Trends You Need to Know: At the Intersection of Human Understanding and Market Dynamics

Trends You Need to Know: At the Intersection of Human Understanding and Market Dynamics

From ‘frictionless consumption’ to the ‘ethics economy’ a whole host of trends are shaping and responding to the way people make decisions.  Brian Elkins, Group Strategy Director in our Brand, Strategy + Journey Team will be presenting a 1 hour webinar on this hot topic.

In this webinar, you will learn how to incorporate consumer empathy, cultural forces and brand strategy to win hearts and minds and create lasting value for your business and customers.

  • Learn about important connections not just between people, ideas, products and organizations . . . but between whole contexts and systems that support those connections.
  • Learn how these interconnections and the surrounding trends are built into client engagements to create stronger bridges between research insights and business results.

Heart+Mind Strategies’ Brian Elkins, has split his career as both a marketer and insights professional, and is passionate about creating stronger connections between human-centered insights and market outcomes. Brian will use actual case studies to demonstrate how understanding trends within the context of these interconnections can make for stronger research, insights and business results.

To watch a recording of the webinar, follow this link:

Heart+Mind Strategies Webinar


Heart+Mind Strategies Joins Worldwide Partners, Inc. Global Network

Heart+ Mind Strategies, a world-leading and fast-growing research consultancy that helps its clients succeed by bridging the gap between marketing research and strategic insights, is pleased to announce our affiliation with Worldwide Partners, Inc. (WPI).   WPI is the world’s 10th largest advertising and marketing communications network and Heart+Mind Strategies becomes its first and only marketing research consultancy member.

This affiliation gives Heart+Mind Strategies and its clients unparalleled access to the global perspectives of WPI’s  60 independent agencies in 40 countries across Asia, Africa, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East and North America.

WPI serves as a hub that harnesses the creativity, local expertise and resources of the agencies within the partnership to solve problems for clients on a local, regional and international basis.  Global brands including Coke, Nike, Caterpillar, Las Vegas Tourism, Dana and 3M gain access to best-in-class, entrepreneurially-driven agencies steeped in local knowledge in all markets where they engage WPI agencies.

WPI’s partner agencies manage over $2.5 billion in worldwide advertising expenditures.

Common Ground: Shaping Brand Strategy to Avoid the Quicksand of Social and Political Melee

The social and political turmoil of recent months have highlighted a sea change in what’s expected of organizations operating in the public square. Consumers are hungry for a better world. They want organizations (private and public companies, non-profits) to have clear positions on important social and political issues and be willing to use their muscle to help drive things in a better direction. Those who waffle, equivocate or simply respond randomly to the “melee of the day” risk damage to their reputation.

In working to respond to these changes, traditional marketing practices and reputation management that rely on control, consistency, and stability have collided headfirst with forces of the digital age. In particular, the democratization of information, with its ever-shifting and multiplying channels of engagement have amplified the voices of political and social melee. The result? A new paradigm for marketing that urges companies to align their brands with a purpose.

In this time of uncertainty, Heart & Mind Strategies’ clients are asking us to provide strategic guidance on how to meet these changing expectations. We have a long history of providing counsel to political, government, association, corporate and non-profit leaders, giving us a unique and comprehensive perspective on these complexities. Additionally, our approach to uncovering and mapping the values that drive decision-making is rooted in more than 40 years of research among business leaders, consumers and policy-makers. Our clients have benefited from guidance on how on how to define and instill organizational values that will help them effectively navigate the quicksand of rapidly shifting social, political and economic change.

It’s important to have a framework for thinking about challenges this complex. Common Ground is the structured approach we have developed to help marketing and communications leaders identify, map and create strategies that account for the full spectrum of values that must shape their response to these challenges.

As marketing guru John Gerzema observed:

“A values revolution is reshaping the consumer marketplace. Companies, regardless of their size or target market, must understand the significance of this social trend. Those who grasp it and adapt will find extraordinary opportunities.”

To learn more about about the Common Ground approach, click here for a brief (6 minute) audio booklet:

Customer journey. Path to purchase. Ideal customer experience. Human-centric design. Design thinking. Systems thinking.

We hear these topics discussed more and more today in research, marketing, and innovation circles. At industry conferences, many research firms touted new “purchase-driven planning” solutions aimed at targeting advertising units based on proximity to making a purchase rather than just audience reach and frequency. And you can’t hit a conference these days without hearing about customer centricity.

