P&G chief sees social media turning market research cake upside down

Tue 22 Mar 2011

P&G chief sees social media turning market research cake upside down

Market Research / UK

With its $350 million budget each year, Procter and Gamble is one of the world’s biggest spenders in market research. But changes are on the way – largely down to social media, according to Joan Lewis, the company’s global consumer and market knowledge officer. With Facebook and its peers continuing to soar, she expects actual surveys to dramatically decline in importance by 2020 .

Lewis was speaking in a panel discussion on “How Market Research Must Change” at the Advertising Research Foundation’s Re:Think 2011 conference in New York . She developed her theme in an interview after the discussion.

The research industry, she said, had to get away from “believing a method, particularly survey research, will be the solution to anything. We need to be methodology agnostic.”

Social media listening isn’t only replacing some survey research – but also making it harder to do by changing consumer behaviour and expectations, Ms. Lewis said in an interview with AdAge after the panel.

“The more people see two-way engagement and being able to interact with people all over the world, I think the less they want to be involved in structured research,” she said. “If I have something to say to that company now, there are lots of ways to say it.”

She suggested that researchers focused too much on process, details of validation and treating methods “like ideologies.”

“We are all brought into the research industry with the almost dogmatic belief that representation is everything,” She did not however rule out having samples representative of a population for some research.

“But we need to get away from the notion that being representative of something is the only way to learn,” she said. “I still hear people say, ‘That social-media thing, that’s not really going to pan out.’ We will learn enormously whether [social-media samples are] representative or not.”

She said P&G will carry on doing survey research for years, even though she expects it to become less important.

“When we’re doing it, we need to do it well. It’s really been easy for people to take the idea that the world is changing as an excuse to do really poor work. And there’s no excuse.”

Ms. Lewis said researchers needed to move beyond a “comfort level” in being advisers to “having something on the line” alongside other decision-makers in organisations. Research needed to move beyond measuring things like market share to finding indicators that project when and how the market should move. More scenario planning was also called for .

Joe Tripodi, chief marketing and commercial officer of Coca-Cola said social-media and engagement analytics aren’t “at the level of sophistication we need them to be.” He supported efforts to develop standards around measurement and calibration in those areas.

Eric Salama, chairman of WPP’s Kantar said the value they generated wasn’t just from field work, but from looking across multiple projects. Mr. Salama advocated a value-based compensation model.

Mr. Tripodi said Coca-Cola adopted such a model for ad agencies two years ago, and welcomed applying value-based compensation to research firms — provided they give value.

“I would gladly pay a lot more money to our agency partners in the research area if they delivered for us that game-changing insight. Where do I sign up?” he asked.

The meeting in New York was the ARF’s 75th anniversary event


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