A - I'm to the point where I am much more involved with the strategic areas and less involved with looking through computer print outs, and I enjoy not having to look through computer printouts.
When I say strategy, I'm referring to marketing issues. For example, are we at the proper price point for our brand, or are we advertising the best position for our brand? We have discussions with marketing, and questions may come up regarding a specific marketing tactic that the brand group is interested in pursuing or investigating. This can mean advertising, it can mean pricing, it can be a new product that is at the conceptual stage, or it can mean packaging. Our discussions really deal with all aspects of the marketing function. Whenever any need comes up for information regarding consumer feedback, we step in and play a very major role. There are times when we simply recommend a particular type of test that is very straightforward. Or the recommendation might be much more complicated, and we would have to be much more involved with the marketing group, the agency group, R & D, or production. It can cover many functions within the organization. Coming out of a meeting, having decided that some sort of research seems warranted, we then work through what we think would be the most appropriate approach. We work on the design, and we work with outside research suppliers who assist in questionnaire development. They basically take over when it comes to the interviewing part within our various markets, we simply oversee their activities. We get computer printouts from them. We do not do our own computer work internally for research.
The conceptualizing stage is not a black box. I think it is a very logical link between a specific information need of the marketing group and what we would recommend in terms of research. Let's say we are working with our marketing group, and they have an idea for a new product. Marketing can put together a "wish list" (By "wish list," I do not want to imply that they can blue-sky it, and we will run and scurry!), they might like to know if consumers who don't eat salt would eat this product. A lot of times at the first meeting we are outlining objectives, and often they'll say, "This is the information I would like to know." At some point we might have to say, "We are going to have to address these other major issues first, and your questions will fall into place later," or "These questions of yours are not going to be relevant to your decision." We try to keep our research very action-oriented as opposed to obtaining tons of information that is not going to be fed directly into a decision. ? Well, we have several things going here. We do advertising research, including TV commercial testing, print advertisement testing, product testing, product use and product appearance testing, concept testing, and more. We do strategic studies here, so we run pretty much the whole bit. We purchase both consumer and store panel data. We do attitude and awareness studies. We do purchaser studies to find out purchasers' satisfaction with our products. We consult with the management, and we prepare research proposals based on the management's requirements. We have supervision, of course, while we do this. We also discuss the project with the management. When the project is authorized, we design the job, and then we arrange for contractors to do the field work and tabulation on it. We write the questionnaire here and set up the tab spectrum. Lastly, we write the final report and offer recommendations.
Q - What skills do you think are important to be successful in marketing research?
The key is understanding what the problem is, conducting the project the way you think best, and coming up with one of the optimum answers. Good judgment and experience are critical. I would expect six different marketing researchers working on the same project to come up with the same answers if they were good. There are really only a couple of good optimal answers, although there are different ways of saying them.
I think an understanding of logic and science is important, whether gained through sociology or science and mathematics. When you are doing cross tabulations and you are doing analyses, it's very important that you understand logically when one thing follows from another and also when two things are correlated but aren't necessarily cause and effect. I think in the end, it takes some good judgment, which is the number-one requirement of a good market researcher. The technical aspects can all be learned by a person of reasonable intelligence, but it is judgment that counts. It is also important to find the correlations and the cause-and-effect relationship apolitically and unemotionally and to make good marketing-oriented recommendations. I think the second thing is for the person to be assertive and somewhat aggressive. I think the view of a market researcher is some sort of a very technically oriented, statistically oriented analyst, who sits in the computer room crunching numbers. Totally false. You have to be an active member of the marketing team, and you've got to make your opinions known. When you sit down and design a piece of research in conjunction with what marketing wants, you have to be the conscience behind the group and make sure you are not designing a self-service piece of research. You have to examine the alternatives and construct the research properly, so that the answer you get will truly be what the consumer wants and will be completely void of political considerations.
Determining the problem is the most important key to success. There is no computer that can do that. I have to figure out exactly what it is that I really want to find out and, after I am done with all that, will I have something that will answer the question or won't answer the question? I frequently have to establish to what extent I can answer the question and what that's worth for management. I might spend many thousands of dollars but not a penny more beyond that, because we are not going to find out anything worth spending more money.
You pray up and down that somebody has their basic English down pat. You might even laugh at this, but a lot of people just don't know how to write! This is very important, because I turn out complete reports here, not to mention designing questionnaires. One word could change the whole meaning of your survey.