Editor’s Note: With the news this week of Twitter’s launch of a new “every day moments” research tool, Facebook’s ascension as THE de facto global media measurement platform and deal with Nielsen, and the acquisition by Japanese online retail giant Rakuten of AIP Panels, I was reminded of this post that I wrote in October of 2012 when another spate of announcements were made signaling the movement of tech companies into the MR space. We’re now witnessing the next phase of this trend unfolding now, and the message to the MR remains the same today as it was almost two years ago: “The bottom line is if you are a market researcher, and especially if you are in a senior role within a supplier organization, you must adapt and get ahead of the curve or face marginalization and eventual irrelevance.”.
I’m not particularly happy about being right on this one folks, but here we are. I played amateur futurist this week at an ARF Webinar on The Changing Face of MR and discussed the entrance of tech platforms into the marketplace as alternative suppliers, as well as how a host of new technologies are primed to further transform the insights function. If you’re interested in my musings on what else we can expect in the next few years, here is the slideshare of my presentation.
With all of these signals in mind, I think this is a post worth re-reading folks: the industry is changing very fast indeed now and the need to adapt to the new world we find ourselves is more important now than ever.
By Leonard Murphy, originally published October 13, 2012
And another piece of the future of research puzzle is in place. Twitter announced today that they were partnering with Nielsen to introduce brand surveys directly into Twitter. As usual, my friends at Research-live had the scoop:
Twitter has announced plans to run “Twitter Surveys” on behalf of brands in the format of “Promoted Tweets”. The social media site will run the initiative in conjunction with Nielsen.In a blog post today Joel Lunenfeld, Twitter VP for brand strategy, says that the surveys are currently being tested by a small set of advertisers. Twitter plans to make it available to additional partners early next year.
The service is being marketed as an addition to the site’s advertising tools for its advertising partners and is the first to offer brand impact measurement for Twitter.
Twitter has announced plans to run “Twitter Surveys” on behalf of brands in the format of “Promoted Tweets”. The social media site will run the initiative in conjunction with Nielsen.
In his post Lunenfeld says: “With 400 million tweets occurring every day throughout the world, consumers and brands on Twitter have a unique opportunity to listen and engage in a variety of topics and conversations. As marketers invest in opportunities to connect with users through Twitter’s Promoted Products, we are focused on delivering tools to help brands measure and understand the value of those campaigns.
“Brand surveys will appear to users just like a Promoted Tweet — right within the user’s timeline on both mobile devices and desktop. Users may see a tweet by @TwitterSurveys, inviting them to fill out a survey directly within the tweet itself.
“Building on Twitter’s mobile heritage, we’re giving brands the ability to deliver and measure the impact of mobile and traditional desktop campaigns through these surveys. This is a native experience for the user, and we believe it will give brands better insights to determine purchase intent, overall awareness, and other advertising metrics and analytics that can lead to greater engagement on Twitter.”
So why do these companies need each other? For Twitter I think it’s primarily an issue of convenient sales channels. Nielsen is much better positioned to sell through on this; they add credibility to the effort and they have the relationships in place, saving Twitter a lot of work. It’s like printing money for Twitter.
For Nielsen they get access to another “exclusive” data channel; this dovetails well with their similar efforts with Facebook, and it’s a step closer to their goal of being the primary conduit for all things related to media and brand measurement. It’s really a match made in heaven.
Congratulations are in order to Nielsen for showing real vision and leadership here. They pioneered a similar model a while back with their partnership with Facebook, and also in the past week or so have made announcements embracing mobile media measurement. There is a reason they hold the position they do in the industry and this is one more example of that. It’s going to be very challenging for their competitors (regardless of size) to usurp their leading position, not because of their product & service portfolio but because of their business model and organizational architecture. They have the right mix of leadership talent, vision, organizational flexibility, clout and funding to adapt to a changing market and build new revenue streams while others decline. As the industry struggles to find it’s path in this new world emerging around us, we could do far worse than emulating some (but by no means all) of the qualities of Nielsen.
So, we now have Google, Twitter and Facebook with research offerings, and I suspect LinkedIn will make another foray into the space soon. As if that wasn’t enough, this week we saw the launch of Verizon Insights , a new employee sentiment product by Wayin, as well as a new consumer facing and research centric “data bank” offering by Tesco.
As if the entrants of new technology-centric data providers isn’t a loud enough clarion call, we also have the increasing movement of business & strategy consulting firms “in-sourcing” their insights functions or establishing close partnerships with new research providers to offer their clients a robust and business-issue focused research capability. Two key pieces of the MR value chain: data collection and analysis have been broken by multiple new players that are staking their claim to various pieces of the previous domain of market research.
The game has changed.
Regular readers of this blog should not find any of this surprising; we’ve been predicting shifts like this for some time and warning that the pace of change is only accelerating. That isn’t meant to be an “I told you so!” nor am I even particularly pleased that we called it because it’s not good news for most of my friends and colleagues in the mid to long term. At this point all I can do is ask: do you get it yet?
I was chatting about the Twitter/Nielsen deal with my #mrx tweeps earlier, as well as over the phone and email with my colleagues Gregg Archibald and Jason Anderson. Here is an excerpt of what was being discussed on twitter and a few quotes from Gregg and Jason:
Jason: “That explosion you just heard was the industry BLOWING ITS MIND. Though we knew this was inevitable.”
Gregg: “So why do we have such a hard time predicting our own trends when we do it so well for others?”
That is a critical question here. The few analysts who focus on the MR industry (myself, Robert Moran, Ray Poynter, Cambiar, Forrester) as well as most of the blogosphere and many speakers at conferences have been urging the industry to step back, take a look at the current state of play in the wider world of the digital era, and assess where the real value of market research is. The idea that MR is the collector & keeper of data isn’t our value proposition. That function truly has been disintermediated to a very large degree. Yes, specialty functions will continue to exist and some will even thrive (any type of biometrics/neuromarketing, emotional measurement, text analytics, ethnography, gamification, etc… look likely to do well), but ASKING, OBSERVING, LISTENING, MONITORING, TRACKING, METERING, & ANALYZING simply are no longer owned by traditional MR. We do and will continue to play a role in those things, but building or maintaining a supplier business model based on them is going to be a zero sum game.
So where is the white space? What path can MR firms walk to be viable in the future? The winners will be firms that offer the methods I mentioned above, but a few more characteristics come to mind:
- Own proprietary data sources
- Have deeply integrated norms or benchmarks
- Offer technology that collects and delivers data
- Pure play insight consultancies
- Primarily focused on qualitative research
- High end analytics and data modelling
- Specialists in niche markets
The future of the market research industry simply is NOT based on data collection as a driver of business for the traditional full service firms and that is a big problem for the majority of suppliers. It’s also going to be a big adjustment for clients used to the status quo. Everything from employee profiles to business models, research designs to budgets and analysis to business impact will continue to change as a result of this transformation. We can engage in the age old arguments about sampling and science all we want to and it will not mean a thing; the genie is out of the bottle.
The bottom line is if you are a market researcher, and especially if you are in a senior role within a supplier organization, you must adapt and get ahead of the curve or face marginalization and eventual irrelevance.
Nielsen saw this truth a while back and has been working to build a new model. The rest of the industry would do well to learn from that lesson and do whatever it takes to learn how to compete or cooperate with the new players that soon may dominate the industry.