Charles Coolidge Parlin

Charles Coolidge Parlin: The father of market research. Charles Coolidge Parlin was a pioneer of market research in the United States. He was born in 1872 in Massachusetts and graduated from Harvard University in 1894. After working as a high school teacher for several years, he joined the Curtis Publishing Company in 1911, where he founded the first market research division in the United States.

Charles Coolidge Parlin
Charles Coolidge Parlin

Parlin is considered the father of marketing research for his contributions to the discipline. He developed a number of innovative research techniques, including surveys, interviews and data analysis. He was also an advocate of the importance of marketing research for business decision making.

Parlin’s contributions to market research were fundamental to the development of the discipline. His techniques and methods continue to be used by market researchers around the world.


Charles Coolidge Parlin was born in Brookline, Massachusetts, on August 20, 1872. His father was a lawyer, his mother a teacher. Parlin graduated from Harvard University in 1894 with a degree in economics.

After graduating from Harvard, Parlin worked as a high school teacher in Brookline for several years. In 1911, he joined the Curtis Publishing Company, a publishing company that publishes magazines such as the Saturday Evening Post and the Ladies’ Home Journal.

At Curtis Publishing, Parlin was appointed manager of the business research division. In this position, Parlin developed a number of innovative research techniques, including surveys, interviews, and data analysis. He was also an advocate of the importance of marketing research for business decision making.

Parlin remained at Curtis Publishing for 27 years. During that time, he headed the business research division and published a number of books and articles on market research.

Parlin retired from Curtis Publishing in 1938. He died in 1942 at the age of 69.

Historical context

At the beginning of the twentieth century, the world was undergoing rapid change on several fronts. The Industrial Revolution, which had begun a century earlier, was reaching new heights with the development of advanced technologies and mass production systems. The rise of large companies and corporations was changing the very fabric of the global economy.

At this time, advertising and marketing, although existing, were still disciplines in diapers. Companies based much of their strategies on assumptions and intuitions. The notion of systematically understanding and analyzing consumer preferences and behaviors was virtually non-existent. Advertising was often based more on art than science, with few organized efforts to measure its impact or understand purchase motivations.

It was in this context that Charles Coolidge Parlin came on the scene. Hired by the Curtis Publishing Company in 1911, Parlin saw an opportunity in this chaos. He recognized that, as markets expanded and became more competitive, companies that could gain a deeper understanding of their customers would have a significant advantage.

At the same time, American society was experiencing rapid urbanization. With this, consumption dynamics were changing. Department stores began to appear in cities, and the idea of “brands” began to gain importance. People no longer only bought products out of necessity, but also as a way to express their identity and status.

This was the backdrop against which Parlin began his revolutionary work in market research. Its data-driven approach offered companies a lens through which they could see the changing wants and needs of consumers in this transformative era.


Charles Coolidge Parlin’s contributions to market research were fundamental to the development of the discipline. His techniques and methods continue to be used by market researchers around the world.

Among Parlin’s most important contributions are the following:

  • Development of innovative research techniques: Parlin developed a number of innovative research techniques, including surveys, interviews and data analysis. These techniques helped market researchers gather more accurate and relevant information.
  • Defending the importance of marketing research: Parlin was an advocate of the importance of marketing research for business decision making. He believed that marketing research could help companies better understand their customers and make more informed decisions.
  • Promoting marketing research as an academic discipline: Parlin helped promote marketing research as an academic discipline. He taught market research at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and published several books and articles on the subject.

Beginnings in Charles Coolidge Parlin’s Market Research

Charles Coolidge Parlin’s entry into the field of market research was not the result of a premeditated plan, but rather a confluence of opportunity and vision.

Joining Curtis Publishing Company:

In 1911, Parlin was hired by the Curtis Publishing Company, one of America’s leading publishing companies, known for publications such as “The Saturday Evening Post” and “Ladies’ Home Journal”. Although he was initially hired for a sales project, a larger opportunity was quickly identified.

Need to Understand the Market:

The publishing business was growing, and with it, the need to attract advertisers. However, there was a problem: many companies didn’t see the value of advertising because they didn’t fully understand their markets. This is where Parlin saw an opportunity. He proposed that if they could provide companies with detailed and reliable information about their markets, it would be easier to convince them of the value of advertising.

Establishment of the Commercial Research Department:

Under the auspices of the Curtis Publishing Company, Parlin established the Commercial Research Department in 1912. This is recognized as the first organized effort to conduct large-scale market research.

Pioneering Studies

Parlin’s first large-scale study focused on the automobile market, which at the time was in its early stages but growing rapidly. Through surveys and interviews, Parlin and his team collected data on car ownership, consumer preferences and potential trends. What they discovered was not only useful for automakers, but also for a wide range of related companies, from parts suppliers to insurers.

After the success of the automobile study, Parlin turned his attention to the agricultural market. Through a similar approach based on surveys and analytics, it provided valuable insights that helped companies better understand farmers’ needs and behaviors.

Parlin’s New Philosophy:

Beyond data and numbers, Parlin promoted a radically new philosophy: that companies should focus on consumers’ needs and wants rather than simply trying to sell products. This idea, though common now, was revolutionary at the time.

Charles Coolidge Parlin’s methodology in Market Research:

Market research
Market research

The methodologies employed by Parlin in his pioneering market research were innovative for their time and laid the foundation for many of the standard practices we see in marketing research today. Below are some of the key elements of their approach:

Primary Research:

Surveys: Parlin used written surveys to collect data on spending habits, preferences and buying behaviors. These surveys were distributed on a large scale and specifically targeted target audiences.

