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What do you do when your once-strong brand has witness falling sales year over year? How do you get your organization aligned on what actions to take? Qualitative research followed by a Strategy Activation Workshop was the solution for one of our CPG clients.


Our pet food client was founded in the late 1960s. While it had started as a brand with unrivaled quality in the market, the dynamics have shifted. In addition to evolving market trends, the brand has undergone a number of internal challenges – including changes in ownership and management. The result? Steady declines over the past several years and increasing pressure from retailers.

To reverse this position, the new management wanted to examine and diagnose the issues the brand was facing from a holistic perspective. They sought to understand the brand’s core strengths – what is it that keeps current buyers loyal to the brand? What has caused others to abandon the brand? What are the barriers keeping others away from it? And overall, what is important to pet owners today that this brand can leverage to set it up for future success?

Additionally, they wanted guidance on what to do as a result of the research – what steps should they take to help turn around the brand?


Through online and in-person qualitative research, we identified core drivers of the brand as well as reasons for defecting. The research revealed specifically why the brand isn’t resonating with consumers given their category needs.

Our qual report included a number of actionable recommendations for the brand to become more relevant to consumers. In addition, we facilitated a day-long Strategy Activation Workshop with the team to unpack the learnings and ideate and align on implications.

At the end of the workshop, the client team not only had scores of specific strategic ideas and macro-themes to guide development but so much more from the experience of going through the Strategy Activation Workshop process. They were able to truly internalize the key takeaways because they did more than just read them in a report or hear them presented. They played around with the insights, thought deeply about what it meant for their business. This extended engagement with the learnings help sear it into their longer-term memory so that the research isn’t easily forgotten. And they came up with some great ideas for how to solve the problems we uncovered in the research.


We conducted multi-modal qualitative research. First, we moderated in-person focus groups with loyalists to the brand and competitive buyers to explore their attitudes, motivations, and brand perceptions. We captured their experiences at-shelf through a pre-group homework activity where we sent them to pet stores to shop.

To supplement the in-person work, we also conducted an online immersive community. This was an efficient way to find and engage with defectors of the brand, as well as current buyers and switchers. These consumers from across the US also completed shopping missions to capture their purchase drivers.

To translate the insights into action, we led the core team in a Strategy Activation Workshop on the backend of the research.  The session was fun and dynamic – starting out with an introduction game to “break the ice” and get everyone in a different and open mindset.  We took our time presenting the research insights – making the presentation interactive with Q&A throughout. Once we were all on the same page with what we learned, we led the team through creative exercises to ideate around solutions to the biggest challenges identified in the research.

One problem area was that the brand didn’t signal premium quality, something the client realized consumers were looking and an area where the client felt it played. We designed a Force-Fit exercise to inspire strategies for driving premium perceptions of the brand.  We did this by leveraging two hanging shoe racks – one rack was filled with cards of elements to change (e.g., packaging, communications, product, etc.); the other had prompts to force a type of optimization using the SCAMPER framework (substitute, combine, accelerate, maximize/minimize, etc.). The team broke out into small groups, and each took a 20-sided die. They rolled twice (the number they landed on directed them to what to focus on from each rack), and then they used the two elements to come up with a new strategy for increasing the premium perceptions of the brand.

To make sure we captured the output – and that output that was thoughtful – we created custom strategy worksheets to detail what the strategy idea was, how it connected to the research insights (how did it address consumers’ motivations, needs, current barriers, etc.), how it fits with the brand and aligned with other initiatives, and then ways to execute against it (specific touchpoints, actions needed, etc.).

We did multiple rounds of creative exercises like this - to take a key insight from the research and explore in a way that’s both connected to the learnings and looks outside the category to inspire fresh, creative thinking.

During these creative exercises, we were in a divergent mindset – focused on production and not judgment. But by the end of the day, we started to notice themes in the strategies the team generated. We further converged the output to prioritize the strategies that evoked the most interest and excitement from the team.

At the conclusion of the project, the client team received a deck of prioritized strategy ideas, covering eight themes to guide optimization, as well as a refined brand vision to guide the team as they work to turn the business around.

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