Brexit – What’s The Story?

Which way is next month’s Referendum on Britain leaving the EU going to go? Opinion polls are split over whether we’re heading for Brexit or not. But you can get useful insight into the dynamics of the race by using other, more emotional methods.

We used our Storyteller tool – designed to help brands find the right story to tell – to look at what the underlying narratives motivating Brexiters and Remainers might be.

The results – set out in this case study – make clear why there’s not yet a clear outcome. It’s because neither side is convincingly telling the story the British people want to hear. And with a month to go, victory will go to the side that tells it best.

1. Finding Britain’s Current Story

Instead of directly asking about Brexit, we wanted to get at the deeper issues lying below the referendum debate. So we asked not about the referendum stories, but about the stories of Britain itself. What is Britain’s story, at this crucial moment in its history?

Brexit ST 1

Every Storyteller project starts by establishing the Current Story – the archetypal narrative that people find most believable right now. We wrote our seven brief narratives, based on the Seven Basic Plots identified by Christopher Booker. We made sure none of them directly mentioned the EU or the Referendum, so people could project their own concerns onto the stories more easily. Then we found out which of them people think might come true. Continue reading

Most Innovative Agency 2016

We are proud and delighted to be named Most Innovative Agency again in the GRIT Report  2016 (Check out the results teaser over at Greenbook). This is the fifth consecutive time we’ve won it, but it never stops being an honour to be recognised for innovation, both by our clients and agency peers. Over the years we’ve been pleased to see other agencies do well too – this year, it’s great to see InSites, an agency whose innovations in online communities we have massive respect for, break the Top 3. It’s a time of huge change for market research – look at our partners ZappiStore, jumping up the rankings from 25th in 2015 to 11th in 2015. They’re helping the whole industry get leaner and faster, and that is definitely where some of the future lies.


Coming first in this survey doesn’t make us complacent – quite the reverse. We feel the pressure to keep on trying out new approaches and ideas. Last year, for instance, was all about applying behavioural science to branding. We launched our Fame, Feeling and Fluency model of brand growth which lies at the heart of our tracking and audit products, and was nominated for an MRS Innovation Award. We also unveiled the unique brand strategy product Storyteller, and were delighted when a paper combining the 3Fs and Storyteller won the prestigious Ulrike Schöneberg Award at Germany’s major research conference. This year, we’re focusing on  digital– moving a DIY version of our Ad Testing tool to ZappiStore, and working on new digital testing tools you’ll be hearing about very soon. Continue reading

The 3Fs: Good For Your Brand, Good For Your Budget

Spend any length of time in market research and you become aware of the notorious Cost-Speed-Quality Triangle. Notorious because the idea is you can only have two out of the three. Good and cheap research takes time. Fast and good research ain’t cheap. Fast and cheap research means cutting corners on quality.


The triangle is a seductively simple way to explain the pressures all of us live with – particularly at a time when research buyers are also expected to do more with less thanks to the rise of zero-based budgeting and othe trends. So in recent years, there’s been a push back against the basic assumptions of the Triangle. It’s become less an iron law, more an equation with multiple solutions.

You could argue, in fact, that three of the most important trends in modern marketing are each solving one variable in that equation – pushing back on one corner of the triangle. Outsourcing and procurement works to lower the cost of research. The increasing use of existing data and sophisticated analytics packages work to raise the quality. And automation works to raise the speed.

But all those solutions have something in common. They involve making existing research faster, or cheaper, or work harder. That’s great – as far as it goes. But there’s a whole other way to solve the equation. Do different research.

One of the reasons we developed our 3Fs model of brand growth – Fame, Feeling and Fluency working to track current brand strength and predict future growth – was to address exactly these problems. By thinking about branding from first principles, and asking what are the baseline heuristics which guide decision-making, we could answer another question. How can we help people get the most from their budgets by asking a few simple, useful questions – not a lot of useless ones?

