posts of 2011 // Jan 2, 2012 at 1:46 pm

    [...] 1. The New Face of Marketing Research Intelligence [...]

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