Q&A with Author & Educator Dr. Eduardo ‘Ned’ Roberto on being a Marketing Researcher


‘Manage change so that change will not manage us’

Q1: You have been associated with the word ‘marketing research’, can you share three of the most significant projects you have handled and why do you think it was most significant?

Most significant research project #1.  When I returned to the country in 1975, the government then under martial law took me from La Salle and AIM and appointed me as nationwide social marketing director for the marketing of contraceptives starting with condoms.  Thereafter, my research engagements where almost all into the social marketing and social marketing research of family planning and reproductive health.  This included and extended to my 3 years with the UNFPA (United Nations Fund for Population Activities) under Rafael Salas in New York.  Those 6-8 years of experience in the practice and mentoring of social marketing and social marketing research led to the invitation from my doctoral adviser and later colleague, Philip Kotler, for us to write the best-selling Social Marketing book that got translated into 7 languages.  It was so intellectually fulfilling and a real cerebral thrill to have made a difference in this new then evolving discipline and in the lives of those who applied our model of changing social behavior from harmful to beneficial or from good to better.

My second most significant project overlapped somewhat with the first in terms of timing.  This happened in 1979 to 1981 or the first half of 1982.  That was the time when I accepted the invitation of Rosie Chew, president and founder of Consumer Pulse (later acquired by AC Nielsen) to spend 3 years as EVP of Consumer Pulse.  That was an amazing engagement because at the very outset I told Rosie that I had no intention of extending my 3 years beyond because I was meant to be a research professor.  Even when I later took another work leave from AIM to work as market research consultant at Unilab, the same 3 years and for the same reason were my terms of engagement.  At Consumer Pulse, I learned a whole lot and I gave a whole lot.  I learned and mastered the scientific practice of marketing research in all its stages from design, to fieldwork to data processing and tabulation to analysis and reporting and presentation, and I learned all these from the master practitioner herself, Rosie Chew, and my equally brilliant research colleagues there.  I gave a lot in terms of introducing research innovations and formalizing the research process both quantitative and qualitative.  All these led to my other best-seller book, User Friendly Marketing Research.

What I consider as my third most significant project took place and extended over the same period as the first and the second and beyond and into the present.  These were projects that involved my helping interested clients in setting up for their use a market research or insighting desk.  It’s a 1-year project at least.  It typically involves my recruiting and then mentoring 3-4 young researchers in the “book-end stages” of market research.  These book-end stages are the beginning stage of research design, and the end stage of analysis and reporting.  The mid-stages of field data collection and tabulation are outsourced to an accredited specialized Field+Tab survey agency.  The usual motivation of a client for this is to economize on the research budget, to have greater control over the research process and data, to get the research completed within 10 weeks or even 1 and a half weeks.  After the mentoring, I guide and handhold the mentees in the actual design, pretesting, fielding, tabulation, analysis, reporting and presentation as well as the managing of the outsourced specialized Field+Tab survey agency.  I tell an interested client that he or she should not expect to be able to be “self-sufficient” in market research.  The research desk can do the frequent and relatively small research projects.

The nationwide surveys, or the tracking or monitoring surveys should be left to the full-service survey agencies like AC Nielsen, TNS, PSRC, Milward Brown etc. From practically all “big” clients like Unilab, Ayala Land, Jollibee, Ramcar, KFC and the like, I found that this approach to empowering marketing and social marketing practitioners in a DIY marketing research was what the MSMEs (micro, small, medium enterprises) were looking for as well as what schools also needed in their building and sustaining a research culture.  It was a delight to see how micro-entrepreneurs, and social enterprises at the Bayan Academy, for example, found my “Grassroots and DIY Marketing or Social Marketing Research” (which is going to be my next book) most helpful in their mission to change consumer purchase and usage behavior, and for NGOs and GOs, to change harmful behavior into beneficial behavior or good behavior into better behavior.  That for me is making a difference where it matters most.

Q2: You are now in your 70’s and a big role model for marketing educators like me, please name me three things you are most proud of as well as three things you consider as your failure. What lessons have you learned from both success and failures?

Oh tatlo na naman.  Talagang your devotion to the Blessed Trinity is most admirable.  So 3 that I’m most proud of.  I’m most proud that I never left being an educator.  This year I celebrate my 41st year as an educator.  Even in those several 3-year work leaves, I stayed and kept to my educator, my mentor practice.

I’m proud that as educator, I set my priorities first as a research professor and only secondarily as a teaching professor.  This prioritizing kept me always up to date with the latest consumer, customer, stakeholder behavior models and their changes.  It made me and my students learn how to manage change so that change will not manage us.

The 3rd but related item I’m proud of is that early on, I learned from my Holy Week silent retreat at the Jesuit’s CIS that all that I’m so proud about were not about me and about what I’ve accomplished but what my Maker gave me to accomplish and to be proud about and all for His honor and glory.  These allowed me to be proud that I am not proud but humble and humbled by my Maker.

