‘Research Industry Not Changing Fast Enough for Business’

Jeffrey Henning of Affinova got the chance recently to hear Stan Sthanunathan, vice president of marketing strategies and insights for Coca-Cola, speak about the iconic company’s struggle to maintain its brand power. While Coca-Cola is still the No.1 most recognizable brand in the world, Google and other newer brands are coming uncomfortably close. “Change or perish is the new mantra,” Sthanunathan explained at the 25th anniversary celebration of the founding of The Coca-Cola Center for Marketing Studies. But there’s a problem: The industry that companies like Coca-Cola rely so heavily on to help them navigate rapid change is stuck in slow motion.

According to Sthanunathan, the research industry is not changing fast enough. Too much money is spent on “rear view research” and not enough of it is going toward helping companies “shape the change.”

He says the research industry needs to change its mindset (Research departments “must shift from quantifying the expected to listening for the unexpected”) and be open to innovation (“Researchers need techniques that observe, listen, synthesize and deduce in ways we haven’t in the past.”). But that’s not all, according to Henning, who adds to the list of must-dos for the research industry. At the top of his list is to embrace technology quickly.

Another of our favorites: Focus on business outcomes. He quotes Sthanunathan again: “Never assume that your job is over when you deliver the report. That’s when you work actually begins.” In other words, “Think relationships not transactions.”

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