The Role of Research in Branding

By Alan Brew

In many important ways, market research can and will drive how a brand must be defined to ensure success. In this episode of BrandingBusiness, Alan Brew interviews two key professionals in the field of research. Bill MacElroy is the President of Socratic Technologies, a research firm specializing in online outreach, and Chris St. Hilaire is President of M4 Strategies and the author of the acclaimed book ’27 Powers of Persuasion.’ They will discuss recent changes in the field of market research and how the digital revolution has changed the way research is conducted. They also take a look at how people think and how the public opinion can be properly measured.


Episode Transcript

It’s time for BrandingBusiness the only show that brings branding experts and corporate executives together to explore how branding your business can improve both your topline growth and bottom line performance. Brought to you by RiechesBaird. Now here’s your host.

Alan:    Welcome to BrandingBusiness. My name is Alan Brew and the topic of today’s show is utilizing market research to drive brand and business growth. First guest today is Dr. William MacElroy of Socratic Technologies based in San Francisco. Bill are you there?

Bill:  Yes I am, Alan. Thank you very much for having me. It’s nice to be with you today.

Alan:  Thank you for joining us. Bill, the whole topic of market research I know from personal experience is a very confusing one. I’m really interested in the way you developed and approached that removed a lot of the old traditional methodologies, and access information from the market place in a very intriguing new way. Can you just give us a bit of background about your company Socratic Technologies and what it is you do?

Bill:   We were founded back in 1994 and one of the big things that makes Socratic different than most large traditional research agencies is that almost 100% of the research we now do is via the internet. One of the things that makes our approach quite a bit different than most traditional forms of research is that we use a great number of new interactive online tools that are far more engaging than simply the old questionnaire and the check boxes and the fill-in the blanks.

We have a lot of things where people can go in and play with some of these tools, many of them are animated. We do things, the collage building which are all great old traditional techniques but what we’re doing is we’re really taking them well into the new century with updated interfaces that is a lot more interesting for survey takers than some more traditional forms of research.

Alan:    The internet. Is the internet really effective in reaching people online and does it replace the old techniques of the person with the clipboard? Can you explain how it’s different in terms of its approach?

Bill:  Back in the early days, certainly was a pretty good concern that you didn’t have a tremendous number of people who are on the internet. In the U.S. today approximately 88% of all U.S. citizens have some form of access to the internet. To be able to contact them through a media that they’re currently using very, very frequently. In fact, e-mail and internet and all the rest are people now preferred forms of communication. It really is quite, quite effective and we certainly do keep track of those subgroups that we can’t necessarily find online. There will always be a call for some phone and some intercept and of course there will always be focus groups. For the most part, when you’re doing a more quantitative or survey based program these days, the internet is actually turning out to be quite good at mimicking the exact same findings we get through most other traditional approaches.

Alan:  You find that the internet is really an effective way reaching people you want to reach and accessing the audience you need to talk to.

Bill:  Yes, and once again, it really does depend specifically on what type of audience that you want or even very, very hard to find people. You can usually find a certain number of them that will take a survey online, and or course when you’re not calling somebody on the phone, they can take the survey whenever it’s convenient for them.

There’s a lot of positive benefits to people who want to take part in research and we do find people. Actually, not even just here in North America but all over the world. Actually one of the areas that is the keen interest to many companies now are emerging markets like China. Of course people would think, “How could you possibly find the correct people in China?” Actually the proportion of people in China who have internet access is probably about 20% of their whole population, but that 20% is more than the entire population of the United States. You have a lot of people to choose from.

In many cases when you are reaching into even developing markets such as India, Brazil, the people with the internet access are also the people who have the disposable income that many companies want to market to. In that regard, yes, the internet is becoming an effective tool for reaching people all over the world.

Alan:   How would you overcome the issue of spam, Bill? People are difficult to reach at the best of times. How would they know that you are trying to reach them and this would a survey they’d be interested in taking?

Bill: Excellent question. I think that most legitimate research agencies would never just send out a broad based e-mail. You always have to start with some sort of an acknowledged group that has said, “You may contact me for research purposes.” Many times we would work with our clients using their list of customers. In other cases we would use professional societies and panels that have people that are recruited either because they subscribed to a magazine or they’re a member of a frequent flier program or anything where they’re invited as a part of their subscription or their membership or something to take part in surveys from time to time.

