There are times when marketers need to have more than a snapshot of their marketplace.

Times when they need to understand why their market is as it is, and why consumers interact as they do with the brands or services on offer. The world we live in is changing at an unprecedented pace. Media channels are proliferating, and technology adoption has never been more rapid than it is today. More than ever, marketers need fast, continuous feedback on how their marketing program is working.To respond to changes in consumer demand successfully, retailers and manufacturers need an accurate, timely and complete view of the market landscape in order to be able to make strategic decisions. This information also needs to change very rapidly as the perception of value is a subjective one and what customers value this year might be quite different from what they would next year.

As such, the attributes that create value cannot simply be deduced from common knowledge. The goal of marketing research is to provide facts and directions for managers to make important marketing decisions. Therefore, data must be collected and analysed.In developing international marketing strategy, information is even more important for effective decision making. Lack of familiarity with customers, competitors and the market environment in other countries, coupled with the growing complexity and diversity of international markets, makes it increasingly vital to collect information in relation to the International markets.

(Craig & Douglas)The marketing research industry discovered branding in the mid 80's and it experienced phenomenal growth in the 90's.In 1985 during the MRS conference John Goodyear made a number of predictions about the marketing research future. He predicted that research would become increasing industrialised, standardised and systematised. The predictions made, were so true, that today the markets are flooded with Branded Research Products which has led to an increasing number of dissatisfied clients. (Tim Bowles)Nowadays any large marketing research firm's web site displays a vast array of branded research products, as solutions for everything, from market segmentation to customer value analysis. The existence and development of standardised or branded market research products was said to be an important factor in the sales success of some market research companies.

It is considered that the normative data, case study examples and brand reputation of such standardised products gives them a credibility which other research services do not have and therefore cannot compete with. The availability of branded research products was also seen as a factor in the growth of international research. With global strategies, global measures were employed to enable global comparisons. The purpose of the essay is to illustrate the advantages and disadvantage Branded Research Products offer to both, the client and the research companies.

In order to be effective, the research must be associated with a decision. Marketing research is committed to the principle of utility. When a potential decision exists, it is important to be identified explicitly so that the research can be designed for maximum effectiveness. A more useful way to clarify the decision, motivating the research, is to ask: "What alternative actions are to be considered? What actions would be taken, given the various feasible outcomes of the research?"The following alternatives could be considered by the Research agencies after assessing the possible outcomes of the research:* Discontinue the use of branded research products.* Reduce the level of branded research products they try to sell.

* Increase the level of flexibility or customisation associated with branded research products. So that, they could retain the main framework of the product, but also customise it to a certain extent to suit the client's individual needs.Both of these alternatives will be examined in more detail during the course of the essay. Additionally, a conclusion will be drawn as to how viable both of these alternatives are to the clients and the agencies.

AdvantagesAdvantages to the ClientFrom the clients point of view there are a few major benefits.Through Branded Research Products a standardized global approach is available, which can be applied internationally to facilitate comparisons between markets for the Research issues. A company can do research in a number of countries using the same approach and compare the results. Furthermore, this makes the research products cost effective for both the clients.

The availability of database of past studies and the norms established, make the results of greater practical value in decision makingThe added value from top level research thinking is integral to the approach, rather than being entirely dependent on the individual researcher carrying out a project. The growth of integrated management information systems in client companies creates a natural hunger for standardized techniques.Advantages to the research companyThe research companies also get a few benefits from selling the Branded Research Products. The standardization of the research also makes it beneficial in context of cost, as doing research across countries as a similar approach used by the company will lead to lesser costs involved in Development of the Marketing ResearchFor the agency, its most highly skilled executive time can be deployed in the creation and development of the research system.

Once established, the research system can be promoted and to some extent applied by the executives of less outstanding technical talent. In effect the investment of the most highly skilled executive time can be spread over a number of projects, rather than having to be occupied by just one.At a time when cost pressures will militate against added value in individual ad hoc project, BRP provides an opportunity to amortize the cost of skilled research resource over many projects. In a competitive environment branded research services could act to guarantee rather than impair quality in research.DisadvantagesA large number of marketing research customers are dissatisfied with branded research products because they pay a premium price for a standardised product.

Such customers feel that if they are paying a high price for a product they should be getting levels of customisation that branded products simply don't offer. There are also issues in terms of branded research being like a 'black box' and problems with growing levels of standardisation when researching internationally.In terms of cost, branded research products are often as expensive as individual tailor-made solutions. However, many companies that conduct large amounts of research don't believe that a standardised type of research should cost as much as customised research that is created specifically for your company's problem.

This raises the question with many companies of why should a mass-produced, standardised product cost as much as a customised, tailor-made product. If this is compared with a different sector then you wouldn't pay the same price for a mass produced Ford as you would for a custom built Rolls Royce. (Reference). Many research agencies ask is a product with no flexibility worth the premium price merely because it is branded.

Often branded research products are useful when dealing with routine research problems. However, when analysing situation specific problems their use is limited because they are not moulded to fit exact research questions. Dick Whittington, of American express, says bluntly that they never buy branded products:"When we look for ad hoc solutions to problems it is very rare that we can find a 'canned' or branded product that provides what we need."Clients conducting market research want to believe that that their situation is unique and therefore standardized or 'canned' branded research is not very appealing. This issue is often exacerbated by Research Company's lack of understanding of a customer's research problem.

