Canadian Market Research At the Crossroads: The Rise & Fall of the
Marketing Research & Intelligence Association
(November 21, 2004 – July 31, 2018)
To all MRIA Members:
We want to inform you that the Marketing Research and Intelligence Association will cease day to day operations effective on July 31st. The organization will be formally wound down during the month of August. The Board of Directors reached this decision after careful consideration and consultations. The organization’s current financial situation leaves no other possible alternative. With a steady erosion of membership revenues and subsequent to the recent Annual Conference that left us with a significant shortfall, we are compelled to undertake this action.
On Behalf of the MRIA Board of Directors,
With the demise of the MRIA Canada is left without a national association of market research organizations and professionals.
I was a member of the MRIA and its predecessor PMRS from 1985 to 2016.
I neither mourn nor praise the MRIA. I want to bury it.
The MRIA was founded with the merger of the Professional Market Research Society (PMRS), the Canadian Association of Market Research Organizations (CAMRO), and the Canadian Survey Research Council (CSRC).
I remember opposing the merger for the following reasons:
1. The possible creation of special member categories for corporate members, thereby creating a second-class membership for individuals. The danger was that the membership fees for individuals would be used to subsidize the promotional activities of corporate members;
2. The possible disproportionate increase in annual individual membership fees that would make membership by individual market research professionals too costly. Also, corporate membership fees might be so prohibitive that smaller organizations may not be able to justify the cost;
3. The new association would have a bias in favour of corporate members to the detriment of smaller organizations and individual practitioners.
All three of my concerns turned out to be well-founded.
The MRIA did create corporate memberships.
Annual membership fees did increase substantially.
And there was a strong bias in favour of it Gold Seal Certification members, that is, the large corporate research agencies.
On top of that, the MRIA became increasingly disconnected from its membership. First, it stopped publishing its hard-copy Vue magazine, opting for an electronic version. Then, it dropped its electronic version of the magazine.
The MRIA did nothing to counteract the commoditization of the market research profession and off-shoring of market research activities – probably because it corporate members were engaged in such activities.
The MRIA focused on polling, leaving aside other market research methodologies. I am sure that many qualitative researchers left the MRIA in favour of the Qualitative Research Consultants Association (QRCA).
The MRIA paid lip service to Competitive Intelligence, even though CI can provide insights that may not be possible by mere polling.
Mystery shopping? The MRIA missed the boast on that methodology.
The MRIA failed because of a declining membership that saw the MRIA as irrelevant and unresponsive. When I left the MRIA in 2016 I had no idea that I was not alone.
The MRIA is gone. Now is the time to build on new foundations.
Principles of a New Canadian Market Research Association
Yes, I would like to see a new market research association for Canada. This new association must avoid the pitfalls that destroyed the MRIA.
Here are some guiding principles for the new association:
• It should be based on individual memberships only. No corporate memberships that make individuals and small companies in to second-class members;
• It should inclusive: not just Quantitative Research practitioners, but also Qualitative Research consultants, Competitive Intelligence professionals and Mystery Shopping organizations. Even special libraries professionals should be considered as members;
• A special emphasis should be put on encouraging the membership of market research professionals (their employers) who do not work for market vendors. This would also include marketing consultants;
• An improved national convention. This was a problem even with the PMRS. At the conventions I attended, most of the participants (90+%) were market research vendors.
With these principles, a better, more inclusive and more effective market research association can be created in Canada.
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