We always start with a list of people who has said, “Yes, you may contact me for these purposes.” Then we find the ideal match. In some cases we have to go to some pretty obscure publications and get that permission. Once you are talking to them about a subject that’s important to them and because they’ve already opted in, then you really aren’t as likely to be regarded as spam.

Of course, we also follow the can spam rules which says that within an invitation you have to say where you got their name and what you’re going to do with the data and establish a prior business relationship or a permission to contact so that people don’t regard it as spam.

Alan: Do you find people responsive, or do you get a good response right from e-mail?

Bill:  The e-mail invitations go out and within the e-mail invitation itself is generally a link to the online survey. It depends of course on the audience. In some cases, if the company who is sponsoring the research is not a very key factor in people’s lives then you might get a response rate of anywhere from one to maybe eight percent.

There’s other groups that we work with. We run some very large panels of internal customers or companies like Dunkin Donuts for instance. With them, when they send out a request for people to come in and talk about a subject that they would like to study, you get response rates of 65%. It really is going to depend on how much interest and affinity that the potential survey takers have with the brand and with the topics.

Alan: We all like donuts, but what about industries and companies who deal with business to business? Do you have the same response right there or is it different?

Bill:  Once again, I think it depends. If you are dealing with a company that’s providing a mission critical component and some of these can be very, very obscure. We can be talking about chemicals and we can be talking about integrated circuit components. We can be talking about electronics. Many of these are at the OEM level. All is going to depend on how critical that the brand and the topic is to the person who’s taking it and that will determine their response rates.

In some cases we deal with medical devices and if we’re going to certain people who are very interested in those, you could have a very high response rate. Others, when you get into some very in-frequently purchased or not understood then you might be lucky to get one or two percent response rate.

Alan:  Interesting, Bill. The internet is a new tool to reach people and conduct surveys and market research. Research is a wide, wide subject. People are familiar with parts of it, there is quantitative, there is qualitative. Can you just give it a sense of what research you want to take and from what kind of client?

Bill:  I think that as you’ve mentioned, there is a broad range of types of research. In general, when you’re just starting out. Let’s talk about branding because that is the core topic. When people are just starting out either thinking about a new brand or repositioning an old brand, generally they’ll start out with what are called more of the qualitative exercises. A qualitative simply means that you’re not asking large numbers of people, but you’re asking small numbers of people to think deeply about a subject. There examples of which are typically like focus groups or in depth one on one where you really talk to the subject with people who have some level of familiarity with the brand or the company or the industry.

Then you get a broad range of opinions but you don’t have very large numbers so that you can’t really project those out to the general market. Then after you’ve gotten more of the qualitative data analyzed, you then would normally move in to more of the quantitative phase. This is more of the survey data where you’re going to be talking to customers and to a potential customers about their perception of the brands and the issues that are affecting the company that undertaken to research.

As the quantitative has been analyzed, you get much more of the projective techniques, 75% of the people in the market scaled this way about something, and you can say that when you have very large sample sizes. Generally, when you’re talking about the qualitative data upfront, it’s more like we get a sense of the majority field this way and then we use the quantitative survey data to go out and put an absolute number on it.

Alan:  What kind of clients do you do this research for Bill? The quantitative is the one I understand where you reach out to a wider group of respondents to get projectable data, and that would help a business to do what?

Bill:  I think that certainly as they’re planning any brand or market activity. Generally, the two large areas of research that Socratic is asked to participate in are anything that’s related to product development and the branding around new products. About the brand itself and positioning and messaging, etc. Those are our two major areas of focus.

Within Socratic, my particular background and my particular focus is in the B to B and high technology world. Within that entire range of clientele, we deal with everything from high technology, chip manufacturers, networking companies to manufacturers of computers and peripheral devices, to medical devices. Frankly, also a lot of B to B services as well.

Within all of these, our group tends to work with the B to B issues on where does our brand stand now? Are there opportunities for the brand to transition to be something different or something new? What other brands are currently occupying positions of such strength that we probably wouldn’t have much luck going after that positioning if we try to capture it. Those are the types of questions that generally we’re asked.

Alan: What about a new company that’s launching or a company that’s launching a new product or a new service in a new market? Does this work equally well with that issues? When you’re approaching the market with something that’s brand new, your biggest enemy is the fact that you’re brand new and the people are generally not very good at projecting out on things that are very, very unfamiliar to them. They’re very good at reacting to things that they know, but they are not very good at thinking outside of the box and projecting into future state.

