"The quality of the work is increasing, partly due to increased access to data, but DIY is probably the biggest link to either a decrease or stagnation in the value and reputation of corporate researchers."
As a lead-in to the upcoming Corporate Researchers Conference (CRC), MRA conducted a brief Q&A with some of the experts scheduled to appear. We got some great answers, which should help you get to know the speakers a bit as well as whet your appetite for more.
Today’s insights are from Ginger Lower, Senior Research Analyst at Cox Target Media, whose session, “21st Century Research Support for a 21st Century Client,” will be co-presented with John Ciesluk, Research Manager at Cox Target Media.
MRA: People get into marketing research in so many different ways, sometimes by accident. How did you end up in this field and what attracted you to it?
Ginger Lower: I got into marketing research by accident. I majored in marketing and worked straight out of college as assistant buyer for merchandise at a retailer, before landing at a direct mail catalog company. There, I set up test controls in a direct mail environment. Later, I was offered a position with a heavier research focus at Cox Target Media. Starting as a junior research analyst, I was fortunate to have a veteran researcher mentor me over the years.
MRA: What do you think is the biggest threat facing corporate-side research today? How can the industry deal with that?
Ginger: There’s been a huge shift in the expectations of corporate researchers to be able to wear a dozen hats. The most important is the “laymen’s terms” researcher, able to convey research to people who have no research background. You have so many details and caveats in marketing research, but they are unnecessary for many audiences. Translating research for less-experienced audiences allows you to be at the discussion table rather than forever behind the scenes.
MRA: What’s the biggest opportunity for corporate-side research? Is there anything in particular that stands in the way of exploiting that opportunity?
Ginger: There’s more data out there than ever before. We’re fortunate that our company supports marketing research and lets us take advantage of an enormous amount of data. I know a lot of companies are too financially strained to have the same luxury.
Our department is getting more involved in our company’s digital projects, so that is introducing us to a whole range of new data. We’ve been focused on print media research for a long time, but we’re now working with online data analytics and research back-tests that are focused more on digital media. All of our other work didn’t go away, but now we’re grappling with becoming experts in data to which we’ve never had access before.
MRA: Since you began working in research, do you think the institutional value/reputation of corporate researchers has increased, decreased or remained the same? Why?
Ginger: The reputation depends on who you ask. There are so many platforms for an average person to do research that there is more skepticism of marketing research, since anything can be published. The quality of the work is increasing, partly due to increased access to data, but DIY is probably the biggest link to either a decrease or stagnation in the value and reputation of corporate researchers.
MRA: Thinking of your day-to-day work and responsibilities, what is one important element of your job that’s “broken” or dysfunctional? Assuming you had necessary resources, how would you change that?
Ginger: You get new tools every day, and it takes time and money to fully understand how to use them. Particularly with some of the newest tools and methodologies, you have to go through a fair amount of trial and error to get it right. You need to be careful to school yourself and avoid uninformed statements and advice based on research tools you don’t fully understand.
MRA: How can corporate researchers better sell the value of what they do within their organizations?
Ginger: Selling the value of corporate research is one of the things we’re presenting at CRC. You want to meet the needs of your external clients, but internally at Cox Target Media, we’ve been branding our department. We developed a brand and logo internally to make us stand out, tag lines for our emails, and even use logos and branding in our cube area. We use repetition to make sure we’re known and recognized internally. We also publicize, in our Monday internal company-wide publication, if one of us goes through a certification program like Professional Researcher Certification (PRC) or the program at the University of Georgia (MRII). We constantly get our names out there and try to have our roles properly understood. It can be confusing to end-users on where to go for what they need. Getting ourselves a clear identity will help those users and us.