Do research vendors really believe in research?

Recently, I have had a couple of conversations with research and marketing executives that make me wonder if research vendors really believe in marketing research – even the research they are conducting for their clients!

While chatting with the head of marketing at one of the world’s largest research companies, I talked about the merits and value of advertising, both print and online. She quickly stopped me and exclaimed that her company doesn’t believe in advertising. “Advertising doesn’t work!” she told me.

But two weeks later I saw a press release from her company on a study it had conducted highlighting the effectiveness of advertising! Really? When I recontacted her to discuss the findings of the firm’s research and gauge her interest in advertising in our magazine or on our Web site, she told me they weren’t interested. Further, she said, by asking her to advertise, I made it clear to her that I “just don’t understand this firm” and its business model.

I would have accepted her objections as nothing more than a potential client not wanting to do business with us, but then I had two similar conversations with other research executives in the ensuing months.

When talking with these executives about marketing their firms, I cited separate research studies by Harris Interactive and Dynamic Logic that supported the effectiveness of advertising. I was a bit surprised when they both quickly dismissed the studies. One indicated that they were going to spend their marketing budget with a media source other than Quirk’s. I then cited the 2010 NextGen Market Research Trends Survey, which found Quirk’s to be respondents’ most-used Web site after LinkedIn and the Wall Street Journal. This study was rejected as trivial.

I wasn’t happy about their decisions to take their business elsewhere but I understand that everyone has their own preferences and strategies. What really bothers me is the sense that these individuals seem not to believe in marketing research as a vehicle for defining and presenting actionable marketing information.

Client companies spend vast sums investigating how to market and promote their products and services more effectively. How do their research vendors look them in the face and tell them how to allocate their marketing and research dollars when they themselves appear not to believe such expenditures are worthwhile?

This entry was posted in Advertising Research, Market Research Best Practices, Market Research Findings, Marketing Best Practices, Research Industry Trends, State of the Research Industry. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Do research vendors really believe in research?

  1. Naor Chazan says:

    Interesting (and rather frightening) article, Steve. Thank you for sharing!

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  3. Karen Baglin says:

    Your blog post definitely makes me want to know which research company said “advertising doesn’t work!” There is a chance that the statement was taken out of context; the VP could have meant that it’s not as important for MR companies in particular, none of whom seem to do it much. It could also mean that they don’t have the money to advertise:) Or they may have decided to pursue social media avenues vs. traditional advertising. Or is it that MR folks think that they’re equal partners with advertising and that they therefore don’t need to advertise since they’re in the business, so to speak? Advertising firms use the ads they create as their own form of marketing; do market research firms believe their research studies are their own calling card? For me, your post definitely underscores the importance of communicating appropriately with all business partners!

  4. Annie Pettit says:

    It’s an interesting situation! I’ll admit that I am a huge critic of research methods and a firm believer in research methods. The critic in me comes out when I see sloppy research that will no doubt lead to invalid conclusions. But, the believer in me knows that when research is done with care, valid conclusions will result. Maybe this is why we see the dichotomy. We want and strive for the world but don’t always get it. :)

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  6. Canek Riestra says:

    Now this is funny. I feel your pain, everyone in MR, mostly in large companies, will say they know everything they need. And so, the greatest innovations are comming from the small, creativity eager companies, who don´t act like asses. Large companies are conducting really foolishly, thinking no one can take advantage of their status quo.