In many cases, what we will do for something that’s extremely new that is not common or has not really been seen in the market before, is we’ll often design a short movie that will illustrate exactly what it is we’re talking about. Within these movies we will talk about why, if there’s any problems that this is being used to address certain approaches that would be used to change the way that you’re doing a specific type of business.

Throughout this, we try very hard not to make these into sales pitches but more simply to really explain the concept so that people will understand what it is we’re asking them to evaluate. Once they have that better understanding of the topic or of the concept or the new product or of the new service then we can go in and ask them more of the in depth questions that we need to really help inform the people who are working on the brand strategy.

Alan:  You can test the market in terms of its potential response to a new product or service through this technique.

Bill:  Yes. In fact, often times as a part of these projective techniques we’re asked to develop praise demand tradeoff as well. Even if nobody really knew what the product was before the research, we rely on a couple of psychological under-pinnings which say that even if you weren’t aware of something, you can pretty much judge it’s a fair market value based on other things that you may be familiar with.

We’ll often go out and look at price demand curves which largely say if you go out with this service at $500, what percent of the market would be interested in purchasing this service, versus if you went out at a thousand dollars. Does it cut the market in half or do you only lose a little bit in which case you should certainly go for the higher price point.

We’re often asked particularly in new product, new brand situations to do that type of work to give a feel to the brand strategist and to the company how viable is this new product in the context of the brand that we’re attempting to launch.

Alan:  Very interesting Bill. That’s from the perspective of a new product or a new service in the market place. What about a large, established organization like a bank or a financial services institution that wants to look at the market in a new way and look at ways of segmenting the market to better serve certain segments or to focus on the more profitable segments. Do you do any research that looks at that?

Bill:   Absolutely. We certainly do and within all of these financial services, high technology, there are often established brands that find themselves either being not as differentiated from the competition as they would like, or there are new and emerging markets that no one has really gone after. In many cases, what we will do is we will do what we call a baseline study to understand what those different customer segment are in terms of their needs, their perception, who they’re currently doing business with. Once again, that’s one of those techniques where we’re attempting to find opportunities in the current market if there are customer groups that are not currently being served either completely or they’re being served weakly by any of the brands that are there. That would be an opportunity for expansion either for an existing brand or a new brand to more thoroughly meet the needs of a segment that is being underserved.

Alan:  This really would be a way of looking at a market and finding new potentially profitable ways to segment the market and move into new areas of product development and service areas.

Bill:  Yes. I think that what research can do is that they can identify the gaps and the holes and the lack of met needs. It really goes directly hand in hand with the branding team to say, “How do we then take this information that there is an opportunity and act on it?” I think, certainly over the years you and I have known each other for 15 years now. I think it’s the concerted effort of being able to not only identify the opportunities but then also come up with the actionable strategy to take advantage of those opportunities that really put the whole package together.

Alan:  As you say Bill, we worked together for some years now on many different client and brand situations. One thing that comes along every now and again is a client or a company saying, “We have a new name and we have a new logo, how best should we test this?” Often people recommend focus groups to test things like this. What’s your perspective on that? Is a focus group a good way of testing new names and logos or would you recommend another way?

Bill:  Actually, I come from the school of thought that it is usually bad research to attempt to turn your customers into graphic designers and naming experts. If you sit at a group of people around the table and ask them directly, “Gee, what do you think of this name? What do you think of this logo?” They’re going to immediately try and put on a hat that they’re really not all that qualified to do. They’re going to tell you, “That logo needs to be a little bit more red.” That may be of interest but it really isn’t actionable.

In many cases, what we do is we use what’s called an indirect methodology where we will look at several names and we’ll say, “Of these names, which of these is the most professional or the most high-tech?” or whatever we’re trying to do, that will get a profile of attribute associations for each name in a more of a quantitative setting and the name of the logo that has the greatest match to our objective and what we’re trying to communicate actually becomes the way we choose a “winner” to simply ask people to choose one, it becomes a very subjective exercise. Once again, we try not to turn our very honored customers, but ones that don’t necessarily have the background into graphic designers and naming experts.

