MARKET RESEARCH: Data double act - A new spirit of co-operation between market researchers and database marketers is taking consumer information to new heights. Robert Dwek reports

The chasm between market researchers and database marketing specialists used to be too wide to be bridged. The former aspired to academia and viewed the latter as brash door-to-door salesman. For their part, the new kids on the block regarded the MR crowd as hopelessly fuddy-duddy.

The chasm between market researchers and database marketing

specialists used to be too wide to be bridged. The former aspired to

academia and viewed the latter as brash door-to-door salesman. For their

part, the new kids on the block regarded the MR crowd as hopelessly


How could their tiny little focus groups compare with the information

garnered through millions of lifestyle questionnaires, completed in

absolute privacy?

So contrasting were the two cultures that even a couple of years ago it

seemed they would never come together for any purpose other than mutual

vilification. But a combination of factors, including the increase in

customer loyalty schemes among major retailers and the lightning-fast

pace of change in computer technology, has helped bring about a quiet


In fact, these two opposites are now often found working side by side on

the same projects. As with so many apparently irreconcilable conflicts,

the breakthrough came about because both sides realised they stood to

benefit if they worked with, rather than against, each other.

Examples of this new spirit of co-operation abound. Claritas, the

lifestyle database giant with information on virtually every household

in the country, has linked up with Taylor Nelson AGB to produce consumer

information that, supposedly, puts quantity and quality on an equal


Chris Morris, database marketing director at Claritas, says the

unorthodox collaboration has brought exciting results. ’Market research

data provides valuable insights into consumer habits, but when combined

with the customer reach of lifestyle data, this information stops being

interesting and starts being actionable.’

One obvious application is to track direct marketing activity through to

actual purchase behaviour for the sample of consumers common to both

Taylor Nelson and Claritas datasets, known as the ’T’ group.

But this group can then be used to model likely purchase across the

general population, and to define retail catchment size and spend

potentials, based on the volume of consumers in an area, by the value of

their typical spend at individual store. It can also be used for niche

product research where population samples are delivered from the

database to fit the target market.

Julian Berry, chairman of Berry Consulting, a customer relationship

management company part-owned by NOP, sees ’increasing evidence to

suggest that market research can be effectively implemented to support

customer relationship management approaches rather than simply used in

isolation’. He claims to have pioneered a range of innovative techniques

to exploit this trend but feels the MR industry is dragging its


’Even though the Market Research Society (MRS) has changed its code of

conduct so that it is now OK in certain circumstances to match market

research data with database data, the traditionalists still find it hard

to think of natural applications where the two disciplines can come

together,’ he says. ’It comes down to a question of training and

culture. The current situation is very sad because, certainly in most of

the work we do, market research is the natural vehicle for understanding

the information we receive.’

One outcome of Berry’s collaboration with NOP includes Fruits, a

financial services product that categorises consumers into ’oranges’,

’lemons’, ’apples’ and so on. It has been successfully used by companies

such as the Prudential and Marks & Spencer to help model their in-house

customer databases.

Berry’s scepticism about many MR practitioners is certainly not

applicable to people like Andy Brown, a director of BMRB. At a recent

industry conference he noted that the very term market research was

subtly being replaced by descriptors which revealed a much more

open-minded attitude toward new techniques. And like Morris at Claritas,

he too stressed the ’actionability’ of information that emerged from

collaboration between old and new.

Getting the best from data

Marketing databases such as Claritas’s Lifestyle Census had now achieved

a ’critical mass’, said Brown, which gave them more credibility in the

eyes of market researchers. The focus had shifted from breadth of

information to depth of information. ’Increasingly, the direct marketing

department, if it is still separate, is beginning to hand over access to

the market research-trained analysts to interrogate or data mine the

information for relevant trends and patterns.’

James Davies, R&D director at Ffwd Precision Marketing, one of the UK’s

fastest-growing small DM agencies, agrees that data mining and MR go

hand in hand. ’We’re very interested in psychographic profiling, which

is segmenting data by mindset, but to do this you need to use

traditional market research tools.’ He has carried out this kind of work

for clients such as VW and Pedigree Petfoods in order to gauge

consumers’ emotional investment in their car or pet.

With a background in FMCG marketing and market research, Davies believes

the traditional polarisation of market research and database marketing

has all but disappeared, although there are still ’people in both camps

who don’t understand the other side’. But he is convinced that ’the

smart people from each discipline are using the two together.’

Ian Robinson, a director of DM agency TMW, concurs. ’We have our own

formula for this: what plus why equals insight. The databases are the

what and the market research is the why. The two married together

provide a full portrait; attitudinal information married to actual



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