In one of her interviews Hillary Clinton recounted her experience as a Secretary of State and lamented that once the Cold War ended, America “withdrew from the information arena.” As a result, across the world, a new generation no longer remembers the great things the US had done in the past and are still doing today. Her recommendation: “get back to telling” the story of America’s greatness, not only to the rest of the world but “to ourselves first and foremost.” Thus, initiatives like CARE, Voice of America, sponsoring cultural exchanges needed to be continued to present and promote the story of America.

Even for a country like the US that dominates world media headlines, and is in your face through popular culture – telling its story and presenting and promoting what it stands for, is a continued requirement.

In the case of the Marketing Research (MRX) and all affiliated industries, this in my view, is the biggest requirement as well as a challenge. Unlike the Advertising industry, our work is not visible to the public, and client confidentiality means that most of our achievements are rarely shared and our story remains un-told.

As a result there are many challenges that the industry faces. Insights as a concept today has been claimed and owned by everyone from advertising agencies, management consultancies and now the technical data analytical wizards.

AdContrarian Bob Hoffman in his blog narrates this well (after thrashing researchers first): “…by the time the 90’s rolled around the client research people were sent to bed without dinner as the research function was cleverly ripped away from them through the genius of account planning. See, you research geeks view everything from the company’s standpoint. We ad geniuses see it from the consumer’s standpoint. This became one of the greatest misdirection operations in advertising history.

What compounds this further is how easy it is to not just downplay but blame market research for everything. There have been enough marketeers and advertising industry folk (and some ex-market researchers) talking about the ineffectiveness of marketing research and how it tells them nothing new. This takes a particularly savage slant when public opinion polls are in the news. Post BREXIT and the US presidential elections, our industry was pilloried and naysayers were itching for some ‘lynching’ like in the good ol’ days of the Wild West.

Telling our story has never been more important and should be done loudly outshouting the naysayers (and the lynchmob!).

This is not to say that we have been un-responsive – there are enough industry-wide initiatives that have taken place. ESOMAR has launched a special training for media/ press on how to interpret polls. Many from our industry joined in the debate post the presidential polls last year, and had a difficult time being heard.

But perhaps having a story in the first place really helps? Building a strong branding for the industry has never been more critical. Equally important is responding to a threat. During the ‘70s consumer advocates and activists like Ralph Nader had influenced public imagination and opinion against advertising. To the extent that the AAAA (American Association of Advertising Agencies) came out with a campaign promoting advertising as another word for ‘Freedom of Choice’. Perhaps its time for the marketing research industry to also explore a campaign to help regain trust and present our standpoint?

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Another industry initiative to present our achievements was unveiled last year where case studies were compiled and shared (Link: Eureka).

The best case studies for market research in my opinion, however have and continue to be presented at the advertising effectiveness awards. Each brand campaign has its genesis some insights in both defining the marketing problem as well as in developing the campaign. Only a few awards program (like the ARF’s David Ogilvy awards ) credit the research agencies along with the creative agencies. But more importantly the success of the campaign is established only through research. Its ironical that they should be the ones to question the efficacy of market research.

The marketing research industry has been one of the most forward-looking sectors and has evolved itself adopting the latest technical advances. However, this fact as well as the many accomplishments are not known to or appreciated by the business community.

Its time we took control of this narrative and presented our story proudly.


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