An interview with Dieter Korczak, President of ESOMAR, on the future of the industry, and ESOMAR as an international industry body
At a time when technological advances and legislative actions are re-shaping the industry at lightning speed, there is talk in the community about the relevancy of market research associations and their ability to represent the needs of the current day researcher.
In 2011, ESOMAR welcomed a newly elected Council, led by Dieter Korczak, owner and managing director of GP Forschungsgruppe Institut für Grundlagen- und Programmforschung in Germany. Ensuring that ESOMAR remains connected to its members and the industry is a key priority for Korczak.
There have been dynamic changes in market research in recent years due to globalisation and the recession. The industry has adjusted well, but what do you see as the priorities in the coming years?
We have to get back to our core issues. We have to differentiate between the latest fads in research and really innovative methods.
As a global association we have to see the bigger picture. We have to combine the scientific approaches of market research – the use of validated or evidence-based techniques and tools – with the needs of suppliers and clients.
We must recognise that the perspectives and needs of market researchers at agencies, in companies and at universities differ, and that the research environment varies across continents.
But what does this mean for the research industry and those of us involved in it? In my opinion, it means stronger quality and professional ethics. Everything we do is dependent upon the willingness of people to give us answers and their consent for us to observe and analyse their behaviour, attitudes and feelings.
As the need for information and insight grows, so does our obligation to respect the privacy of our respondents. A society is bigger than just its economy. We must always remember that we deal with human beings, with all their aspirations and needs. This demands respect. We must also provide our clients with verified and valid answers and solutions. ESOMAR has developed a new architecture to cover the different interests of our members and the industry, and to direct the way for the future.
There are new players that have emerged in market research: DIY businesses, Facebook, etc. How do you see ESOMAR adjusting its objectives and mission in response?
ESOMAR is moving forward to bridge the gap between the new players and the traditionalists. The Council decided that ESOMAR must be open to other players who are not academically-trained researchers, but who still provide clients with insights from different sources. We want to invite them to join our association because we believe that is the only way to ensure that all abide by quality standards.
If a company offers DIY services, or Google or Facebook offer insights, they should still be accountable for upholding accepted industry standards and guidelines. It is my belief that this kind of self-regulation is the most effective survival strategy for our industry. There are numerous discussions regarding market research and direct marketing, opt-in or opt-out legislation for telephone interviewing, and online sample quality. Evidence-based research is not easy and cannot be done effectively without knowledge about sample quality, representativeness decisions, the importance of refusal rates and non-responders, quality of scales, etc. Quality needs standards and approved procedures and techniques.
What role does ESOMAR have in setting the standards for a global community, and how will it go about doing so? Is this even something that associations should be doing?
In addition to the knowledge exchange and networking possibilities at various ESOMAR conferences and Congress, the ICC/ESOMAR Code and the guidelines serve as the “light buoys” of our industry. To do research you need objectives, procedures and limitations. To set standards you have to be representative and well-accepted. How do you get ensure this? By doing a good job for the industry as an association, and by gaining a relevant number of members and supporters from around the world who represent the different facets of our industry. If an association can negotiate joint efforts with other associations it becomes even stronger. ESOMAR has in the past joined with EFAMRO to reduce administrative burden on research companies, with CASRO to harmonise US and EU legislation, and we are currently working with other associations worldwide to promote an open relationship with legislators to protect and promote research. That is what associations like ours should be doing.
What do you feel is the best way for ESOMAR to remain relevant for its members, the industry and future generations?
We strongly believe that a new architecture is the answer. Our House of Research initiative will recognise this new world, allowing multiple ‘rooms’ for different types of members: client companies, research agencies, associations, specialist suppliers, academia etc.
The new architecture enables us to give broad support to suppliers, clients, academia, national associations and others. We will offer an attractive package for corporate membership for suppliers, which will help us to ‘legalise’ the use of the ESOMAR logo and membership mark. In the future, company membership will be combined with the acceptance of the ICC/ESOMAR Code.
For clients, we will offer specific platforms and opportunities to enable a better exchange between industry clients and ESOMAR. Currently, academia is not very well represented in our membership. By expanding of our successful Developing Talent initiative, and forming closer relationships with universities world wide, we will increase the membership of academic researchers. We have a strong interest in speaking with one voice to the industry, to societies and to legislators. We need to include the views of national associations and their organisations. This new architecture will meet the needs of the many players in our industry, and help raise the profile of, and protect, market research.
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