JACK HONOMICHL: A RESEARCH LIFE REMEMBERED
Editor’s Note: It’s with deep sadness that I post this. Jack Honomichl was truly an inspiration and a legend in market research. If not for him the industry would look very different today and certainly myself and others who play at being quasi-journalists stand in his shadow.
This moving and authoritative memorial was provided by Jack’s long term business partner and colleague Larry Gold, a legend in his own right as well.
By Laurence N. Gold
Jack will be remembered for his ultimate achievement: defining market research as an industry through his writings and publishing over a period of 30 years. Before, it was a disparate group of businesses and activities, shrouded in the fog of obscurity. Just a few had name recognition: Nielsen, Yankelovich, Gallup. He described to the business world what it was and its critical value to business strategy and success.
Jack always had a yen for both research and journalism. Right after college at Northwestern University and graduate school at the University of Chicago, he headed to the Chicago Tribune newspaper in 1957. No, they didn’t have a writer position, but the market research department did, running a paper diary panel of Chicago respondents under the direction of research pioneer Pierre Martineau. This sounds quaint now but back in the 1950’s it was ground breaking stuff, and it’s where Jack cut his teeth on market research.
He went on to build his research skills as a “panel maven” for the next 20 years at such firms as MRCA, Audits & Survey and then at Dun & Bradstreet. He was good at it. He began his own firm, Marketing Aid Center, at the end of the 1970’s where he consulted with research firms in both the U.S. and abroad on M&A activities. He conducted large scale A&U and CSM studies for individual firms and a consortium of large U.S. research firms.
Yet, in the back of his mind was that yen for writing and journalism, a yen to inform. In 1969 he created the The Analyst, the first trade journal of the U.S. research industry. Then the fates struck when Advertising Age asked him to write an article about MR. It was the first of hundreds he wrote for Ad Age over the next 18 years under the byline The Research Beat, and was Ad Age’s only columnist for many years.
With his research knowledge and skills, he wrote about research companies and clients and people, their methods and operations and value, much of it what we call today innovation. He not only informed the market research community, but the broader marketing and advertising communities as well. which had little knowledge of research. He was a lone voice then, writing and teaching and speaking to the entire marketing community about research.
Jack continued to write as a columnist for AMA’s Marketing News for several years. In 1990 he founded the newsletter INSIDE RESEARCH, now in its 24st year. The financial paper Barron’s thought enough to call it “The Bible of the Market Research Industry.” Jack has written nearly 400 articles about market research. His writing include books such as Honomichl on Market Research in 1978, Marketing Research People: Their Behind-The-Scenes Stories in 1984, and The Market Research Industry: As the Old Order Crumbles, A New Version Takes Place in 2003. Through the years, Jack spoke widely about the industry at conferences and universities.
The most vivid expression of Jack’s work is his creation of the Honomichl Top 50 U.S. ranking of market research firms, now in its 40th year. This focused attention, as nothing before, on a cohesive set of businesses and their activities worthy of merit and use, conferring financial, business and social benefits on the entire industry. In 1986, the separate Honomichl Global Top 25 was created among the world’s largest research firms.
Jack was elected to the Market Research Council’s Market Research Hall of Fame in 2002, joining research industry luminaries such as Arthur C. Nielsen Sr., George H. Gallup Sr., David Ogilvy, Marion Harper, Daniel Yankelovich, Daniel Starch, Ernest Dichter, Alfred Politz, and Elmo Roper.
In 2011 Jack was honored by The Council of American Survey Research Organizations with its Lifetime Achievement Award, only the second time in CASRO’s history that this award has been given, describing Honomichl as a legend in his own time in the market research industry.
Jack was married to his late wife Frances for 50 years and is survived by three daughters, a son and eight grandchildren. A memorial/celebration service will be planned next year.
Laurence N. Gold
Editor & Publisher