As the year ends there are the lists of developments this year to remember by (..!!!), and forecasts of top trends next year.

No, this aint either of them.  But is a rumination of the features of media and research that are likely to disappear…and unlikely to be replaced.

Digital & social media have changed the media landscape globally and, since measurement and tracking are in-built, their growth is likely to leave quite a bit of traditional media and market research redundant.

I am highlighting three features that I see are unlikely to survive, and would be interesting to see if they will be replaced at all:

The Socio-Economic classification (SEC/ SES): This is one of the most contentious issues in marketing and media, across the globe. Usually a large-scale media monitoring agency like Nielsen defines SEC for each market along with what variables are used to classify an individual/ household. Unilever has adopted the Living Standards Measurement (LSM) globally and use this for SEC profiling.

SEC / LSM is a good composite surrogate for the consumption/ lifestyle/ behavior of segments, and closely correlates with income, occupation and education levels. The SEC profiling is an important part of any research survey and can take considerable time of the interview.

The Kish Grid: In certain surveys representation of the ‘Individual’ is critical, and  therefore  it is important to have rules in selection of respondents. Traditionally the Kish Grid was a tool employed for this and continues to be used in developing markets. This is a table with random numbers. For each household the number of members are listed usually  in order of birth (or birthdate). The selection of which respondent to choose for the interview is determined using fixed rules like the Kish grid. If the respondent based on this selection is not available, then either the next eligible respondent is chosen or in critical studies, an appointment is made to re-visit the household to complete the interview.

Both the SEC and the Kish Grid were features that ensured a sample was as representative as possible and helped in quality control, though they took considerable effort and time.

Stan Sthanunathan is one of the most inspiring speakers from the consumer insights industry. He’s championed insights at Coke for a couple of decades, and moved to Unilever and was also on the agency side before this.  In one of his talks of the changes in the insights industry he shared a video from Google Insights demonstrating abilities to profile and understand consumers like never before. (watch from the 3.00 mark).

While that video was impressive, it created the impression that a lot of features & information that marketeers and media required (like SEC & Kish Grid) while monitoring the market were not relevant or required here. And also, what passive data delivered was good enough. Stan’s teams have since presented at various fora how digital & social media is a good pre-cursor to their regular large-scale studies (and not a replacement).

The third feature is more of a practice, but perhaps is the one facing the biggest challenge – and that is for monitoring competitor activity.

In the traditional media landscape (currently in developing markets) where television has the maximum activity and share of spends, there is an established and accepted system of monitoring activity and spends.  There are different agencies monitoring various facets – what the viewership is across timeslots, What are the TV commercials that were screened at these different time-slots,  coding, classifying the TVCs and compiling this data. Marketing and Media planning teams use this data to identify share of spends, share of voice, competitive activity etc. A key point to note that this is normally industry driven and therefore becomes an acceptable ‘currency’ across all players.

Digital lends complexity to this in many different ways, as there is no available reliable metric nor and industry wide system currently to help understand digital activity by the industry (and competition).  Most companies do their own internal monitoring and I cannot currently envisage an acceptable industry standard (like for TV).


Surely there are a lot other features and information that will be redundant in future, which begs the philosophical debate – if they are not to be replaced, were they really required in the first place? 🙂

Food for thought. The answers would be a big revelation of what will no longer be important, the choices that we as an industry make, and therefore actually help us foresee what marketing in the future shall be like…

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