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Marketing research in Nigeria is not well coordinated, says Femi Daramola

By Sunday Aikulola
12 November 2021   |   4:05 am
It is an erroneous belief. People might say research is expensive, but if you look at its benefit, you are actually investing. At the end of the day, when the return of that investment is coming, you will know that it is not actually expensive.

Daramola

Femi Daramola is the Managing Director, Communication and Marketing Research Group (CMRG) Limited. In this interview with SUNDAY AIKULOLA, he talks about the challenge facing marketing research in Nigeria.

Marketing research is considered as expensive, what is your reaction to this?
It is an erroneous belief. People might say research is expensive, but if you look at its benefit, you are actually investing. At the end of the day, when the return of that investment is coming, you will know that it is not actually expensive. We did a job recently that took us to 30 states of the federation. So, for that type of job, it is going to be expensive. Face to face interview is more expensive than telephone. The advantages of interfacing with your respondents are higher than telephone interview.

There is another school of thought that says researches end up in the shelf without being implemented or the outcome of the research could compound what was already on ground, what is your view on this?
When we go to the fields and gather data, you are expected to give reports to the client that commissioned the job.

Before a client commissions any job, that means he has a problem that he wants to solve. So, you need to answer the objectives of your client. If you are writing your report, you address the objectives one after the other. You must generate insight for your client. If that insight were not there, then your report would be dumped on the shelf. You must also tell them an interesting story. Do an executive summary that will have the entire outcome on only one or two slides. So, when you present it that way, they find it more useful than when you just dump it on their table. As a professional, if you are not able to do that, your report may be dumped somewhere.

What new things are you bringing to CMRG?
The former managing director did well. So, I want to sustain or improve on customer satisfaction, this is very key. When you provide good services to your clients, the tendency for such customers to come back is almost a hundred per cent. Meeting clients’ expectation is very good but for me, I want to exceed that expectation. I want to go extra mile or add additional value. I also want to expand our client base. We also want to keep an eagle eye on those that get data on the fields, that is, ‘remove the bad eggs’ and bring in fresh minds. Wrong data can cost companies billions of naira.

What are the challenges of the industry?
Marketing research in Nigeria is not well coordinated. There are several people out there that collect briefs and write reports and they call themselves marketing researchers. Nigeria Marketing Research Association (NIMRA) is not well managed. Another challenge is COVID-19 pandemic. It has affected the entire globe and we are not exempted. For us, we are coming out gradually.

How has COVID-19 affected you and how are you responding to it?
COVID-19 has brought a lot of unprecedented challenges into the system. As a key player in the marketing research industry, we responded in a strategic way through our innovation — rather than sitting down, we were working during the lockdown. We were conducting fieldwork, gathering data, doing our analysis, also, we were observing social distancing. We held meetings and did presentations. We paid salaries of all our staff. We did right sizing to reduce overheads. We also conducted interviews virtually. We are doing face-to-face now but we observe COVID-19 protocols.

CMRG is not affiliated to any international organisations and there are others operating in Nigeria as full research companies. Are you thinking of working with affiliated organisations?
Yes, we are not really affiliated to any international organisation but that is not to say that we are not in partnership with foreign ones. We don’t compromise quality. We also deliver our report on time. We are not cheap but we are affordable. We have technical support with some of them in South Africa, UK and India. We exchange ideas. We have sent our members of staff there to go and learn.

On NIMRA, are you suggesting an Act of parliament to regulate marketing research like we have in APCON, NIPR?
NIMRA has been on ground for a long time. My chairman was once the president. When he was the president, he did a lot of things but since he left, the aura seemed to have gone down. It was during his time that we collaborated with GFK to come and conduct trainings for our interviewers in Nigeria. They also attempted to register NIMRA to bring it to chartered status. Until we get that legal backing, there would still be quacks.

Would you say new technologies have helped marketing research?
The way we did research then is not the way we are doing it now. When I joined CMRG, we were doing papers. We had dedicated stores where we piled up papers. But such is not happening now. We have transited from paper to machine. In 2013, we travelled to Ghana to learn the new technology. So, the era of paper entry is gone.

Even now, we have software called Power BI, which, as data is coming in, the processing is being done, and almost immediately, the chart will be showing on the screen, rather than the era, where you just did data entry.

Artificial intelligence is the order of the day, but in Nigeria, we are still struggling. A time is coming in marketing research, when machine will arrange your presentations for you and do some interpretations but the humans will just put some finishing touches. And you can deliver to your clients almost immediately. Technology is still evolving and as it is coming, we have to key ourselves into it to be continuously relevant in this industry.

What is the future of marketing?
For marketing activities to be alive, we cannot rule out marketing research, because human beings, by nature, are dynamic, and I can tell you that the spending patterns of consumers have changed, drastically. As times change, human beings would adapt. So, if you are not conducting research, you will still think that the way consumers feel about your products last year is still the same way they are feeling this year. Consumers may have switched their loyalty and they will not come to you but professionals like CMRG will go out to conduct interviews and you will be shocked at some of the revelations that come in.

Who is Femi Daramola and how did you find yourself in marketing research?
I’m a psychologist. I read psychology in my first and second degrees. I started as a medical researcher about 24 years ago, when I did the mandatory National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) programme. I was posted to the psychiatric hospital of the Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital, Zaria. It was at that point that I had opportunity to become part of a research team that was anchored by ABU Teaching Hospital. I worked with a non-governmental organisation (NGO) called Sight Savers International. I also worked with the Head of Department, Psychology Unit of the psychiatric hospital.

I was there between 1997 and 2003. In marketing research, I have spent 18 years, and if you add it to the years at the teaching hospital, it totals 24 years. I had opportunity to lead a team of researchers comprising medical doctors and psychologists. The first organisation I worked with was, Market Research Consultancy (MRC) Limited. I rose to the position of head of research in that organisation. I spent seven years there. I also worked for LTC Advertising before I joined CMRG in January 2012. I came in as deputy research manager, then, I began gradually to climb until I became the managing director.

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