TOP 95 MARKET RESEARCH LEAGUE TABLES 1999: Consumer power steers research - Qualitative research is holding its own as companies come under pressure to identify and fulfil their customers’ motivations

The poster for Rover’s new car flaunts the headline ’Rejected by focus groups’. Whether this is the literal truth, and a badge the car manufacturer wants to wear with pride, or a roundabout way of saying that true innovators aren’t bound by the findings of discussion groups, is not clear. Either way, the research industry won’t lose any sleep over it.

The poster for Rover’s new car flaunts the headline ’Rejected by

focus groups’. Whether this is the literal truth, and a badge the car

manufacturer wants to wear with pride, or a roundabout way of saying

that true innovators aren’t bound by the findings of discussion groups,

is not clear. Either way, the research industry won’t lose any sleep

over it.



The Rover poster is an extension of national press sneers at New

Labour’s use of focus groups - the most widely used qualitative research

technique.



Marketers, though, are aware of the benefits they get from ’qual’, by

way of insights into customers’ thinking.



’Clients are becoming more dem-anding,’ says Sue Pryke, a director of

specialist qualitative agency Crucible. ’They are forced by competitive

pressures to be more aware of, and sensitive to, consumer power. Our

role has increasingly become one of identifying the strategic insights

that will motivate consumers.’



Certainly, within the total research scene, qualitative is holding up

well. According to this year’s league table, 83 of the 95 companies

undertake some qualitative work. The total turnover derived from

qualitative research is pounds 109m, up 13.9% on the pounds 95.8m

recorded in last year’s survey.



Two or three areas are particularly buoyant. One is retail, fuelled by

the huge emphasis now placed on category management. Hauck Research, a

fast-growing specialist which gets 90% of its turnover from consumer

qualitative research, set up the POP Shop last year as a special unit to

deal with this and other retail issues.



’Manufacturers realise that in-store positioning now means a hell of a

lot,’ says Mike Roderick, managing director of Hauck’s international and

specialist units division.



’With less and less shelf space available, manufacturers are

increasingly keen to work closely with the retailers on optimising

sales,’ says Laurent Guillaume, chairman of Research International UK.

’We have seen an incredible development in category management research

over the past two years.’



’What we do is bring an understanding of how the consumer shops,’ adds

Research International’s marketing director Dave Phillips. ’People

behave differently, depending, for example, on whether it’s an emergency

purchase, or a regular stock-up. There are also questions to do with how

the fixture should look. For instance, with baby care products, should

the layout be by age, or should there be separate displays for nappies,

wipes and creams, etc?’



The area of corporate and brand reputation is also attracting a lot of

attention - mirroring a similar finding in the Marketing PR league

tables (May 27, 1999). Both quantitative and qualitative research have

roles to play here. BDRC, one of the fastest-growing research

consultancies for the second year in succession, is one of several

companies highlighting it as an area of expansion.



’We are doing a lot of work on corporate identity,’ says BDRC’s managing

director Dr Cris Tarrant. ’We have a set of qual techniques called the

Corporate ID Matrix, which helps to show where a brand sits in its

market, and which aspects of its ID work and which don’t.’



Finally, more international qualitative work is being commissioned. Jan

Zajac, a director at The Added Value Company, cites this as one of the

major factors that fuelled the research division’s 29% growth last

year.



Hauck’s Roderick says that international work grew by more than 40% last

year. ’Global brands increasingly ask us to conduct international

studies,’ he says.



Similarly Hall & Partners claims to have seen a ’huge growth’ in

qualitative business, both in the UK and internationally, aided by the

acquisition of major new clients such as Procter & Gamble and British

Airways.



Group chief executive Mike Hall says that at a time when clients are

demanding international coverage, the company is a specialist (in brand

communication) and genuinely international, with subsidiaries in the US

and the Asia-Pacific region. It is also in the process of restyling its

UK operation Hall & Partners Europe.



Qualitative research is an area where the big companies do not have

matters all their own way. It’s very much a people business, and

relatively easy for someone with a good reputation to set up a new

company.



However, Research International claims to be the world’s biggest qual

practice, on occasions conducting studies across 40 countries.

Similarly, BMRB claims ’a tremendous success’ in building up its qual

business under Andrew Thomas, who joined the company two years ago from

a background in social research.



TOP 40, QUALITATIVE RESEARCH

Rk   Consultancy                 Consumer   Business-to-        TOTAL

                                 (pounds)       business     (pounds)

                                                (pounds)

1    Taylor Nelson Sofres*      5,793,000              -    9,655,000

2    Maritz TRBI                7,714,000        771,000    8,485,000

3    Research International     5,610,000      2,493,000    8,103,000

4    NOP Research Group         4,426,000      2,213,000    6,639,000

5    The Added Value Company    4,896,000        360,000    5,256,000

6    Hauck Research Services    4,828,000         80,000    4,908,000

7    Retail Marketing

     In-store Services          4,517,000              -    4,517,000

8    DRSM Group                 2,924,000        748,000    3,672,000

9    RDSi                       3,225,000        358,000    3,583,000

10   Pegram Walters             2,415,000      1,119,000    3,534,000

11   Insight Medical Research           -      3,216,000    3,216,000

12   The MBL Group              2,890,000        160,000    3,050,000

13   Millward Brown

     International              2,225,000        556,000    2,781,000

14   Flamingo                         n/a            n/a    2,522,000

15   Leapfrog                   2,250,000              -    2,250,000

16   Ipsos-RSL                  1,447,000        579,000    2,025,000

17   Total Research               325,000      1,627,000    1,952,000

18   MORI                             n/a            n/a    1,766,000

19   Crucible Research          1,302,000        326,000    1,628,000

20   Navigator                  1,316,000        282,000    1,598,000

21   Hall & Partners            1,582,000              -    1,582,000

22   Infratest Burke Group        998,000        356,000    1,354,000

23   Isis Research                      -      1,290,000    1,290,000

24   BMRB International           955,000        318,000    1,273,000

25   Business Devt.

     Research Consultants         639,000        559,000    1,199,000

26   Quaestor Res. &

     Marketing Strategists        920,000        230,000    1,150,000

27   The Qualitative

     Consultancy                  997,000        130,000    1,127,000

28   BPRI                               -      1,124,000    1,124,000

29   DVL Smith                    230,000        849,000    1,079,000

30   Business & Market

     Research                     440,000        550,000      991,000

31   ORC International            866,000              -      866,000

32   MSS Marketing Research       528,000        288,000      816,000

33   Research Associates           39,000        732,000      770,000

34   IFF Research                 140,000        561,000      702,000

35   Marketing Sciences           571,000         82,000      653,000

36   City Research Group          226,000        423,000      648,000

37   Entri Research                   n/a            n/a      578,000

38   MVA                          426,000        142,000      568,000

39   Marketing Improvements

     Group                        170,000        383,000      553,000

40   MORPACE International        223,000        318,000      541,000

* The Taylor Nelson Sofres total includes additional research in

media and healthcare



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