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How Insights Drives Innovation, and Vice Versa

Posted On  July 30, 2019

Recently members of our industry voted LRW as the most innovative Insights firm in North America in the 2019 GRIT Report. We are quite proud and honored. As a custom insights consultancy, innovation is certainly in our DNA. We innovate project by project to meet the needs of our clients, some of the biggest, most successful brands in the world, who bring us their thorniest business problems and look to us for creative solutions to help them grow their business.

Since the term innovation has come to mean many things to many people, we wanted to put a finer point on it. That’s why we asked some of our practice leaders to describe some of their most reliable tools for driving innovation.

Here are some innovative perspectives and practices from some of LRW’s most insightful leaders:


Foster a culture of creativity, experimentation, and failure friendliness.

Building something new, or altering the status quo, can’t be done through rote or formulaic thinking.Innovation requires cross-pollination – of ideas, philosophies, methods – and the ability to look at a problem from many different perspectives. For example, my marketing science tool belt is filled with everything from organizational psychology to communication theory, philosophy to computer science, statistics to visualization, pop culture to classic research methods, Zen to dada to Six Sigma. I use whatever it takes to make sense of a problem and seek out viable solutions.

It’s the tools, yes. But tools are only as effective as the people who use them, and in turn, the culture that enables them. Because our company has crafted a working culture that combines a laser focus on client impact, relentless pursuit of excellence, and a freedom to let ideas, passions, leaders, and inventors experiment, fail, and flourish, innovation can only be the expected outcome.

Jason Brooks, SVP, Marketing and Data Science


Utilize Digital Data to Build Connected Strategies

Innovation starts when a brand makes the decision not just to survive, but to grow and thrive. At the heart of this, winning brands need their strategies to be as connected as their customers. By unifying datastreams – clickstream, purchase, location, and others – with consumer attitudes, we’re able to explain why things are happening. These unbiased behavioral datasets are enabling more robust modeling and predictive analytics, helping us understand consumers more deeply.  

I work with many clients who need to translate insights into measurable actions, all in pursuit of crafting and delivering successful cross-channel engagement strategies. Whether it’s optimizing cross-channel communications, quantifying the emotional impact of campaigns, or simply integrating attitudinal personas into our clients’ DMPs and marketing platforms, it’s my job to help them succeed through the use of the richest, most unbiased data. That can come in many forms: using machine learning to remove the influence of exposure rates; using geolocation and purchase data to capture in-the-moment shopper insights; developing rich profiles for audience building; or helping lay the foundation for personalization. In all of these cases, we marry traditional approaches with technology-enabled methods and data science to answer the business challenges of today, and tomorrow. It’s not innovation in the traditional sense, but it’s certainly a new, cutting-edge way of doing things.

Josh Verseput, SVP and General Manager of LRW’s Digital Analytics practice


Flip the “Script” on Prototyping and Iteration

When you’re dealing in data, your ability to innovate hinges on your ability to slice, dice, and otherwise manipulate large datasets to create new insights. Of course, there is an ever-growing variety of off-the-shelf tools and dashboards designed to more easily manipulate data. But I’ve found that scripting languages like R, Python, and Julia enable me to push data in ways that it was not originally intended – to bring complex ideas to life by transforming and modeling data in ways that identify meaning and process, which is at the central core of insights.

To push boundaries on behalf of clients, I often collaborate with other Insights practitioners and data scientists to develop innovative models and algorithms. When a problem doesn’t have an off-the-shelf analytic library or an obvious solution, that’s when I’ve most often landed on a new product idea. Scripting languages enable me to see what’s possible, then prototype it and iterate to refine it and ‘productionalize’ it over time.  

Hrag Balian, VP of Data Science


Explore the Borders of Consumer Psychology and Insights 

One of the things that makes LRW so unique and innovative is our in-house team dedicated to fusing innovative applications of academic theory with market research methodology. One example of this thinking is our BASE  framework around fundamental human needs of Belonging, Appeal, Security, Exploration. With BASE, we use gut reactions to measure how these fundamental needs impact our decisions, then draw on evolutionary biology and psychology to determine which needs drive motivation, and link those to consumer behavior.

By understanding which fundamental needs a brand can most effectively satisfy, the brand can more effectively innovate. BASE enables them to tailor messaging, identify competitive whitespace, and develop brand positioning and extensions that resonate with the consumer. It’s just one of the tools we use to bring a new level of psychological rigor to our work, helping us to uncover drivers of less conscious decision-making.

Lauren Murphy, PhD, Senior Research Scientist for LRW’s Pragmatic Brain Science Institute® (PBSI)


Use Social Media Analytics Over Time to Identify Innovation Opportunities

Anyone can innovate and bring new products to market. The trick is bringing the ones that consumers need, want, and even crave. While customers are unlikely to broadcast a fully formed product idea, what they will do is talk about unmet needs, pain points, and other issues as part of their regular online interactions. And while we don’t have a magic formula or “insight button,” social media analytics techniques like our Online Anthropology methodology work because they show the historical trend to ensure there’s a real need among a specific group of users or customers.

Zack Nippert, President of LRWMotiveQuest

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Through tools in our marketing science, data science, digital analytics, Pragmatic Brain Science®, and Online Anthropology toolkits, fresh insights emerge, consistently presenting new opportunities for innovation on behalf of our clients.


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