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market research vs marketing research

Market Research vs Marketing Research: What’s the Difference?

When describing the “research” industry, I hear both terms “market research” and “marketing research” used…so what’s the difference?  Can they be used interchangeably?  Is one a subset of the other?  Which one is more common?

Sticklers will say that there is a distinction between the two terms, but I don’t think it really matters.  I’ve heard them each defined with so much overlap that either one can be comfortably used in practice.  One person will describe market research as a subset of marketing research, while another will say just the opposite.

market research vs marketing research

My View of Market Research vs Marketing Research

Market Research

If we want to get technical, market research refers to research that pertains to, well, markets.  This is where you will dig into things like market trends (political, economic, social, technology, etc.), market players (e.g. direct and indirect competition), target market attributes, customer wants and needs, etc.  I personally view market research to be a broader phrase than marketing research.


Marketing Research

Marketing research, on the other hand, involves research related to marketing.  I like to think of the marketing mix (product, promotion, place, price) and consider the types of research that relate to one of the four P’s.  Examples include advertisement testing, product concept testing (e.g. usability testings), pricing research, channel research, etc.



You’ll notice that I mentioned many of the same items in each definition.  Things like pricing, product attribute research, and competitive research are both related to the general market and the overall marketing effort.


Which Terms is More Widely Used?

All of this market research vs. marketing research talk has me wondering which term is more widely used.  Let’s do some crude secondary research on the topic right now and figure that out.  At the time of this posting, there are about 5x as many search results for the exact term “market research” (57.6m) vs. “marketing research” (10.2m).  That tells me market research is more commonly used and probably carries a broader definition.

market research vs marketing research google 2011

"Market Research" vs "Marketing Research" Exact Searches, Google 2011


How do “the officials” define these two terms?

Before we finish beating this horse, let’s take a look at how two professional organizations define these terms to see if they are consistent with the views explained here:

The American Marketing Association defines “Marketing Research” as “the systematic and objective identification, collection, analysis and dissemination of information for the purpose of improving decision making related to the identification and solution of problems and opportunities in marketing.”

ESOMAR (European Society for Opinion and Market Research) defines “Market Research” as “the systematic gathering and interpretation of information about individuals or organisations using the statistical and analytical methods and techniques of the applied social sciences to gain insight or support decision making.”



There you have it.  These “official” definitions make good sense to me.  Market research is a broader look at markets, individuals, and organizations and marketing research focuses more on marketing issues like promotion and branding.

So, that’s my view of the differences between market and marketing research.  Others have different views on the topic, but it’s probably not worth a major debate.  I tend to use “market research,” because I think it is more all-encompassing and it is easier to say.

Now you know more than you ever wanted to know about the differences between market research and marketing research.  If you have a different view to share, drop it off in the comments below.


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1 Comment

  • Reply Harun Trikha

    Thanks for the interesting take on an ambiguous issue

    September 16, 2015 at 12:57 am
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