market research evolution chart
October 27, 2021

The Evolution of Market Research – Part 1

Market research is not a recent development. It goes back further than many might realize, evolving over many decades. Of course, the history of market research is important to all of us here at Focus Forward. The market research that we know and use today would have been impossible in the earliest days. Starting years before the internet, it was performed by researchers who relied on various methods to gather data that would grow and develop over the years.

To understand the history of market research, we need to look back nearly 100 years, to the 1920s.

The Start of Market Research

While types of market research may have occurred before the 1920s, this is when the first widely known method was created. In the 1920s, psychologist Daniel Starch created a survey called the Starch Test that was used to determine how effective ads in newspapers were. Starch and his associates conducted this test by approaching strangers on the street to question them on ads they had seen in newspapers. This test helped show whether or not people remembered the ads to which they were exposed, in order to show if they were effective enough to make an impact.

Market Research in the 1930s

Shortly after the Starch Test started to be used, the aided recall method was created. This was developed by George Gallup, who founded Gallup Inc. He would ask people to recall information about ads they had seen without showing them the ads. This helped show how well people could remember certain elements of an ad, which was then used to help make ads in newspapers, radio, and television more effective. Gallup also created the Gallup poll, which he used to predict the outcome of U.S. elections.

The 1940s and 1950s

While market research was already in use for two decades by the 1940s, this is when the start of focus groups begins. During this time, consumerism in America also increased after World War II ended. Focus groups, credited to Paul Lazarsfeld and Robert Merton, provided market researchers with more information than surveying and polling could. One of the first reasons focus groups were used was to gauge people’s opinions on propaganda during the war.

The 1940s also saw the start of a new type of market research called motivational research, developed by Ernest Dichter and based on Freudian psychology. This helped market researchers understand more about how consumers actually felt about different brands and products. Both focus groups and motivational research provided market researchers with qualitative data, rather than only quantitative data, which had been previously used. In-depth interviews were also being used by market researchers during this time to help them better understand their thoughts and feelings.

Stay Tuned for Part 2 of this Series

There’s a lot to learn about market research and its history, which is why we’re creating a two-part blog series covering some of the most important moments. In our next post, we’ll take the time to cover more recent developments.

Until then, feel free to contact Focus Forward to learn more about the services we offer!