Top 10 Market Research Companies Perceived to be Innovative (GRIT 2010 Sneak Peek)

A preliminary analysis of the Top 10 Market Research Companies Perceived to be Innovative from the GreenBook Research Industry Trends Study

Our team of analysts are hard at work on preparing the the GreenBook Research Industry Trends Fall/Winter Report for publication. There is an incredible wealth of data to explore, and many of the findings are provocative (if not downright shocking!). We think you’re going to love what we’ve found out and the report should be available soon.

The GreenBook Research Industry Trends study was fielded in December of 2010. Research professionals who participated in the study were recruited from various sources including the GreenBook member directory, direct email invitations to sponsor contact lists as well as open recruiting through several social media research groups and social sites. IP address duplication, time spent in survey etc. were tracked to help ensure quality of results. The final respondent sample size of n=673 yields statistics that are +/-3.78 accurate at the 95% confidence level.

One of the areas we explored was the topic of innovation in market research. We did that both through looking at technology adoption and attitudes towards methodologies, but also via asking respondents to list the market research firms that first come to mind when they think of innovative market research companies. The results were surprising!

Upon analysis we realized that we didn’t have a list of the “Most Innovative Companies”; rather we have a ranking of which companies do the best job as being perceived as innovative via their marketing efforts. In order to truly rank companies by their innovation efforts another series of scoring dimensions will need to be added to the 2011 edition of the GRIT study and we are considering that option now.

That said, a barometer of how companies are positioning themselves within the industry as it relates to the perception of innovation is just as interesting, especially when other factors are considered within the analysis such as industry segment, longevity, geographic location, technology adoption/focus and overall perception on the state of the industry. That is the analysis that we are digging into now, and I wanted to give you a sneak peek at some of our preliminary findings to help spur conversation on what really drives both innovation and the perception of innovation.

In total, over 170 companies were mentioned, although many of those were only reported once. We decided to only focus on firms mentioned at least 4 times, which left us with a nice list of 50 companies that are making a positive impression among their peers regarding their innovation positioning. For purposes of multivariate analysis, we have chosen to focus on the Top 10, although we will publish the list of all 50 companies in the forthcoming report.

First, let’s look at the “Top 10″ companies most often mentioned as being considered innovative. There are some surprising (at least to me!) companies listed here:

Total Mentions
Brainjuicer 60
TNS Global 32
Vision Critical 32
Synovate 31
Ipsos 25
Nielsen 25
Anderson Analytics 21
Itracks 18
GFK 17
Peanut Labs 16

Quite the list, huh? These firms are doing the best job in branding themselves as innovative research companies globally. What was surprising to me was the high number of Honomichl 10 companies here. I know many of these companies are doing innovative work, but I also wonder how many made the list simply because respondents associate larger brands with innovation as a default assumption vs. actually knowing how these firms are really driving innovation? I’m not at all saying that these companies are not truly innovative; again, I suspect many of them may be working on some very cool things right now and I suspect there are hundreds of current internal initiatives that I know nothing about. However, since this is a list based on perception, I have to wonder how much of their position is an artifact of respondent expectations rather than actual knowledge.

Because of questions like that, we decided to go further. Discriminant analysis was conducted among those researchers who mentioned any of the top 10 most frequently mentioned firms. The main purpose of the discriminant analysis is to predict group membership, in this case the values research professionals who selected a brand as innovative are likely to share. The resulting chart/map shows us more than the number of research professionals who feel a certain firm is “innovative” (represented by size of circle), but also helps us understand the data that predicts group membership in a two dimensional linear relationship.

Interval variables included in the analysis included questions asked among both supplier side and client side researchers in various areas including type of research most often conducted, where research information is typically sought, and types of supplier attributes they value.

Here is what we found:

The two overall dimensions that seem to best differentiate among those who view a respective company as innovative are their interests and feelings toward various new and traditional research methodologies, and how well known and/or established a company is. Factors that loaded heavily on this second dimension (X-Axis) included researchers opinion on sources where they typically look for information on research firms such as conferences, journals, trade associations as well as blogs and social media.

It’s important to think about what we are actually looking at here. It’s not the companies per se. We are looking at those research professionals whom these companies have moved enough to say that “company XYZ is innovative”.

So, looking at upper right quadrant, researchers who put far higher value on experimental/cutting edge techniques, and are not as concerned with pedigree are more likely to think of BrainJuicer and PeanutLabs as innovative. Both of these companies have some very interesting non traditional approaches to research.In addition, both are masterful marketers and stay “on message” via all their marketing channels. Thus, their perception in the marketplace indicates a high degree of success with their brand messaging strategy.

Synovate and Vision Critical on the other hand in the bottom right quadrant may appeal more to researchers who are less concerned with pedigree, they may in fact be new to research themselves. This also explains the fact that they appreciate their traditional online offering. These companies may be innovative in how they serve these more traditional/basic needs).

Researchers who seem to prefer a mix of traditional and experimental methodologies, or said a different way, experimental techniques with a strong basis in traditional methodology are likely to prefer the Honomichl top-5 firms like Nielsen, TNS, GfK, etc… A surprise in this area of the chart was Anderson Analytics. While Anderson Analytics is a newer company clearly advocating a newer methodology (text analytics) the firm still seems to appeal to researchers who value traditional established brands. Is this due to the perception that a focus on analytical techniques and technology vs. data collection methodologies is associated with those qualities? We think so; Anderson Analytics’s overall brand positioning appeals to the risk averse and traditional MR respondent.

Furthest toward the upper left, Nielsen’s fans seem to value a little more experimentation, perhaps because Nielsen is so established this adds comfort to exploring new techniques.

In a way, I think this chart shows us how researchers view themselves, and with what firms they most identify.

There will be more analysis in the GRIT report and we’ll explore these issues, as well as a host of others, there. Look for that to come out in the next few weeks; we think you’ll find the results highly actionable, intriguing, and compelling!

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