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Big brands with small insight teams

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Last week I attended The Market Research Event in Orlando.  The conference has been one of the largest conferences for Market Researchers.  After sitting through three days of sessions I was struck by how many sessions that included large brands mentioned the size of their teams and just how few team members they were working with.  These are not small companies.  For example I attended sessions with speakers from; Dominos, Roche, IBM, Sephora, Lyft, Coke, Colgate, and many others.  Each one, at some point in their talks about how they addressed a research challenges mentioned the size of their team.  I was surprised at how many global big brands are operating with research teams less than 10 and most with teams of 5 or less.  

Another common theme to all the talks was the adherence to a short cycle methodology.  Many of the presentations talked about Agile and Lean.  Only one from the Garage Group detailed the way they used the build–measure–learn from the Lean methodology but each one had cues to how their internal processes were structured.  Going beyond rapid research methodologies and technologies some clients mentioned their usage of communities and platform data analytics.  

The talk in the hallways and exhibit halls was about shrinking staff and budgets in the research function.  This theme was echoed this morning in Bob Lederer's daily YouTube report.  Bob's story of the day highlights the major players in market research reporting down numbers.  While the numbers may be off a little, they are not off much, many companies are reporting a 5% or less miss of their targets.  In my opinion this is a signal to shifting efforts and not a signal to an industry downturn.