Strategy is Built Upon Insight

POSTED BY Rachel Power on Oct 21, 2011


Companies spend millions of dollars every year trying to figure out their consumer. What makes them tick? What motivates their behavior? How can we get them to engage with us? To love us?

At Hornall Anderson, our job is to create relevant and resonant brand experiences on behalf of our clients that develop meaningful connections between consumers and brands. It’s fair to say that our success is largely dependent on developing a deep understanding of what motivates our clients’ customers so that whatever we create will motivate them to react, respond and ultimately engage. Everything we create is designed to deliver the optimal human interaction. Whether it’s making someone’s life a bit easier, a bit more efficient, or even more beautiful – our success is dependent on understanding what motivates our consumer and drives their behavior.


Research that allows us to develop a deeper understanding of a target audience, a competitive landscape and current cultural trends is integral to our task of building the most engaging experiences that we can for consumers. These insights are crucial in the creation of engagements that will deliver on unmet needs, surprise and delight, and seamlessly integrate into consumers’ personal lives. Whatever the mode, we are relentless in the pursuit of surfacing the insight(s) that will enable our multi-disciplinary team to create meaningful experiences that express brands in the most authentic way possible.


We can’t say enough about how critical it is to deploy the right type of research approach at the onset of engagements. And, fortunately when it comes to understanding consumers, research methodologies and partners abound. Being integrated into the research process as early as possible is the best scenario in the innovation, branding and design workflow. Why? Because this allows us to partner and actively influence the research path, embeds us in the process, and allows us to actively engage in the research as either participants or observers.

This means that across disciplines we get first hand knowledge of the consumer behavior and insights that are elicited through research. We aren’t just handed research reports that live in PowerPoint form and may lose their impact without the author’s voiceover, or worse, may have been languishing for some time rendering the data less actionable.

It also means that we can have a voice when the research is first piloted and, if needed, can offer guidance on course correcting if the approach needs a little refining. Whatever the methodology, the goal is always the same: elicit deep insight into our target audience and marry those insights with our understanding of the business challenge at hand, the competitive landscape and current trends.


Often it takes multiple streams of data to define which target consumer will be interested in a product or service, and what their unmet needs are. One of the approaches we evangelize is exposing consumers to creative concepts and innovation ideas through co-creation ideation sessions. This allows a multi-disciplinary team to interact face-to-face with consumers and observe their reactions firsthand giving the consumer a voice in the process.

Other times an ethnographic approach, where we act as participant observers, is the right pathway. When time allows, an ethnographic approach is one of the best ways to immerse ourselves into the consumers’ lives at home, work, or even during shopping, allowing the creation of feedback loops that help us understand what’s working and what’s not. Ultimately, it’s a human centered approach that wins.

Ultimately, it’s a human centered approach that wins.


Microsoft was ready to launch its new version of Office on a global scale. The key to their success was increasing shopability and moving their brand into the PC aisle, getting them noticed beyond the confines of the software aisle across all retail partners. Pain-points consumers were feeling informed our design approach, which harnessed the power of their key design equities. Microsoft was able to go to market succinctly and build brand equity across all markets because of the consistent visual language.

Our multi-tiered research approach for Microsoft included research in over 10 countries around the globe. We deployed our strategists and designers to perform global shop-alongs with consumers in 11 countries. From these early ethnographies we were able to gain firsthand insight into how people shopped for software and see the whole shopping experience in-store, in the software and PC aisles and online as participant observers. One-on-one interviews with Microsoft’s regional managers rounded out our market immersion.

We also used eye-tracking in simulated retail environments to create benchmarks for current packaging and to inform our design strategy. After we had designed the optimal solution we went back into the field to conduct more shop-alongs in a simulated retail environment where the consumer was asked to shop, buy and unbox and install the software allowing us to further understand and optimize this entire cycle for the consumer including messaging and install process.

Life isn’t perfect and it’s fairly common that our clients come to us after investing heavily in research as a means of defining white space or even determining viable target audiences. This type of research can range from business partners identifying the opportunity backed by financial projections, operational and manufacturing considerations, to in-depth segmentation studies.

Many clients bring us existing research from their R&D pipeline that may include findings on consumer pain-points associated with products and services. The question to us is usually, “what now?” That’s our cue to dive in and work hard to develop a comprehensive understanding of the consumer. If we are handed research by the client, we compliment this with our own secondary research. This includes utilizing syndicated sources as well as our own past experiences across a vast array of categories and business challenges.

Ultimately, the process of branding, design and experience building relies on our ability to synthesize multiple and often complex layers of information and weave them together into a tapestry of meaning. Pulling from research streams and adding our insights and observations into the mix, lays the groundwork for creating a robust brand strategy that will give life to a resonant brand experience. We constantly strive to connect information streams in new ways to elicit the “aha moments" that create the pathway to connecting brands and consumers.


Recently, our fabulous client, The Limited, came to us with an exciting opportunity to help them develop a new brand for the plus-sized, fashion-conscious woman. Their consumer behavior research uncovered a clear opportunity for them to engage plus-size women who are already drawn to fashion, but felt disenfranchised from other apparel. These women simply wanted more from the fashion marketplace. The Limited was ready to launch a new brand and product offering that would empower this target audience. The insights showed that if The Limited celebrated plus-size women, respected their curves and offered them uncompromising fit and quality, the brand would resonate with the consumer.

Our first step was to distill the existing research. Then as we moved from ideation through brand proposition development and finally to naming, we asked ourselves: How will this consumer first engage with a brand? What will keep her engaged? What are the myths and the baggage of this category? What are the barriers from a purchase experience? What could help grow this brand and extend its expression in an authentic way? What is going on in this consumer’s life? Where will the competition come from and how will they try to engage? What will it take to make her feel passionate about the offering? We attacked the challenge with insatiable curiosity and with empathy for her challenges.

We performed market audits and listened to and monitored what was going on in conversations about plus-size fashion in social streams. We also performed competitive research audits to supplement the existing data. By weaving these insights together we were able to build the story that became the brand platform.

Its promise to the consumer will go on to serve as the lens through which this brand will be understood, embraced, and hopefully loved by an audience of women eager for something new and just for them. Eloquii’s brand promise is about “breaking through” – creating opportunities for women and celebrating their love of fashion with styles that look fabulous and fit their curves. Eloquii, by The Limited offers clothing designed for and inspired by real women.

Understanding this consumer and her textured life enabled us to create a brand that connects on an emotional level and will ultimately drive preference... women won’t just choose eloquii, but will love eloquii.

Understanding this consumer and her textured life enabled us to create a brand that connects on an emotional level and will ultimately drive preference by this audience. It was a satisfying outcome that shows that sometimes with some existing hard data and a little research ingenuity on our part, we are able to get to the level of understanding that resulted in the key experiences that will excite this audience. We hope that women won’t just choose eloquii, but will love eloquii.

Bringing an experienced firm like Hornall Anderson to be your objective partner to guide you through research, innovation and design processes is key to ensuring your brand resonates with your intended audience.

Are you ready to get to know your customer?

WRITTEN BY Rachel Power

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