In March, the ARF completed executive interviews among 19 research leaders representing large marketers and media companies. Overall, Research got a passing grade, but certainly didn’t make honor roll.
While Research usually has strong executive support, as we dug down 1-2 levels, we saw something different. We heard that there was spotty support for research from internal customers; some felt it added value and some felt it was an impediment rather than an enabler, adding costs and timing to initiatives but not adding much beyond what “they already knew about their customers”. Some research leaders felt their main challenge was to get their staffs to translate insights into recommended action; we must go beyond feeling satisfied with good data leading to good analysis.
Pat Hanlon, author of Primal Branding, refers to brands as “belief systems”. Thinking this way led me to the conclusion that most marketing organizations do not have a pervasive belief system that research adds value. Some “believe”, but many are non-believers. As non-believers, they will not expect valuable strategic recommendations to come from researchers so even brilliant insights will go unnoticed. The decision-maker must believe or less grounded insights coming from consultants will have more impact on the company than their own research and insights teams even if they offer brilliant insights.
Research must fix its branding problem. To do this, it must understand how to engage in a new dialogue…a new narrative that will change the belief system of the organization. In July, the ARF Research Transformation initiative will bring selected leaders together for this branding analysis and subsequently publish its recommendations.
Of course, this new brand narrative must be somewhat aspirational. For example, if we convince people that research can inspire innovation based on human insights and that we do that in the cadence of the business, then we need to deliver. We can’t just talk a good game. Frankly, leaders are not sure their current staffs are equipped.
So it is time for us to practice what we preach. Research says it helps to build better brands, so let’s think of our profession as a brand and make it better. It will require the dance of vision, aspiration, communication, and capability enhancement. Then let’s make unforgettable success stories that become legendary proof of the value that research can bring to the enterprise; in the interviewing we uncovered some already, let’s make more.
A full report of our executive interviewing is available to arf members in their ‘My ARF‘ area.