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The Origins of Marketing Research

marketing, marketing research, marketing management, marketing research methods, business, strategy

Marketing research seems to have developed in America during a period from the late nineteenth century up to and into the 1920s. Charles Coolidge Parkin, who seems to be acknowledged as the outstanding figure in this development, is said to have founded the first commercial research company in the 1920s. Names which also stem from this era and which are still going strong are Daniel Starch (advertising effectiveness research) and George Gallup (opinion polls).
Although marketing research developed originally in the United States, the United Kingdom soon followed. Unilever was conducting market research among consumers during 1920-24. For many years the best known company in the field in the UK was Mass Observation Limited, founded in 1937. Not until 1947, however, was the Market Research Society founded, and this was a reflection of the fact that the business was now firmly established.

How Marketing Research is Organized

Marketing research is a specialized job. While in principle it can be carried out by anyone, there are serious potential pitfalls, as follows:
1. The necessary objective unbiased approach needs to be acquired or 'trained into' people. Salesmen, for example, are usually not suitable for obtaining research information, because their training and instincts are such that they are enthusiasts for a particular point of view – partisan for their own product. If not, they might well be less effective as salesmen.
2. Some of the techniques employed demand skills and disciplines that have to be learned. Usually therefore, marketing research is a task for the specialist. These specialists are found in three main groups:
A. 'In-company' Departments: many companies have their own marketing research departments. This has the advantage that the people concerned can specialize, and over the years acquire great knowledge of the fields in which they operate and the best techniques for gathering information for their particular purposes. It can thus be a very economic way of providing the necessary information. The disadvantages are a possible tendency to bias which can be resisted and the fact that it may be difficult to give them a full workload at all times, so that the operation may become uneconomic. But they do provide additional security of information.
B. Advertising Agencies: advertising agencies need to prepare advertising campaigns within a total marketing plan and in the light of the fullest possible knowledge about markets. They also need much detailed information on readership and audiences, on motivation and on reactions to advertising themes. For these reasons many agencies employ their own marketing research specialists, who work for the agency and its clients. Indeed, the agencies had much to do with the whole development of market research in this country.
The trend over many years now has been for these market research units to be operated as quite distinct departments or completely separate companies. They work for a whole range of clients, in addition to those of the advertising agency, and normally charge for their services in the same way as would a market research agency (which is what they have in practice become).
C. Market Research Agencies: there are many individuals and companies offering their services as market research agencies. Some offer a very wide range of services, whereas others are highly specialized.Among the specialist services available are (a) retail audits and panels, (b) motivation research, and (c) audience measurement. Some organizations specialize in one stage of the research process, such as interviewing or the processing and analysis of data.
Published: 2007-04-28
Author: Martin Hahn

About the author or the publisher
Martin Hahn PhD has received his education and degrees in Europe in organizational/industrial sociology. He grew up in South-East Asia and moved to Europe to get his tertiary education and gain experience in the fields of scientific research, radio journalism, and management consulting.

After living in Europe for 12 years, he moved to South-East again and has worked for the last 12 years as a management consultant, university lecturer, corporate trainer, and international school administrator

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