The terms “market research” and “marketing research” are so commonly used interchangeably that it often leaves people wondering about the difference between the two. Is there really a difference? Absolutely. Qualtrics summed it up perfectly on their blog: “market research is a subset of marketing research.” While marketing in general often revolves around products, pricing, places, and promotions; marketing research can encompass all four measures, but market research tends to focus on “places.” Market researchers are often tasked with identifying market or segment demand of something – be it a product, promotion, or other consumer-centric commodity. This is typically the initial phase of the research, which will inform the marketing research that is implemented during the later phase of a project.

Put even more simply, market research typically includes research activities relating to markets, while marketing research involves research tasks related to marketing. Below are some examples of market research projects and marketing research projects.

To understand the flow of market research to marketing research, consider this example. Client A is interested in conducting a market demand survey (market research) to determine whether the target audience of the commodity demonstrates enough interest to move forward to the product production phase. An online survey of the target audience reveals overwhelming interest in the commodity, so Client A moves forward with production. Several months later Client A returns, and wants to test several versions of the advertising that was developed for the commodity (marketing research). Focus groups comprised of individuals in the target market suggest that the current advertising may not be appropriate for the audience, so Client A goes back to the drawing board. A month later, Client A returns with a refined advertising portfolio, and an online survey suggests that the creative is effective in engaging the target market. Success! Clearly, this is a “perfect world” example, where all clients participate in both market research and marketing research as part of their strategy, but it provides a great example of the theoretical line of action between the two types of research.

Being the inquisitive type, I was not thinking solely about what is “right” in terms of terminology use for the two types of research, but what is most popular. This led me to stumble on a blog post that noted the difference in keyword popularity on Google for “market research” and “marketing research.” The blog post is somewhat outdated in today’s digital age, so I went to Google to mirror the search. Although market research is deemed a subset of marketing research, it appears that the former is used much more frequently. The term “market research” produced about 62,400,000 results, while “marketing research” resulted in 11,000,000. Logically, this could mean many things. It could be a signal that perhaps organizations are implementing market research but not marketing research (either because they did not proceed with the product/concept, or they simply did not conduct marketing research). Or it could mean that individuals are using the terms interchangeably. As a researcher, I’m rooting for the latter!

Research & Marketing Strategies (RMS) is a market research firm located in Syracuse, NY. If you are interested in learning more about our market research services, please contact the Senior Director of Business Development & Corporate Strategy, Sandy Baker at or by calling 1-866-567-5422.