Kantar celebrates American Marketing Association's recognition of J. Walker Smith

17 July 2020

20th July 2020, New York: Kantar, the world’s leading data, insights and consulting company today celebrates and congratulates J. Walker Smith, our Chief Knowledge Officer on his recognition by the American Marketing Association (AMA) with the Charles Coolidge Parlin Marketing Research Award for his outstanding leadership in the marketing industry and sustained impact on behalf of clients around the world.

The award was established in 1945 by the AMA and The Wharton School as a memorial to Charles Coolidge Parlin, who is recognised as a founder of marketing research, and is awarded each year to honour persons who have made outstanding contributions to the field of marketing research. The Charles Coolidge Parlin Marketing Research Award is recognised as the most distinguished award in the field. Walker joins a prodigious list of past award recipients including Peter Drucker, Arthur C. Nielsen, George Gallup, Daniel Yankelovich, Kevin Clancy, Theodore Levitt, Jagdish Sheth, Paul Green, Philip Kotler and Michael Porter.

Celebrating Walker’s achievement, Phil Smiley, CEO of the Consulting division of Kantar observed: “At Kantar our mission is to understand people and inspire growth. In delivering against this vision, Walker is preeminent, not just within Kantar, but across the marketing world. As a colleague, he is immensely generous with his time and energy, nurturing talent and ideas throughout the organisation. As a partner to our clients, he is an outstanding storyteller, delivering deep, relevant insights about growth in an engaging and thought-provoking manner. It is a privilege to see him recognised by his peers in this way.”

Discussing his award, Walker offered: “My professional purpose has been to give an honest voice to facts and data. As I have said often, narrative trumps data every time. Data do not speak for themselves. I believe now more than ever that clear, fact-based narratives are critical to the success of business as well as the endurance of our democracy. It is the story of the marketplace that sets strategy and inspires success. This does not mean that narrative should depart from data or that data should be manipulated to fit a narrative. It means that it takes a good story to persuade people of the underlying truth in the data. I hope whatever small legacy I leave is one of teaching great researchers how to maximise the power of what they do. I have worked to develop, refine and show researchers how to build data narratives that can carry the story to business leaders. Today’s turmoil is a reminder that our job as researchers is keeping companies focused and steady even in the rough waters of uncertainty and change. Data plus narrative is what it takes.”

More About J. Walker Smith

J. Walker Smith is Chief Knowledge Officer at Kantar. He has held this position since 2018 when Kantar Futures merged with three other WPP/Kantar firms to form the Consulting division of Kantar. Walker began his career directing market research for Friendly’s and then for Texize/DowBrands. He joined Yankelovich to open an office in Atlanta and oversee another in California, and subsequently led the custom research and MONITOR groups. As President of Yankelovich, he managed the transition of the company into Kantar, and later was Executive Chairman of Kantar Futures.

Walker believes strongly in professional development for market researchers. He has taught seminars for the AMA, the DMA and within Yankelovich and Kantar on statistical methods, forecasting, trend analysis, thought-leadership, and delivering presentations, with a special emphasis on training researchers to be impactful storytellers, following his career-long passion for communicating accurate and persuasive data-based narratives. He is co-author of four books, including Rocking the Ages, considered a standard in generational marketing, and Life Is Not Work–Work Is Not Life, a Wall Street Journal 2001 top ten work-life book. In 2011, together with Joel Benenson, Walker played an important role in identifying the key strategic and communications themes that became the foundation of the Obama 2012 re-election campaign strategy; work he calls the proudest moment of his career.

He has been described by Fortune as “one of America’s leading analysts on consumer trends”, and has featured in, or been the subject of stories in, among others, Time, Marketing Management, American Demographics, the PBS series “Life by the Numbers”, Tom Brokaw’s CNBC special, BOOMER$, and was a narrator of the “Generation Boom” bonus content for the season 7 Mad Men DVD. He is a former commentator for the public radio show Smart City, and a columnist for Marketing News. He is in the N.C. Media & Journalism Hall of Fame and is a three-time recipient of WPP’s Atticus Award for thought-leadership. He is a past president of the Foundation Board of University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill Hussman School of Journalism and Media, from which he holds a Ph.D. in Mass Communication.