What about failures?  I have so much and so many that to be limited to 3 is so constricting.  Here’s my 3.  First, I failed in making an “institution” out of what I mentor and teach in marketing, marketing research, social marketing and social marketing research.  When my son invited me back from Mansmith & Fielders, back to Salt & Light Vetures, I thought and hoped and prayed quietly that all the things I know about marketing, marketing research, social marketing and social marketing research will find their residence in Salt & Light.  It did not happen.  Then I thought that when Mahar invited me to SWS to be a research fellow and board member, my social marketing and social marketing research will find their permanent home there.  It did not happen.  Then I thought that when the LaSalle’s overall president Bro Ricky Laguda, invited me to research mentor 6 senior College of Business professors and then extended this mentoring to the setting up of a COB Survey Research Center and to case research mentoring, I though my marketing, marketing research, social marketing and social marketing research will have found their home here.  But it does not look like this will happen.  Let me stop there.  I already counted 3 and to go on to more will serve no good purpose.  But while I consider all these as losses, I am comforted by the words of one of my heroes, Voltaire (I think) who said:   “It’s alright to suffer a loss as long as you don’t lose its lesson.”  There is joy in failures.

Q3: You have been closely associated with Dr. Philip Kotler of Kellogg at one time, he was your mentor, can you name me three most important lessons you have learned from him?

First.  Once you realize that your purpose in life is to be a marketing and marketing research educator, stick to that “knitting” and never leave it.  Just persist in mastering until you will make a difference in that discipline and those who also want to master it.

Second.  When you write, pay attention to the “what” first.  Don’t start with the “how.”  Substance first and not being cute first.

Third.  Once you have decided that your priority is research, then teach only what will help your research.

Q4: What are three things you still want to do and why?

First.  I want to reach more MSMEs (micro, small, medium enterprises).  They are the “tipping points” in our growth and development.  The Pareta or 20% innovators and early adopters of them.

Second.  I want to reach and help my age segment but those I call senior loners who are not as strong and mobile as I am.  They are loners and immobile by choice or by fate.  They are so many and their issue is no longer about temptations of the flesh or about money.  Their issue is that they get 5 to 6 times a day experiencing of loneliness episodes.  Those are loneliness of 2 contrasting variants: being lonely about the “good old days” and then being lonely about what had once gone wrong.  I want to do a social marketing research to uncover how to change this loneliness experiencing to an experiencing of joy, a kind of DIY cheerfulness.

Third.  I want to undertake a social marketing research of  God and how the goodness in any one of us can be made (again DIY like) “to grow until that growth will starve the darkness in us.”

Q5: The Association of Marketing Educators (AME) granted the first Lifetime Achievement Award to you in 2005, well deserved indeed, I have attended one of your marketing research lectures at the Asian Institute of Management way back in 1990 and you have made marketing research an interesting topic to teach, can you share three things marketing educators can follow you in order to excel in their chosen profession?

Please see my answers to your Q3 above.

Q6: What three books have influenced your thinking most and why? Are they marketing research books?

Influenced my thinking?  That’s about my “values” and marketing research books were just in the “fringe” and not the “core.”  So, I’ll start with my core values and then tell you what books shaped them.

There are 2 sets.

First.  “Know and create your purpose in life.  It’s creating and not searching.”  Here are those 3 most influential books.

1) St. Ignatius of Loyola, The Spiritual Exercises.  Why?  Just listen to what he said: “Our original purpose expresses itself naturally in our desirings.  That is how we know what we are supposed to do with our lives.  But how will I know which desires to enact and which to suppress?  Any disciple of Christ will act on this principle: I choose what leads to God and refuse what leads away from God.”

2) Richard Leider, The Power of Purpose.  Why?  The title of the book says why.

3) Richard Rhor, Falling Upward: a Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life.  Why?  Listen to what he says about pain and about the people who inflict pain on you: “Don’t get rid of the pain until you’ve learned its lessons. Hold the pain of being human until God transforms you through it. And then you will be an instrument of transformation for others.  As an example of holding the pain, picture Mary standing at the foot of the cross. She’s holding the pain. She’s trying to say, “How can I absorb what’s happening here just as Jesus is absorbing it, instead of returning it in kind?” Until you find a way to be a transformer, you will pass the pain onto others.  Jesus and Mary are never transmitting the pain to others. All the hostility that had been directed toward them—the hatred, the accusations, the malice—none of it is returned. They hold the suffering until it becomes resurrection!”

Second.  “Think first.  Then speak up.  After you’ve spoken your truth ‘quietly and clearly,’ then let that person be so that you’ll draw out the best in him and eventually the best in you.”  Here are those 3 most influential books.

1) Bertrand Russell, Religion and Science.  Why?  I learned from him how to be rational, how to think.

2) Ravi Zacharias, Can Man Live without God?  Why?  I learned from him how to speak my truth “quietly and clearly (but) listening to others (for) even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.”

3) Rabindranath Tagore in the Essential Tagore book.  Why?  I learned from him how to strive to continue to be at my best.  Listen to what he says: “A teacher can never truly teach unless he is still learning himself.  A lamp can never light another lamp unless it continuous to burn its own flame.  The teacher who has come to the end of his subject, who has no living traffic with his knowledge but merely repeat his lesson to his students can only lead their minds; he cannot quicken them.”

Q7: Can you share three words you would like your family, friends and students to remember you of?

Learning Is Fun

2 thoughts on “Q&A with Author & Educator Dr. Eduardo ‘Ned’ Roberto on being a Marketing Researcher

  1. Hi Josiah, Daisy dela Torre here. How do i get in touch with Dr. Ned Roberto? Have a few CARD foundation issues that need closure but he does not reply to his prev email address or cell phone no. Thx in advance!

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