Relishing a New Challenge
Relish Research moved into the Round Foundry Media Centre in April, its first office outside that there London. A qualitative and quantitative research company Relish uses focus groups, interviews, accompanied in-store shops, the web and street surveys to gather vital information that helps their clients, an impressive list that includes L’Oreal, Vodafone, Virgin Media, Asda, EDF Energy and SCA Papers.
Bleat spoke to Monique Drummond, Senior Partner at Relish Research about the expansion north.
Welcome to Leeds Monique! Can you tell us a little about Relish?
Thanks very much, we’re really pleased to be here!
We provide our clients with ‘fresh thinking’ – inspired customer insights which help them make better business decisions. Our clients say they like us because of the energy, intelligence and commitment of our team. We work very closely with them and as a result, they don’t see us as an outside supplier so much as an insight provider with a real drive and ambition to improve their own brand’s performance.
How have you ended up in our fair city?
Some might say that Louisa Carey-Brown, our Head of Quantitative Research, was influenced by the lure of Harvey Nichols but in reality two key members of our team, Louisa and Account Director, Richard Brown, were keen to move out of London and this coincided with our thoughts that many small businesses can be too London-centric. The two of them setting up an office in Leeds seemed a no-brainer and we are now based closer to one of our key northern clients, Asda, thus offering an enhanced service.
The proximity of the Round Foundry to the centre of the city, the Railway Station and Asda House are hugely important for us. It’s great that clients can find us easily; the availability of car parks, the meeting room and meeting space offer all work really well for us. Louisa had worked with Finn PR in the past and knew the building – and as soon as the rest of the team saw it we knew it ticked all the boxes. The neighbourhood is friendly, and the fantastic range of bars and restaurants are an added bonus.
So how many of you are there based in the Leeds office?
Two at the moment and we are looking for a further two people to join us right now (see below, these two key people have since been appointed). Within a year we hope to have a team of six working from here; it’s great that as we grow, our new offices can ‘flex’ to suit our needs. As a company we are growing rapidly, we’ve taken on five new consultants since the start of the year, in response to the increase in our turnover and new clients, so with this and the potential in Leeds we feel extremely optimistic about the future.
STOP PRESS: Relish has since moved to larger offices in The Round Foundry – having just appointed two new ‘hires’. Carol Finlayson joins in August to join Relish’s qual team and Laura Webster will be joing the quant team in early October.
Research Live’s James Verrinder covered Monique’s paper delivered at the Market Research Society’s Shopper Conference on Thursday, 4th May. He writes…
To better understand consumers as shoppers, researchers need to stop relying so much on claimed behaviour and focus instead on actual behaviour, said Relish Research’s senior partner Monique Drummond at today’s MRS Shopper Research Conference.
Traditionally, agencies have relied on the information they glean from focus groups and surveys, but Drummond and co-presenter Helen Bennie of Shopper Insight warned that much of this post-rationalised information is useless when a consumer enters a store and starts making decisions, many of them unconscious, about what they are going to spend their money on.
Agencies carrying out research for new packaging, for example, spend too much time concentrating on what information they can get out of focus groups. “They recruit very specific people and go on for too long. Two hours is a long time to speak about a small piece of advertising,” said Drummond.
The solution, the presenters said, is to employ technologies such as eye-tracking, which can be used to provide a clearer picture of how shoppers behave while they are actually engaged in the purchase process.
Monique response to this article…
Thanks for this article James. The main point of our paper was that research is, and will always be an iterative process, and within this, focus groups, depth interviews, home visits, accompanied shops all have a vital role to play.
As an example, Neil Blackburne of SCA spoke very eloquently about the failure to consider the retail environment when researching their new Velvet Man Size tissues. As a result, they created a pack with little differentiation or standout from their standard size product. Semiotics helped them with their re-design. However, we at Relish would argue that this initial pack issue could have been addressed in focus groups had the right approach been used. For example, if you asked people to draw mansize/large size tissues before showing them the proposed pack, we know they would not have used pinks, pastels and flowers. Similarly, if you asked the client to strip in mock ups of their packs to a shelf fixture and show this in groups, they would have seen and heard the problems with the pack before going to launch.
