A tale of two cities

This week's 5 Minute Insight is a bit different, because two events last week provided a rare opportunity to review the shape and health of our Insight profession.


The first, was the ESOMAR Congress in Edinburgh; a gathering of 1,200 market researchers from 70 different countries, 75% of them working for research agencies.


The second was the IMA’s Insight Forum in London, a select gathering of 50 senior Insight leaders, all of them representing corporate Insight teams.


So what did we learn about the world of Insight?



1. Companies are spending more money on Insight


In Edinburgh, Ray Pointer of NewMR presented ESOMAR’s view of the size of the research world. The headline was that overall spend on Insight activity is now worth $80bn a year worldwide.


That compares with $69bn four years ago, so growth of about 4% a year.



2. Market research now represents half the Insight budget


Traditional market research spend has stayed pretty flat over that period at $41bn, a trend that ESOMAR predicts will continue, with quantitative research declining but qualitative research likely to remain extremely popular.


But the growth in overall spend has all come from new sources of Insight, like analysis, social media monitoring and web analytics. If anything it seems likely that this sort of Insight work might be under-represented in the ESOMAR numbers, as companies are more likely to carry out analysis in-house.


However, even on these numbers, traditional market research now only accounts for 51% of all Insight spend, down from 62% four years ago, and it will represent less than half of all Insight spend very soon.



3. The future is bright – if you focus on Insight


So is the Insight profession feeling good about itself, and positive about the future?


I came away from the meetings in Edinburgh and London with a mixed view on this:


In Edinburgh, the overall tone was very positive, and the whole event focused on change and the use of new technology. It was so encouraging to see aspects like knowledge management, Insight communication and Return on Investment mentioned by many speakers – a far cry from a few years ago when it felt like the Insight Management Academy was a lone voice banging the drum on these topics.


But there persists, particularly among market research agencies, a sense that the world is changing in ways that they don’t really like, and that they are trying to be optimistic despite everything. 


One speaker described introducing himself as an employee of a research agency as rather similar to what it must be like to introduce yourself as an undertaker. Another, a senior figure in the UK’s Market Research Society, spoke of the need for researchers to “understand, survive, and who knows, maybe even capitalise, on opportunities over the next decade”. Not exactly a glowing vote of confidence in an $80bn worldwide industry!


By contrast, the view of the senior client-side Insight leaders at both the ESOMAR congress in Edinburgh and the IMA’s Insight Forum in London was overwhelmingly positive. 


We all know that working in corporate Insight is not always easy. There seems to be more demand for more work, more quickly, sometimes with fewer resources. But the opportunities are enormous, providing we focus on Insight, not research.


This is not just a question of language, and it’s certainly no criticism of client-side market researchers. It’s rather a question of focus.


If we primarily identify as researchers, driven each day to learn more about consumers using traditional survey research, then of course there will be challenges in future as more and more Insight is driven from data analysis. 


But if we consider ourselves Insight professionals, driven above all to add value to our companies through problem-solving, using the best evidence we can find – survey research, qualitative insight, customer analysis, competitor intelligence, web analytics, social media monitoring, and an excellent knowledge of how our own companies make money – then the appetite for what we can offer is going to grow and grow, and far more organisations will aspire to an Insight-driven future.



If you have another 5 minutes...


If you would like to learn more about the world of corporate Insight, ESOMAR are organising a Client Summit in London on 3rd and 4th October. Please see www.esomar.org for more details.


If you have the ambition to see Insight become more effective in your company, the IMA’s corporate members can now access 23 Insight leader guides online, with 5 more due to be published in the next 2 months. Please contact us if you or your colleagues would like to read them.


James Wycherley

Chief Executive, IMA