To make sound business decisions, accurate and up-to-date insights about your customers, markets and competitors are essential, but to achieve this marketers must be fully aware of the tools and techniques and the changes in the market research (MR) space.
Marketing caught up with Tyrone Almeida, director of insights and planning for Asia Pacific and S.S. Africa at Kellogg Company, to find out how it has taken advantage of the new wave of market research to better understand its customers.
Almeida will be speaking at Marketing magazine’s Research Asia Interactive Conference on 27 June. To find out more, please click here.
Marketing: How has the use of market research at Kellogg’s evolved over the years?
Almeida: There have been a number of aspects that have changed over the past few years in terms of how we use market research. The first big change has been in using MR to be more forward-looking versus just seeking to explain the past or have a gauge of the immediate future (like gauging a proposed product’s market potential).
This means that the same MR we did in the past is now redone in a way that we are able to understand shifts in the market dynamics and their underlying micro and macro causal trends. An understanding of these underlying trends then helps us build possible scenarios for the future and in a way predict what kinds of ideas or product streams are likely to be more successful than others in the future. This is far more efficient, and I would dare say accurate, than the old process of brainstorming based on today’s market conditions.
The second big change has been in terms of the places where MR insights are applied. Traditionally, it has been in marketing and product development. Now it is playing an increasingly prominent role, even in areas like supply chain – right from ingredient-sourcing options that best resonate with consumers to location of warehouses and depots that best balances sales coverage with cost of coverage. PR and corporate communications is another area that MR is increasingly influencing. In a nutshell, the application of MR is going wider and deeper.
The third big change has been our shift to reuse and re-mine existing data rather than just generate new data. Each new piece of data or information is actually just one part of a large jigsaw puzzle (or the market) with the added complication this jigsaw puzzle is an evolving one. So the best way to understand the jigsaw is to always look at any new piece in the context of all the pieces you have so far and not in isolation.
What this means is that all new pieces of data are examined in terms of how they fit in with past data – what is consistent, what is different and what that means to our overall understanding of the evolving marketplace. To do this, we’ve had to shift some of the focus to re-analysing past data through different lenses versus just generating new data. This has also been helped by the fact that new analytical approaches applied to old data sets often yield new insights.
Marketing: What are your views on traditional marketing research versus emerging marketing research?
Almeida: Well this is a topic where any answer is going to sound very clichéd. So let me get a few patently obvious observations out of the way first. MR, or for that matter any field, has to continuously evolve with the environment to stay relevant. Like many other industries, in MR, the forces driving change have largely been technological, social and economic.
We have newer ways of generating, collecting and analysing data. We have a better understanding of the science of consumer behaviour and that’s driving new research methodologies. As markets have got more sophisticated with newer trade channels, modes of buying, newer communication/interactive forms and so on, there are more avenues to apply MR work. So on the whole, MR has rightly had to evolve.
The real issue is the very poor amalgamation of traditional and emerging market research.
I specifically refer to the emerging/recently emerged practice areas such as social listening, behavioural economics, neurosciences and others which have not been fully integrated or made fully compatible with work from traditional MR – the case in point being the still long drawn-out process of trying to create new unified media measurement metrics that merge traditional media GRPs with those for new-age digital media.
This is because, unlike many other industries, the emerging approaches have come from agencies/vendors not traditionally into MR (social media research, neurosciences and others). This has created two distinct sets of players in the industry – those pushing the traditional approaches and those advocating the new ones – while what is really required is for both to be compatible. Perhaps a bit of multi-company collaboration or otherwise merger and acquisition activity in this space might be in the interest to the entire MR industry.
Marketing: What are the top challenges for market research as a discipline?
Almeida: If I take the role of MR to be “to inform stakeholders to make better decisions” then based on that premise there are two key challenges I see for MR as a discipline.
- Providing insights in a timely and easy to understand way: The biggest barrier here is the dramatic proliferation of data sources that often leads to conflicting views of what exactly is happening in the market. This same data proliferation also slows down decision-making because data is being generated faster than it can be analysed and put to use. So the critical need is to reconcile the different sources and provide an integrated view of the marketplace using the different sources and doing that in as real-time a way as possible.
- Organisational structures that best enable the use of MR insights.
The best and most action-oriented insights come from MR practitioners who possess the following skills:
- MR technical knowledge so that they understand what the best tools are to solve a particular issue.
- Brand/category/market knowledge: So that insights can be tailored to the context of the problem being solved.
- Organisational knowledge: So they can navigate organisational complexity (identify and convince the right stakeholders) and ensure the insights are acted upon.
Unfortunately given the complexity of each of these skills and the trend of outsourcing complex tasks to specialised firms, it’s very difficult to develop people with all the three skills sets. In the current ecosystem of client companies, consultants and MR firms, each party comes with one or two skills, but almost never all three.
Clients/consultants/MR firms that work in long-term partnerships with joint training and development programmes, and an intimate understanding of each others’ businesses and operating practices, come the closest to achieving an organisation structure that can seamlessly leverage all three skills to deliver the best and most action-oriented insights.
So this for me continues to be one of the biggest challenges today.
Marketing: What are some of the current research tools employed by Kellogg’s?
- Demand space-driven segmentation which looks at the five Ws (what, when, where, with whom, why/why not). Segments created in this way often tend to be far more insightful than just clustering consumers or their needs.
- Mix-modelling for both understanding category and brand dynamics as well optimising our spends/efforts.
- Element-wise drivers’ analysis which looks at the different components that go into a product/proposition and quantifies their end impact on consumer appeal so one can optimise for the product experience and the cost.
Hear Almeida’s thoughts on market research at Research Asia Interactive. Know more about the conference, here
To book your seats for the conference contact Carlo Reston at firstname.lastname@example.org or +65 6423 0329, +65 9727 0291
For sponsorship opportunities, contact Che Winstrom at email@example.com or +65 6423 0329
To discuss the agenda, enquire about presenting or to suggest topics, contact Preeti Varadarajan at firstname.lastname@example.org or +65 6423 0329