TEN THOUGHT LEADERS: 21st Century Stars

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Ten thought leaders who are driving the future of consumer intelligence, and eleven to watch.

Extraordinary change is afoot in the consumer research community. Global market research is becoming an imperative. "New media" channels are undoing "old media" mass-marketing strategies. Technology advances are reinventing the way intelligence-gathering gets done. No wonder understanding consumer behavior - and what that means for American business - has become such a complicated endeavor. So it seemed like a good time to take a look at the innovators who are redefining the field - the men and women who know what's up, and what's ahead. Herewith:

Retail

AHEAD OF THE CURVE

Willard Bishop, president, Willard Bishop Consulting, Barrington, Illinois

WHERE HE'S BEEN

Vice president, research, the Supermarket Institute, forerunner of the Food Marketing Institute (FMI)

WHY HE MATTERS

When supermarket retailers and manufacturers must cope with a new problem, or an opportunity requires some measurement, they turn to Bill Bishop. Two years ago, for example, when the idea of loyalty marketing in supermarkets first began to gain widespread industry attention, Bishop laid out the principles of a successful loyalty marketing program in a presentation to the FMI at the Market Techniques Conference in Los Angeles. His conclusions: It's not enough to know who the frequent shoppers are. You must figure out - from the information generated by their cards - how these people shop and what they buy, and then use that information to market to each of them. And, don't forget, you also need to determine what they are spending at other supermarkets, mass merchandisers, and drug stores.

But the food marketing industry is very slow to change, and can be especially disinterested in exploring anything new if it's costly. Bishop helps retailers and manufacturers find low-cost, mutually beneficial information solutions. Encouraging that kind of teamwork hasn't been easy; historically, retailers and manufacturers have been antagonists. Bishop has pushed the industry to see the bigger picture and the opportunities that are available through information. For the first time, much of the industry is finding and applying the link between what people think and what they buy - and why. Supermarkets haven't done that in the past, and Bishop's work has gone a long way toward facilitating that shift in mind-set.

WHAT'S ON HIS MIND

Teamwork, teamwork, teamwork. "There is no question that the cooperation between retailers and manufacturers is getting better. Different types of research are being done by retailers and CPG firms, including some that draw a tighter connection and integration between behavioral research measures and attitudes."

Print

AHEAD OF THE CURVE

Stephen Douglas, general partner, Douglas/Jones Group, New York City

WHERE HE'S BEEN

Senior magazine research executive, Newsweek; vice president of research and development at U.S. News & World Report

WHY HE MATTERS

An expert in print audience research methodologies and the creator of a series of landmark audience accumulation models now being confirmed by Mediamark Research Inc., Douglas has consistently challenged the conventional ways of conducting print research and is always seeking new solutions to help marketers and media achieve sales and communications goals. He is one of the visionaries leading the drive to develop innovations that will make electronic "all media" audience measurement possible in the next decade, including passive technologies that will automatically record the television stations consumers watch, the radio stations they listen to, even the magazines they read, and measure when and where that exposure takes place.

WHAT'S ON HIS MIND

Go back to the fundamentals. "How can we improve response rates? Some possibilities: Ignore non-English-speaking persons for audience measures of English-language publications; if respondents aren't in the geographic definition of the market under study, they should be removed; obtain better telephone household penetration data from the phone companies." Sounds elementary, but the extent to which such rules are ignored is startling. Douglas has seen the future, and thinks it belongs to passive electronic measurement technologies that could blow these response-rate problems away...as long as participants remember to recharge the bracelets every night.

Digital

AHEAD OF THE CURVE

Dennis Gonier, president and CEO, Digital Marketing Services, Lewisville, Texas

WHERE HE'S BEEN

Senior partner, M/A/R/C Group; senior vice president, Target Based Marketing, a division of M/A/R/C

WHY HE MATTERS

In the mid-1990s, when almost no one was taking online research seriously and only a handful of companies were brazen enough to open a business to do it, Gonier founded DMS as a joint venture with America Online and the M/A/R/C Group to do one thing: gauge consumer opinions via the Internet. By 1997, his efforts had convinced a handful of the most important traditional research companies in the country to enter into an alliance with DMS; they included ASI Market Research, Custom Research, and Roper Starch Worldwide, which took the leap into online to see what it had to offer.

When you meet Gonier, you can understand why such prestigious companies took that risk. In five short years, Gonier, a brilliant, enthusiastic executive, has cemented his reputation as an expert in his field and brings his fresh ideas to conferences and meetings all over the world. He must be doing something right: In one year alone, DMS conducted 1.2 million online interviews for more than 1,000 custom projects, including more than 750 concept/ item tests. Now owned by America Online, DMS is poised to enhance its capabilities and service dramatically as part of AOL's research commitment. This will only enhance the perceived value of online market research overall.

WHAT'S ON HIS MIND

"Online market research is being embraced not just by researchers who need speedy information, but by consumers who want to participate - but on their own terms."

