Main content

Market research marked a shift from a producer-led to consumer-led approach to business.

US car makers had it good. As quickly as they could manufacture cars, people bought them. By 1914, that was changing. In higher price brackets, especially, purchasers and dealerships were becoming choosier. One commentator warned that the retailers could no longer sell what their own judgement dictated – they must sell what the consumer wanted. That commentator was Charles Coolidge Parlin, widely recognised as the man who invented the very idea of market research. The invention of market research marks an early step in a broader shift from a “producer-led” to “consumer-led” approach to business – from making something then trying to persuade people to buy it, to trying to find out what people might buy and then making it. One century later, the market research profession is huge: in the United States alone, it employs around half a million people.

Producer: Ben Crighton
Editors: Richard Knight and Richard Vadon

(Image: Market research, Credit: Bildagentur Zoonar GmbH/Shutterstock)

Available now

9 minutes

Last on

Mon 21 Aug 2017 03:50GMT

Sources and related links

Douglas Ward - A New Brand of Business: Charles Coolidge Parlin, Curtis Publishing Company, and the origins of market research, Temple University Press, 2010

Tom Collins - The Legendary Model T Ford: The ultimate history of America's first great automobile, Krause Publications, 2007

Mansel G. Blackford and Austin K. Kerr - Business Enterprise in American History, Houghton Mifflin, 1993

Geoffrey Miller - Must Have: The hidden instincts behind everything we buy, Vintage 2010

Bureau of Labor Statistics - Market Research Analysts

BBC - Imagine a world without shops of factories

Robert King Merton - Inventor of the focus group, The Economist

Putting a bolder face on Google - The New York Times

Dwight historical Society - Star and Herald images


  • Sat 19 Aug 2017 02:50GMT
  • Sat 19 Aug 2017 19:50GMT
  • Mon 21 Aug 2017 03:50GMT