LANRE FASAKIN is currently serving his second tenure as the president of NiMRA, an umbrella body for marketing research practitioners in Nigeria. He is also the Chief executive officer of Communication and Marketing Research Group Limited (CMRG), an independent and full service agency with strong professional competence in marketing, social and opinion research. In this encounter with Research Intelligence magazine Fasakin, among other issues canvasses that proper assessment based on the content of proposals to be the principle which clients should consider in giving out jobs rather than the name of the company sending the proposal.
What does a client stand to gain by using marketing research services?
You would connect extremely well if you are consumer-led. Marketing is all about identifying needed but unfulfilled prospects and creating a product to meet such at a profit. So research gives that platform for you to really dig and understand existing needs especially, given the backdrop that the needs of yesterday may differ from today’s requirements. So through research you stay in constant touch by understanding consumer needs now and what they are likely to do in the future. With that you stay relevant and competitive.
Do you think businesses in Nigeria appreciate marketing research the way they should?
Yes and no. I have said this in past interview platforms. The multinationals that are really fluted and square understand and appreciate research the way they should, and the industry owes a lot to such companies. They understand the fact that you dare not make decisions concerning brands without carrying the consumers along and that mind-set has been working for them. That’s on one hand. On the other hand, the indigenous Nigerian investors still have a long road to travel as far as research is concerned. Curiously they need research more to grow their brands which are, at best, regional giants. They are the ones that really need to make their brands more international and more successful. But for some reasons they see research more as cost rather than investment. Big irony indeed.
Really, the onus is on the market research industry to make them appreciate the role research stands to play in making their brands bigger and better in the business of having to satisfy consumer needs. Right now, the typical Nigerian entrepreneur looks at the bottom line and if it is good he is happy. Now the question is; why make ten naira when you could make one hundred. .
How rewarding is the field of marketing research?
Market research is quite rewarding but the gestation period is pretty long. If you are the type that wants to make quick money within months, market research is definitely not for you. It is knowledge-based industry. You must be prepared to learn on a continuous basis and be disposed to regularly improve your set-skills. By extension, you use that knowledge to add value to the course of the brand. Then with hard work, diligence and God’s grace it can be quite rewarding. Mark my words, it’s not the industry where you jump in today and start counting millions in two to three years. Patience is the key word. If you want it to be rewarding you should be prepared to learn the ropes, gain experience, train yourself, update yourself in the skills that modern day marketing research requires and by extension you become invaluable to brands. If you add value to a brand today, it is not likely to forget you by the time the brand plan for the next year is being put together. So it’s about the extent to which you can add value on a continuous basis.
How has marketing research contributed to the development of the Nigerian economy?
The economy right now is in a situation where market research plays a vital role than ever before. If the economy is improving you need to sustain it by evolving strategies to maintain current capacity levels and perhaps, surpass them. On the other hand, when the economy is recessed, innovations, new product concepts into the use local raw materials come in handy. Market research is highly invaluable in both situations. The name of the game is boosting GDP. Specifically, in situations where your brand is not doing well, you need to research to find out the causes; remote and immediate, and possibly come up with insights that would keep you afloat again. Simply put, GDP can be made better when the brands become bigger and one of the ways to accomplish this is through research. I can give you a very good example. Most of the manufacturing companies still find themselves in a situation where they import raw materials. Through new product development and innovation research, raw materials can be sourced locally and products would still deliver about the same level of efficiency. We do a lot of product testing from time to time. Key objective sometimes is to reduce reliance on foreign raw materials and source locally instead. It’s a win -win situation for all stake- holders. Let’s not also forget the area of job creation. You have quite a number of young graduates who are gainfully engaged in the industry of market research. I wish government could look in this direction in trying to boost the economy of the country. If you help strengthen research agencies, the employment creation potentials are immense. Right now, the country seems to be enmeshed in lack in the middle of plenty.
What’s the total number of the workforce in the marketing research industry?
We have permanent employment and those who work on ad-hoc basis. Let me state clearly here that we have in each state a sort of existing market research infrastructure. If you want to conduct a survey in any state of the federation you go to people in that space working as interviewers, supervisors, focus group discussion recruiters and quality control managers. So if you are looking at that pool of casual participants in data collection you are talking about hundreds of thousand but if you are looking at the permanent employees of the respective market research companies we are looking at a few hundreds.
Is there any role research can play in mitigating the risks of economic recession?
A huge role. Research is the tool you use when the economy is good and also when the economy is not so good. In this case when the economy is not so good you try and focus on sourcing materials locally so that the stress on our foreign exchange via importation is reduced. Research stands to be that tool that can help the entrepreneur understand ways of using local raw materials to replace the imported ones and if that alone is achieved, we stand to do better on our GDP.
Are you satisfied with the level of market research service patronage from the government and private sector companies?
The answer to that question naturally is no. But again you may not blame them because you cannot run faster than your legs can carry you. Here’s the private sector that does not even know that the industry exists. We’ve seen situations where people have seen our proposals and they would be asking if the proposal came from Nigeria and if there are people in Nigeria doing market research. So you could say that to a large extent a good number of people in Nigeria still do not know the role market research plays. With the government I hate to say that the public sector is not run professionally. People are not driven by productivity and profit motivations. The day we begin to look at public service with the eye of going there to drive results, that is when strategies will come into play and platforms such as marketing research would assume more relevance.
What is the future of marketing research in Nigeria?
The future is about using technology to enhance our competencies. Things are evolving in quick successions and we have to stay abreast of these happenings and be on top of our game. Many of the routines are now digital. Data collection through to data processing and analysis are now technology based, and online panels are daily assuming stronger relevance. The extent to which you align with these changes therefore, plays a role in determining whether or not you have a future in the industry.
Challenges facing the industry
The challenges for me would be that the bigger agencies right now seem to have an unfair advantage over the indigenous market research companies in Nigeria. Our industry is still pretty much carried away by big names-the multinationals. I would sincerely advise that proposals output from research agencies should be assessed based on merit and not necessarily the name that is pushing it forward. In any case, it is Nigerians that are driving these names after all. So if a research executive works with a multinational research agency that person enjoys a level of perception from the client different from if that same person moves from that multinational to an indigenous research agency tomorrow. It’s high time we started assessing output based on content and not on the name of the proposal.