It’s said that in every period of history people thought that they were living through an era of unprecedented change - and you certainly hear it mentioned regularly of the current day. But never before have the needs, wants, desires and ambitions of consumers, citizens, businesses and the government been so overtly available, but also contradictory, transient and indeed changeable! What a challenge, and opportunity, this represents for market research, with all our skill sets.

Phyllis Macfarlane is Global Training Director at GFK.

Within my career I’ve seen market research evolve spectacularly, not only in it’s methods and processes, but in it’s scope and understanding and interpretation of human behaviour.

Nevertheless, from being, historically, the main conduit of thoughts and opinions between the consumer and the client, we are now seen as just one element of the general ‘clamour’ of information, insight and advice.


We know that our insight is better, because it is more solidly based than other sources, but we do need constantly to raise our game in order to be perceived as more relevant, informed and reliable than other purveyors of data and insight.

So, I see my role for the next two years as supporting and guiding the MRS to look ahead and anticipate the role of market research in the future - so that we can build our reputation amongst users of market information, and stand out from the ‘clamouring’ competition. 

This means, most importantly of all, engaging with clients - as much and as many as possible - to understand their thinking, plans, needs and aspirations - without that knowledge we cannot map out our direction of travel.

It also means helping all researchers, both young and experienced, client and agency, to look ahead - firstly by supporting them continuously to develop new skill sets through mentoring and training.

Secondly by facilitating researchers to listen to what’s happening around them  through conferences, and networking events - so that they can learn, adopt, and develop their thinking.

Thirdly, by expanding the membership - bringing in people who perhaps don’t think of themselves as market researchers (like data analytics specialists) - and by broadening the net of people joining the industry through Apprenticeship schemes etc. All the while ensuring that the whatever is done as market research is done to the best professional standards - particularly leading on best practice in data protection.

Put simply - we want build the reputation of market research and build our membership - by being (even) more relevant in the current world.

That’s the plan.

It's great to welcome Phyllis back as chair. A consumate research professional, Phyllis works hard to further the interests of the sector, which includes her role as treasurer for Paragon Partnerships (which supports the UN's 2030 sustainable development goals) and her training on behalf of MRS in Africa.

Jane Frost, CBE


Phyllis Macfarlane is Global Training Director at GFK.

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