When ‘cut and paste’ doesn’t cut it

Emerging economies look to developed markets to help them up their game in market research, says Peter Mouncey, editor in chief of the International Journal of Market Research. But success requires more than just a straight transplant of western thinking and methods.


A few weeks ago Research featured news of GfK’s €1.5m commitment to fund the creation of market research courses at four African universities. Later, Warc.com reported on Ford’s announcement that it was rethinking its strategy in India. “We haven’t been a major player because we weren’t positioning ourselves in the segment where 70% of all cars are sold. We were focused more on issues outside of India and sending cars that were force-feeding the Indian consumer,” said Michael Boneham, president of Ford India.

These announcements touched a real chord with me, having recently returned from a major international conference, ‘Shaping the future of research in marketing in emerging economies: looking ahead’, organised by the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Lucknow.

The need for initiatives to help build an effective market research sector, such as that announced by GfK, was underlined at the IIM conference, with western countries being urged to help emerging nations “up their game”, especially in increasing the quality of research and teaching in universities, and building competencies among practitioners and academics alike.

Practitioners are needed in the classroom to enable students to actively experience the world where their research and education needs to be applied, and to ensure that what they select as research topics for papers and doctoral dissertations are relevant to real-world challenges. As Professor Satyabhusan Dash of IIM Lucknow described in his opening remarks, there is often no theory and little practice in emerging markets.

But another clear message was the need for innovation in research methodology when working in emerging economies, especially to engage with those at the bottom of the economic pyramid. As Ford has discovered in the automotive sector, it’s not simply a case of what one speaker described as “cutting and pasting” research methods applied in the developed world.

We all recognise the importance of emerging markets to the future health of the market research sector. They often demonstrate phenomenal economic growth rates compared to current western levels – but let’s not understate the methodological and cultural challenges they pose.

If you want a very good example of what can be achieved by western-trained researchers in emerging economies, then read Rosie McLeod’s entry for last year’s IJMR Young Research Writer award published in the current issue of the International Journal of Market Research (IJMR, Vol. 54 Issue 1), describing her innovative work in Kenya.

  • One very useful and interesting publication produced specifically for the IIM conference was a bibliography comprising references to papers covering marketing research in emerging economies drawn from 86 leading journals, covering 1986-2011. In 1986, only one paper was identified in any of these journals, compared with 52 in 2011. According to the analysis, prepared by Professor Naresh Malhotra, IJMR has published eight such papers in that 15-year period, with the Journal of Global Marketing being at the forefront with 52 references. I’ve become increasingly aware as editor of IJMR of the growing importance of covering this field, and we certainly want to encourage submissions in this field in the future. Email me at ijmreditor@warc.com

Peter Mouncey is editor in chief of IJMR, a sister publication to Research



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