Pearl Strategy and Innovation Design: Converting insights into business growth

The research has been conducted and data collected but how do you translate it into winning strategies? A roster of CPG and retail brands are turning to a duo of veteran insight and innovation execs to spot new opportunities.
Susan Weaver and John Chan, managing directors of Pearl Strategy: "Our clients see us as a partner in their brand strategy and innovation planning process."

Susan Weaver and John Chan, managing directors of Pearl Strategy: “Our clients see us as a partner in their brand strategy and innovation planning process.”

Pearl Strategy and Innovation Design bills itself as a strategy and innovation company that connects human insight with business insight. When the company was founded six years ago, Susan Weaver and John Chan, the managing directors of Pearl, had both been in various marketing roles including brand management, insights and strategic planning, and innovation with Kellogg’s for more than 25 years. The need to quickly turn insights into strategy is what prompted them to launch their company.

Weaver says, “We were finding that a lot of research was heavy on data, light on insights and lacked strategic impact. Because the pace of business was increasing and speed to market so critical, we really needed to find a way to convert that learning quicker. Our client side experiences revealed a gap in the market, and that is essentially why we started Pearl.”

“Our clients see us as a partner in their brand strategy and innovation planning process. In addition to turning insights into strategy, we apply insights across the entire marketing mix in the form of brand innovation, positioning, media, packaging and merchandising priorities. Delivering scalable insights and strategic platforms is a key point of difference for us.”

Pearl offers customized strategy and innovation solutions to unlock opportunities or tackle barriers to business growth. Its research expertise ranges from qualitative and quantitative research, new product concept and product testing, and consumer intercepts. The company’s strategic consulting expertise covers development of new product platforms and concepts, brand positioning, consumer target profiles and marketing plan priorities.

Pearl's innovation workshops are designed to help clients solve their business challenges.

Pearl’s innovation workshops are designed to help clients solve their business challenges.

Pearl’s experience is not only with packaged goods. It has also done a lot of work in the foodservice and retail markets. The list of clients that have worked with Pearl is an impressive one that includes Kellogg’s, Unilever, Post, Clorox, Dole, Cineplex, Nestle, Maple Leaf Foods, Campbell’s and Boston Pizza.

Weaver says, “When we take new product ideas and prototypes to research, we seek to understand the most important features and benefits, identify product optimization opportunities, and set product positioning and launch plan priorities.”

For some clients, Pearl works from front to end. With Dole, it provided strategic support in the development of a new product innovation platform. Alex Leahy, Senior Manager of New Product Development and Marketing for Dole says, “Pearl’s strategic, consumer-centric approach enables us to uncover key insights and opportunities that directly address our specific objectives, while their business perspective and experience gives us the assurance that they can work within our timelines and that they have our best interests in mind.”

Of recent interest is Pearl’s innovation workshops, which organizations find particularly helpful for solving specific business challenges. The workshops cover areas such as asset utilization, lean innovation, front-end innovation, customer journey and ideation.

Insights, ideas and innovation that lead to successful strategies and new opportunities for business growth.

Insights, ideas and innovation that lead to successful strategies and new opportunities for business growth.

The asset utilization workshop, for example, is ideal for a client with a mature packaged food product that is experiencing marketshare decline. Weaver explains that mature brands often have manufacturing assets with excess production capacity available. “In those particular cases, the challenge is to redeploy their assets in a way that will grow the business but not necessarily in the same way as in the past. We’ve done this with Post and various other companies, where we’ve work with their R&D, operations and marketing teams to match consumer needs opportunities with manufacturing capabilities so they might go into a different category or different format to utilize their manufacturing assets and optimize line efficiencies.”

Lean Innovation, the topic of another Pearl workshop, is a method that helps companies zero in on what customers want and eliminate all the extra things that do not add value. This strategic approach helps brands that want to sharpen their value proposition by eliminating unnecessary product features and costs in a very competitive market.

Weaver says, “Driving growth with innovation is the main thing on the minds of senior people but not a lot of companies do it well. They typically don’t have the combination of strong pipeline processes or the creativity to get there. We use our 3D Innovation Process that’s a combination of what we learned in our client days but also through exposure to other global innovation specialists companies so we’re able to leverage what works from the client side but also combine new thinking and approaches that other experts are taking as well.”