Consumer Research

AHEAD OF THE CURVE

Eric Leininger, vice president of consumer insight and strategy, Kraft Foods, Glenview, Illinois

WHERE HE'S BEEN

Director of information, Quaker Oats; vice president, national accounts, ACNielsen

WHY HE MATTERS

In an era in which market research is given short shrift by corporate management, Leininger's department is involved in just about every area of Kraft Foods, and is the force behind some of the most innovative research strategies being developed anywhere. One example: For a targeted cable advertising project in the San Francisco/Oakland area of California, Leininger's crew is reaching down to the household level and testing directed, targeted advertising to homes on a block-by-block basis. As the media environment becomes increasingly niche-driven, this will be the future of advertising in the next five to ten years. Thanks to Leininger, Kraft is leading the way, helping retailers maximize their sales of Kraft brands by communicating more effectively with the neighborhoods each retailer serves.

Leininger's belief in the link between research and retail cannot be understated. You have to provide information to the salespeople who are servicing stores - not just information on outlet sales data, but on the people who are shopping there. In most companies, the information that flows into corporate headquarters never makes it back out to the field sales force. Due in large part to the efforts of Leininger and his department, Kraft has eliminated hard-copy field reports in favor of computer-generated data that is accessible to the company's sales force nationwide.

WHAT'S ON HIS MIND

"We believe industry leadership is driven by information."

Television

AHEAD OF THE CURVE

David Poltrack, executive vice president, research and planning, CBS Television, New York City

WHERE HE'S BEEN

Manager of marketing services, CBS television stations; national sales, director of research and sales promotion; director of marketing information, and vice president of marketing services

WHY HE MATTERS

The institutional memory of network research, Poltrack's been in his position longer than anyone, and with good reason. He revolutionized the way CBS does its internal research, and his industry leadership continues unabated. In 1995, he was one of the forces behind the decision by CBS to build a focus-group testing facility in Los Angeles, which has given CBS programming executives access to - and a deeper appreciation of - the role of research in the development process. His belief in the need to make new-programming decisions based on more than just Nielsen numbers led to the creation of a tracking research department to measure audience awareness and receptivity.

People who have worked alongside him describe Poltack as a pioneer and an innovator. He puts pressure on the decision-makers in his industry to do the right thing, and has been a bridge between television and other research fields.

WHAT'S ON HIS MIND

It won't be enough to show which people are watching television. A total measurement package is needed, one that tracks television, radio, and Internet usage: "By 2005, I foresee a new television measurement system born out of Internet-based technology that could converge with Nielsen ratings and possibly be integrated with other media measurements in very large samples."

One-to-One

AHEAD OF THE CURVE

Don Peppers and Martha Rogers, partners, Peppers and Rogers Group, Stamford, Connecticut

WHERE THEY'VE BEEN

CEO, Perkins/Butler Direct Marketing; Adjunct professor, Fuqua School of Business, respectively

WHY THEY MATTER

Since 1985, Peppers and Rogers have been telling everyone who would listen - and a lot of people who wouldn't - that mass marketing has been all very well and good, but one-to-one marketing is now essential for growing a company. Peppers and Rogers are true evangelists, selling a concept that is gradually being adopted in marketing circles around the world, impacting retailers and manufacturers because it puts the focus squarely on consumers.

The authors of two important books, The One-to-One Future: Building Relationships One Customer at a Time, and Enterprise One-to-One: Tools for Competing in the Interactive Age, they have brought new meaning to the term segmentation because they believe that customers should be ranked by their value, and then differentiated according to their individual needs. They make no trade-offs on privacy, albeit for practical reasons: Selling individual information won't be that worthwhile if a mailbox (or an e-mailbox) glutted with marketing messages leads to a consumer decision not to share any personal information at all.

WHAT'S ON THEIR MINDS

Never mind the masses. "Traditional marketing focuses on one product at a time, trying to sell that product to as many customers as possible. One-to-one focuses on one customer at a time, and on trying to satisfy as many of those customers' needs as possible over the entire duration of their relationship with the product, using new and better data sources."

Global

AHEAD OF THE CURVE

Juergen Schwoerer, director general, ESOMAR, Amsterdam

James Spaeth, president, Advertising Research Foundation, New York City

WHERE THEY'VE BEEN

Brand manager, Procter & Gamble, vice president, marketing, Neutrogena; Executive vice president/ventures, ASI Market Research, respectively

WHY THEY MATTER

Schwoerer and Spaeth may not be joined at the hip, but their individual commitments to the future of global research virtually mirror one another. The world is shrinking, as is the market research business. In the past five years, the industry has been on a remarkable acquisition spree, with research companies on onecontinent gobbling up their counterparts on another. As a result of this rapid consolidation, global information networks are being established and the execution of truly international studies has become a more plausible endeavor. That will translate into a clearer understanding of worldwide consumer attitudes and behaviors, but more importantly, an understanding of how to collect that information.