Alan: Very often on the client’s side wer’re dealing with people or direction of research you are equally expert in this subject of research. How do you engage with people on that level though? Because we’ve got the research discipline on the one hand and yet we’re looking at a particular business issue which is more aligned with perhaps a marketing initiative. Do you find yourself caught between the research expert and the marketing initiative in a client’s situation?

Bill:  Normally, when we go in, we try to explain exactly how we’re going to do something. Rather than get into all of the very high level statistical analysis and that thing, we focus more on the deliverables. What type of information are you going to get out of this process? We work on, is this going to help you with your decision or not? Largely we try and focus more on what does the key decision maker who needs to make a decision need in order to feel comfortable. That will then guide and inform the research, design, the analysis and the deliverables. We try and meet somewhere in the middle.

Of course our friends in research are always the ones who are going to work with this on what’s been done on the past, what they’ve tried, any standards that they are already familiar with and we will of course with them to incorporate that into whatever research that we’re recommending.

Alan:  Moving on to one of the last questions in view of our time availability here. I was wondering, what are the typical pitfalls to avoid when thinking about research? Again, it’s a subject that needs an expert point of view and an expert to undertake it. Have you ever advised the client not to undertake research? If you have, what are the pitfalls you advice against?

Bill: Yes, I tell clients not to undertake research all the time which is probably not good for my business but it does help sleep at night. I think that the key thing that you want to ask yourself is, is research going to help you make decision. In many cases, we’ll get into a situation where and for all intense and purposes the decision is already made, that this is just going out to ask people their opinion just in case.

The problem with that is if you go out particularly to your clients and you ask them a question that you have no intension of taking action on if it comes back counter to what you’re planning to do my advice is don’t ask. If you’re not going to take action on it and you aren’t going to actually bring feedback into the decision making process don’t bother asking because it’s just going to annoy people and make them feel disrespected.

I tell people if that’s the case, you probably just do it and if the decision is already made and you’ve already printed the packaging, it’s a little late to worry about whether you should be in this market or not.

I guess the second thing in terms of pitfalls is I think that you really need senior management on board with the process. I think that some of the worst research nightmares have come along when the research team and the task force has been all diligently at work. They get everything together and they go in and senior management says, “We’re not doing that. We’re going to do something completely different” and you’ve just wasted everybody’s time and money.

I think that the big thing is just to make that the entire infrastructure of the company, particularly when it comes to brand because that touches every single person from the CEO down, to make sure that there’s an alignment, that there is a need for brand work and what come out the backend is going to be something that we can take action on. Those things are definitely a part of what would have to be either taken into account or avoided.

Alan:  Get the senior team on board from the outset and then work with them and make sure they’re engaged all the way through. I know that you’re also a good branding consultant as well as a research specialist bill so I have no doubt that you can do that. If any of our listeners would like to reach you and have follow up questions, what’s the best way to get in contact with you?

Bill:  As was previously mentioned we are headquartered in San Francisco, our telephone number is 415-430-2200 and you can always reach me via my e-mail which is

Alan: Thanks so much for joining us, Bill. You’ve been listening to Branding Business with Rieches Baird and to learn more about our show please visit

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Alan:  Welcome back to BrandingBusiness. My name is Alan Brew and our second guest today is Chris St. Hilaire who is president of M4 Strategies and the author of the acclaimed business book 27 Powers of Persuasion. Chris, how are you today?

Chris:  I’m great. Thanks for having me.

Alan:  Thanks for joining us. Chris, I know you focus on a particular kind of research. First of all, tell us about your business and what your area of expertise is.

Chris: I own two companies, one is Jury Impact, the other you mentioned, M4 Strategies. Really, what those companies have in common is we look at the evolution of message and how people think why they think, and then how they’re persuaded. In short, we really measure public opinion through quantitative and qualitative research methodologies. We do that in effort to influence public opinion whether that be for a high stakes political campaign or a high stakes trial, or even in many cases, messages for a corporation.

Alan:  You cover law, politics and also marketing.

Chris:  We do. Whether you call a spin as they do in politics or you call it an angle as they do in the media or you call it your opening as they do in a courtroom, they’re all essentially the same thing which is telling a compelling story that’s going to engage people and eventually persuade them. Really, they’re not disparate as one might think, they all share common principles.

Alan: That’s interesting Chris. Can you really influence public opinion through research, or is that just … you think of politicians saying things that they think people want to hear. Is it a different type of concept?

