Keeping our eyes on the stars and our feet on the ground

Unilever’s CMO Keith Weed gained wide-spread attention stating “We must get to the future first”. The underlying driver for this statement was his realization that consumers are closer to the future than the Unilever organization itself. He was not comparing Unilever with its direct competitors P&G, Henkel or Nestlé, but with consumers… Interesting, don’t you think? We think Keith is right.

The conditions for a perfect storm are here

New digital technologies are opening up exciting possibilities to connect with consumers every day, there is increased pressure for brands and organizations to keep up with consumer trends and competition, and consumers are increasingly expecting and even demanding to have a say on the future of ‘their’ brands. In our ‘Social media around the world’ study, more than 50% of consumers indicated being willing to co-create and collaborate with brands.
To us, keeping our eyes on the stars means we want to get our clients to the future first. As highlighted in an interview with Leonard Murphy (CEO Series Greenbook Blog), we stretch the boundaries of market research, both in terms of how we do research (breaking the boundaries of time and place) as in terms of the impact we realize through research. We are convinced we can close the gap between organizations and their customers by unlocking the consulting potential that is hidden inside customers, driving new and unique added value for organizations and help them to get to the future faster. Ultimately, we want our clients to reserve a seat on their board for the ‘Chief Consumer Officer’, acting as the voice of the customer on the highest possible hierarchical level.

But let’s keep our feet on the ground: what did our journey look like in 2012?

The key highlights have been nicely wrapped into our ‘This was 2012’ video: a big thank you to all of our colleagues, clients and partners who contributed to this! We are well on our way to reach our growth ambitions for this fiscal year ‘12-‘13, expecting an overall growth of +25% versus the previous fiscal year ‘11-‘12. One of the core reasons behind this is the exponential growth of our market research online communities (MROC), having more than doubled in number and now accounting for close to 30% of our revenues. 2012 was also the year when we were able to accelerate our global capabilities and impact through our new US office, the launch of our Global Community Moderator Network, the international success of our award-winning book ‘How Cool Brands Stay Hot’ and our continued efforts to develop and spread interesting content for the marketing and research community.

So what will 2013 bring for us?

Essentially, we will further build on the growth foundations we have laid out last year through our offices in New York, London, Rotterdam and Ghent. We will continue to grow Customer Consulting Boards as our flagship service to clients, enriched with a broad mix of complementary digital research methods. While in nature a Customer Consulting Board is based on the research community method, we use this specific term in order to highlight (1) the more active role customers play, acting as ‘consultants’, (2) the structural, on-going character of customer collaboration, and (3) the strategic impact it needs to have inside the organization, touching different functional departments and hierarchical layers. Finally, 2013 will be the year when we will be focusing heavily on the impact we are realizing for our clients. Our ForwaR&D lab will test to which extent our methods drive impact on a knowledge level (getting more inspiration and making better decisions), on an internal level (changing the hearts, minds and actions of people) and on an external level (using research as content sparks driving brand impact). We will be driving impact for our clients in 4 different ways: enabling to get close to customers, generating and validating insights, co-creating value offerings and driving customer experience. Finally, we will boost our global impact through further strengthening our Global Community Moderator Network, supporting global brands to become locally relevant anywhere across the globe.
In an effort to better bring across our message, we revamped our corporate website. Our new site is intended to better reflect our mission and global capabilities, to allow faster access to the different solutions and methods we offer, to put a better spotlight on client cases we have been working on and to offer a broad mix of relevant content that you can easily share with your social networks. We hope you are as excited about it as we are: feel free to spread the word!
Are you excited about our story and journey? Don’t hesitate to get in touch: we are recruiting close to 25 people in our different offices; we may soon be reaching for the stars together :-).

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