The bottom line is we recognize the need to better understand how people (consumers, citizens, voters, stakeholders, etc.) make decisions that impact the business outcomes our clients seek. It’s going beyond the what they do and the why they do it, to stitch it all together via the dynamics of how they do it.

We believe the solution rests in mapping three levels of the decision-making process to uncover the role for the brand to play at every stage.
1. The values people are in pursuit of
2. The pathway that emerges as they take action
3. The systems in which their decisions are made.

Armed with this framework, marketers and innovators know how to resonate with people – they know what to say or do, when/where/how to do it, and what utility to provide.

We call this resonant differentiation. It means you stand out in what you offer the people most important to your success because your efforts amplify theirs – you connect in a way that facilitates progress toward the values they pursue. This means you can plan messaging to say the right things at the right time; you can plan customer experience against what matters in their daily life beyond your product and category; and you can create new products or services that really matter to people.

Our System and Journey Solutions practice delivers extensive programs to architect strategies for communications and innovation. Or, we apply the framework to simple assignments executed in a new way. We help clients view the world from the perspective of the people they seek to attract.

Download our two-pager to learn more.  Or connect with Maury Giles, our System+Journey Practice lead.

Heart+Mind Strategies Expands Leadership Team

Restructuring a Result of Seven Years of Record Performance

Heart + Mind Strategies LLC, a rapidly growing research-based consultancy, has appointed Mark Wirthlin as its new President and newest Partner. Mark will be responsible for implementing the organization’s five year strategic plan, managing newly formed client teams, and working with the Partners to continue the trend of past record business performance into the future.

“Mark’s hire denotes a critical evolution for our company,” said Mike Dabadie, CEO and Managing Partner of Heart + Mind Strategies. “While we’ve enjoyed phenomenal success over the last seven years, we must continue to look forward. We’ve made several strategic, structural decisions that will enable us to better serve our clients through more specialized practice areas and strategic partnerships aimed directly at delivering clients new growth opportunities for their organization’s success.”

  • Heart + Mind Strategies has achieved seven consecutive years of profitable, double-digit growth and now has nearly 50 employees.
  • The company has restructured into expertise and client centered teams to deliver on the disciplines of advanced research and analytics, incisive business strategy, and compelling narrative – the three core areas that underpin the mission of Heart + Mind Strategies. Andrew Cober is promoted to Vice President and will lead the Values + Communications Strategy Team, Maury Giles (SVP) will lead the Brand, System + Journey Strategy Team, and Shawn Wade (SVP) continues to lead the fast growing Healthcare Practice Team.
  • Dee Allsop and Mike Dabadie now assume the roles of joint CEO and Managing Partner to focus on future business opportunities. Beth Forbes becomes Chief Experience Officer (CXO) and Partner to ensure internal and external delivery continuity, and Jennifer Airey, Partner, will incubate new business areas and remain focused on deepening and expanding client relationships.

Mark Wirthlin has over 30 years of proven success across many industries and businesses. He was previously the President of The Modellers, COO of Wirthlin Worldwide, and started his own retail franchise, The Woodworkers Club.

“It’s extremely impressive to see the growth and profitability Heart+Mind Strategies has achieved since its founding, commented Mark Wirthlin. “I’m thrilled to be joining them as they restructure the company to continue to grow, innovate and better service their client relationships.”

Dee Allsop, CEO and Managing Partner of Heart + Mind Strategies said, “I am so excited to have Mark onboard. His thought leadership and experience coupled with our shared history make him the ideal President to propel us forward in this next chapter of our company. The business consulting and market research industries are rapidly changing, and our new five-year strategic plan charts the course forward to help our organization, our employees, and our clients enjoy the confidence of their accomplishments through our guidance.”

Associations in Times of Change

These are dynamic times for associations, with changes occurring on multiple fronts. Here are four important changes that association leadership must address to stay competitive and relevant.

by Mike Hillegass

Changing the Game with Systems Thinking: Creating a Human-Centric Strategy By Design

A large, US healthcare client of ours believed they needed a new advertising campaign to drive more potential customers to consider their offering. We analyzed their funnel data, and it was clear they had a very low conversion rate among prospects that contacted them. But it was also amazing to see how high their close rate was later in the process – nearly everyone they brought in became customers.

So what was the problem? We set out to solve the challenge.

