I firmly believe that in order to be a talented marketing researcher, one needs to be talented at marketing. However, there has always seemed to be a bit of a prejudice against researchers when it comes to advancement in larger client-side companies – instead, it’s usually the brand managers who ascend to senior leadership roles.
One company has recently broken the mold – and I cannot wait to see how it turns out. In late 2012, Newell Rubbermaid promoted Richard Davies to Chief Marketing Officer
Unsurprisingly, Davies honed in on the need for “investment in consumer understanding” at Newell Rubbermaid; he has doubled market research staff (to over 20 people) so brands can have more insight into their consumers. Additionally, he has offset the costs associated with headcount by cutting back on the number of agencies affiliated with Newell Rubbermaid’s greater marketing department – from 65 down to six. (Why any company needs to affiliate with 65 marketing-services agencies is another topic for another day.)
If you stop and think about it, granting authority to the market research staff makes all the sense in the world. Nobody knows a brand’s customers better than its research team, and I could make a pretty sound argument that knowing a brand’s customers is qualification #1 when running a business (understanding finance and law doesn’t hurt either). Yet a persistent stigma looms over researchers: that somehow, we don’t have the comprehensive view of the business to lead its growth.
Not every brand thinks outside of the box (or, uh, storage container) like Newell Rubbermaid. Hopefully more companies will begin to view marketing researchers as having the right skillsets to oversee marketing functions. What can help is researchers adding publications such as AdAge, Adweek, the Harvard Business Review and the Wall Street Journal Marketplace section to their reading lists. Researchers would also benefit from spending more time with the ad agency folks, who are only too happy to talk about their craft and strategies. Being better-rounded on the topic of marketing will ease the ascension that many researchers pursue.