The Evolution of Market Research: From Focus Groups to MROCs

George O'Shea
January 27, 2017
For CMOs and Senior Marketers, digital strategy is an expanding focus area as productive high value tools become readily available on various platforms. Insight communities or MROCs (Market Research Online Communities) are one of the fastest growing research methodologies, pushing companies further into the ‘future of work.’ Some of these proprietary marketing communities utilize impactful open-ended response systems, bringing elements of the following to their clients: surveys, discussions & chats, idea sessions, journaling, polls, collage exercise, social sharing and ideation modeling.

The Issue With Traditional Research

Throughout the years, I’ve come to appreciate research as any good marketer would. With an MBA in my hand, and Fortune 500 experience under my belt, I became profoundly disenchanted with traditional research when I realized that client dollars were not being maximized, particularly in the product development space. I would sit behind sterile glass walls, which afforded a limited window into the mind of the consumer. Focus groups were becoming unproductive and on numerous occasions, a bully dominated the conversation. Many times, during these sessions, a handful of people tended to be more interested in the money than they were at providing interesting feedback about the product in question. I quickly realized that research rules needed to be shattered if smart companies were going to stretch their budgets to satisfy consumers, produce quality products and truly honor the voice of the customer.

The Opportunity With Digital

A desire for more productive models led me to the insights space. In the digital world, innovative thinkers like Diane Hessan, former CEO of Communispace, were drawn to the online community realm because they wanted to delight clients who desired customer partnership for explosive growth. Having built a blue chip client base of Fortune 500 clients, Communispace verified the credibility of MROCs. Having piqued the interest of suitors who could scale technologies globally, Omnicom quickly acquired Communispace when revenues approached $50M. MROCs invite conversation with consumers and provide a detailed avenue for productive two-way conversation and frequent follow-up. MROCs allow for observations on product, from 2D renderings, to 3D models, to tool samples and final product. Digital insight communities can power full-use testing. Digital also invites reaction to website content and messaging, packaging, in-store merchandising, and B2B service offerings. It disrupts the old school mentality. Smart marketers are embracing digital as an authentic harvester of solid insight. Bright product developers are moving quickly and cost effectively to produce brilliant product in rapid time. Historically, companies have hovered 30,000 feet above the ground before implementing anything in market. The magic of an insight community is fluidity. Ideas flow and changes are easily tested and implemented. While I applaud best practices in insight gathering and traditional research, there is little question in my mind that insight communities are profoundly superior because they offer well-thought out feedback in real time. Some traditional research purists may cast a skeptical eye to this methodology, but I advise they do so at their own risk. As they look towards the future, smart marketers should consider digital insight models as a critical tool for marketing strategy and product development.

Meet The Expert:

George is a passionate strategist with expertise around brand, IP, product development, marketing insights and global strategy. He has established go-to-market retail strategies for three single serve beverage companies located on three continents. Interested in learning more about how George is helping companies evolve their market research capabilities? Check out his profile on Catalant.

About the Author

George O'Shea

George O'Shea is a Business Catalyst for Fortune 500 companies attempting to drive Innovation projects thru an internal funnel and smaller companies desiring scale but lacking big picture and big company skill sets.  O'Shea is an expert Business Development professional who blends internal and external resources to maximize client return.  A seasoned General Manager with a deep background in Marketing, Insights and Product Development, O'Shea has a passion for Digital and Technology Strategy which redefines existing business models.

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