Themes Visited and Revisited

26 Jul 2004|Davis Masten

July 5th was my 30th anniversary at Cheskin. It caused me to reflect. I love the size of the Cheskin playground. With diverse interests and talents, we’ve got few boundaries and a super bright green light for us to explore our individual areas of interest.

My partners and I have encouraged each other in the pursuit of our passions. We are passionate people who love to explore the intersections and tension points of daily life around the world. Very little of this has been public. Our clients trust us to keep things quiet. In many ways, we’re the ‘thought’ that precedes their ‘hype’. So one of the things I have enjoyed through the years are our occasional collaborations to explore publicly themes we find of interest.

Over 20 years ago, Ted Leavitt in the Harvard Business Review asserted that multinationals were out and global corporations were in. Shortly after, we collaborated on a study with Peterson Blyth Cato of American Executives exploring the issue of global vs. multinational vs. local. We participated in the public dialogue, and in our own small way, helped shift the conversation by shedding new light on the issues.

Our studies have been far ranging, from what Americans hate most about packaging (blister packs) to the impact of audio branding. One obvious by-product of these studies is great press – like The Digital World of the US Hispanic featured as a New York Times exclusive, and Trust in the Wired Americas a cover story for Business 2.0. More importantly, some have helped shift global conversations: our study on Female Entrepreneurs shed new light on the challenges women face starting businesses. And our work on trust and the internet helped focus the internet community on an issue they had pretty much ignored.

Real-world applications of our studies abound – one guy I met at the WSJ D Conference had recently sold his company for $100m. He made a point to say our trust study gave him a basis for how to relate to future customers. He says he now has 16 million customers a month. I love the idea of people taking our insights and putting them into action!

Occasionally, we revisit themes, always with a new angle. Sometimes the follow up to the study provokes so much discussion that we need to ‘go back to the well’ for new opinions on nuances of our earlier topic. Other times it’s just a topic that gets us talking and we want to hear what others have to say. And, yep, sometimes it’s just cuzz the buzz is so strong we like to watch the news at work.

We’re about to release the findings of our new study. While the best stuff will have to wait for later, it’s just too cool to keep under wraps for long. This time around we’re again collaborating with an old friend, Clement Mok. We worked with Clement on our initial internet trust study, dreamt up at TED in 1999. Five years later at TED, we approached Clement on this collaboration.

Our other collaborator is with Paul Strasser at MSI-ITM. MSI-ITM reaches out to consumers quantitatively across the world in ways that are innovative, buttoned up and remarkably speedy. We successfully collaborate with Paul and his great team with many clients around the world.

Our new joint mission is exploring bias in visual and brand communication around the world. We’re starting with color. So far over 13,000 people in 17 countries have been participating. The participation per country is amazing and in itself tells a story. Who knew that people across the world would select the exact same color as their favorite? What color do you think this is?

Why ‘d we start with color? Color is integral to so many daily decisions. What to wear? What to eat? What to buy? Color is near and dear to us. Our original founder, Louis Cheskin, started Cheskin as the Color Research Institute of America. We must have done a million interviews on color perception. About once a decade we do a public color study. This new study will help focus marketers, designers and product developers on color issues on a global scale.

30 years at Cheskin and it’s still a part of the company’s DNA to explore, strategize and create. Everyday I do this in a variety of categories on fascinating issues of importance that I respectfully keep quiet. So it is particularly fun to be able to “go public” once in a while and just have fun talking up cool findings.

The color study results come out within the next month. My hope is that they help you think differently and take more effective business action. I also hope you relate to this as a human being and with a slightly altered sense of mankind’s similarities and differences.

I look forward to more years of exploration and collaboration.

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