Market Research

A New Type of Research Agency, Inspired by Stan Sthanunathan, Coca Cola VP of Global Insights

[Note: this is a re-post of a blog I wrote for the AMA‘s Marketing Research Conference site earlier this week]

While Stan was presenting at the AMA’s Marketing Research Conference this week, he shared his view that for market research agencies to make the leap to being truly valuable to clients, they need to do more synthesis and make proactive recommendations.  OK, coming from the guy who buys market research for Coca Cola, that sounds great. But is there broader demand for market researchers who can synthesize and be proactive?

But wait, there’s more.

He also wants to, and plans to start doing this, pay for research on a performance basis. Yup, market research agencies working with Coca Cola will soon be negotiating for pay-for-performance compensation. (By coincidence, I wrote on this recently for Research-Live: LINK). Alas, he was not very specific on how this would work–how “value” would be judged.  But he was quite firm that this is what he would be doing.

So is there a business opportunity? Would a new agency that positioned itself around synthesis and recommendations (perhaps not even conducting primary research!) make money? How about if it had a pay-for-performance model?

What do you think? Should we give it a try?


Kathryn Korostoff

Kathryn Korostoff is founder and lead instructor at Research Rockstar. Over the past 25 years, she has personally directed more than 600 primary market research projects and published over 100 bylined articles in magazines. She is also a professor at Boston University, where she teaches grad students how to analyze and report quantitative data.

Related Articles

5 thoughts on “A New Type of Research Agency, Inspired by Stan Sthanunathan, Coca Cola VP of Global Insights”

  1. Kathryn

    Some of us are already trying the model of synthesis and recommendations, with no primary research. Tapestry Works have also done work on a performance basis.

    Is the business model proved? Not yet, but I think it will be and I believe it’s the future whether we like it or not. If market research companies continue to rely on CPI based business models, I don’t see much future for them, as data will become cheaper and easier to access. The value is in how the data is used, not how much of it we can collect. I look forward to Coca-Cola evaluating research suppliers based on value creation!


  2. First, LOVE the company name. Like many folks, I always use the phrase “weaving” to describe the process of finding the “so what” stuff from a project.

    Second, and sorry to be cynical, my hunch is that the value to customers will be from pain relief–the pain being that an agency didn’t deliver what was really needed. I think this service is almost a rescue mission 😉 Hopefully I am wrong and people will seek this out periodically to leverage existing data, etc. into new insights–that would be ideal!

    Good luck with the new model!

  3. Hi Kathryn

    MR agencies may fall into a problem based on the way clients calculate ROI of research. They may not evaluate an “insight” or research finding by the intuitive feeling it gives them. They may measure it in terms of a pre-post check after implementing the researcher’s recommendations. But there are chances that a really great insight could not be implemented well by the client because of some operational bottlenecks or other reasons independent of the MR agency. Then who decides the value of that insight? It is difficult to quantify that.

  4. Kathryn

    I think you’re being too cynical! So far, the majority of the data synthesis & workshop work I’ve done is to help clients “weave together” multiple data sources, such as reports commissioned across markets, methodologies or business issues, into a simple integrated story. That is, creating new value from existing data. I’m open to rescue missions too, but I think in those circumstances, clients tend to go back to the supplier and make sure they deliver what’s expected (or they change supplier).


  5. My question to Coke: Are you willing to allow me to pay only when you provide me with a beverage that meets performance expectations at that given moment?

    My point: A pay for performance model has limitations

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.