The Evolution of Market Research

from Civil Society Fundraising:

Agent Provocateur: Market research isn’t what it used to (or could) be

In the early days of market research – we’re talking the 50’s through the 80’s – the statisticians who put together research projects were a white-coated bunch. They took research very seriously, and saw it as a science. As a result, they invented and deployed wonderful research tools and theories. But to make them work, they needed huge sample sizes, huge computers – and huge budgets.

By the 90’s, these scientists (and the big budget projects they thrived on) were history. The focus group had grabbed the attention of clients, and big scale projects with proprietary tools disappeared as quantitative research became commoditised.

Through both periods, fundraisers typically ignored research. In the earlier years, we didn’t understand the value of research when we had testing, and later, when we did start trying to use research – particularly qualitative – we found it to be a dismal tool. Bluntly, people didn’t do what they said they would; so why waste the money?

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