Burke: Learning and Growing Through Marketing Research
Alberta Burke, who previously worked in P&G’s marketing department, founded Burke, Inc., in 1931. At that time, there were few formalized marketing research companies, not only in the United States, but also in the world. As of 2009, Burke, based in Cincinnati, Ohio, is a marketing research and decision-support company that helps its clients to understand their business practices and make them more efficient. Burke’s employee owners add value to research and consulting assignments by applying superior thinking to help clients solve business problems. Burke is
100 percent employee owned. This video case traces the evolution of marketing research and how Burke implements the various phases of the marketing research process.
The Evolution of Marketing Research
The first recorded marketing research took place more than a century ago, in 1895 or 1896. By telegram, a professor sent questions to advertising agencies about the future of advertising. He got back about 10 responses and wrote a paper describing what was happening. In the first years, most of the marketing research done was a spin-off of the Bureau of Census data, and the analysis was basically limited to counting.
The next wave of marketing research came in the early 1930s, often done by ladies in white gloves who knocked on doors and asked about cake mixes. The primary methodology was door-to-door surveys; the telephone was not a very widely utilized service at that time
The marketing research industry has come a long way from the telegrams of 1895. As of 2009, the industry is trying to find creative ways to research consumers using methods such as telephone interviews, mall intercepts, Web interviews, mobile phone surveys, and multi mode methods. As Debbi Wyrick, a senior account executive at Burke, notes, when people can respond in more than one way-responding in the way that is most efficient for them-it increases the chance of getting a response.
To stay on the cutting edge, Burke conducts metaresearch (research about how to do research). Recently, Burke was concerned as to whether the length of an online (Internet) survey has’ an adverse impact on the completion rate. In an effort to find out, Burke fielded two Internet surveys. One was brief (10 questions taking an average of 5 minutes to complete), and the other was longer (20 questions taking about 20 minutes to complete). The completion rate for the short survey was 35 percent, whereas it was only 10 percent for the longer survey. Burke now designs shorter Internet surveys so as to reduce the proportion of people who drop off without completing the survey.
How Burke Implements the Marketing Research Process
Define the Marketing Research Problem and Develop an Approach
The simplest way to find out when a company needs help is when it has to make a decision. Any time there is a go or no go. a yes or no. or a decision to be made, Burke asks what information can help reduce the risk associated with the decision. Burke then talks with the company to develop the information that might help to reduce that risk.
Burke believes that defining the marketing research problem is critical to a successful research project. The company finds out what the symptoms are and works with the client to identify the underlying causes. Considerable effort is devoted to examining the background or the environmental context of the problem. In at least half the cases, when they go through the process of exploring the problem, the problem will change. It will gain a new scope or direction. This process results in a precise definition of the marketing research problem, including an identification of its specific components.
In formulating the research design, Burke places special emphasis on qualitative research, survey methods, questionnaire design, and sampling design
QUALITATIVE RESEARCH One of the pitfalls that Burke encounters comes with qualitative research. Qualitative research is nice because it is immediate. The information generated tends to be extremely rich and in the customer’s words. Burke gets to see what kinds of answers are being given and what k.inds of questions and concerns customers or potential customers might have. However, one of the dangers is thinking that all customers or potential customers might view products or service offerings in the same manner; that is, generalizing the findings of qualitative research to the larger population. Burke also can conduct focus groups online
Data Collection and Analysis
Once the information has been collected, it will reside either in a computer-related format or a paper format that is entered into a computer format. The results are tabulated and analyzed via computers. Through the “Digital Dashboard” product, Burke not only has the ability to disseminate the results to clients when the project is finished, but also to show them the data as they are being collected. Burke breaks down the data analysis by relevant groups. You might see information by total respondents, and you might see information broken out by gender or business size. Essentially, Burke looks at different breaks in the data to try to understand what is happening, if there are differences based on different criteria, and, if so, how to make decisions based on that information. In addition, Burke likes the data to be categorized into usable units such as time, frequency, or location instead of the vague responses that respondents sometimes give.
Clients need information much faster than they have in the past because decisions need to be made much more quickly. Organizing large meetings to present data analysis results is no longer practical. Most of the time, Burke reports and delivers data over the Web. The report documents the entire research process. It discusses the