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Some research is a good thing. Just not too much.

As the opening speaker at the Festival of Marketing (FoM) yesterday, Mark Ritson (renowned Professor of Marketing) was as combative as ever.

He spoke about some analysis he’d done of 5,900 submissions to the Effies. They’re advertising effectiveness awards. Winning these is directly correlated to increased sales and growth.

Mark developed an aggregate score for success at the awards before linking it back to other measures.

Among a lot of other things, it showed that:

  1. Having two or three strategic objectives were more successful than just one, or more than four. A single objective might be too narrow. Having too many objectives spreads effort too thinly.
  2. Working with two or three partners was more successful – again, this makes sense. Working with agencies who are specialists in their field will maximise your budget. But having too many may reduce ownership or make working together challenging.
  3. And doing a small amount of research was more successful than doing no research. But doing a lot of research didn’t increase success. As a researcher who argues people should do less research this was music to my ears!

Okay, his analysis was just focused on advertising. And this was just a conference about marketing.

But it highlighted something I’ve always believed holds true. That some companies who do no research or have no customer insight won’t succeed.

Equally, companies who do too much can become paralysed. They’ll keep repeating the same type of research, on similar (and sometimes the same) topics. They increase data but not insight.

Doing a small amount of research is more successful than doing no research. But doing a lot of research doesn’t increase success.

I believe in using what research you have and making it work harder. We’ll never have all the answers so it’s better to stop at 50%, 70%, 80% if you’re lucky. And then set about acting on what you know.

At lot of other things struck me from the FoM, including a stellar presentation from Dave Lewis, CEO of Tesco. But I’ll save that for another day.

(Slide image – copyright Mark Ritson, 2019)

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