Schwoerer's and Spaeth's organizations are empowering marketers to achieve these global results. Probably neither man would win a popularity contest among the memberships, but then again, market researchers have never been terribly open to change. Schwoerer and Spaeth recognize that maintaining the status quo is tantamount to a death sentence for the industry, and they are committed to doing the things that will grow the industry's bottom line and the profession's prestige. Expanding the use of market research worldwide is one of their key initiatives.

WHAT'S ON THEIR MINDS

As head of the ARF, the largest market research association in the United States, Spaeth's slogan is "profitable marketing through effective research." And what that really points to is the need of the marketing research profession to prove its worth to the businesses for which it toils. Increasingly, that will be a global challenge and industry initiative. By the same token, ESOMAR calls itself "the world association of research professionals" - a straightforward pronouncement of Schwoerer's plans for the association's future.

Scanner Data

AHEAD OF THE CURVE

Steven Schmidt, president, ACNielsen US, Schaumburg, Illinois

WHERE HE'S BEEN

Vice president, frozen foods division, The Pillsbury Company; president, Canadian operations, Pillsbury

WHY HE MATTERS

In 1995, Schmidt joined ACNielsen to run its U.S. operations, which had lost nearly $50 million the year before. It took him only a year to reverse that situation and to build a momentum that continues to this day. In fact, the U.S. division has led the way for ACNielsen's operation worldwide. A man who bestows credit on his superiors and his staff, Schmidt gave ACNielsen US a distinctive customer focus that its clients immediately recognized and were drawn to.

Schmidt's division has funneled extraordinary resources into new technologies, partnerships, and services. His leadership ensures that ACNielsen will be around for a long time, and that means a clearer picture of what consumers are spending, where, and why.

WHAT'S ON HIS MIND

"People are consuming goods and services in many different kinds of outlets. The challenge is how to track those buys for a 100 percent overview of market consumption."

Media

AHEAD OF THE CURVE

Richard Weinstein, executive director, Media Ratings Council, New York City

WHERE HE'S BEEN

Director of media research, Dancer/Fitzgerald/Sample; vice president of marketing and sales, Arbitron

WHY HE MATTERS

For years, the Media Ratings Council (formerly the Electronic Media Ratings Council) has been auditing and assessing the efforts of some of the country's most important research organizations. But since 1993, when Weinstein became the executive director, the MRC has grown to 56 member organizations and now audits the practices of seven research companies, including Arbitron and Statistical Research Inc. Six additional companies have applied to go through the accreditation process in 2000, including Intelliquest and J.D. Power & Associates.

Under Weinstein's direction, this small organization has emerged as an increasingly influential force. Companies like Nielsen Media Research now open much wider reaches of their practices to MRC scrutiny. MRC's areas of investigation, once limited to television and radio, expanded into print media reviews of Simmons Marketing Research and Mediamark Research in the late 1990s, and in January 2000, Weinstein announced the group's plan to review the Internet audience reporting work of Media Metrix and Nielsen NetRatings.

Weinstein's efforts grow in importance as questions about research reliability and credibility reach a fever pitch. He put the MRC back on track by reminding its membership that its mandate is not only to verify the methodology being used by research companies, but also to examine the quality and the appropriateness of the research methods being used.

WHAT'S ON HIS MIND

Bad data is useless data. "My biggest contribution is to bring together all the media research constituencies into a single body whose focus is on just one thing: the quality of research being produced today."

Multicultural

AHEAD OF THE CURVE

Isabel Valdes, president and founder, Cultural Access Group, Los Altos, California

WHERE SHE'S BEEN

Director, IC-Net

WHY SHE MATTERS

After a year that saw Ricky Martin, Jennifer Lopez, and Marc Anthony become household names, there's not much that needs to be said about the importance of the Hispanic market. But until a few years ago, there were few serious, large-scale efforts to measure and track Hispanic consumers in the United States. Valdes was in the vanguard of the effort to explain to the research industry how the shortcomings of previous ethnic research efforts could be overcome.

They got the message. Selected by ACNielsen to help its Homescan service build a Hispanic panel in Los Angeles, Valdes received important support and funding from some of the biggest packaged goods companies in the country, including Procter & Gamble and Kraft Foods. Expect to see the Hispanic panel expand into other major markets.

Among Valdes' biggest achievements are the development of standardized testing and language segmentation techniques, particularly important because understanding and predicting Hispanic consumer behavior is greatly affected by household language orientation. She has established processes by which her researchers can accurately identify and adjust their methodologies for all kinds of custom research, and this will only gain significance as the Hispanic population continues its unprecedented growth over the next few decades.

WHAT'S ON HER MIND

Hey, big spender. "Our research has shown that the Hispanic market overdelivers against the national average on a per-dollar basis when the right campaign and the right language are used."

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