Brainjuicer has been named Marketing's Market Research Agency of the Year for the second year running, following an impressive 12 months in which it not only grew its business, but also continued to invest in innovation and its people.
The judges were full of praise for the 12-year-old online research company. 'It is pleasing to see Brainjuicer continuing to drive forward the boundaries of effective research through great, creative methodologies, which clearly inspire its people and clients,' commented one. Across its four core competencies - ideas and insights, concepts, communications and customer satisfaction - Brainjuicer operates on the principle that market research should be 'mind-expanding and profit-enhancing rather than risk-reducing'. This is effective, it claims, because most research measures the wrong things, therefore wasting marketers' money. PepsiCo UK marketing director Lee Sargent is one of many clients to have bought into this philosophy; he engages with the agency when he needs 'step-change thinking'.
The approach has paid off for Brainjuicer; its most recent half-year figures show 26% revenue growth and operating profit growth of 24%. It has achieved this by nurturing existing clients, earning high levels of repeat business. Globally, the agency now has more than 165 clients, predominantly big consumer-facing companies, including 12 of the world's top 20 buyers of market research.
The agency is not standing still, however. Brainjuicer Labs, its R&D arm, is seeking to create tools to sit alongside 'Juicy' and 'Twist', its established ones. Areas of investigation in Labs include methodologies that apply 'gaming' principles to research, to encourage response rates and elicit greater and more reliable truths, and mobile ethnography. The latter has already informed an academic paper on binge-drinking in the UK, which found many factors fuelling the problem that may otherwise have been undiscovered by traditional methods.
Brainjuicer's people ethos is centred on three tenets: autonomy, mastery and purpose. These allow staff to control the way they work, support training and capability and nurture personal passions. The agency is also hardwiring the pursuit of client 'delight' into its employees' performance measures. From this year, staff at client director-level and below will be assessed on their teams' ability to achieve high levels of total customer satisfaction as expressed in a 'happiness' measure from its own customer-satisfaction tool.
The judges' verdict on this mould-breaking outfit: 'Many agencies catch fire, burn brightly and then fade, so to win for a second year running is testament to how good this organisation is.'
FOCUS ON GOOGLE
Brainjuicer collaborated with Contagious Communications and graphic facilitation firm Scriberia to produce an accurate picture of the mobile world for the internet and software company.
The market research agency was hired to carry out the preliminary research and brought together a community of about 60 Google employees from the UK, US, France, Germany, Japan, Kenya, Malaysia, India, Brazil and Russia to collaborate and discuss their thinking on mobile.
Brainjuicer and Contagious, which had both moderated the debates, extracted the most-relevant and intriguing insights, then teamed up with Scriberia to host a workshop for the team.
The project enabled Google to gain key insights into mobile strategy, arming it with the knowledge of what matters to mobile enthusiasts to help it succeed in this competitive market.
BEST OF THE REST
The growth of Firefish, a research agency specialising in brands, communication and culture, continues unabated. After a successful 2010 it set itself the ambitious target of growing by 30%, and is forecast to achieve 34%; a strong performance given that, according to MRS, the industry declined by 0.2% in 2010.
Brands including Everything Everywhere, Clarks and Hovis contributed to the agency's new-business haul, worth more than £1.25m, while existing clients such as Unilever and Diageo are adding to Firefish's remit.
At the end of last year the agency established a quantitative research division to complement its 'intelligent research' approach. It also founded a specialist children and family research consultancy, The Pineapple Lounge, which is working with McDonald's and BT, despite having launched only in May.
This year Firefish moved into new offices at the heart of 'Tech City' in Shoreditch. It is a fitting location for the agency, which is making a name for itself with its creative technological innovations. These include 'FishEye', a camera worn by respondents that captures their life in a photograph every three to eight seconds, a tool that won the Best Innovation category at the MRS/Research Awards 2010. It is also developing tools aimed at understanding the media consumption of people in a world of dualand multi-screen use.
By the end of this year Firefish hopes to reach a staff headcount of 50 having recruited 15 over the past 12 months to reach 49, capping a remarkable year of expansion across every part of the business.
British industrialist Viscount Leverhulme and US department-store pioneer John Wanamaker are both attributed as the source of the famous quote: 'Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don't know which half.' In 2006, Mesh Planning opened its doors for business with a clear vision: to help clients know 'which half' through understanding the experiences consumers had with brands.
To meet this aim, Mesh devised 'experience tracking', a continuous tracking tool that harnesses the power of the mobile phone by asking participants to text whenever they see, hear or experience anything to do with the brands in the study. This allows real-time feedback, enabling marketers to optimise campaigns as they progress.
After a tough recession, 2011 was the turnaround year for the young business as it picked up BSkyB's brand and content-evaluation tracking, followed by RBS; these have contributed to strong business growth.
Whether experience tracking will become the industry standard method for marketers to track brands remains to be seen, but, with the dedicated team at Mesh Planning spreading the word, it is sure to pick up more fans in the coming years.
Also shortlisted were Flamingo, Incite, Nunwood and SPA Future Thinking.
2009: Sense Worldwide
2008: Hall & Partners