What Research Needs Is a Process!


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Toni Louw’s recent article in Advertising Age, “A Core Research Competence Must Ground Leadership” is on the mark for identifying a problem but falls short of putting forth fresh solutions.

Marketing Research fails to be integral to strategic planning because the process of planning research and then actualizing new strategies once the research is completed is woefully inept.

Untold hours can be spent in identifying creative and media strategies before a dime is spent putting decisions to work. But when it comes to expensive marketing research studies, marketers are prone to whipping out research objectives, collecting data and waiting for the results.

Marketing Research will never be the strong force Louw is seeking until marketers spend the time necessary figuring out the pivotal questions that they should be asking. Questions that provide answers that will, in fact, lead to the strategic direction the marketer is willing and able to execute.

This suggests that research planning should be front-end loaded. It could be brainstorming potential action plans, developing “if the data says this, then I could do that” scenarios or locking decision makers in a room until they fully explore the strategic implications that will surface from the questions that they are asking.

Whatever the process, research will continue to be a step-child to the privileged few or the hidden agendas until the, “I don’t know what I’ll do with the results until I see them,” mentality is purged from our approach to using research data.

Bob Kaden
The Kaden Co.
Bob Kaden is the author of Guerrilla Marketing Research and president of The Kaden Company, a marketing research consultancy that works with clients in planning and applying research to make more money. He is a frequent lecturer and trainer in the areas of creativity and marketing research processes.


  1. Robert,

    Thanks for the insights.

    Based on your experience, do you have any idea why marketers do not spend the time necessary figuring out the pivotal questions that they should be asking?

    Sampson Lee
    gurublog: The Effective Experience

  2. Thanks for your inquiry and response to my recent blog comments.

    There are many reasons marketers don’t spend the time necessary to figure out the right questions…questions that will lead to marketing action.

    Chief among them is the manner in which research is planned and the orientation of the market research community. Researchers typically focus on asking a lot of questions, generating tons of date, executing the research and writing reports. In doing so, there is the hope that at least some of the data will be revealing and surface a silver bullet when the report is finally issued but it rarely does.

    Researcher spend very little time with the users of the data before the research is executing in anticipating potential actions that can be taken once the research is completed. Further, they don’t have the clout to say NO to conducting research even though it might not have actionable implications. Marketing researcher fail to create a platform (or a process) for conceptualizing if/then data scenarios before conducting research (e.g., If the data indicates this, I would do that. And most research as conduct fails to implement a follow up process that leads to marketing actions from the research findings.

    I’m afraid this a complex subject and I’m being long winded here. Conceptualizing action oriented questions takes time. It also takes a strong researcher or a well respected research department to insist their users take time before the research is executed to make sure the right questions are asked. Ones that can lead to action the marketer is willing and able to take.

    Hope this begins to address your question.

  3. Robert

    Your reply did address my question, thanks.

    Read from your short bio, I’m curious in how companies could use consumer research (particularly on satisfaction) to make more money.

    And, are there any way to measure the ROI / quantify the effectiveness of research?

    Sampson Lee
    gurublog: The Effective Experience

  4. Sampson:

    Measuring ROI from research and making more money because of research cannot be answered in a couple of paragraphs here. I wrote a book on the subject and am in the process of writing a second one. Should you want to get into a dialogue about this, please forward your email address to me at [email protected] Thank you for your continued comments.


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