Conversely, if you start such a process immediately showing groups the new packs, we all know and have experienced issues such as group bias, the need to please, and this, overlaid with the very nature of the a focus group environment can lead to inaccurate insights and recommendations. We find our focus groups frequently unearth reasons for failure before going to print, production or advertising.
This leads to the other vital element of the mix, raised at the conference on Thursday – namely the role of the client in the process. One paper showed that a woeful 10% of clients took immediate action in response to the research they have commissioned. It can take a brave client to go ‘back to the drawing board’ and acknowledge the work is not good enough, especially if their packaging, product or advertising agency is insisting otherwise and they have launch deadlines looming. Britvic and L’Oreal’s case studies demonstrated best practice in this area.
I don’t think many people in our industry would like to see the end of all direct consumer engagement. Our paper’s purpose was to highlight the need to embrace and integrate new and emerging technologies into the research process. Helen Bennie described the discipline of ‘Shopper Insight ’ as a relatively ‘new kid on the block’, in which case we’re determined to welcome this into our gang.
Published on ResearchLive January 2012
Monique Drummond of Relish Research hears from research buyers about their priorities and expectations for the year ahead.
This time last year at Relish Research we asked our clients what they looked for from their research agencies. This year we canvassed a wider range of clients from insight, marketing and brand backgrounds to find out what they will be doing differently in 2012.
The three simple questions we asked were aimed at finding out key shifts in the types of research being commissioned, and the more general business challenges people feel they are likely to face in 2012:
- What will you be doing more of in 2012?
- What will you be doing less of?
- What are the main challenges you will face this year?
We received almost 50 responses. Here is some of what we heard.
Shrinking budgets means larger projects and fewer of them
Only two people alluded to an increase in their advertising or research budget for 2012. Most reported cutbacks in overall expenditure, whether for research, advertising or NPD.
With less money to spend, the focus is shifting to fewer, larger and more strategic projects. David Hollinshead, research and insight manager of The Football Association, said that they will be “trying to focus more on projects that can really make a difference, while also challenging the need for some of the more tactical projects which can take a lot of time, yet deliver very few actionable insights”. Similarly, James Burckhardt, EMEA marketing manager for surgical equipment at Bausch & Lomb, said: “Money is being consolidated in bigger projects to ensure that we can maintain or expand scope and get more bang from individual projects.”
For most, the main challenge clients mentioned was budget cuts and working out how to squeeze maximum value out of every project they commission. One insight manager for a media company described it as “fitting a quart into a pint pot, more to do, trying to push more to the agencies so that we can concentrate on adding value, all on a lower budget”.
The greatest casualty of this trend will be the severe reduction in what for many is the bread and butter of our industry. Smaller, ad hoc projects will give way to fewer, larger strategic pieces. Ashley Goodall, director of Hybrid Communications, said there will be a shift away from “smaller projects that detract from the main deal”, and Joe Keating, marketing manager for Hills Pet Foods, wanted to move away from “small online qualitative projects primarily designed to answer single questions”.
Alternative methodologies including in-house or DIY research will be used to make cost savings. “Rather than doing four to six focus groups to get an answer to some of our issues, we will be looking at perhaps an online survey, and save the budget for larger pieces,” said one insight manager in a media company.
Not all cutbacks were financial – a few of the clients we spoke to expressed concerns about a reduction in staff numbers which would inevitably increase their workload.
Greater demand for value and collaboration
This is good news for research agencies willing to go the extra mile to strengthen their relationships with clients. The general verdict is that we cannot be passive and wait for briefs to arrive on our desks. Increasingly, clients are willing to discuss potential approaches, methods and ideas which may challenge their traditional approach to research, but also yield better insights with which to develop more potent strategies.
A senior insight manager from a major FMCG brand says that 2012 will be the year of “delegating more to their agencies” – asking them to come to them “with new methodologies which will enable internal stakeholders to become closer to their consumers”. She is also asking her agencies to work with her insight team to train internal stakeholders in how to recognise and utilise insights to drive innovation and inform decision-making.
A number of insight managers feel that traditional debriefs are increasingly being replaced with more creative cross-functional team workshops. These enable the research agency to become more involved with the development process, whether this involves communications, product or overall brand strategy, yielding more actionable results.
Also on the agenda for 2012 are behavioural economics and shopper insight. Marcus Taylor, head of insight at EDF Energy, said: “We’ll be increasing the application of behavioural economics to our insights.” He believes this is an under-applied way of thinking and wants to ensure everyone across the business is applying it in their day-to-day work.
