`We’re somewhat behind the U.S.’

Deirdre McGrathManager, Market ResearchHershey CanadaTorontoQ. What types of research does your company commission?A. Advertising testing, tracking, product testing, new concept/product testing and market measurement services.Q. In your experience, what types of research do we do well in Canada?A. I don't know...

Deirdre McGrath

Manager, Market Research

Hershey Canada


Q. What types of research does your company commission?

A. Advertising testing, tracking, product testing, new concept/product testing and market measurement services.

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

A. I don’t know that there are any particular types that are done well here versus not well. We perform fairly evenly across types.

However, we are a smaller market and less well developed in our new product research, but from a marketing standpoint, we certainly have a lot less experience in that area. So the research just follows suit in that regard.

Q. In your opinion, what could we do better?

A. I think [market measurement/audit research] is a key area where we basically don’t have any competition. We have A.C. Nielsen and nobody else.

And it’s a rather antiquated system, recognizing that they are working at improvements. But certainly in our category, they are somewhat behind what is available in the u.s.

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

A. Advertising pre-testing is always thorny, and, I guess, ideally, there would be some magic research formula produced that gave us the right answer first time, any time. Realistically, I don’t think that’s going to happen. But if I had a wish list, that is always the trickiest area.

Harking back to what I said earlier about the retail audit services, I would certainly like a better system.

In grocery [stores,] we’ve moved to scanning and that provides a lot of detailed information in a pretty timely fashion.

In the confectionery business, because it is up and down the street, with small convenience stores, we haven’t moved to scanning in any significant way. We still use audit data.

And it still suffers from all the same problems audit data always has. For example, there is a lot less information available than there is with scanning data, where you have daily information, exact pricing per unit, and so on.

It comes down to accuracy, timeliness and depth of information.

Q. In what ways could the reporting of information be improved?

A. I think market research suppliers, and this is not a complaint about the ones I work with, because I have found ones who don’t fit this pattern, but in my experience, a number of market research suppliers tend to be reporters of numbers only.

They are either unwilling or unable to offer marketing implications attached to those numbers.

And although, as an internal researcher, that is my job, it certainly helps to have an outside point of view, a fresh look at things that goes beyond a ‘this number is bigger than that number’ kind of reporting.

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

A. Yes, it can. But it does require, or is certainly aided by having, an internal full-time research person who can work with suppliers and give them the information they need in order that they can bring more to the party.

I don’t think [research] can be done, or should be done, in a vacuum. The supplier has to understand the business to some extent. And there has to be a relationship between the buyer and the supplier where that information is shared.


I have experimented a fair amount and am now at the point where I have found suppliers who truly want to understand our business.

They do ask questions, and they do pump me for information, but I have been in frustrating situations in the past where I have spent time explaining all the ins and outs and still wound up with a report or presentation that was completely devoid of context.

It’s probably one of the things that has contributed to the growth over the last five or 10 years of independent research consultants.

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

A. Most of the literature that I receive talks about their ‘action-oriented’ approach. They all ‘talk the talk.’ Even within a given research company, you could find a different situation, depending on who you deal with.

In the end it’s going to come down to shopping around and experimenting.

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

A. You go by overall company reputation. There are certain shops I wouldn’t risk experimenting with, because by reputation they are not terribly strong.

Once you have whittled it down from there, to a large extent, it comes down to references, in terms of talking to other buyers.

And some of it is just happenstance.

In any given job, you wind up inheriting certain suppliers who have done work for your company in the past. You wind up working with them because they have some history.