antique book glasses 33085 1

Where did it all begin? A brief history of market research

Market research is viewed as an essential part of any organisation to help them fully understand and connect with their target audience, ultimately driving their success. As with any sector, there was a time when market research was unheard of or only used by very few people, so where did all our well-used methods of research first come from?

1920s and 1930s – The birth of quantitative research

The first known instance of market research happened in the 1920’s by a man called Daniel Starch. Starch developed a theory that for advertising to be effective it must be seen, read, believed, remembered and acted upon. This led him to create his own research company in which Starch and his colleagues would approach people on the History clockstreet to ask if they had read certain publications. If they had, they would then be shown a front cover and asked if they remembered any of the adverts they’d seen inside. Starch would then determine the effectiveness of these ads by comparing the number of people interviewed with the circulation of the magazine and voila, quantitative surveying methods were born.

The next significant development for market research was in 1935 when a man called George Gallup created the method of ‘aided recall’. This involved people being interviewed to see if they could recall ads without being shown the publication, just being provided with a few relevant cues to facilitate memory. Later, this approach was further developed to help measure the effectiveness of various radio and TV ads.

1940s to 1980s – Qualitative research makes its debut

Qualitative research started to become more of a front runner in the 1940’s. This era for market research saw Paul Lazarsfeld work on many social-scientific investigative methods in his own institute at the University of Newark, resulting in the introduction of the, now widely-used, method of focus groups.

Towards the end of the 1940’s, Ernest Dichter established a new form of consumer research known as ‘motivational research’. In developing this, he applied the Freudian psychoanalytic theory to help him better understand consumer behaviour. He believed individuals didn’t always behave in a way that reflected the views they had expressed and so intended to try and expose people’s true, underlying beliefs. He used depth interviews to try and uncover these desires and attitudes towards specific products or brands.

Moving towards the 1990’s, a lot more focus was placed on the actual ‘customer experience’ by looking at aspects such as emotions and moods that could affect behaviour. Alongside this was the expansion of face-to-face interviews, video-recorded focus groups and computer assisted telephone interviews becoming the primary methods for qualitative research. In 1980, the American company Western WATS (now SSI) was formed and focused on implementing the use of telephones to conduct vast amounts of survey research, resulting in many more surveys being collected each year. This then went on to become the largest market research company in the world.

1990s to present day – The internet impact

Computer internetThroughout recent decades, the internet has had the biggest impact on the development of the market research sector by allowing research to be conducted on a much larger scale online. Market research analysis software has also become commercially available, creating even more resources that provide ease and time-efficiency when conducting research. It also now enables us to gain real-time insights of individual’s opinions through elements such as social media analysis, thus informing an organisation on the most current and accurate data available.

Market research has been found to be fundamental for increasing engagement and improving overall experience, whether that be for consumers of a brand or members of an organisation. Little did Daniel Starch know that his on-the-street interviewing would go on to become such a vital sector implemented in some form by nearly all organisations in the world.

At Research by Design, we use a range of different research methodologies. Some of these we have refined and developed based on the original methods; others which are new and dynamic, facilitated by the increasing speed of technological developments. To read more about the services we offer please click here. If you would like to get in touch for more information, contact us here.



This entry was posted in Market research, tagged Market Research and posted on August 16, 2018

<< Back