A focus on Fame, Feeling and Fluency – simple heuristics, simply asked – gives the most possible bang for your budget. There is plenty of additional research you could do around your brand, like understanding the stories it can tell or using qual to dig into the roots of Feeling and Fluency. But the 3Fs are the core, giving you a read on the most basic factors driving brand growth. Does your brand come quickly to mind? Do people feel good about it? Is it distinctive?

Even better, these fundamentals are slow to change, so you can conduct effective and efficient strategic research with far fewer dips than traditional trackers (and free up your budget for more tactical, short-term work, if you want!).

How does embracing the 3Fs model deal help solve the equation posed by the Triangle? It can be done quickly, and we are working on automated versions of all our tools to help this happen. It obviously lowers cost, because it’s shorter and less frequent than conventional trackers. And by focusing on the handful of metrics that really drive growth, it raises quality too.

In an age of tightening budget belts, doing the same things better can only get you so far. You need to change your research diet too. The 3Fs offer a great way to do that.

Explaining The Rise Of Donald Trump

Orlando Wood reviews the results of our latest self-funded project – predicting the US election results and understanding the deeper dynamics at play.

Psychology tells us that humans are fast and frugal in our decision-making, that we ‘think much less than we think we think’. Instead, we are guided by impressions, associations, past experience, stories and feelings. We use mental shortcuts or rules of thumb to help us decide between options, products, brands – and indeed politicians. This is what psychologists refer to as ‘fast’ or ‘System 1’ thinking.

Back in late January, before the very first Caucus or Primary vote was cast – when the prediction markets and polls were in a state of flux (and indeed you might say they still are!) – we conducted research in the US to understand how well the US candidates had established the important mental shortcuts of Fame, Feeling and Fluency. Continue reading

Election ’16: Who Wins?

It’s no secret that opinion polling has had a rough time of it lately. Gallup have stopped even running their polls in the USA. All the major polling firms had a nightmare predicting the outcome of the UK’s 2015 general election. And in Michigan a couple of weeks ago, a 20-point Primary lead for Hillary Clinton turned into a 1-point win for Bernie Sanders – the single worst polling performance in a US Primary since the 1980s.

trump clinton

It got us wondering. What would happen if instead of directly asking about political outcomes, we tried to make predictions using the same tools we use for brand research? Our webinar talks you through the results of these experiments.

Our branding model – brand growth based on Fame, Feeling and Fluency – rests on one key truth. People don’t make brand decisions based on complex considerations,  but on rapid, unconscious shortcuts. And that’s probably how they make political decisions too. Continue reading

The Future Of Insights Project is HERE

We’ve been looking forward to posting this one! Last year we did some work with the World Federation of Advertisers on a very juicy topic – the future of the insights business. With 2016 being the 100th birthday of market research (don’t believe us? read the report!) we thought it was time to take a look at what’s coming up NEXT. Today the Future Of Insights Project releases its core report. And it’s fascinating.

WFA report photo

Chief Juicer John Kearon launches the report in Kuala Lumpur.

There are a few “research on research” studies knocking around and most of them have interesting things to say. What makes the WFA one particularly exciting? Continue reading

Ad Skipping And How To Avoid It

New online behaviour brings new challenges for advertisers. How to get seen – how to get shared – and increasingly, how not to get skipped. Ad skipping has always been with us, of course. If you flipped the TV channel when an ad you hated came on, or got up off the couch at the commercial break, you were skipping as surely as you are when you frantically hunt for that tiny ‘X’ to click. But like a lot of behaviours in the digital age, skipping is now easier and quicker. What can be done about it?

skip ad

It’s worth clarifying what we mean here. We aren’t talking about ad blocking, where people never see the ads in the first place. Skipping ads is a different thing: it’s when someone starts watching an ad but doesn’t finish. At some point, usually very quickly, they stop it.

So if you want to tackle skipping a lot rests on the first few seconds. This poses a particular challenge if you believe – as we do, with plenty of evidence – that what makes advertising effective is its emotional impact. If you feel nothing, you do nothing – but someone who skips an ad is never going to get the chance to feel anything! How should an ad use its opening seconds to make an emotional promise that takes you through to the rest of it? Continue reading