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Marketing Masterclass Presentation


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Commentary :


Slide 1: Title slide


Since I first entered the world of research, in 1977, on the client side as it happens, market research has changed dramatically.  Never mind the 38 intervening years since I first learnt that a hole count was exactly that (counting the holes in a computer punch-card) the last 10 – 15 years have seen the pace of change quicken.  Not only has the speed of turnaround increased but so has the box of tools available. I am going to look at these changes and see if they have made us better at insight


Slide 2: My How You’ve Changed

Researchers today have a much enlarged landscape to consider in their search for insight that can drive their companies forward, increase profits, gain them more customers and help them fight off the competition.  The internet has had a huge effect, bringing us social media, search engines, the ability to look at behaviour at a neural level and many more changes.


Slide 3: Bigger, Better, Faster)

So we could say that today research is bigger, better and faster than when I first started out.  Now, I can go along with bigger, and faster (I will return to faster later on), but my question is: is it better?  Bear with me whilst we take a look at one of the biggest changes in retail in the last few years.


Slide 4: UK Grocery Market Share 2008 Compared to 2015

Over the last 7 years there have been seismic changes in the UK grocery market but it seems as if nobody was prepared for it, even with all the new methodologies and tools that were listed in the earlier slide – yet the signs were readily apparent back in 2008.

The striking thing about the figures on this slide are the drop in Tesco’s share, the more or less static position for the other big 3 grocers, and the rise of Aldi, Liddle and ‘Others’ which includes the Co-op, Nisa, Costcutter, and the like.

The next 2 slides are from a presentation I gave at the Insight Show in 2008 concerning research undertaken in October of that year about the recession and what effects it might have on future behaviour and buying intentions.  It was based on a sample of 700 cati-interviews, so a substantial sample.


Slide 5: Reduced Your Spending On Anything In The Last 6 Months?

Here, in view of the recession, we asked if people had reduced their spending in the last 6 months – you can see that 48% of younger people said they had, and 58% of older people had cut back.

The area they had cut back on most was food and drink.  Now it might be that they’d cut back on expenditure but were still buying as much i.e. buying cheaper brands – but this is a big clue to their likely future behaviour.


Slide 6: Long Or Short-Term Change To Spending?

When asked if this was likely to be short-term or long-term, a substantial proportion said it was a long-term change to their spending.

Each year since 2011 we have undertaken a financial tracker in January called ‘Money Matters’, which incidentally is available free on our website.


Slide 7: Long-Term Behaviour (money matters)

From 2011 to 2015 there has been a rise of 19% in the people who say that ‘watching what they spend has become a way of life’.

As can be seen back then, at the very start of the recession which technically started in the last quarter of 2008 (2 consecutive quarters of economic contraction) people were starting to react – there had been 6 months of negative growth, Northern Rock went bust in September 2007 and Lehman brothers went bust in September 2008 so consumers knew things were getting pretty serious.

We were also picking up plenty of other clues in other research projects we were undertaking at the time that pointed to far-reaching and likely permanent changes in spending habits and patterns – but unfortunately many companies were not picking up these clues, companies that had research departments and research budgets and frequently undertook research.

I chose grocery as an example because we are all probably aware of what has happened in that sector and because I know there are some people from the grocery sector in the audience and I wanted to make this talk relevant and interesting.  But please be assured I am not singling out grocery for criticism, what happened was reflected across many retail and industry sectors.


Slide 8: Not Just Grocery

All these companies regularly undertook research so why weren’t they better prepared?  Let’s go back to our assumption, bigger, better, faster,


Slide 9: Bigger, Better, Faster

Okay, so bigger budgets might help, more data might help, if used properly, but faster?  Herein lies the problem.


Slide 10: Faster, Faster.

The pressure on market researchers today is to produce fast actionable results on which to base informed decisions, but how much of this is driven more by social conditioning and the knowledge that we have the tools rather than by a planned and considered approach.  Technology has made us demanding, we want it and we want it now.


Slide 11: Other Factors.

Then of course there are other factors at play such as companies focusing on figures at the expense of understanding their customers.  Also, when money is tight it is often qualitative research that is first sacrificed.

Now, I do understand the need for speed – the need for findings not to be out of date by the time they are presented – but are we sure that for all the projects that we as researchers undertake, speed is of the essence?  I suspect it isn’t. I think that in many instances the quest for faster results leads to us shoot ourselves in the foot.  The quest for faster and faster turnaround of research today puts us at risk of missing important data, it doesn’t provide value for money and it risks missing critical data.


Slide 12: What Should We Do About It?

What we need to do is step back a bit and ensure there is enough time to review the findings in depth, communicate the findings to everyone in the company who could benefit from them and perhaps might add to them, or might even see an insight were none was seen before.

The slide makes reference to stakeholder audits and insight action audits and effective communication; this is a discipline that we have used to great effect with a number of clients, but it takes time.


Slide 13: Stakeholder Audit

You will get much more from your insight if everyone connected with it has a clear idea of what is being done, and how it can benefit their business area. At the briefing meeting, we will help you compile a Stakeholder Audit and put strategies in place, to ensure that you get buy-in from your colleagues. The following is an example of just such an audit which can be tailor made for your organisation.


Slide 14: Insight Action Audit

Take time to prepare an insight action audit.  As can be seen it lists the key insights, their implication for the company and for its customers and/or potential customers, it then details what will be done with that information, how important it is, who will do it and by when.


Slide 15: MLTV

We come now to effective communication – I’m sorry if this video, which is less than 3 minutes long, is a bit ‘salesy’ (other research agencies are available) but it demonstrates how you can use the results to greater effect.

For the last 3 years we have undertaken the House of Commons staff survey and by logging on to a link staff can find out why the research is being done and also access a summary of the findings.


Slide 16: To Summarise

The likely long-term effects of the recession in terms of consumer behaviour were apparent quite early on if we had chosen to look more deeply – but even with all the tools at our disposal we were blind to them.  Where possible we need get back to basics and take time to properly dissect the results and not be in too much of a rush.

After all, whilst not suggesting research is life threatening, if you in this audience had to choose a surgeon I wonder how many of you would choose this chap.


Slide 17: Speedy Sam The Surgeon

So, let’s make time to do a proper job, take time to consider the wider implication of any findings and by doing so we should be in a better position to understand the likely effects of the next recession.

Thank you.






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