Blue Sky Thinking. Down to Earth Results.
Abbott Research


How do you identify the right target and right message on a small budget?

Challenge: Our client was the trust division of a major bank, about to reformulate and relaunch a service targeted to high-net-worth, older individuals needing others to manage many of their day-to-day financial affairs, as well as portfolio management. The service would be sold through financial intermediaries. They needed to identify the right target and the right message with the right benefits — on a small budget.

Approach: We facilitated a half-day naming session which came up with more than 100 ideas, prioritized to a half-dozen to be taken in to testing. Focus groups were used to understand two segments, test names and validate the service concept.

Outcome: Of the two segments identified, one had little to no interest in the service concept, and the other segment was very interested. The client was able to modify their entire strategy, giving the launch a much better chance of success.

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How do you keep building your brand with your most active customers?

Challenge: Our client provides an online trading platform for FX trading that is used internationally, and competes with a large number of alternative services. They wanted to know how to keep building their brand with the most active traders and how to make their service more compelling.

Approach: We conducted webcam depth interviews with traders in three countries: Singapore, UK and USA. We also supported the second phase of the project, an online discussion forum to go deeper into specific topics.

Outcome: We identified the purchase path successful traders followed to find different platforms, as well as the perceived strengths and weaknesses in various contexts. The client had a solid basis for continuing to build a strong brand.

Note: Sklar-Wilton was the lead on this project.

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How does a mutual fund reverse poor sales of its portfolios?

people working at a large whiteboardChallenge: Our client was the mutual fund management division of a major bank. They had met with success selling a specific portfolio type through internal channels, but not through third-party financial advisors.

Previous research had not identified a solution.

Approach: We conducted in-depth interviews with successful internal advisors and sales managers to understand where success was coming from. Then we collaborated with the client to create a series of concepts isolating individual benefits.

An online discussion forum was used to obtain detailed feedback from a national sample of third-party financial advisors.

Outcome: The client has a clear path to market this product successfully: messaging, barriers, and training approaches. We were able to identify inflexion points in terms of advisor experience levels that will assist them in crafting the right messages.

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What would influence consumers to stop at one gas station convenience store over another?

snack candyA texting/e-mailing assignment preceded focus groups with consumers. The texts revealed a pattern in convenience store usage that was quite different than what consumers reported, with lottery tickets playing a starring role.

Food choices (healthy or fast?) and need state were all contextualized better by using the advance exercise.

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How can we create world-class service training for contact centre employees?

photographerWe were asked to conduct a series of focus groups to support the custom training being built by another consulting firm. Our proposal: instead of just talking to customers, why not bring in a video operator to capture real customer stories?

Net result: instead of using actors to portray typical service encounters, real customers told real stories that were used in the creation of training modules.

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Why do appliance sales people recommend one brand over another?

In the highly competitive world of major appliance retail, the margins of success for one brand over another are not only product – they are also heavily dependent on channel management strategies.

In a first project, we helped our client map out the landscape as seen by a retail sales associate: barriers, quicksand, and paths to the gold at the end of the rainbow.

Commissioned sales people do not readily reveal their secrets in a simple discussion. We used a number of game techniques in various projects to get them focused on the game while revealing their opinions.

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Why can’t a public sector employer improve their employee satisfaction ratings?

A fast-growing urban area was finding it difficult to move certain indicators on their employee satisfaction questionnaire, despite sustained effort.

Employee research is uniquely tricky, since all research events are also interventions in the system. We use an Appreciative Inquiry philosophy to guide our approach in these situations, where the focus is on envisioning a better future, instead of complaining about what isn’t working today.

Senior executives attended the discussions, and heard the stories, dreams and frustrations of employees, giving them the personal insight needed to lead change.

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What should a future bank machine be able to do?

In this two-stage project we started with a three-day online community with consumers. Research activities included an out-of-home assignment, as well as concept evaluation.

The most engaged and creative of the first group were invited into a second phase of the project. Consumers created five mini-movies with themselves as the star, reporting on specific activities and transactions over two weeks.

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How does a global professional firm compete for top talent and build an employment brand?

A big-four accounting and consulting firm was seeking ways to make their job offer the most sought-after, and most likely to be accepted by top talent on campus, as well as mid-career job changers.

For the first project, we needed to define what was unique and special about the organization for those that loved it. We conducted in-person interviews with partners, triad interviews with the newly hired, and phone + web interviews with former employees and with those who had declined a job offer. We also had online discussion forums with different segments of employees.

Later projects involved having students play “Apprentice,” by designing an on-campus recruiting campaign.

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