What does it take to be the perennial leader of GRIT’s list of innovative companies? Not only a great value proposition to begin with, but also a thirst to continually provide deeper insights for clients, better methods to achieve the insights and the fortitude to tirelessly challenge the conventional. This month’s blog profiles BrainJuicer, a strategy and research consultancy – long known to be an innovator in market research with deep roots in the behavioral sciences and a strong point of view on how consumers actually make decisions. Founded in 2000 in the UK, having expanded their client presence globally, BrainJuicer has aspiration to do even more. I had the opportunity to spend time with Alex Hunt, President of the Americas, to discuss the ingredients of their ‘juice’. As we learned from other successful purveyors of our trade, the source of innovation is often the DNA of an organization; simply stated – “being a Juicer”. In the case of BrainJuicer, transformation began on day one through a desire to challenge the status quo and as a result, simply do a better job for clients. A number of themes emerged from our conversation.
Leverage science not puffery. BrainJuicer is rooted in behavioral science and a strong academic underpinning. The ‘science’ component is critical and is why the recommendations BrainJuicer makes to its clients work. The integration of science and consulting within the creative process is an art and the root of BrainJuicer’s success. According to BrainJuicer, behavioral science is the starting point for making brands famous and for the veracity of products and services.
Search for clients who want to be pioneers. BrainJuicer actively engages clients to test ideas prior to commercialization. Some clients are even actively involved in product development. Insurance leader Allstate engaged with the agency in exploration of “research in a world without questions” which led to the development of prototype tools that go beyond the traditional survey. Client partnerships can be invaluable in this regard and will continue to be core to the future growth of BrainJuicer.
Squeeze new juice to find new recipes. BrainJuicer invests a tremendous amount in R&D for a company its size. As Alex stated “If you aren’t trying to find the future, it isn’t going to find you”. BrainJuicer teams are encouraged to fail, try new things, look for new and different ways to achieve results. Spending money on experimentation is celebrated, not banned. Not everything works – in fact, many ideas never play out but without trying, the hot new recipe will be eternally elusive. This attitude has led to the development and validation of truly innovative methodologies.
Never finish second. This was one of the most intriguing philosophical arguments about instilling transformation and innovation as part of BrainJuicer’s culture. Alex shared that the agency believes they should either finish first or last. The rationale – if you come in second in a pitch to a client, it likely means you played it safe – didn’t stretch, didn’t present the design or approach that would really help take clients to the next level. As trusted advisors, even if it means not winning a specific assignment, they never want to leave anything on the playing field. The drive to be bold in recommendations and help clients to embrace behavioral change, leads to innovation. This philosophical conviction has led BrainJuicer to push the boundaries of what market research has traditionally achieved and issues addressed.
Make sure you call the shots. While BrainJuicer is a publicly-traded company, it is independent and can set its own path forward with control over strategic decisions that continually improve and transform the company. As Alex pointed out, this story is not the same for BrainJuicer’s competitors that have been acquired.
Be sexy. Sexy is not a term generally used by, or associated with, research firms or even consultancies for that matter. For BrainJuicer, ‘sexy’ is part of its ethos. “There is nothing sexier than trying to understand what makes people tick.” said Alex. How does BrainJuicer apply this to client advisory: transform the way information and insights are presented, make it unique, make it stand out, package it to inspire. Help make brands famous.
It is BrainJuicer’s belief that transformation without impact isn’t transformation at all. BrainJuicer defines success as the business impact it is having on clients, what the industry is doing and how clients are evolving their approach marketing. If the transformation is only internal to the company, what’s the point? As an industry we strive to have an impact on our clients to help them achieve industry leadership and succeed in their businesses. If we set our sights on that goal rather than just being an insurance policy for executives to affirm decisions already made, we will not only be working in the best interests of our clients but also giving our industry a much needed push forward. BrainJuicer blends a cocktail that is one part innovation, one part science and one part the role of the disrupter – and the result is juicy.