These days, marketers and agencies are getting curious.

These days, marketers and agencies are getting curious.

BBDO, DDB, FedEx, Bell Canada and American Express are just some of the companies that have engaged Curiosity, a new Toronto-based research agency that founder Karen Ward bills as an ‘innovation agency’ that helps businesses tap into what it takes to generate big ideas.

The thinking behind the agency is to ‘cultivate the curiosity’ within a business that leads to innovation, she says. ‘Innovation as a business tool is exploding right now,’ she says. ‘Rooting it in a passion for curiosity puts the emphasis in the right place. Unless you start there – exploring needs, opportunities and insights – the innovation [that follows] won’t be grounded or based in consumer or end-user needs and desires.’ The result could be the creation of new products, the ability to leverage existing brands, or simply the development of a more creative, open philosophy within a workplace.

For a current investment banking client, Ward is helping them to determine what kind of innovation will be best for the company. To help conduct the research, she’s tapped into a growing pool of freelancers she calls the ‘curiosity studio.’ An MBA/consultant, a seasoned researcher out of the U.S. and a graphic designer will round out the team.

The research model that follows will vary but can include focus groups or conversations with current or failed clients and/or ethnographic research. ‘Innovation opportunities could be in training, in the company structure, how they incent their bankers,’ she says.

Her client reports are also creative. Along with PowerPoint presentations, Ward prefers an approach that includes a story-telling component such as mini-films. Ward, who studied film and sociology, has worked as a strategic planner for Cossette, as brand marketing manager for The Body Shop, and senior researcher at Toronto’s d-Code.