Shopper insight was a frequently mentioned priority on a number of FMCG insight managers’ agendas for 2012. Neil Blackburne of SCA Paper Products felt that he would be focusing more on this and econometrics while John Boreham, group insights manager at Mothercare, indicated a need “to ensure that the understanding of consumer shopping behaviour is core to the business plans”.
Keep calm and carry on
Many alluded to the need to maintain a positive outlook and team morale in the face of general pessimism in the media. A head of marketing and communications for a major retail bank said that for him the greatest challenge “tends to be around removing cost while minimising impact on activity – and it can be a challenge for leaders to keep teams motivated in this environment”.
Even though most insight managers are cutting back, there are opportunities to develop new solutions and work more closely with clients. Now, more than ever, clients are willing to engage in an ongoing constructive dialogue with their research agencies. And if you can pull it off, this shift to a consultative role is better for everyone involved.
A few months ago, Claire attended an AQR course on putting swagger into presentations. Here’s her impressions of the day. Claire article
Published on MR Web on 31st October, 2011
Relish Promotes Key Ingredient
October 31 2011
In the UK, growing full service agency Relish – formerly Drummond Madell – has promoted Simon Thompson to the new position of Managing Partner.
Thompson joined the company two years ago, and played a key role in re-branding it as Relish. He worked previously at London-based brand communications consultancy Prescient.
Senior Partner Monique Drummond says the position is well earned given the company’s recent growth and describes Thompson as ‘a huge asset to Relish’. She adds: ‘We have just created a core management team which comprises Rebecca Huntley as Head of Qualitative and Louisa Carey-Yard as Head of Quantitative, who is based in our Northern office in Leeds.’
The firm is online at www.relishresearch.com .
This article appeared in ‘In Brief’, the AQR newsletter. It was based on an interview conducted by Louella Miles.
Monique Drummond, managing partner at Relish Research, on Eureka moments and the Vespa owner among the LA Hells Angel Chapter.
Qualitative research as a career: serendipity or burning desire?
Serendipity: I did a degree in English Literature, then went into product management, and then into advertising planning for an ad agency, before settling into research.
Never regretted it?
Never. I think few people realise what a great career it is. Everyone wants to get into marketing or advertising, we need to push market research more.
Qualitative pet loves?
I love the project turnaround, the fact that I am always learning something new, and the Eureka moment when you think, “Ah, this is going to be a great debrief because I’ve suddenly found something that they are going to really like.”
Dire group participants who have no interest in anything at all except the incentive and the sandwiches. I find that really frustrating.
We did six stages of research for Hovis’s “Go On Lad” campaign, where the boy runs through history, including a last minute one just prior to air time. It was exciting because we really felt totally integrated into the development of that piece of advertising.
Favourite food and/or drink behind the glass?
I’m usually moderating, so just having the leftover sandwiches that the group haven’t eaten can be a bonus.
BlackBerry versus iPhone?
Definitely BlackBerry Torch because it’s a fusion of the two. It’s got a touch screen and also I’m not interested in apps with the exception of BBM – it’s a fantastic communication tool.
Funniest group memory?
I once did a group for Triumph Motorbikes in L.A. We were looking at the competitive set, who in this case were Harley-Davidson Hells Angel type riders. This guy came in who really didn’t fit the brief: quite skinny, no tattoos, no leather jacket. The others were all talking about their “hogs” and he told us he rode a Vespa – and then only occasionally. I was thinking this was the worst mis-recruit ever, when he said, “I thought I’d come to talk about deodorant.” He was very pleased to be allowed to leave.
Facebook or Twitter?
Definitely Twitter. It’s also like a bit of a game – being apposite and erudite in 140-characters. And my perception is that Twitter is business, not personal.
The story behind the rebrand of Relish?
My business partner retired, I bought him out and it was time for a change. I wanted a name which could be inclusive, and Drummond Madell ceased to be relevant to the team here.
We really do relish research, and the name is fun. It was suggested by one of the team here, when we were looking at alternatives.
What have you added or discarded from your technique’s tool-box recently?
We don’t really have specific tools that we could throw out, it’s just a case of refining and tweaking for each project’s needs really.
Any tools that seem to have fallen to the bottom of the tool-box?
