You say toma-toe, I say toe-mato. You say marketing research, I say market research.

Are we saying the same thing, though? Are they interchangeable synonyms? (And aren’t all synonyms interchangeable anyway? Discuss.)

These questions have confounded marketers for thousands of years, appearing in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics depicting Horus and Set battling over the terms (okay, that’s hyperbole on my side, but you get the point). A debate will long continue even after humanity finds out why the chicken crossed the road (because it was conducting market research on the statistical analysis of dangerous traffic, duh!).

It’s a Campbellian quest to find out the differences between market research and marketing research. We present you with the Rosetta Stone on these terms:

The terms are already defined, yo!

According to The American Marketing Association, marketing research is:

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.

According to Entrepreneur’s Small Business Encyclopedia, market research is:

The process of gathering, analyzing and interpreting information about a market, about a product or service to be offered for sale in that market, and about the past, present and potential customers for the product or service; research into the characteristics, spending habits, location and needs of your business’s target market, the industry as a whole, and the particular competitors you face.

Still unsure? I don’t blame you, but the Devil is in the details and Angels dance on a pin of context. Let’s check it out.

Context and overlap

In one way, market research is a narrower term as it deals with the data in relation to a product and its audience. Marketing research, which of course heavily relies on data, involves the development, positioning and evolution of a product and its audience. On the other hand, market research is broader than marketing research as it can encompass political, social and even religious “markets.”

To make this clearer, marketing research always covers The Four P’s:


Market research is more segmented, focusing typically on only one of the four P’s, and it’s usually Place. I mean, Price is not relevant when conducting voter issues, as an example.

At the core of the discussion, an overlap exists between marketing research and market research. Here is an excellent diagram that covers the overlap:

market research vs marketing research

Marketing research scales on a larger and broader level, which may include advertising and even public relations, yet focuses typically on tangible brands and its entire journey to its targeted audience.

For more clarity (I hope), Quick MBA offers a distinction between market research and marketing research:

These terms often are used interchangeably, but technically there is a difference. Market research deals specifically with the gathering of information about a market’s size and trends. Marketing research covers a wider range of activities. While it may involve market research, marketing research is a more general systematic process that can be applied to a variety of marketing problems.

We won’t allow Steve Harvey to give us that information. A cursory Google search grants us the insights on the relevance of the terms:

Before you go using “market research” solely in your next Egyptian archeological dig, Google Trends reveals that neither are that in vogue these days:

market research vs marketing research5

However, when it comes to Geographical usage, both terms will get you recognized if you use them in somewhat exotic lands:

Basically, you won’t have to worry about an argument on these terms if you’re in Lancing, Michigan or Beaumont, Texas.


The terms overlap, but it’s safe to conclude that market research is a subset of marketing research. Most market researchers will never have to worry about the font type on a logo or a content strategy for a pair of men’s slippers. All marketers should, however, be aware of quantitative data those men’s slippers. At the same time and for example, market research is involved than marketing research in Donald Trump’s campaign (or maybe not).

It’s safe to say, by viewing the search engine statistics, that you won’t get arrested by vocabulary police if you do use these two terms interchangeably…except if you happen to be at a marketing conference in Zimbabwe.

Read more: How To Crush Market Research On Social Media