This interview with Josh Mendelsohn, Vice President of Marketing at Chadwick Martin Bailey, is the first in a series of interviews with market research professionals in the Greater Boston area. Chadwick Martin Bailey (CMB) is a global custom market research and consulting firm. In his role at CMB, Josh helps grow CMB’s business by applying his expertise in new research technologies and approaches to the measurement of marketing effectiveness. Josh is also a former president of the Boston chapter of the American Marketing Association.
What do you consider to be the greatest challenges in measuring marketing effectiveness today?
The challenges fall into three primary areas. 1) Organizational buy-in. Without it, companies are not able to truly understand the impact of marketing across the business. Marketing generally cuts across business units and mediums yet measurement is often silo’d. It takes strong leadership to integrate and act on measurement. 2) Adapting to changing marketing mediums. In one way or another, new media needs to be integrated into measurement. Whether that is as simple as embedding questions in a tracker or you undertake a new research initiative altogether, it can’t be ignored. 3) Integrating data sources. For marketing effectiveness or performance to truly be understood companies need to be able to connect to other studies and other data sources to see causality and identify areas for improvement.
Have market research measurement tools been able to keep pace with the rapidly changing media landscape?
To a large extent, I don’t think they have. At least not enough. This is primarily because measurement needs to stay somewhat consistent to see changes over time and with pressure to shorten questionnaires it is hard to work in questions about new media. Another issue is that most companies have not really determined what “success” means in new media, making it hard to quantify and harder to measure the intermediate steps leading to success. Finally, creating measurement tools that are designed for new media takes development time and most firms don’t have the ability (or desire) to move as quickly as media companies.
That is one reason it’s so important to use a mix of techniques to measure effectiveness and identify areas for improvement. For example, when we explore the impact or opportunities that social media presents we will use secondary, qualitative, and quantitative methods within the same engagement.
How will market research continue to evolve?
I believe the use of technology will drive major changes in the industry in two areas. First is efficiency. Automating certain tasks within the research process will enable researchers to focus on drawing out insights and recommendations rather than just creating tables. With pressure to deliver faster results, technology will allow us to provide clients with better, more useful qualitative and quantitative insights in the timeline that they require it.
Technology will also enable us to reach people at varying points in the research process and where appropriate, respond. With the rapid growth of mobile devices and networks people will be able to provide instantaneous feedback, especially about events and interactions. This has positives and negatives in terms of representativeness of sample groups, reliability of results, and understanding the actual impact of interactions.
How can marketers get the most value from marketing effectiveness research? For example, can tracking study research also guide decisions related to media mix?
The biggest influence on whether marketing effectiveness research is useful (and research in general) is whether or not there are specific decisions in mind when the research is designed. You need to know your goals and measure the extent to which messages and mediums are helping you achieve those goals.
The two primary problems with big, traditional trackers is that they are too broad to give you more than directional data on specific decisions and they are too long to incorporate topical issues as markets evolve. The latter is especially problematic now that strategies and market dynamics change so rapidly.
Here at CMB, we almost always conduct waves of research instead of ongoing trackers and embed a flexible module or two in the questionnaire to help clients identify and react to market changes.
There are conflicting research findings as to the effectiveness of online advertising. What is your opinion about the validity of findings based on asking consumers directly about media influence?
10 years ago I would have said it was not very valid. Today, however, consumers are much savvier about media and online interactions. This is in part due to the growth of user generated content and true interactions with brands, not simply reading or watching an advertisement. The best way to measure online effectiveness is a combination of methods – behavioral data and click tracking, brand perceptions, and people’s public postings of positive and negative feedback.
What advice would you give marketers considering marketing effectiveness research?
There are really two key elements to success no matter what kind of research you are going to conduct. The first is knowing what decisions you are going to make once the research is complete. Otherwise you are simply gathering data that may or may not be useful.
The second is getting buy-in from the information users, not just the research department. Understanding what information they need and incorporating it into the project makes it harder for them to reject bad news and easier to leverage good news.