The Evolution of Market Research—A Brief History, Part 1

The Evolution of Market Research—A Brief History, Part 1

In Market Research, Qualitative Market Research, Quantitative Market Research by admin

Like any industry, market research has evolved over the years.How market research is conducted today looks quite different than it did 100 years ago. Even though market researchers use techniques today that weren’t available even 20 years ago, the foundations of market research remain the same: getting a deeper understanding of peoples’ needs, wants, and beliefs. This blog is the first in a two-part series that looks at how market research has evolved over the past 100 years.

There is no doubt that market research has benefited from technology.  Data collection used to be a laborious and slow undertaking, taking weeks to collect. Nowadays, researchers can gather more data within hours. Technology also allows market research recruiting teams to access a more culturally, ethnically, and geographically diverse group of people to participate in studies.

A Brief Timelineof Market Research from the 1920s-1960s

1920s: Market research as we know it today can be credited to Daniel Starch, who first developed methodologies for studying and testing market research in advertising.  His creation of the Starch Test was the first tool that attempted to measure how effective magazine and newspaper ads were. For the first time, companies could know if people remembered seeing their ads, and what effects (if any) they had on behavior.

1930s: Most Americans are familiar with the Gallup poll, as it’s often referenced when taking the pulse on public opinion on a wide range of topics. George Gallup was a numbers guy and realized that small samples of the populace could generally predict attitudes. The surveys and polls (quantitative research) that are still used today can all trace their origins to George Gallup.

1940s: Most market research involves focus groups. Because focus groups are so ubiquitous, it’s easy to forget that they didn’t exist prior to the 1940s. The impetus for focus groups, or ‘focused interviews’ as they were known, came about during WWII, as a way to measure reactions to anti-Nazi radio broadcasts.  What was discovered while testing various messages was that you had to drill down to gain further insights into how participants felt and reacted to the messages. This was the dawn of qualitative research.

1950s-1960s: During this period was the heyday for motivational and consumer behavior research, as well as a leap forward in predictive statistical techniques developed by Paul Green. The developments in market research during this era had a massive impact on advertising. Using in-depth interviews, brands were able to dig deeper into peoples’ desires and create ads that were relevant to the masses.

In our next blog we’ll pick up in the 1970s to our present decade. While the methodologies and tools have evolved over the years, what has remained the same is that market research is the only way companies can gain insights into consumer behavior and motivations. 

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