Hard to support costs involved

Victor FelicianoSenior Marketing Research AssociateWarner-Lambert CanadaTorontoQ. What types of research does your company commission?A. You name it, we do it. Obviously, the bigger studies, like usage and attitude, tracking and segmentation studies tend to be undertaken less frequently because of their...

Victor Feliciano

Senior Marketing Research Associate

Warner-Lambert Canada

Toronto

Q. What types of research does your company commission?

A. You name it, we do it. Obviously, the bigger studies, like usage and attitude, tracking and segmentation studies tend to be undertaken less frequently because of their size and cost. They don’t happen as often as we do concept or product testing, or advertising testing.

Q. In your experience, what types of research do we do well in Canada?

A. We’re pretty much up there. We do as good a job, if not a better job, than the Americans or the British, for instance.

Q. What needs of yours are not currently being served by the market research services available?

A. Let me answer that by talking about some of the problems.

Unlike in the u.s., where the markets are much bigger, and the brands are much bigger, we are one-tenth the size and spread across the same or even larger territory.

One of the problems we have to deal with is that the cost of research is at almost the same level, while the brands tend to be smaller compared to the u.s.

Expense

If it was less expensive, for instance, to do simulated test markets, or laboratory test markets, we would do them more often. But some, if not most of the brands, cannot shoulder the type of expenses involved. So part of it boils down to the cost of research.

Then there is the issue of advertising wearout. As far as I know, there is really no accurate way of telling whether a piece of advertising is worn out. There are surrogate measures we tend to use, like awareness declining, but really there is no one measure.

Q. If you lived in an ideal world, in what ways would you change the field of market research?

A. I would say that, in general, we’re fairly happy with what’s out there. But there are always opportunities to improve.

One of the things one always has to watch out for is the field aspect of the research. All the numbers you get are useless if the quality of the field research and the quality of the sample you pick isn’t there.

So it’s one of the things we make sure our suppliers do properly. We want to make sure the interviewers are okay, that the drawing of the sample is okay, that the way the questions are being executed is okay.

We want to make sure [the interviewers] have been properly trained to ask just the questions and not impose their own biases or points of view. Equally important is the way they record the responses; that they are the actual responses, and not their interpretation.

As far as timing is concerned, these days, quick turnaround has been taking on greater importance. People want to get the answer right away, rather than be in a state of ‘analysis paralysis,’ where you analyze the thing to death and paralyze the whole flow.

If there’s any change that might be desirable, it might be in the turnaround of projects.

Q. How could the reporting of information be improved?

A. The way we operate is that we design our own projects, get somebody to field them and tabulate them, and then we ourselves report the information.

I am supposed to be closer to the issues and, therefore, I think I can address the issues better. So the problem of reporting information does not really exist in our case.

Q. In your opinion, does the market research available in Canada support your decision-making to the extent to which you would like?

A. Overall, yes. I think we get our answers. There are very few cases where we are stuck and we don’t get anything.

Q. How would you rate the efforts by Canadian market research companies to market their information services?

A. Pretty good. We frequently have suppliers in here presenting their services. We might not use them, but at least we know they are out there.

Q. How do you determine the reliability and stability of a research company? What guidelines do you use?

A. Obviously, everybody likes to say they do the best kind of work, and that they do it as fast as everybody else, and as cheaply as everybody else. Everybody says they are as good, if not better, than the others.

If they are able to tell us what is the advantage of using them versus other companies, that’s a first step. The next step involves determining whether there is a real advantage.

As soon as you see a cost advantage, that’s a starting point. But you have to ensure the quality does not suffer.

Then there’s the amount of additional work I have to do in terms of briefing and writing background. If it’s a regular supplier, all it takes is a phone call. There’s more hand-holding involved if it’s a new supplier.