The ROI of outsourcing research expertise

How consultants such as Rank Research Group are boosting brand effectiveness via fresh insights and approaches to data

Screen Shot 2021-08-26 at 11.38.02 AMCompanies both big and small have much to gain from partnering with market-research consultants, according to Anik Karimjee.

“We help maximize marketing effectiveness and the ROI on their research,” says Karimjee, principal of Toronto-based Rank Research Group, which he founded 16 years ago. “We help clients discover new insights about consumers that they can leverage and monetize to ensure they’re putting investment behind programs with a higher likelihood of success.”

Even companies that have in-house research (and may have questioned the need for outside input) have found the value in fresh, unbiased perspective.

Bombardier Recreational Products (BRP) is a Rank client that sought market-research guidance when the manufacturer of snowmobiles, all-terrain vehicles, motorcycles, and personal watercraft had to respond to market changes, moving from discretionary to necessary spend during the pandemic.

“When we saw the movement of new [customers] creeping up, we needed to know who they were, why they were buying and how we could keep them coming,” says BRP CMO Anne-Marie LaBerge. “Our partnership with Rank turned on the light. It was our most important initiative and we got to better understand what that wave was, how to engage with those customers and be relevant. Based on that research we were able to react quickly.”

She adds, “I see research as an inspiration. It keeps your ear to the ground while you find the right direction. It is at the core of a marketing strategy.”

Change usually brings marketers to companies such as Rank. “Often it’s a change in staffing with a new VP marketing or CMO wanting to put a new lens on things, a new competitor on the horizon, or a change in agenda with a new commitment to fact-based decision-making or being more consumer- centric,” Karimjee says. “There could be a new product or initiative they don’t have the resources to tackle, so they bring us in to manage the situation.” One-off projects often lead to ongoing relationships for Rank, which counts Interac, Unilever and GoDaddy among its clients. “We’re often in their planning sessions and helping them with their annual marketing strategies,” Karimjee adds.

“These companies might already be doing lots of research, but ROI can often be improved by asking how it’s being measured and are the most predictive tools being used? While good research exists, sometimes it can be mined better and data can be better leveraged by building databases, market norms and macro analyses.”

Rank defines its process as “listen, learn and lead.” It starts with a needs assessment that establishes what data exists and what is needed, and what research systems are being employed. Rank does not own a proprietary methodology, but rather chooses the vendors best suited to a particular project. It will usually interview 10-20 key stakeholders, including reps from marketing, operations and the C-suite.

It then creates a research audit summarizing available data and making it shareable, because, as Karimjee explains, “not all stakeholders within an organization are necessarily aware of all the data that

exists.” Rank’s data analysis ultimately is aimed at getting clients to look at their strategy in a new light and formulate a course of action.

It’s then important to evaluate the performance of those actions. Rank gets involved in developing KPI reporting dashboards and determining the leading indicators to track. Although he deals directly with marketers, Karimjee believes his ad-agency experience brings a valuable point of view when it comes to assessing creative impact through testing.

Prior to Rank, Karimjee spent over a decade in senior planning roles at Commins Wingrove, Vickers & Benson and TBWA\Chiat\Day. His five-member team also includes VP Greg Parker, who has 25 years of research experience at firms including DAC Group and Pollara, and veteran Quebec strategist Carole Rivard-Lacroix, who has worked in brand management at Culinar and held director and strategic- planning roles at MacLaren Advertising and Vickers & Benson.

His firm’s philosophy on campaign success is based on the following basic criteria: Did it create awareness? Will consumers identify the brand in question? Did it deliver the intended message? And will it create the desire to purchase?

“I know what agencies are going through, and testing creative work is not an easy topic, but creative has some of the highest ROI for marketers,” he says. “If companies put their bets behind campaigns that are more likely to win, they will get a much better multiplier effect on that spend.”

Sometimes the solution lies in quantifying whom to target. When BRP recently brought them aboard to expand its business, Rank surveyed recent purchasers to determine the number of new participants to the sport vs. repeat customers.

“We helped identify a gap with new entrants into the category and barriers for those entrants,” Karimjee says. “So they’ve redoubled their efforts to bring in new participants and make it easier for them to train, and make the sport more open. They changed their strategy from targeting an existing audience to focusing on the future and bringing in new generations of customers.”

IMG_9013Anik Karimjee is the principal at Rank Research Group.  Contact RRG at