Research Strategy Group hires VP and brand advisor

The new hires add depth to the consultancy whose approach is based in the social sciences.

Jeff-RSGA former executive director of marketing at the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) has joined research consultancy Research Strategy Group, one of two senior hires aimed at rounding out the firm’s client offering.

Jeff Corcoran (left) has been named VP of the research insights consultancy, where he will support marketing communications and business development. He arrives from Dye & Durham, where he was VP of sales and marketing.

Corcoran’s ties to Research Strategy Group go back several years, to when he worked in marketing research at the gaming corporation, prior to becoming its executive director and leading work such as its “All for Here” platform. He says he was, at the time, impressed by the shop’s collaborative approach and had remained interested in working with it.

Kathryn NewtonThe agency has also added Kathryn Newton (right) as a senior branding and marketing advisor. Newton has an academic background and was most recently an assistant professor at the Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University. She has also held senior marketing positions at Kraft Nabisco, General Mills, Frito Lay, Bausch & Lomb and Smith Kline Beecham. At Research Strategy Group, she will work with brands as an advisor.

Both roles are new for the agency, says agency partner Jim Peterson. As the agency has grown and evolved, adding a half-dozen staff in recent years, it was time for it to begin telling its story, he says. While Corcoran assists with those duties, Newton will look to engage existing clients to work on their marketing and branding needs that go beyond research.

Whereas parts of the market research industry have moved towards using tech with the goal of offering a “quick and dirty solution” for clients, driving down costs and the overall quality of results, Research Strategy Group has tried to move in the opposite direction, says Anne Coulter, another partner at the firm. “That’s a space in the industry that we’re not really interested in playing in.”

Instead, it has tried to carve out a space using different methodologies, such as behavioural science, behaviour ethnology, psychoanalytics and discrete choice modelling, to help get at insights that deliver more impact for clients, she says. In turn, that approach has drawn the interest of senior leaders, including c-suite executives, hoping to solve more strategic-level challenges.

For example, it’s currently working directly with a CEO of a global food company on positioning work, according to Corcoran. (As a policy, it does not disclose the name of its clients).

“When we do a discrete choice model to measure the profitability of new product lines, we’ll start out by presenting our research results to the brand or marketing team, and that will evolve into showing this to the finance team, then to the board level,” Coulter says. “Because the research is very strategic and have answers that lead directly to revenue implications and profitability implications for client teams, the results tend to get presented higher and higher up in an organization.”

Research Strategy Group has offices in Toronto, Halifax, New York and Chicago, as well as a space in Las Vegas used for conducting research on the gaming industry.

The firm’s social sciences-based approach to research makes it a good fit for the cannabis, alcohol and gaming industries, according to Peterson. It also does a lot of work in pharma and financial services.

He believes market research lies in more science-based approaches that can help strip away the biases and emotions that obscure results using traditional forms of research. “Trying to make sense of how people behave is really a challenge, that’s what the role of research should be. Lots of people are collecting data, whether you’re in research or just a company. But it’s how you interpret the data and try to understand why people are behaving in certain ways. That’s the real challenge I think.”