Chris: I mean, love them or hate them. When you look at the pillars of persuasion from a macro level perspective, they’re the media, they are the political environment, they are high stakes trials and they are marketing something, I know you’re an expert at.  What you’ll see is that people can be persuaded but it’s getting harder and harder to get their attention because we live in a branded society. You can’t get on an airplane without watching an advertisement when they’re showing a movie. You can’t get on an elevator without some news being broadcast to you. If you filled up your tank at a gas station lately you’re more than likely seeing someone spitting out commercials from the pump.

Every part of our society especially our American society is branded. Your ability to break through is getting more and more difficult. What we do is more important than ever because we help you break through. You can’t persuade someone until they’re listening. Our goal is, one, to help you help them listen or break through the noise, and two, eventually persuade them.

Alan:  Chris, what research techniques do you employ to reach people? As you’ve said, it’s the attention economy and how we get people’s attention today in this over-communicated world is the key question. How do you reach people?

Chris:  You got to understand mindsets. When we’re working on a high profile trial for example, if it’s being held in Nashua, New Hampshire you can’t do research in San Diego, California because mindsets are likely different. They’re going to have income distributions, different age distributions, different mindsets based on one close to the Mexican border, one close to the Canadian border.

We each bring certain life experiences to the table and understanding those through qualitative and quantitative research are fundamental. You can’t really persuade someone if you don’t know what their mindsets are, what their pushbuttons are. What their interest are. In the end, a very wise person once told me that it’s always easiest to persuade someone of something they already believe.

If you walk in to the democratic national committee for example and say, “Let me tell you why George Bush was a terrific president.” It doesn’t matter what you say after that, they’re going to tune you out because you’ve played against their fundamental predispositions. I could say thing for the republican national committee and Barack Obama. Understanding those mindsets, understanding the playing field is what we do. We do that in a number of ways.

There are really multi-modal methodologies, that’s a fancy way of saying there’s quantitative phone surveys, quantitative internet surveys. There’s methodologies of interviewing people one on one. There’s qualitative focus groups. We employ all of those things, and what we insert really is a really creative bent to it all so that we’re finding creatively how to understand people’s fundamental mindsets and align them with whatever message that we’re trying to promote. Giving our clients the best chance at trial or in the market place or in a political campaign, eventually persuading their audience.

Alan:  Once you’ve established what people think Chris, how do you then formulate a message that will persuade them around a particular direction you want them to go in terms of your client?

Chris:  How you say things is fundamentally important. The essence of an idea, the merit of that idea. That comes from a creative place that I don’t think anyone’s ever pinpointed. When you look at the ability to deliver a message, even from a one on one perspective. I hear all the time people say, “I don’t disagree with you.” The next word out of their mouth is going to be “but.” The listeners program to hear that “but” and it sounds like you’re creating discord, like you’re about to tell them what’s wrong with their idea. You can say to someone just as easily and make the same point afterwards, “I agree with you and” and now you just set them up to be right. The way you deliver those messages, how you transition to whatever message you eventually want to deliver is really key to persuasion and it’s just one more component of what we do.

Alan: It’s part psychology and use of language as well as the particular content of the message.

Chris:  Absolutely. It’s a great way to put it. When you look at persuasion, it’s both an art and a craft. The essence is what I call, really, the essence of your idea. Good ideas many times are delivered poorly and it decreases their chance of success. Whether that’s because it’s the wrong messenger, whether that’s because they’re not using appropriate language to get people to listen or they’re not understanding egos when they’re delivering a message especially to groups, those create context for failure. What we’re trying to do is set up a context for success. It’s really built into different parts: One, understanding your audience; two, getting people to open up; and three, the actual persuasion. We hope there as well with respect to language, with respect to techniques, with respect to mediums and all the different places you can communicate and persuade.

Alan: Presumably Chris, this would extend into the realm of corporate marketing. I think of a few kinds of industries that could utilize this approach to the market place, in particular, perhaps oil, oil companies who are currently having a controversial time event. With this extent into helping clients in that industry.

Chris:  Yeah, it would. There are times when, BP oil spill for example, they’re not going to persuade everyone overnight that they are a fantastic company right after that incident. They could have the very best marketing campaign known to humanity. In the end, people are going to look at the facts of what happened. They’re going to look at the situation and they’re going to listen to other message carriers, likely every media outlet in America reporting the devastation that occurred in the Gulf.