I think hall tests are less popular now or maybe it’s just that we are managing to do online recruitment of people who are bang on target and then doing home placements from there. With qual you often resurrect something you did five years ago because it was quite fun and could work again.
Any marketing blogs, podcasts or books that you’d recommend?
One called The Beermat Entrepreneur by Mike Southon, a Financial Times columnist and author, and another one by a guy called Ian Brodie, www.ianbrodie.com. In truth those are both pretty much sales blogs about the art of selling. We all need to be aware of the sales function if we are building a brand and aiming to grow. I also love browsing TED.
Will social networking replace conventional qual?
No, but I think it will become woven through conventional qual far more. We will involve consumers earlier, perhaps have them on a panel beforehand and use a particular online tool which enables them to post their pre-task or their homework. I can’t see us just running focus groups online and not actually going out and meeting people, shopping with them because nothing beats observation and conversation.
Seeing the whites of their eyes?
Yes, and sometimes the whites of their socks.
What do you see ten years down the line?
I think for the security of the information and for making really important decisions we might move to panels where we really trust that the people we are speaking to are correct for the project. The other thing is the integration of webcam technologies with online surveys so that we can measure various facial movements and engagement while people are looking at various stimulus during an online survey. We’re developing this technique now with a specialist, so watch this space!
London versus provinces?
Some people think of Chiswick, where we’re based, as a province. But seriously, we are always doing work outside of London, and we have an office in Leeds as well, so we are not London-centric.
When moderating what’s your sartorial code?
It varies according to where I’ve been that day. It’s easier for women than for men because I think it’s pretty much how we dress in the office anyway, so I don’t really have an office and a special “focus group” wardrobe. It’s very rare to have anyone formally dressed in a focus group.
Rupert Murdoch or Richard Branson?
Not a choice, nor a comparison. Richard Branson. Great brand – or set of brands.
Monique Drummond, Managing Director at Relish Research, a full service market research agency offering qualitative and quantitative research solutions, is an expert in brand, communication, innovation, digital and customer research.
Relish’s motto: We relish helping brands make the right decisions. Inspired by fresh thinking.
The fresh thinking by the team of 15 takes an innovative approach to market research. Relish’s philosophy on research methodology is “one of continuous refinement” with focus on 5 key areas: brand, customer, innovate, communicate, and digital. Since its launch, Relish has worked with major brands, such as L’Oreal, Vodaphone, and Virgin Media – to name a few.
I spoke with Monique at a breakfast hosted by The Next Women at the Inspire Conference, held early June in London. After playing The Next Women Founder Simone Brummelhuis’s Skill Swap networking game, where Simone is the MC of an audience exchange of offers-and-needs, Monique relished the right decision to attend the Inspire Conference.
Article published on March 11th, in Research Live.
Research doesn’t have an image problem – it has a ‘lack of image’ problem, says Relish Research’s Monique Drummond. For the industry’s sake, clients and agencies need to do more to promote the contribution research makes to the creation of successful ads, products and strategies.
How many of us agency researchers have worked on really exciting pieces of research, and had a real role to play in the development of fantastic products, packaging, advertising and strategies? I’d wager we can all name a few such projects, the ones where we have felt an integral part of helping brands make the right decisions – decisions that lead to success and, occasionally, greatness.
But how often do we talk about them publicly? Are we as an industry afraid to come out and highlight our achievements? Or are we being kept quiet in the name of ‘confidentiality’?
Two years ago, my company worked on five stages of a major award-winning campaign for a food client. It was great fun: stimulating, challenging, and we lived the brand for a number of months – from selection of the ad agency right up to last-minute groups a fortnight prior to launch. But afterwards, no one would think to ask ‘Who contributed the insight behind the campaign?’ We were not merely reporting back what we had seen and heard, we were guiding, advising and coming up with ideas to improve the final output. The agency and client spoke of how they conducted extensive consumer research to ensure the campaign’s success, but as so often happens, they did not name the research agency or the individual researchers behind the campaign.
We can all name brilliant advertising agencies, creative teams and planners – not to mention those clients who demand the very best. I’d like to see the profile of research agencies, and individuals within the business, raised to a similar stature. The research world is full of creative and talented, people who care passionately about brands and the role they play in developing them.
