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Market research vs. marketing research — What’s the difference?

Have you ever wondered whether there's a difference between market research and marketing research? Although these two terms are often used interchangeably, they have some qualities that differentiate them.

The four Ps of marketing

To understand the difference between market research and marketing research, you first have to understand the ‘marketing mix’, otherwise known as the Four Ps of Marketing:

  1. Product (goods or service)
  2. Price (how much the customer pays)
  3. Place (where the product is marketed)
  4. Promotion (advertising and PR)

These are the four essential key factors involved in marketing goods or services. They all need to function optimally together for those goods or services to be a success in the marketplace.

What is market research?

Market research studies a target market. It collects data about that marketplace and the consumers within it.

It deals with only one P of Marketing – Place. Place in this context means a specific market or segment.

Market research gathers, analyzes and interprets data about:

  • that specific market
  • a product, service or developing concept to be offered for sale in that market
  • customers (present, past and future) for that product, service or concept

Market research delves into a variety of the target market’s areas: needs, wants, spending habits and characteristics. It can also make comparisons with the competition and industry standards. Market research is the first port of call for a business to assess how viable new goods or service are for their target market. In the process, it can often reveal new target markets and customer wants and needs.

A typical market research process is as follows:

  1. An issue gets identified
  2. Decide who will conduct the research (in-house or an external agency)
  3. Choose appropriate market research techniques
  4. Gather data
  5. Organize, interpret and analyze data
  6. Report back findings

What is marketing research?

Marketing research is much broader. It deals with all four Ps of Marketing – including Place. It covers diverse areas, some of which market research wouldn’t touch, and others where it would only touch lightly:

  • New product research
  • Product development
  • Advertising research
  • Customer research
  • Pricing
  • Sales
  • Distribution methods
  • Public relations

In essence, marketing research covers the conception, development, placement and evolution of a product or service, its growing audience and its branding – all the way from brand awareness to, we hope, brand equity.

Market research, because it emphasizes Place, is an integral part of marketing research. We could sum it up like this: market research is a subset of marketing research.

A typical marketing research process is as follows:

  1. Identify an issue, discuss alternatives and set out research objectives
  2. Develop a research program
  3. Gather information
  4. Gather data
  5. Organize and analyze information and data
  6. Present findings
  7. Make a decision based on the research

Free ebook: Guide to Modern Agile Research

The differences between marketing research and market research

Although market research informs marketing research, the table below compares the considerable differences between them.


Market research Marketing research
What does it do? It involves study of the marketplace and the buyer’s behavior within that market. It involves the systematic study of all aspects of a business’s marketing.
Feeds into Marketing research. The whole of a business’s marketing information system.
Scope of research Limited – it studies only market and consumer behavior.  Wide – it studies the entire marketing process – the Four Ps, as well as the market itself.
Nature of research Specific – its research gives insights into a particular market, and cannot easily be applied to other markets.  Generic - its research can be used for solving various marketing problems and issues. 
Dependent or independent? Dependent upon the requirements of marketing research.  Independent - marketing research is developed by the business for the business.
Purpose To research the viability of a product or service in the target market.  To inform decision-making about all marketing activities.

The similarities between marketing research and market research

Both are:

  • crucial for a business’s success.
  • research projects, and as such produce valuable data.
  • useful for quantitative and qualitative tools and techniques such as surveys, focus groups, questionnaires and interviews to gather information
  • effective for making decisions regarding type and quality of products and services offered to customers, suitable locations for the business, the best advertising, and the most efficient distribution channels and networks.

We offer research services for both marketing research and its subset, market research. Run any customer, brand, or product research project with confidence.

Free ebook: Guide to Modern Agile Research

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