Persuasion doesn’t always happen overnight but you could have made, they could have made a bad situation much more, much worse depending on how they respond publicly both in terms of their actions and then how they communicated them to them.

Oil companies are not at the top of everyone’s happy list right now for obvious $4 to $5 a gallon reasons. Helping them understand how to communicate is really important in explaining gas prices and why we’re in the situation we’re in.

Alan:  Do you find, Chris, that when you work with a company or a politician or an attorney and a client and assess the market places, assess the temperature and the prejudice out in the market place, do you find that the client is willing to work with you along the recommended lines or do you meet resistance?

Chris:  It’s both, and part of that is my ability to communicate to them the benefits of what we do. If we can’t sell ourselves that I wouldn’t want them hiring us to help sell and articulate their message.

We talk persuasion, we talk about how people form opinions. We talk about specifically what it is that we can bring to the table quantitatively and qualitatively and then we go get third parties to help deliver our message. Essentially what that means is we’ll find testimonials of happy customers. That’s one way to bring them in and that’s something actually in my book is the importance of third party credibility.   We try to use all the methodologies and all the tactics that recommend on a daily basis. When we’re talking to clients about what it is we do as well.

Alan:  Tell us about your book Chris. It seems that you’re experience in corporate America has had an impact on the content and thinking behind your book which is the 27 Powers of Persuasion. Tell us about how the book came about and what the genesis of the concept was.

Chris:  The genesis I think started when I was nine years old and I watched how poorly my parents communicated. It may not be an outward, it might not be an idea that’s come to fruition yet. It’s been a topic that has been at the top of my mind as long as I can remember.

I majored in communications in college, I would hear theory after theory and study after study and what struck me was that none of the professors that were teaching classes ever had skin in the game. They never really gave us practical strategies or practical examples or real life times when they use the strategies. It seemed very sterile to me.

I got into politics, ran political campaigns for many, many years and then learned the everyday tactics both experientially and through studies and other quantitative methodologies. In the end, what this book does is try to give very practical examples, very practical ideas for day to day persuasion. In the end, persuasion isn’t manipulation, those are two very different things. Persuasion is actually very noble. It’s creating consensus from conflict or no idea at all. Your ability to persuade and get everyone on the same team and marching the same direction can really help you move mountains not only for yourself but for society in general if the essence of your idea, the art I referred to early is moral and ethical and all the good things that we want great persuaders to be.

Alan: Obviously, in the title of the book, this 27 Powers, are there really 27 powers and can you tell us something about those individual powers that can be utilized to persuade?

Chris:  Sure, and I’ll try to keep it practical as well. I’ll give you one, there’s some philosophical components to the book and then there’s some very practical chapters. Even within the philosophical chapters, components within the book, we try to give practical examples of ways to implement.

Understanding the ego and the nature of the ego is really fundamental to one on one in group persuasion. What I mean by that is that what you have to realize about your listeners is that they have egos and they want to be right. When we talk about ego in the western context, it’s a static issue where is in the eastern philosophical context, the ego is really the push and pull between the spirit. We have the spirit that says, “We’re all alike and we all want the same things. I have children, he has children, we all want to create success together.” You have the ego which says, “I drive a nicer car than you. I make more money than you.” They’re always in conflict. Understanding that and mitigating that both your ego and theirs allows you to build consensus and create unity.

One thing I counsel people is to say from my perspective when you’re about to give an opinion. We all know the person that says, “Let me tell you how it is.” That is one of the worst ways to influence a room, because “let me tell you how it is” means that my opinion is right, yours is wrong. Let me state it and so we can go on with it. That drives discord and that makes other egos feel, I wouldn’t even say undervalued, I would say no value.

When you say from my perspective, and I would counsel people to try it even one time, say, from my perspective because it allows you to state your opinion without negating other people’s opinions. What you’ll find is that it creates unity because it allows people to feel free to state their opinion as well. One, it helps them be more open to yours and, second, feel valued in part of the discussion when they deliver theirs.

Alan: Use of the word such as “but” and use of phrases like “from my perspective”, the wrong and right ways to actually connect with people, then you can persuade them.

