Market Research vs Marketing Research - What's the Difference?

Distinguish Market Research, Marketing Research, and Market Intelligence

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The work that marketers, advertisers, researchers, and publishers do is changing as quickly and as radically as the technology. The historical roots of market research help to portray the steep trajectory of innovations in the field.

A Little Look Back

The roots of systematic market research go back at least to the period after World War II when national prosperity increased following the depression and the economic depletion caused by the world wars.

  Proctor and Gamble created the watershed moment with their field research.  On May 13, 1931, Neil McElroy of Proctor and Gamble wrote a memo that forever changed the way that companies manage brands.  From McElroy's ideas on brand management, marketing research took shape.  Advertising and promotional activities were well established prior to the revolutionary insights of McElroy, but the  approach was scattershot.

In 1948, James Culliton, who taught at Boston College and Harvard and went on to become dean of the business school at the University of Notre Dame in the 1950s, portrayed the work of marketing managers as a “mixer of ingredients.”  The concept was reframed by Neil Borden, a professor of marketing and advertising at Harvard, in his paper circa 1963 entitled, “The Concept of the Marketing Mix.”

What Came First? Market Research or Marketing?

Taking a look at when certain marketing terms came into common use can facilitate an understanding of what is meant by the terms:  Market Research; Marketing Research, and Market Intelligence.

  Sometimes we need to use our methods - such as gathering information - to foster understanding.  Doing a bit of secondary research results in the following definitions by professional associations:

Market research, as defined by the European Society for Opinion and Market Research (ESOMAR), is:

"...the systematic gathering and interpretation of information about individuals or organizations using the statistical and analytical methods and techniques of the applied social sciences to gain insight or support decision making."

Marketing research, as defined by the American Marketing Association, is:

"...the systematic and objective identification, collection, analysis, and dissemination of information for the purpose of improving decision making related to the identification and solution of problems and opportunities in marketing.

Market Intelligence, as defined in an article in Quirks Marketing Research Review, is:

"Market intelligence is a much broader term [than market research] that can be defined as an ongoing, holistic knowledge of all aspects of the marketplace."

To elaborate on and clarify the distinctions between these terms, consider that:

Market research is a landscape view of markets, consumers, individuals, organizations, and business enterprises. 

Marketing research drills down, centering on the issues related to promotion, branding metrics, concept testing, satisfaction, and the classic marketing mix (which has now expanded to the seven (7) "Ps" (otherwise known as Product, Prices, Promotion, Place, Packaging, Positioning, and People).

Market Intelligence is an umbrella term for four fundamental areas of information:  Competitor, Product, Market, and Customer.  Competitor information (competitive intelligence) includes the following: 

Competitive strategies, organizational structures and resources, product portfolio and future product development, and spans the micro-economic variables associated with market entry.

Product information relates to tactical marketing activities (pricing, promotion, packaging, etc.) and the performance of products in the market place.

Market information is a macro-level landscape view of the current market size, market share trends, and forecasts of market growth and target market segments.

Customer information encompasses a complete understanding of customer insights related to product differentiation and consumer behavior. This is the traditional purveyance of market research, but within this market intelligence frame, consumer information is treated as a facet of the whole of market intelligence.

  The understanding is that as the market intelligence model is articulated, there is interactivity across and between these different facets.

Here are some additional focus activities by area:

Market Research Focus

  • Anthropology of Markets
  • Culture of Markets
  • Customer Preferences
  • Market Players
  • Target Market Attributes
  • Market Trends
  • Market Size
  • Market Segmentation
  • Technical Research
  • Solution Offerings

Marketing Research Focus

  • Advertising Effectiveness
  • Brand Metrics (Attitude, Equity, Loyalty)
  • Channel Research
  • Copy Testing
  • Concept Testing
  • Marketing Campaign Effectiveness
  • Marketing Mix
  • Satisfaction
  • Usability Testing

The Overlapping Sweet Spot

  • Competition
  • Demand Estimation
  • Differentiation
  • Pricing Research
  • Product Attributes
  • Social Media Monitoring and Analysis

Market Intelligence

  • Information (Data > Analysis > Insight)
  • Communication (Gathering > Dissemination > Dialogue)
  • People and Processes (Research > Reporting > Capability)

The Disciplines Will Continue to Agree to Disagree

Without a doubt, there will be many players in the disciplines of market research, marketing, competitive intelligence, advertising, and publishing who will have different opinions about the structural relationships, similarities, and differences of these activities.