Brand New MR – Marketing for Market Researchers

I was lucky enough to be invited to speak at the inaugural IIeX Insights Marketing Day in New York City in September. Having spent the best part of 15 years doing marketing within the insights industry, this event was like Christmas and Birthday rolled into one for me, with an added Greenbook ribbon! Who would have thought that there would ever be such an event and that it would be attended by over 150 people, all keen to find out about best practice in marketing insights?

Needless to say, I had a ball. The topic of my presentation was branding, an issue I think is really important for our industry right now. Why? At Mustard, we recently did some analysis of the logos and straplines of the top 35 international research companies. From a purely visual perspective, we found that the industry is overwhelmingly grey, with a bit of corporate blue thrown in. But we are not a dull, grey industry – we are a vibrant, dynamic and fast changing industry at the forefront of technology and innovation.

Brand New MR 1

So we looked at how these companies described themselves. Again, it was overwhelmingly generic.  A word cloud throws up the words ‘global’, ‘research’ and ‘insight’ over and over again. A presentation at the MRS Conference in London in March analysed the language on several MR websites and found it to be very generic, particularly in comparison to the benchmark that the text analytics agency used from analysing the language on lots of business to business websites.

Brand New MR 2
Then we went one stage further and merged all the shapes, symbols, colours and words into one – the ultimate generic marketing research industry logo:

Brand New MR 3
Look familiar?

This is a bit of fun, but just goes to show that we do have a branding problem; we are generic and grey. But why does this matter? It matters because we are living in a very stormy business environment. Our competition is not from other research agencies or suppliers, but massive brands like Google or Amazon.  And we have no idea where the next big idea will come from.

Technology has changed our business model; agencies used to provide access to people, gather data from them and throw in some business perspective and analysis for free. But companies no longer need to pay for access to customers or data – it’s freely available in large quantities. The old model was a commodity model; the price of data being driven down all the time.  The model we need is a consultancy model, charging for brainpower; business context, storytelling and analysis. This is a model that commands a high price and a corresponding strong point of view on the world.  And it is this point of view that a lot of research agencies and suppliers struggle with.

While at the ESOMAR Congress in Nice earlier in September (it was a busy month!), my colleague Simon Dunn and I carried out several video interviews with senior clients from Coca-Cola, Heineken, Electrolux, 02, Telefonica and UBS.  I asked them about what they are looking for from market research agencies in terms of marketing: how do they find new agencies or suppliers to work with and how agencies they are not working with generally communicate with them? I asked them if they are aware of any differences between agencies and how these differences are communicated. Overall I was interested in finding out how difficult it is to navigate the marketing research market compared to other business-to-business or agency markets.

Lucy Davison is managing director for Keen As Mustard, marketing for market researchers.



  1. Great post Lucy.

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