An exclusive Marketingblog interview with TransgressiveX’s Nadim Sadek.
TransgressiveX (TX) @TransgressiveX is a brand measurement and optimisation agency, delivering forensic brand guidance. Based in Kensington, London, it operates globally with a number of blue chip clients.
The company was established in 2012 by one of the industry’s most senior leadership teams. It formed to bring the best DNA to a ‘blank-sheet re-design’ for a standard-setting, insight-based marketing guidance system, born from an interaction of global CEO, CMO, Heads of Insight and Research leaders.
The Birth. Please tell the readers how this very different research concept TX was started and developed.
It was what you might call a ‘mature birth!’
Earlier in my career, my good fortune included founding, growing then selling the largest qualitative research agency in the world (Sadek Wynberg Research). WPP asked me to be Global Leader of Millward Brown’s Qual Network which obviously brought me inside their remarkable system, then to lead the renewal of its quantitative brain bank at Research International, as Worldwide Commercial & Strategy Director.
Along the way, I’ve met some fabulous research practitioners, and client-side CEOs and CMOs. I had also started my own brand to learn what if feels like to create, invest in, build distribution and communication, and generally run a brand.
TransgressiveX is really the manifestation of ‘unfinished business’ for us all. In fact, our first pact was not to form ‘just’ a research agency. We had all experienced the frustrations of legacy research frameworks: slow, cumbersome, expensive, and more focused on commentary than action. We promised each other we would start with a clean-sheet and quit if we did not invent something which palpably was more effective and actionable for marketers. We have tried to be true to our great bank of DNA. We’ve collided true, scientific innovation with practical, commercial outputs.
Quite simply, we believe there is no purpose to research, other than to serve to improve marketing. We don’t navel-gaze.
The Island. You said the InishTurk Beg dream was interesting in terms of the marketing and branding etc. ’ Tell us more.
Inishturkbeg is an island off the west coast of Ireland, which I acquired and developed.
Natural, fabulously beautiful and exciting, I knew I could use it as the authentic basis for a brand, which emerged as Inish Turk Beg - it means ‘small island of the wild boar’ in Irish. I wanted to practise what I’d preached for years to clients, and set about building a brand, a marketing team, and investing in its success. Our idea was all about ‘IN’...intoxicating, inspiring, inhaling a world where we ‘live lift at a tilt’. Our whiskey bottle was developed from a glass mooring buoy and had a neck at a jaunty angle.
We succeeded in winning a Mobius prize for best new brand, amongst 4,900 global competitors, and went on to win awards for our seafood range, had a number 1 album in Ireland with our music offering, and were recognised as Ireland’s best premium single-malt Irish whiskey. We failed with bacon, breeding horses and hospitality. So, it was wins in 3 out of 6 categories. Each one had its own designs, teams, category dynamics, challenges and opportunities.
It was an amazing experience, teaching so much about the real world of brand stewardship. Marketing ain’t easy!
Fast, Furious and Young. Let’s have more about this and your clean sheet approach.
One thing I’ve learned is that with experience comes caution.
Sometimes, wisdom is crushingly circumspect. I deliberately work with a number of young teams, mentoring them in their businesses, from fitness brands, to an online motorcycle review channel, and some very clever maths scholars who are rewriting the coding world. They all share the same thing. They don’t know the word ‘wait’. They’re fast, furiously ambitious and iterate and reiterate with every breath. They think they learn from me, but I’m stealing their life-force! TX is full of wisdom, but we’ve determined to be Agile Veterans - we work fast, learn quickly, and move on to the best version of our work as soon as we can. Gradually, our core IP has stabilised into something we really rely on, and now we largely develop new service-iterations of it, with and for clients.
The fact that we were all free of quarterly P&L reports, shareholder obligations, or demands for immediate returns on capital, really liberated us to look at the big picture and ask what a true innovation would look like, with no methodological hobby-horses, and principally defined first by benefits to clients.
Business Model : Please can you give us a quick overview of your business model.
Virtually the whole market research sector is built on the ‘Advisory’ business model.
A piece of information is surrounded by a phalynx of service people, and essentially time-spent becomes the ‘cost unit’ by which clients are charged. It’s the service industry standard. But we believe that innovation has to take place not only in the Intellectual Properties of research, but also in its structure. Client-side insight professionals should not have to wade through reams of information, hoping to find a way to add value, endlessly interacting with the people who serve it.
We believe they should access real insight with simplicity, speed, cost-efficiency, and an easy interface. TX wants its clients to be able to find self-sufficiency in accessing our outputs at high-speed and low-cost, instead spending their time on adding value to the marketing organisation to which they’re attached. We provide a tall ladder for them to look far over the wall. We will always offer a full-service model trying to add real value in our interactions. But alongside it we have a Software as a Service (SaaS) option by which we continue to drive down costs and time-taken, matching the positive market disruptions of innovators like Uber.
Reaction. I am keen to find out how the other research players have reacted to your arrival / success.
It’s hard to tell! The industry is a bit of an echo chamber where the same voices are heard over and over.
I’ve never been an insider. When people ask why I haven’t written papers, I’ve always joked I’m too busy writing invoices. Our chief relationships are with clients. We learn from them and respond to their needs. There are lots of LinkedIn peeps and some private equity businesses have connected with us: they see the future.
Clients are proactively seeking us out, in the UK and USA where we’ve opened an office in innovation-seeking San Francisco. But industry leaders? Barely a head lifted...
Leadership. Please talk about the reason you have opted for a small very experienced team.
It’s not such a small team!
When the system is so efficient, the main need is for people who truly add value - and my view is that every one is extraordinarily gifted and adds value to our clients’ businesses.
- Andrew Wish, our COO, merged Astra and Zeneca in South Africa, led Research International in Africa, and ran the top 10 TNS accounts for WPP.
- Iain Hamilton ran a PLC business as MD, having been European CMO of Kimberly-Clark for as long as that puppy was running around.
- John Blake was MD of RI’s Consumer Division, and global head of Insight for Bacardi Global Brands, Cadbury and Kraft.
- Carol Reay was MD of Mellors Reay advertising and Deputy Chairman of Grey London.
- Chris King was trained at Procter and Gamble, before running Mars business globally for Grey in San Francisco,
- Caroline McNally was global SVP for Visa International.
- Shannon Riordan "Partner
& Co-Founder at Global Brand Works"
- Hollis Shoor was global head of insight for Blackrock and director at Penn, Shoen, Berland.
- Miriam Rustam leads our team in Asia, being a life-long researcher, and CEO of Research International Indonesia.
- In South Africa, Sagaran Naidoo leads our team of seasoned project managers, having served all the major research networks in the field, for years.
Your opportunity to shout about anything else you want covered.
The first thing our leadership had to do was define our view of how brands work.
Our cross-fertilising DNA bank helped that. We call it eXchange: a brand which creates a greater Inclination to Interact than its competitors all along the consumer journey, wins. Thereafter, we needed a stable, digital survey to work this out for our clients. Its intellectual properties are designed to do most of the heavy lifting.
That’s where all our experience, our investments and 3 years of testing were focused.The Brand eXchange Power System uses better measures (Seduction & Persuasion). New measurement (a hybrid of System 1 and System 2). It diagnoses current competitive performance in terms of Propositional Pull and Activation Push - these make immediate sense to the marketing community. And it looks forward, always, to how a new marketing investment will affect Pull and Push. The Client Service Teams, of which I’m a part, help our client to identify the competitive set and category journey, then our completely digital, quantitative surveys do the work.
CEO at TransgressiveX