In the Beginning
Recently Mr. Mike Courtney, Market Research Insight and UGA MMR Grad, called to ask if I knew the origin of Market Research as we know it today? Early in my Procter & Gamble career, I was told that it was P&G that created the corporate profession of market Research. I was told that in the early 1930s, Dr. Paul Smelser formed what we know today as the market Research Department. After digging into my files on the history of P&G, I discovered that I was wrong on the date and also to some extent the credit of discovery.
According to my records, in 1923, Mr. Cooper Procter and Richard Deupree did something no other company of its kind had ever done. They established an economic research department whose chief assignment was to help anticipate fluctuations in the commodity market. One of the early economists was Dr. Paul Smelser. He was less interested in studying commodity prices than asking questions about what consumers thought about P&G brands. In 1924 Dr. Smelser officially created the P&G Market Research Department.
Also according to the records, at the same time (1923), a section was being
created in the Chemical Division to study ways of satisfying consumers. A
young man by the name of Wes Blair was assigned the job of conducting this
investigation. In his assignment Wes went into the field with advertising
crews and sales representatives. He distributed product samples, interviewed
homemakers, spent time in commercial laundries and bakeries talking to people
who used P&G's products.
For years there had been a laundry behind the employees' lunchroom at the
Ivorydale plant. It was used for washing uniforms. Wes took over
the laundry and it became a laboratory for studying commercial laundry methods
and seeking ways to improve them. The laboratory was the first of its
kind in American industry.
I think it is extremely important to note exactly what was taking place
independently in two locations within P&G at the same time. Basically,
they were jointly creating a very complete market research, consumer research,
customer research and product research program. Three out of the four
components were unheard of at the time. Even today few companies have
as complete a program. They were looking at both Attitude and Performance.
They were studying both the Consumer and the Customer. They
were developing products and working to understand the consumer's needs.
They were designing tests to evaluate products in the lab as well as
in the home.
I believe this dual approach to consumer/market research has proven to be successful over decades. Does your company use a similar model? If not, why not? If not, should it?
A secondary point, in 1951, I was working for Western Electric testing the effectiveness of long distance dialing equipment. AT&T made me an offer of employment I thought I could not refuse. But they had an agreement with Western Electric not to recruit their people. I had to find another job for six months and then I could go to work for AT&T. I took a job with P&G in one of their laundry testing labs. I stayed with P&G longer than the planned 6 months, actually 39 years longer!
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