How much is the term ‘market research’ used?

How much is the term ‘Market Research’ used?


In one sense the professional history of market research could be defined by professional associations such as the MRS and ESOMAR in the late 1940’s.

Definitions typically suggest that marketing research is a broader term implying understanding of customers that happens within organisations and marketing functions. Market research is a more macro analysis reflecting work done by research agencies. It is notable that whilst professional associations, such as the MRS or ESOMAR, provide their own definitions these seem designed more as a means of marking professional territory than in providing clarity to researchers or users of research. In practice, this is how you notice differences between market research in the UK and USA.

In the late 1990’s an additional term ‘insight’ began to emerge in addition to and as an alternative to market research. This can be seen as a response to the need to generate greater influence amongst stakeholders, particular amongst senior management. The term customer insight emerged not from the field of market research but from the emerging field of customer relationship management, where agencies became aware that they needed to sell both the technology and the benefits it would bring to the bottom line.

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Research within this post has been created and analysed by myself, and anyone wishing to use the information should contact me to ask for permission.

To analyse the use of the term ‘market research’ I looked for data representing views from a number of stakeholders. Such key stakeholder groups were identified as market research agencies, professional bodies, and obviously the more general public perception of research.

Firstly, the most recently available league table from the MRS at the time of analysis (2017) ensures the maximum value of findings.

For each of these agency public facing websites the following were analysed:

  1. The presence of the term ‘market research’ in a description of the agency in the page title
  2. Presence of the term ‘market research’ in description of the company’s core activities on an about page, or similar page explaining core company activities.
  3. Presence of the term ‘market research’ in a business unit or set of product offerings.
  4. Alternative phrases used instead of, or in addition to, market research to describe core business activities



Out of the top 10 ranking agencies =


Rank Company MR mentioned on Homepage? MR in About Page MR in Product Description
1 Kantar NO NO NO
2 Wood Mackenzie Research and Consulting NO NO NO
3 Dunnhumby NO NO NO
5 Garnter NO NO NO
6 Nielsen YES NO NO
8 Teradata UK NO NO NO
9 Omnicom/DAS NO NO YES
10 Euromonitor YES YES YES


CRITERIA % of all top 50 agencies in Consolidated table
The term ‘market research’ is evident on the home or/and description page 28%
Presence of term in product descriptions and ‘about us’ pages 36%

These were some of the key descriptions of core business products:

  • Research, data and insight
  • Technology research
  • Survey research
  • Strategic insight
  • Market intelligence
  • Customer experience
  • Insight
  • Generating insight
  • Understanding consumer decision making
  • Social research



This data provides only a partial picture in that it measures the presence or absence of the use of ‘market research’ in certain contexts.

But what industry am I in?


What is its relevance in 2017?

The evidence suggests that the use of the term market research today is as a placeholder or a descriptor of a certain set of skills and it appear to be largely used within the industry. The potential for research to grow has, arguably, never been greater. However, the term market research is at the intersection of a number of declining factors – not least a perception in the decline in the value it can generate for its customers. This raises a number of important questions that need to be address by key stakeholders in research, including:


Should universities continue to offer courses that are labelled ‘market research’?


Should new graduates and other young professionals seek skills to develop a career in market research?


At this stage it would be tempting to make a recommendation that the market research world needs to reinvent itself but the data analysed suggests that the industry is already doing so. In conclusion, the market research ‘industry’ has moved on and is increasingly defining itself in other ways – and in showing this flexibility helps to secure its future success.


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