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The Market Research Timeline: Methodologies and Tech Advancements

Market research has come a long way since its early days in the 1920s. In those days, advertising effectiveness was measured using the Starch Test, which involved door-to-door canvassing to determine how well ads in magazines and newspapers were being received by the public.

Door to door surveying


Fast forward to the 1930s, and we see the emergence of polling as a means of predicting attitudes and behaviors. George Gallup, the inventor of political polling, showed that even small samples could be used to predict general attitudes. In 1932, he correctly predicted FDR's presidential win over The Literary Digest, the poll of record at the time.


In the 1940s, focus groups emerged as a way to test reactions to anti-Nazi radio broadcasts on behalf of the US Government's Office of War Information. This was the beginning of a new era of market research that focused on understanding the opinions and attitudes of consumers.


Motivational research was invented in the 1950s, which pioneered the application of Freudian psychoanalytic concepts to marketing. This technique aimed to tap into the subconscious motivations that drive consumer behavior, rather than relying solely on conscious decision-making.


The 1960s saw a revolution in predictive statistical techniques with the invention of conjoint analysis by Paul Green, a marketing professor at Wharton. This technique predicted what people would do in the future based on how they answered questions about their likes and dislikes.


In the 1970s, Wind & Cardozo defined consumer segments as "a group of present and potential customers with some common characteristic(s) which is relevant in explaining (and predicting) their response to a supplier's marketing stimuli." This new model for market segmentation allowed for more targeted marketing efforts.

Grocery Store Survey


The 1980s saw the publication of theories linking attitudes and behaviors, such as the Theory of Reasoned Action and the Theory of Planned Behavior. These theories formed the conceptual framework for predicting, explaining, and changing human social behavior.


The 1990s brought web analytics into the mix, with the first website going live in 1991. It soon became possible to start tracking consumer behavior online, and the first web log analysis software, Analog, was launched in 1995 by Dr. Stephen Turner.


In the 2000s, the Net Promoter Score was invented as a means of benchmarking performance and quantifying satisfaction. This score allowed companies to determine how loyal their customers were and how likely they were to recommend their products or services to others.

Web Analytics2010s

The 2010s saw the emergence of on-demand consumer insight, which made it easier than ever for companies to get feedback from their customers in real-time. This allowed them to make changes and improvements to their products and services quickly and effectively.


And finally, in the 2020s, market research got even faster and easier with the launch of Highlight, an agile product testing platform. This platform allows companies to test their products and services quickly and easily, so they can make informed decisions and stay ahead of the competition.

Market research has evolved significantly over the past century, and it continues to evolve today. As new technologies and techniques emerge, we can expect to see even more rapid advancements in the field of market research, allowing companies to gain deeper insights into consumer behavior and make more informed business decisions.



See first-hand how the Highlight platform has revolutionized physical product testing.