Chris:  If somebody, it can be as issue and I don’t counsel people to get tricky, there’s no reason to get cute. If you’ve got a genuine idea, you want to create the best context for that idea to be heard. When someone says, “I think we should go with the iPhone for our company phones.” I say, “I think that’s a great idea and we should also consider the Android.” If someone says, “I think we should have the iPhone for our company phone.” I could say, “I don’t disagree with you, but the Android is better.”

All I’ve done is set up a context for a debate rather than a discussion. Using the former allows their idea to feel valued and my idea to be placed on the table on an equal footing and pushes you to closer to the goal of persuasion.

Alan:  Have you developed any particular tools or applications, Chris, that would help people listening?

Chris:  Yes, short answer. We’ve developed an iPhone application which will be in the market. Actually, the next week which we’re very excited about. The nature of communication, the nature of virtually all types of communication are going mobile. Twenty years ago, the way you’d survey quantitatively, and quantitatively means I know plus or minus five points, or some number how people feel about an issue. The way that they field those surveys was on home phone lines. You could get a very good survey done that way. Nowadays you can’t get people to answer their home phones and many young people don’t have home phone at all.

The medium has shifted to the computer, but even getting people to sit down now for 20 minutes to take a survey is getting more and more difficult. We’ve developed an application called Surveys on the Go which uses can download and take surveys the beauty of which you get paid to take. You’ll get $5 to share your opinion, but for our clients it’s much more instantaneous way because no matter where you are we can send a push and talk to the demographic they want to talk to in almost real time. Our users get compensated for taking surveys, we can put controls and get surveys done much more quickly for our clients and get feedback and advice that much sooner.

Alan:  Thanks Chris. If you had a wish list in terms of the kind of client that you’d like to work with that you’re not currently work with. Is there anybody or any company out there that you’d really like to find the opportunity to work with?

Chris:  It’s really a diverse set of clients for us. As you can tell by our background we have a relatively unique way of looking at persuasion and research. When we look at our client wish list, it’s so varied that if I were to go out and say, “Tomorrow, here are the companies we’d like.” It’s difficult.

I can tell you we work with General Electric, we worked with Walmart, we worked with presidential campaigns. We like to work with sophisticated clients that have an appreciation for high value research methodologies. Really, that’s our target audience. I’ve said for years, we don’t want to be the biggest communication’s firm in America, we want to be the most sought after communication’s firm in America. You do that by delivering creative results on time and with a passion which we have.

Alan: It wouldn’t be just for individuals or companies with a problem, my turn to think of crisis communications when I think of persuasion and extraordinary measures to communicate. It seems to me that this is more of an ongoing campaign to get your point of view out there on a consistent basis. Would that be a correct assumption, Chris?

Chris:  Yeah. I’ve seen in presentations from your firm where you’ll show up a shoe with a Nike swoosh and ask your audience how much that shoe is worth and then you remove that swoosh and ask the audience how much it’s worth and 80% of the value disappears. The importance of brand is really the art of persuasion. You do that on a daily basis through repetition, through messages that break through the noise and inspire people to seek out and want your brand. That’s a day to day activity, that doesn’t happen only when there’s a crisis. As a matter of fact, if you’re waiting for a crisis, you’re probably too late.

Alan:  Excellent point, Chris. We’re coming towards the end of our time. Is there anything or any final insights you’d like to share with our listeners?

Chris: Really, I would just reiterate that persuasion is an art and a craft. You may have the best idea in the world but you need to communicate that effectively, that begets research, that requires research. Too often, people assume they know what their audience is thinking. Even if you’re right 80% of the time, that 20% can bite you. Understanding the perspectives of the audience you’re trying to reach is fundamental to your success every time.

Alan:  I love the thought of the context for success. Chris, how would people get in touch with you if they had any follow up questions or wanted to engage you?

Chris:  I would direct them to our website which is and then they could probably pick up my book 27 Powers of Persuasion at any Barnes & Noble or the few Borders left.

Alan:  Thanks so much, Chris. It’s been a fascinating conversation and I’ve really enjoyed talking with you. You’ve been listening to BrandingBusiness with Rieches Baird and to learn more about our show please visit

Speaker 1:   You’ve been listening to BrandingBusiness the only show that brings branding experts and corporate executives together to explore how branding your business can improve both your topline growth and bottom line performance. To hear more, simply visit our website or tune in next week to learn how you too can build your brand and move your business forward. Brought to you by Rieches Baird.