The More That Changes, The More That Remains The Same

As the President of the Market Research Council (June 2019-June 2020), I decided to dig into its history. The strong message I’ve gotten is that the only consistent in Market Research is change.

As the President of the Market Research Council (June 2019-June 2020), I decided to dig into its history.  The strong message I’ve gotten is that the only consistent in Market Research is change.

The arena of change and challenge following World War I in the U.S., attracted the founders of the marketing research profession and brought them together to form a confidential peer group. In its 92nd year, the Market Research Council continues to be a unique and viable group for confidentially sharing new concepts and technologies, setting the highest standards for the profession and incubating new business concepts. The purpose of this article is to introduce you to the Market Research Council (www.mrcouncil.org), provide some surprising history and bring you up to date.

 In 1927, 26 pioneers in marketing research (entrepreneurs and academicians) set up the Market Research Council in New York City  as a peer group to collaborate to set the highest standards for market research while making it economically viable and integral to business decision-making. They wanted a confidential environment to discuss ideas, information and explore new technologies for collecting and analyzing qualitative and quantitative data. 

The 1920’s were an exciting time in the U.S. Technological and new creative forces were rapidly reshaping U.S industry and lives. All systems were “go.” Manufacturers needed quicker and more dependable indications of consumer response to their marketing efforts — their products, their advertising and all other aspects of marketing. Old methods and channels were crumbling. The consumer was changing. The time was ripe for development of the new tool of marketing research and a new breed of professionals — marketing researchers. 

A Market Research Council member, A.C. Nielson, found a competitive advantage at a meeting in the early l930’s, when he heard a presentation by an MIT engineer detailing a new system for measuring and recording individual radio listening. In partnership with the engineer, A.C. Wilson, Nielsen started building his company on measuring radio audiences’ listening behavior and selling the data to advertisers and networks.

At a meeting In the early 1970’s, one of the first woman advertising executives, Rena Bartos —presented her pioneering evidence-based concept — “The Moving Target” — at an MRC meeting.  In “The Moving Target”, Bartos was the first to provide compelling proof for advertisers to treat women as diverse consumers rather than a monolithic group. She started a revolution.

In 2015, once again a meeting was a valuable forum for the Nielson Company. After a presentation at the MRC about the advances in combining multiple consumer neuroscience tools to get deeper understanding of consumer behavior, Nielsen acquired Innerscope and incorporated behavior science in its learnings about consumers for clients.

In September 2018, another MRC forum featured Bill Pink, Head of Brand Guidance Analytics for Kantar, N.A. and Rob Key, Founder, and CEO of Converseon. The concept prevalent in guiding research methodology today is that collecting data is a combination of structured and unstructured methods, emerged from their discussion. Our members expected a debate between traditional brand tracking research methods and big data.  Bill established that his clients want measures of sales volume, helping them understand how to manage investments in those drivers. From a brand perspective, the key is to uncover the linkage between brand equity and a brand’s base volume, not its total volume. Bill shared how combining traditional survey measures with search and social provides the more complete and more granular understanding clients need. He showed that social data were indicative of the creative quality and the impact of spend. Rob talked about the value of unprompted, unstructured social data as the authentic voice of the consumers. He also demonstrated how this “tower of babel” is easily misunderstood and misinterpreted. Artificial intelligence has made the difference by enabling the data to be structured into higher-level variables with predictive qualities. These two passionate advocates agreed that there is a need for both structured and unstructured data to be linked analytically.   

Today, 92 years after its founding, the Market Research Council remains the organizational force for cutting-edge discussions and the sharing of information with peers on quantitative and qualitative techniques, and tools to advance market share. The organization is the platform where the industry’s prominent women and men are able to grapple in confidence with gathering usable information about sampling designs, A.I., the practical uses of behavioral economics, futuristic technologies and tools to manage the flood of data that can provide significant bottom-line results. 

Our two-hour monthly in-person meetings are one of the ways we promote the exchange of ideas. For example, on September 20, Bill Harvey, Founder/Chairman, Research Measurement Techniques, Inc. will be leading a panel discussion about a topic on all our minds:  Creativity and Insights: Will They Become Less Important in The Future? Panelists will be: Chick Foxgover, EVP Creative Technologies & Innovation– 4As; Hunter Eshelman, Executive Creative Director, VMLY&R; Chuck Young, CEO Ameritest; Paul Zak, PhD, CEO & Founder, Immersion Neuroscience.

The Market Research Council is headquartered in New York City. Membership is by invitation. Members are accomplished and influential marketing research and insights professionals and data scientists in business, government and academia. Meetings are provocative, insightful opportunities for research professionals to meet and mingle with others excited about taking a deep dive into the ever-expanding universe of information gathering and analytics. A full list of Market Research Council monthly programs is listed on its website (www.mrcouncil.org).