Interviews: Beyond written surveys, Parlin also conducted face-to-face interviews to gain a deeper understanding of consumer motivations and attitudes.

Sectoral Analysis:

Parlin specifically selected sectors or industries to study in depth. For example, he conducted extensive research on the auto market and the agricultural market, collecting detailed data and providing segmented analysis within each sector.

Study of Consumer Behavior:

Parlin was not only interested in what products consumers bought, but also why they bought them. It sought to understand the underlying motivations, cultural and social influences, and other factors influencing purchasing decisions.

Quantitative and Qualitative Data:

Although he relied heavily on quantitative data (numbers and statistics), Parlin also valued the importance of qualitative data. Through interviews and observations, he sought to understand the stories and contexts behind buying behaviors.

Integration of Third Party Data:

Parlin wasn’t limited to data his team collected directly. It also incorporated information from external sources, such as censuses and other records, to provide a more complete picture of the market.

Focus on Action:

The goal of Parlin’s research was not simply to collect data for the sake of data. He always sought to translate his findings into recommended actions and strategies that companies could implement. For example, after identifying a consumer trend or preference, I would advise companies on how they can adapt or leverage that information.

Continuous Review and Updating:

Parlin understood that markets are not static. Therefore, it made an effort to periodically review and update its studies to reflect changes in consumer behavior and market conditions.

In conclusion, Parlin’s methodology was comprehensive, consumer-centric and action-oriented. Through his systematic, data-driven approach, he demonstrated that marketing research is not simply an academic exercise, but a vital tool to guide business decisions and market success.

Charles Coolidge Parlin’s Main Contributions to Marketing:

Charles Coolidge Parlin’s pioneering work in marketing research resulted in multiple significant contributions that transformed and enriched the field of marketing. Here, we highlight some of his most influential contributions:

1. How marketing research helps businesses succeed:

Parlin strongly defended the idea that business decisions should be based on solid data rather than intuitions or assumptions. He promoted the use of market research as a fundamental tool to understand consumers and improve the effectiveness of marketing strategies.

2. Consumer Focus:

Before Parlin, many companies focused primarily on the product. However, it introduced the revolutionary notion that business success is based on understanding and satisfying consumer needs and wants.

3. Market Segmentation:

Through his detailed studies, Parlin showed the importance of segmenting the market and understanding the differences within consumer groups. He acknowledged that not all consumers have the same needs and that strategies need to be adapted accordingly.

4. Strategic Use of Data for Decision Making:

Parlin promoted the idea that data is not only useful for understanding the current state, but also for forecasting future trends and guiding strategy. It helped companies see market research as an investment that can provide a competitive advantage.

5. Value of Accessible Information:

In presenting his findings, Parlin emphasized the importance of making information understandable and accessible to decision makers. This focus on clear and effective communication remains a pillar of marketing research today.

6. Establishment of Methodological Standards:

Parlin’s techniques and methods for collecting and analyzing data set standards that many in the field would adopt and adapt in later years.

7. Promotion of Research Ethics:

Although perhaps less prominent than other contributions, Parlin also stressed the importance of conducting research ethically, ensuring accuracy and avoiding bias or manipulation.

8. Evolution of Advertising:

Given his work at the Curtis Publishing Company, Parlin also influenced how companies viewed and used advertising. With data at hand, companies could create more targeted and effective advertising campaigns.

Synthesizing, Charles Coolidge Parlin not only established the importance of market research, but also redefined the way companies approach marketing. His legacy is proof that by focusing on the consumer and making data-driven decisions, companies can achieve lasting and sustainable success in the marketplace.

Legacy and Recognition of Charles Coolidge Parlin:

Charles Coolidge Parlin’s influence in the world of marketing and market research is undeniable. His legacy and the recognition he has received are reflected in multiple aspects:

1. “Father of Market Research”:

Parlin is often referred to as the “Father of Market Research” because of his pioneering contributions to the field. His systematic, data-driven approach to market analysis laid the foundation for modern research practices.

2. Establishment of the Modern Marketing Studio:

Parlin’s methodologies and approaches have been integrated into the way business schools and educational institutions teach marketing. He is considered one of the pioneers who transformed marketing from an art to a science.

3. Charles Coolidge Parlin Award:

In recognition of his monumental contribution to the field, the American Marketing Association and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania co-sponsor the Charles Coolidge Parlin Award. This award is given to those who have demonstrated outstanding leadership in marketing research and have contributed significantly to the advancement of the field.

4. Continuing its Consumer-Centered Approach:

Parlin’s idea that businesses should focus on consumer needs and wants has become a fundamental pillar of modern marketing. Today’s businesses, backed by advanced technology, continue to use this approach, albeit on a much broader and more detailed scale.

5. Inspiration for Future Researchers:

Parlin’s methodologies and philosophies continue to inspire researchers today. Many see his work as a reminder of the importance of integrity, curiosity and dedication in research.

6. Worldwide Recognition:

Although he began his work in the United States, Parlin’s contributions are recognized and celebrated around the world. His influence extends beyond borders, and his legacy lives on in global marketing practices and principles.

Charles Coolidge Parlin’s legacy goes beyond his specific methodologies and studies. His visionary approach to analyzing and understanding markets, combined with his dedication to ethics and accuracy, has left an indelible mark on the marketing world. Although more than a century has passed since his first contributions, his influence is still evident in modern marketing and will continue to be relevant for the foreseeable future.

Read also: Wikipedia; What is SEM in digital marketing; Search Engine Marketing Strategy; Benefits of Search engine marketing; Digital Marketing Background

This post is also available in: English Deutsch (German) Español (Spanish) Nederlands (Dutch)