Reg Baker clarified some of his earlier musings on Reg’s Law this morning — in particular, he highlighted the cultural conflict between traditional market research methodologies and the Silicon Valley-style technology-driven competitive environment. Having worked in both, I felt these observations were spot on: traditional research is more closely aligned with academia, and technology companies are more aligned with the applied sciences. This should not be surprising.
The implications are more subtle, but rather significant:
- Competitive advantage in traditional research is driven by professional relationships, because there are no fundamentally large barriers to entry for new participants. There are no industry standard boards to conform with, no multi-million-dollar investments necessary to get started. Salesmanship is driven by the experience and quality of the people offering services.
- Competitive advantage in technology comes from establishing an official or de facto standard or platform. Establishing these platforms requires capital, relatively large engineering teams, and intellectual property protection.
Jumping forward 10 years: if you believe that technology companies will become major participants in the research economy, then you must also believe that transparency in how these companies do things will be much less than you are accustomed to.
Nowhere is this more obvious than comparing the conferences and trade shows that dominate each respective sector:
- In traditional research, we have venues like TMRE or ESOMAR or TMRTE or MRMW which are run by independent organizations. They attract a broad spectrum of industry participants, both client and vendor side, where there is no clear “top dog” on the show floor. The content spectrum is broad, with a fair amount of “selling”.
- In technology industries, these venues are predominantly platform or company-specific. IBM hosts developer events for their platforms. Oracle hosts developer events for their platforms. Apple hosts developer events. Microsoft hosts developer events. Every attendee understands quite well who the top dog is; the content is more narrowly defined and is generally intended to provide companies that rely on those technologies to remain informed and competitive.
There is no incentive for a platform provider to disclose how they are creating their platform. And that is exactly what Google, Microsoft, IBM, Apple, and others will be trying to do as they experiment with and expand into the research sector. Transparency will still be demanded by their customers, however, and so instead you will see an increasing amount of transparency in the data…just not in how it’s being collected.