FEATURE11 January 2023

In defence of qual: follow the money

Features Insight Alchemy

Research Live talks with Chris Molloy, chief client officer at Brand Potential, about the debate he is joining in March at Insight Alchemy 2023, the MRS Annual Conference.

Data collection and analysis are getting smarter all the time. But even the best ‘AI’ will struggle to provide actionable interpretations of attitudes and behaviours. Don’t take our word for it. Come to Insight Alchemy 2023 and hear why even the bankers love a bit of qual…

How do we construct a robust defence of qual research when budgets are under pressure? Rhea Fox, chief digital officer at Paperchase and chair of the qual debate at Insight Alchemy 2023, knew exactly who to turn to. Chris Molloy is Chief Client Officer at Brand Potential and spends a lot of his time not with marketing people – but with the money.

“Most of our clients are corporates, although we do a lot of work with investors too, and our positioning is all about combining commercial and creative,” he explains. “If you want to make a real difference in terms of redefining brands, you really need both. On the investment side, we help private equity firms with buyside and sellside transactions, by providing brand due diligence. We are asked to provide an impartial perspective on the strength of the brand and as brand experts whether we think it’s worth investing in. Our output is not a debrief. It’s a brand report that goes in front of investment committees.”

We complement other forms of Due Diligence by identifying the intangible value of the brand, and how they might use this to drive brand value post-investment.

“Typically it’s consumer brands that we’re working on – and the investors will have questions about the things they just can’t see in the data room,” Chris says. “There’s so much more to valuation than just the numbers, and we help them plug the gaps as an impartial adviser.”

Private equity clients are sophisticated, he adds, “but they’re not interested in complexity. They need the confidence to determine the ability to double or triple the size of the brand in the next investment cycle, and what it will take to do this. They’re not coming to us to buy insight, they come to us to buy an evidence-based perspective on the potential of a brand.”

However, qual provides a really important input to this, and helps address outstanding questions at DD. “Ofcourse private equity want the numbers, that’s a given,” Chris says. “But qual is vital to best define that intangible value and understand what has driven the success of the brand to make it a potentially attractive investment. Every methodology has a part to play.”

And for qual practitioners, that’s good news. If private equity investors are rejecting the idea that “the focus group is dead”, then even in the toughest economic climate, we ought to be able to make a case for qual. “Yes, we have more sources of evidence today than even ten years ago,” Chris admits. “It’s great to be applying AI technologies to behavioural data – but it’s all relevant, and we have more at our disposable to better tackle client challenges. I really don’t understand why the insight industry is even having this debate.”

In other words, methodology is important. But it’s just a means to an end. It’s the endpoint that needs the tight definition, the quality of interpretation, the compelling story. Molloy concludes. “It’s the commercial thinking and creative interpretation that creates the magic. It’s this that helps us to build the big ideas that help brands grow”

Join the debate at Insight Alchemy 2023 with Chris and Rhea, along with fellow panellists Ed Nash from Sky and Bridget Dalton of Discover.ai, and take away powerful arguments and pointed advice on championing qual as a core methodology for brands navigating a tough 2023.