Our first clue came when we audited their internal systems set up to receive calls, schedule prospects, and deliver their product. It became clear we were dealing with two very different organizations. Their call centers were designed as a direct sales machine that saw callers as leads, not people. In contrast, their product delivery was among the most human-centric designs we had ever seen – everything revolved around the customer.

The second insight nailed it. We mapped the dynamics of the human journey that prospects experience as they decide how to address their health needs. We found people contacted our client at multiple points along their journey – in fact, most called at times in which they weren’t even looking to choose a solution. They either wanted general questions answered, specific information discussed, or just simply someone to talk with about some very personal and difficult issues.

The problem was their customer acquisition system wasn’t designed to intersect with their prospects on their terms. Sure, we could generate a new ad campaign to motivate more people to contact our client. But, their system was discarding valuable relationship opportunities simply because the people were not ready to buy when they called – a misalignment of expectations. Their system did not facilitate the human decision-making journey of many of their prospects.

We worked with our client to modify the approach to their call center, adding additional layers of triage, facilitating conversations about prospect needs, and linking them to resources to answer tough questions. The changes made a difference. Over time, the simple steps of relationship building have enabled our client to attract customers when they are ready to make the purchase decision. And it has opened the possibility of additional sources of revenue through other services they might offer people at different stages of their journey working through difficult health issues.

This experience highlighted the all-too-frequent mistake marketers make when they address symptoms of a problem without considering the bigger picture. Teams are set up across the organization with budgets to address very specific issues – someone is in charge of the call center, someone else is over the advertising, and someone else is over the customer experience, etc. Rarely are these designed as a seamless system.

To your customers, these are all part of the same system – they do not differentiate what happens when they call you from when they come into your store or use your products or even when they see your ads. And, they certainly don’t make decisions in their life solely around the process you build to sell them your offer. They expect you to intersect with their reality, not force yours upon them. And this dynamic has exploded in the digital dominant, app-ified market today.

So how do you build a system that resonates with the life systems that shape how people make decisions in your category?

We believe it requires a disciplined approach to mapping the human journey (not the customer journey) in pursuit of the decisions that relate to your business success. This can be a purchase decision (like in the case of our healthcare client) or it can be a life decision that directly intersects with your category (for example, how young men manage their image with young women in order for a deodorant brand to build loyalty). The journey provides the framework for building a brand system that resonates with the functional and emotional outcomes we, as humans, seek in the decisions we make every day. Marketers need that North Star not just for brand positioning, but they need it mapped across the multiple phases of the journey from awareness to consumption to loyalty, etc.

This is all about finding the right message or experience to deliver at the right time and in the right place. The holy grail of marketing, right?

Media agencies are beginning to talk about this as “purchase-driven planning.” Shopper marketing experts have been talking about this for years as mapping the path to purchase. Many firms are touting their customer journey mapping or ideal customer experience services with greater visibility. And marketers are beginning to flirt with design-thinking principles that have historically been reserved for product innovation.

We believe this is foundational work. It is a core ingredient to strategy built to last. It’s about crafting solutions that are human-centric by design. It is not shopper path to purchase work. It’s not customer journey mapping. And it’s not design research. While these are similar, we see the solution requiring a holistic perspective that starts with the human, not the brand, point of view. And it requires systems thinking to truly solve root cause issues and not put a band aid on one symptom only to create worse problems elsewhere.

We apply System and Journey Solutions to help clients, like this healthcare example, know when, how, and where to most effectively resonate with the people who matter most to their success. First, this means uncovering the rational-to-emotional outcomes people seek in pursuit of personal and societal values. Second, mapping how these vary across unique stages of the journey to making a decision. And, third, auditing the systems that shape the journey and influence the decisions people make.

Knowing what is valued at a rational and emotional level showcases the things you need to say or do. Mapping the pathway illustrates the experience you need to create or facilitate at specific moments. And understanding the system uncovers the role(s) you need to play in context of every else.

Our healthcare client plainly saw this reality. People want to balance life and medical goals in the pursuit of solving difficult healthcare needs. This means they may call you for many needs other than choosing a solution. It also means they need you to play multiple roles at different times – educator, navigator, perspective provider, advisor, etc. Knowing this enables effective delivery of these roles with the right channels at the right times, resulting in an experience that engenders loyalty because it is authentic.

Download our two-page System+Journey Solutions Practice overview to learn more.  Or connect with Maury Giles, our System+Journey Solutions Practice lead.

