Market Research Analysis – Back To Basics

We are firm believers at B2B International in using strategic frameworks and tools to deliver actions that our clients should take as a result of any piece of research. This always helps in implementing short, medium and long term improvements within a company. This article from Dr Brian Smith argues exactly our point.

Almost all research claims to be new, even though much of it is recycled, derivative trivia. This is understandable and often we get what we deserve when we demand ‘the latest thinking’. The danger of this is that marketers miss out on some classics of research. Allow me to illustrate this by reference to some seminal pieces of work that all marketers should read.

First up is Theodore Levitt. For every 10,000 marketers who have heard the name, I’d be surprised if more than one has read his 1960 article[1], which heralds the birth of modern marketing. Levitt was perhaps the first to define markets in terms of needs, not products. The corollary of Levitt’s vision was differentiation, the holy grail of most marketers beautifully illustrated in his later article[2].

If customer orientation and differentiation are two legs of the marketing stool, the third has to be segmentation. However, in recent years, this essential ingredient of marketing strategy has been relegated to a tactical exercise in data-crunching to guide promotion. As a result most firms fail to realise the true value of the concept, a problem first recognised in 1964 by Yankelovich[3]. Sadly, his message has fallen on so many deaf ears that he felt the need to restate it in more modern language earlier this year[4].

If there is a competitor to Levitt, it’s probably Ansoff who shares the dubious honour of being more quoted than read. His famous growth matrix[5] is much more useful than its abbreviated form suggests.

Most marketers think the matrix is like a treasure map, with pots of gold in the boxes they have not yet attacked. The reality is more like an ancient mariner’s map, with the legend ‘here be dragons’. Ansoff’s ideas are not just about growth but about risk and the chances of winning business in the new boxes. Ansoff’s work is at the root of Marketing Due Diligence processes[6].

These building blocks of marketing thought mentioned so far are just the tip of the iceberg of great thinking that has been foolishly passed over in the rush to the latest fad.

So, next time you want to be controversial, stop fad-surfing and ask which ideas have stood the test of time.

(C) Brian Smith

Dr Smith is a visiting research fellow at Cranfield and Brimingham Business Schools and runs consultancy PragMedic. This article first appeared in Issue 22 of the marketer. It has been reproduced here with kind permission of The Chartered Institute of Marketing (

[1] Levitt, T. (1960) Marketing myopia. Harvard Business Review, Vol 38(4), pp45-56.
[2] Levitt, T. (1980) Marketing success through differentation – of anything. Harvard Business Review, Vol 58(1), pp83-91.
[3] Yankelovich, D. (1964). New criteria for market segmentation. Harvard Business Review, Vol 42(2), pp83-91.
[4] Yankelovich, D. and Meer, D. (2006).Rediscovering market segmentation. Harvard Business Review, Vol 84(2), pp122-31.
[5] Ansoff, H.I. (1957) Strategies for diversification. Harvard Business Review, Vol 35(5), pp113-124.
[6] McDonalnd, M., Smith, B.,Ward, K. (2005) Marketing due deligence: reconnecting strategy to share price. Oxford, Elsevier

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