An element of our work is out there on shelves, on our TV screens, in our homes and in the brands we encounter every day. Surely our clients cannot be concerned about the confidentiality of every project we do? Or are we all too frightened that if we do speak up, rivals will copy our approach, or will try and poach our clients?
Whatever the reason, our low profile as an industry means we’re overlooked as a career choice by young people. I’ve recently met quite a few marketing graduates all asking how they can launch a career in advertising or brand management or marketing consultancy. They ask to come and see me hoping I know a brand or agency that can offer them an internship – not because they want to work in market research. Those careers have achieved ‘sexy’ status – market research has not. Students have no real idea that this is a creative, fun, exciting and demanding business.
But lack of awareness among graduates isn’t the only problem we face. Our own, or our clients’, reluctance to talk up the crucial role research plays in the creation of successful ads and products means we have very few good, publicly available examples we can point to when critics of research wheel out the far better documented cases of when research “gets it wrong”, à la the New Coke fiasco.
We need to correct this imbalance. It is up to us to promote our industry in collaboration with our clients, so that such ‘good news’ stories appear not only on our own websites and credentials documents, but in the wider marketing arena.
The following article written by Brian Tarran appeared in Research Live on Monday 7th Feb, 2011.
Client demands on research agencies are often portrayed anecdotally as unreasonable, unrealistic or excessive. So Relish Research asked ten insight managers to explain what it is they’re looking for in a supplier. ‘Good, solid research’ was a popular response.
Researchers spend their days finding out what customers want, need and expect of the companies they do business with or buy products from. “But as an industry we don’t do research for ourselves nearly enough,” says Hetta Bramley.
Bramley is a director of Relish Research, the agency that used to be called Drummond Madell. When co-founder Monique Drummond decided to rebrand the firm (after her business partner John Madell left) she thought it best to ask her customers what they want from a research agency.
Ten clients were interviewed, among them Gillian Hurley, Vodafone UK’s market research manager. She explained: “Our overriding needs are for good, solid, basic research – and always for a great, clear debrief. At the same time, we always like to hear about different things, and I feel a real need to keep up with new developments and trends in the research world. However, the reality is most of our work uses tried and trusted approaches which we know work well for us.”
That hardly sounds like the “unreasonable demands” decried in late-night, post-conference drinks discussions with agency types. Indeed, Bramley says, the key take-home from all the client interviews was that agencies need to make their insight clients “look good” and do things that validate “their choice of you as the agency”.
Insight managers have clients themselves, she explains – internal stakeholders who have tasked their research teams with answering a commercially important question. They may want that answer delivered in a certain way and within a certain time, neither of which may be conducive to producing the best research. But Bramley insists it is up to the research agency to question the brief, to make it clear that there are trade-offs between things like time, cost and quality.
“We need to give our insight clients the ammunition to argue for a better methodology internally if that is what is required,” she says. Drummond adds: “That push back is necessary.”
It may seem trite, but research agencies are there to make their clients’ lives easier – otherwise what’s the point in hiring them. Part of this involves developing an understanding of the client’s business. “They don’t need us to understand every single aspect,” says Bramley, “but they want us to know enough that when they pick up the phone, we know what they are talking about and can pick up the conversation straight away”.
Arguably, this level of relationship is easier for smaller agencies to maintain, where each researcher has maybe a handful of clients to work with, rather than in large agencies with hundreds of customers on the books and where relationships are managed via account handling teams rather than the research practitioner.
Indeed in one interview a client (who declined to be named for this piece) expressed dissatisfaction with their experience of larger agencies, which could be best summed up as ‘impersonal’. “They never bother to find out about me and what we do and what we want,” the client said. “They are 30% more expensive for a poorer job, and worse, they force their tools on us whether we need it or not.”
“Agencies with proprietary methodologies can be too prescriptive when a bespoke response is needed,” says another interviewee, Liz Parker, insight manager for print and web publisher A&N Media, home of the Daily Mail.
“It’s important for us to explore new ways of doing things,” she says, “but it’s also important that as an industry we don’t lose skills such as effective questionnaire design and insightful analysis. These core skill areas are often where we experience quality issues.”
Bramley sees a common theme emerging from the interviews – that is, for agencies to dispense with the gimmicks and concentrate on delivering “lateral thinking within a robust framework”.
