Market Research weathers recession

Further evidence that market research has weathered the recession a little better than some of the other marketing disciplines emerged this week with the news that brand owners cut their research spending last year by almost five per cent, a smaller drop than brand advertising has suffered over the last year or two.

According to the research trade body the MRS, UK revenues fell by 4.7 per cent to £2.08 billion last year compared with £2.16 billion in 2008.

Nevertheless 2009 revenues were still larger than in 2007, while reports suggest that the industry has registered a strong first quarter for 2010.

Research in the UK is a pretty mature industry and so its growth curve was bound to level off at some point but it can expect healthy performances during the next decade, despite the new age of austerity as proclaimed by David Cameron.

In many companies regular research has become de rigueur, as managers try to validate their ideas and protect themselves from the consequences of their judgements.

And researchers can thank the Labour Party (in the form of Philip Gould) which 15 years ago popularised the black arts of focus groups. Much reviled though they were, these qualitative research techniques became famous overnight and certainly ensured that Labour kept on message in its drive for power.

Once Labour won its storming victory in 1997, research of all kinds moved out of its geeky ghetto and became a respectable, not to say trendy, marketing technique. Hence its very healthy growth over the last ten years or so and Sir Martin Sorrell’s quest to buy up as many research outfits as he could.

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About David O'Reilly

David is a former deputy editor of Campaign and writer for a number of leading titles including Management Today and the Sunday Times. He is a partner in The Editorial Partnership.