Beyond the Polls With Andrew Reid

Q: When your father sold the Angus Reid Group to Ipsos in 2000, it was the largest research firm in Canada. How does Vision Critical differ from the                                         polling he did?

Old-fashioned market research, which my father played a role in developing, was based on recall: When was the last time you saw this brand? What was the context? What was your reaction? At Vision Critical, we’ve put together hundreds of private online communities, ranging from about 5,000 people to 50,000, who provide quick and detailed feedback.

This goes beyond the traditional, unbiased approach.

My quest is to get real consumer insight. Business intelligence has always been about monitoring what the customer did, where they did it, when, how. But it has never explained why.

Let’s say I’m shopping at Banana Republic with my daughter…

They already know what she’s buying. How much she’s spending. Her history with the brand. What they want to know in the moment is, What music is she listening to? How is her use of social media changing-is she using less email, more text? What are her friends saying about her shopping choices?

If she were part of your online Banana Republic community, you’d ask her those questions?

Right. Companies-the ones that are going to win-want a total view of their customer. They want the ability to react quickly, to take confident action based on 360º intelligence. A fuller picture of the customer is one of the most important assets a business can have.

If an online panel volunteers, they’re already fans of the brand. They’re biased, no?

In traditional market research, you might need to pay respondents to take the time to answer your questions. They don’t even know who the client is. People who put their hand up to join our panels are already engaged with the brand. And brand advocates are often your harshest critics. You just need to know how to put together the panel, and how to devise and frame the right questions, to have this rolling conversation rather than glances in the rear-view mirror.

Who are your biggest clients?

Jet­Blue, Nestlé, the major sports franchises-NHL, MLB, NAS­CAR, NFL. Marriott Hotels. Condé Nast publications like the New Yorker and Vanity Fair. Of the 100 largest brands in the world, about 30 are clients.

And you’re growing like crazy?

We’re up to 270 employees here, and we have offices all over the world. We recently opened an Asian headquarters in Hong Kong. So, yes-we’re profitable, we’re expanding, things are going very well.

What’s the worst part of your job?

I attend an awful lot of meetings. And working with your father can be a double-edged sword.