How do top marketing research companies market themselves?
In the age of free survey sites that let companies do their own traditional data gathering, the demands of specialization and of message cohesion have never been stronger.
Brand positioning is everything. When we change technology around the time we change our shoes, the question is not how well your research lines up with certain predetermined criteria of successful research but how your company defines that success, where your resources are focused, and why those dimensions are what make your market model the strongest. To put it bluntly, how do we justify our own value and stop that perception of ourselves as ‘middle men.’
Tom H.C. Anderson, founder and partner over at Anderson Analytics, is one of the many people pioneering what is called ‘text analytics’. One of the interesting things he’s said (and there are many) is that it seems more and more like specifying the domain of such analysis—this in contrast with the broader, large-data applications the techniques have been tending toward. Text analytics, a tool with some serious potential for revolutionizing (or at least proprietizing) market research, is important here precisely of its innovation. It cannot be done on a site like SurveyMonkey; it is, at least right now, disintermediation-proof. And that’s exactly what we need.
It should be no surprise, then, to see Anderson Analytics in a study by Leonard Murphy surveying the ten MR brands perceived to be the most innovative. There’s another lesson to be learned in this research, however. Anderson, a newer company, finds itself in the company of the likes of Nielsen, TNS, GfK, traditionally stellar firms with established methods. According to the study, Anderson’s text analysis methods might signal to consumers a commitment to values over and above baseline data-collection. It’s not just text analysis, but analysis itself, and the commitment to development of technological tools, that accounts for bridging the gap between traditional and risk-averse respondents.
But consider the other side, the customer. Consider what Jason Anderson over at Blizzard Inc. has to say in his 8 Things I Would Do if I Were a Market Researcher. His high-level advice concerns justifying our addition to his overhead (and, no, we need more than project management). He mentions bringing out really unique, interesting data streams, if that’s what we want to focus on, and especially something that takes account of the disparity between what those surveyed say and do. He mentions point-of-sale and multimodality as research he’s interested in hiring someone to bring to him. And yet he also mentions investments in technology, as well as technologists, people on staff to find new ways of understanding, modeling, and interpreting the initial customer’s world. These point to the same sort of things as Murphy’s survey, and yet, instead of a rousing acclaim of Anderson Analytics here, this Anderson reminds us about impact, about how the fanciest, most cutting-edge, laser-cool techniques mean nothing if they can’t get results. Specifically, he says that MR firms should market those results, working out the methods among themselves.
Where does this leave us? Promote someone to manage a new text analysis project? Not quite. The thing to take away is this—Stay Needed. It’s an old rule of business, but once freesourced sites make you obsolete (and yes, they will, even text analytics) there better be something waiting in the wings, something that works, something that’s yours, and something that’ll have companies drooling.