Disruption and Disintermediation

It has been said that we now live in a world of perpetual disruption. Technological advancement continues to drive seismic, industry-wide shifts across just about every category of consumer engagement. For brand, marketing and insights professionals, proven approaches to managing strategic equity have long played a stabilizing role for customer acquisition and growth within the context of evolving consumer behavior. However, there is no doubt that the pace of change has increasingly exposed or created new blind spots for brand marketers. Innovation in industries from Financial Services (read banking, wealth management, lending, payments, etc.) to grocery, healthcare, hospitality and retail goods have changed the competitive landscape view from two-dimensional perceptual maps to complicated topographic-like landscapes where disintermediation has marketers nervously looking over their collective shoulders wondering what’s next? Where do we compete? What business are we actually in?


Within this context, it is easy to feel on the back heel when managing brands and addressing market opportunity. It does not have to be this way. Brands rise or fall by how well they resonate within the context of human decision-making. At Heart+Mind Strategies, we guide clients in evaluating their competitive landscape with a holistic view to ensure they are still relevant and resonating with both their existing target market and potential newly addressable market. Which competitors have “moved the cheese” and how should we respond? What new consumption models have born out to present threats? Or proactively, what opportunities exist for clients to leverage their strategic equity to create disruption and redefine the landscape?


We understand you resonate with people when you understand your role in context of how they make their way TO a decision and help organizations succeed because of, not despite disruption.

Heart in head

Knowing what is valued at a rational and emotional level showcases the things you need to say or do

Pathway icon

Mapping the pathway illustrates the experience you need to create or facilitate at specific moments.


Understanding their lives in context uncovers the role(s) you need to play in context of everything else

At Heart+Mind Strategies, we help clients defensively respond to new competitive offerings as well as determine where and how they can successfully compete with a new dynamic. To discuss how we might support your efforts, please contact Brian Elkins or Graham Lane.


Are You Really Connecting with Your Audience?

In the world of advertising, marketing and communication, values-based research has never been, well, more valuable.

Values are what drive people to make the decisions they make, from buying a car or voting for a politician. More and more we see the importance research plays in aligning brands and organizations with a specific target audience’s values, and motivating benefits they desire, in order to break through in an increasingly crowded information environment. With more access to technologies, platforms and data, we are able to understand how a brand or an issue is perceived across the various phases of the customer or audience journey. Reaching and tapping into deeply-held individual and societal values along the way will yield the greatest success.

Domestically, we see the importance of values among Millennials. Their growing purchasing power and presence in the workforce make them a highly coveted audience. Understanding and reaching them has been the subject of many studies. One of the main findings is that this generation more closely associates individual, societal, and brand values to their purchasing and professional journey decisions. Advertisers and employers should both take note.

Another area where the values discussion is playing out is in the presidential campaign. Once again, most of the Republican candidates are trying to be the torchbearer of Ronald Reagan’s values.   One value commonly associated with President Reagan was security and one of my favorite ads from the 1984 campaign addresses that core value without mentioning it. The ad is almost as relevant today as it was then. If you haven’t seen the “Bear in the Woods” ad recently (or ever if you’re a Millennial) then you really should. It is timeless.

Clearly values are not just for Republicans. A recent report from Purple America shows that, over the past two presidential elections, the candidate that most often communicates values has scored highest on their Values Meter and has won the past two elections. Hillary Clinton currently tops the values meter. Republicans take note.

Internationally, the battle of values is being waged across the Middle East. ISIS’ messaging has proven very difficult for the U.S. government and our allies to counter. Despite our efforts over the past two years, new recruits keep coming. Their messages and propaganda are tapping into a values system that resonates with particularly vulnerable young recruits who are young and looking for ways to “define their lives.”  Countering with facts and stories alone will not tap into these deeper values.

Almost every marketer is looking for that breakout campaign. The viral video that is going to create a powerful new market entry or one that is going to reconnect and strengthen a brand. Those that succeed strike a chord. We feel that the best way to find that chord is through values-based research.

Want to learn more about how you can identify and tap into these values? Download our report or contact us.

The Six Rs: Strategic Communications Tools

Effective communications must amplify your competitive strengths or inoculate against your competitive weaknesses.

When helping our clients build communications strategies that persuade by reason and motivate through emotion, one of the tools we employ is the “Six Rs of Strategic Communications” to help break through the communications clutter and ensure messages are guided by a proactive strategic approach.