We used to stuff envelopes… Now we do brain science
I cofounded my company 21 years ago. I was describing to colleagues the iterative process that took HCD from a direct mail company serving a segment of health care in 1993 to an integrated provider of cognitive and applied consumer neuroscience. I thought of a George Harrison song with the refrain “if you don’t know where you are going any road will take you there.” Here is my experience in finding a path through technology and environmental changes of the last 20 years:
1993-Started working full time at HCD Research selling space in a cooperative direct mail product directed to doctor’s offices that were likely to have or be considering starting an in office blood testing laboratory
1994-The internet caught my eye and we tried to prove that “on the internet a little company like ours will appear as big as IBM to the viewer”. Started an information and product advertising mall directed to laboratory personnel world wide
1995-While trying to sell a prospect on advertising on our on line mall they asked if we could produce a world wide medical meeting on the Internet…said “of course, that’s our business”.
1995-1996-Started producing online medical meetings. Few physicians had email but those who participated in our meeting were among the few and we collected Dr. addresses representing a world wide audience.
1996-Conducted a medical meeting for a large pharma company. Over 2,000 physicians participated and provided email addresses. The client asked if it would be possible to ask these doctors 1 question through email. Got a great response and the client asked for 2 more questions for our physician participants to answer. Sent the email, got the responses and the client asked for 5 more questions…We told them that this wave of market research will cost…and a new business was born for HCD
1997-We tried to sell web based data collection (internet market research) to pharma clients and the typical response was that doctors or patients that used the internet and email didn’t represent the market so no dice!
1999-Major market research companies approached us to be their back office providing internet market research services.
2000-The big guys started buying up small companies doing web based research. We got close to selling but the internet bubble burst and values crashed…wasn’t worth selling
2002-Met a Yale PHD, editor of the Journal of Advertising Research and retiring department chair of marketing at Fordham University, Dr. Art Kover. He told me that the internet was a great vehicle for advertising research. Art developed on line advertising research products for us including the first on line automated response systems.
2004-We decided to create PR by testing, quantitatively, every Bush and Kerry TV ad. Accidentally discovered an early web ad known as Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. Studied the response to this video and the results were part of the 3 day news cycle…did a lot of national tv shows as the Swift Boat expert and started a small practice in testing political ads.
2008-Tested every Obama and McCain ad. Started doing 4 shows per week on Philly/NY TV as political advertising expert. Project cost lots of money but couldn’t trace any business related to our PR effort. But one related event changed our company. I use be a guest on an XM Radio politics show as the presidential commercial expert. Some professors at the University of Missouri’s Journalism School listened to my weekly analysis and contacted me about getting the cognitive data we generated in order to compare with biometric research of the same commercials. We met and my business changed.
2014-Having developed tools to integrate cognitive and applied consumer neuroscience, our business has moved from stuffing envelopes to study the brain’s response to multiple stimuli.
Lesson learned-Some time the journey is more valuable than reaching a destination…especially if you are not sure what the destination is.