The researcher often does not take time to understand the client's problem but instead offers the company a branded research solution that does not fit the research problem trying to be solved. This can lead to the creation of negative knowledge that gives clients wrong information that leads to wrong decisions.It's true that the world economy is undergoing a globalisation. But still there are so many cultural differences between different parts of the world that it is quite difficult to come to a true global marketing research approach. The use of branded research products does not advance the creation and dissemination of knowledge in the market research field. This is because a common denominator among some of these products is that the firms won't disclose exactly how they work.

That's why they are pejoratively known as black boxes. What's more, it places emphasis on the researcher's tool kit rather than the researcher. In its extreme form, it results in the researchers letting the research product do their thinking for them. "Implicit is the fact that the attitude of many researchers is; the anxiety that the fight for profit will reduce the quality of the research which we produce.

" (Tim Bowles)In terms of international marketing research branded products have brought some advantages in terms of comparability across national boundaries. Nevertheless, the freedom of the researcher is less because there are still all sorts of standardised products. Additionally, it has required researchers to do things the same way that researchers in other countries do them, so perhaps it has limited them to a certain extent. There are very few global brands where you can do the same thing in every market.Many researchers are used to getting their creative satisfaction from designing individual, ad-hoc solutions for each client brief.

For them to move towards a branded research may suggest a form of standardization in which every research problem is reduced to the lowest common denominator.Clients choose people not agencies.Because of the ambiguity that surrounds technical excellence and the difficulty clients have in appraising it, personal relationships with clients take on a great significance in every profession. (Maister, 1989)Clients will make a choice of research agencies which is often based upon the personal skills of the individual researchers and their relationship with them. Their company environment will, however, encourage them to take competitive bids for any ad hoc survey and they will need good justification for deciding to accept a significantly higher bid from their favoured supplier.

FutureThere will continue to be a need for top quality ad hoc research, in which the research design is tailor-made to meet individual and special information needs. Such projects will always need the skills of an all-round, professional researcher.Design and analysis time for research projects will become increasingly restricted due to the fact that everything has started to move and change faster than 20 years ago, for example. Logistics and information flow become faster as communications improve. When the logistics become more rapid there is an assumption that everything becomes faster including design and analysis. But who says people can think faster or better than they did 20 years ago? (We've got five years)As the time pressures grow on clients and agencies the branded research product will have one method of shortening the design and interpretation stage without overly degrading the quality.

Effectively, client and researcher are forgoing the luxury of learning and thinking on each project and substituting it by learning and thinking across projects.The focus will be on how projectable the results are, rather than how pure was the methodology. Clients will measure the quality of the outputs instead of measuring the quality of the inputs.A danger for the future of the market research industry is that the conditions for organic growth may be difficult to create within larger marketing services and information groups.

Consequently, some ingenuity must be applied to devise incentive schemes that reward the management teams that contribute to the long-term growth of their companies. To compete in the present business environment, market research needs to invest. In the future, there will be a continued need for top quality ad hoc research, in which research is tailor-made to meet individual and special information needs. - Bowles TimLimitationsEven though this essay covers most of the positive and negative aspects of branded research products, there are some limitations due to the lack of sources for conducting secondary data research.

The subject of branded research products being fairly new to the industry, not much research has been published in this area previously. Furthermore, no primary research has been conducted attributable to the lack of time, money and contacts.ConclusionBranded research products have both advantages and disadvantages. The relevance and the benefits of using these products is determined by each problem or situation individually. The market researcher's best bet is to use these products only when the problem is somewhat routine and/or standardization is required across many different units or countries.At the beginning of the essay we discussed three main decision alternatives that could be used by market research firms to deal with the dilemma of customer dissatisfaction regarding branded research tools.

These were:* Discontinue the use of branded research products* Reduce the level of branded research products they try to sell.* Increase the level of flexibility or customisation associated with branded research products. So that, they could retain the main framework of the product, but also customise it to a certain extent to suit the client's individual needs.After assesing the pros and cons of these products we can confidently conclude that to discontinue or reduce the level of branded research products that the firms employ would be foolhardy. This is due to the increasing trend in the industry to employ such methods.

Any company not branding their research methods would face huge problems in terms of product recognition and association. With ever increasing levels of globalization and standardised brands, a consistent approach to market research is increasingly important, especially when conducting large scale, international marketing research. Branded research offers clients a higher degree of continuity when carrying out research across different markets and countries.However, sometimes the rigidity in structure and the high cost of these market research tools are not appropriate for certain research problems and research clients. Some clients may be dissatisfied with the 'mass-produced' solution that these research tools churn out, because they may not prodvide a fitting answer to their research question.Therefore we conclude that branded research tools are more useful when they are associated with a degree of flexibity to suit the clients individual needs.

Additionally, branded research products provide a great level of comparability, if used correctly, when researching across cultures and countries. If research firms could provide a certain degree of flexibility to their products then branded research products could go a long way in improving the efficiency of the research industry.