Research buyers are also looking for robustness in the recommendations arising from the research. “Ultimately, I want an agency to challenge us and tell us what they would do as if they were spending their own money,” says another anonymous interviewee.
Meanwhile, A&N’s Parker says: “No one should be able to walk away from a debrief saying, ‘So what?’ They should be in no doubt about what the commercial implications of a piece of work are.”
So what are we to take from Relish’s research? The conclusion drawn internally, says Drummond, is that clients are looking to be “surprised and delighted by every piece of research”.
Unlike the advertising industry, where account wins dominate the trade news and agency outputs are there for all to see, the research world largely goes on behind closed doors. “You have to make a positive impression on a few consumer insight managers, who do move around and hopefully, when they do, they’ll take you with them,” says Drummond.
And remember, she says: “You’re only ever as good as your last project.”
This piece was written by Rich, and first appeared in Research Live in January, 2011
Glance over the shoulder of any commuter reading a self help book, and you’ll learn that the foundations of success in business and life are built in large part upon the strength of our relationships. So as well as reaching for the phone and making clumsy apologies to most of the people they’ve ever met, qualitative researchers should consider the relationships they have with clients and the ad agencies they use.
The client, their ad agency and the qual research team are supposed to work together to ensure the best possible campaign is created. But the relationships bonding this trio can fail to satisfy and, sadly, the qual researcher is the one typically left as the odd man out in this disappointing ménage à trois.
Ad agencies often pull in a different direction to qualitative research companies, and they’re not afraid to show it. The moments immediately after the research is conducted often reveal an ad agency’s indifference to qual. Let’s assume those in the viewing room actually found the time to watch the session rather than conducting an informal meeting about something else with their backs to the screen. If the research demonstrates that the ad ideas are on the right path, you might get a nod of appreciation. However, if the participants were grey with apathy, the complexion behind the screen will almost certainly be unappealing too. It doesn’t mean there was anything wrong with the research or the moderation – it might just be that the material you asked the audience to debate and assess wasn’t up to it. Nevertheless, you can expect to return to the viewing room just in time to hear a dismissive voice informing the client that this research (or for extra flair, all qual research) is basically a waste of time, and that the reason the ideas have not been well received is because consumers can’t be trusted to tell us what’s what when it comes to ads, qual researchers are invariably useless, the ad agency’s vision has gone over everyone else’s heads and ‘it’s all in the execution anyway’.
And it doesn’t end there. The research may culminate in a report full of genuine actionable insights and all the other sexy things that qual research should be packed with, and yet the negativity of the ad agency types remains relentless. They’re covering their backs and frustratingly, they’re probably doing it rather well. Even if the findings and recommendations are explained clearly and politely, the client seems unable or unwilling to challenge them. Why aren’t they pushing back? How is the ad agency able to wield such power when the client makes the decisions and holds the purse strings?
These clients haven’t truly bought into the need for qual research, otherwise they would have assessed the views of their audiences at the outset of the development of the campaign and continuously from there. Furthermore, the ad agency has to be a genuine part of the research. We need them to buy into our research as much as the client if all three parties are to work together to unlock consumer insight and create an ad campaign that will achieve its goals. If an ad agency is able to develop and test its ideas with consumers as they draft them they’ll stop viewing qual research as an irritant and be less likely to attempt to derail it. If we all get closer to the customers in the early phases of development, rushed research on shoddy ad concepts when it’s too late to make meaningful revisions would be most likely be avoided.
How things should be
I’d like qual research teams to be part of the debrief meetings in which the ad agency and the client discuss the implications of the research, which is not always the case. But we can’t really expect the ad agency to buy into the value of the research team via some hastily arranged groups as the campaign nears its launch – it’s not fair on them or anyone else. We need clients, and perhaps the industry as a whole, to start embracing innovative methodologies much more.
We read in industry magazines and hear at many client meetings that the focus group is on its last legs and has been for years, but I’m not sure I believe the hype. In reality, clients regularly turn down challenging methodologies in favour of the standard group option (which the research team only put in the proposal in case the client was too nervous to take a risk on anything a bit fresher).
Focus groups still have a valuable role to play and we shouldn’t dismiss the technique simply because it has been used for years. Nevertheless, if we want to gain ad agency buy-in and do better quality ad research, we should be engaging consumers in much more interesting ways, together, continuously and much earlier in the life of an ad campaign.