It’s safe to say that Jeff, Phil and myself are all quite different from each other. Different things make us tick. Different parts of the job interest us in different ways. But what we share, apart from a bit of age and experience, is a philosophy which shapes Insight Engineers. These fundamental beliefs have helped us build our business into two core strands:

Insight Engineers - Friendly Review

In this post, I’m going to talk a little about the Friendly Review part of the business, which one could summarise as “consulting on the research and insight process”.


We developed this side of our business as we were increasingly being ‘phoned up and asked to serve as a sounding-board for client ideas & strategies, or to review existing research portfolios and agency relationships and suggest improvements (hence the name “Friendly Review”). At the same time we noticed a couple of emerging trends:

  • There seemed to be fewer client “market research” specialists than before. That’s not saying that there were necessarily less people with that responsibility, just that they tended to be combining it with other responsibilities, or their need for research was becoming so sporadic, it was not felt that a dedicated specialist was any longer required. The consequence of this was that we found ourselves increasingly dealing with client contacts with little or no research experience. At the other extreme we found clients where research was increasingly felt to be a junior, often career development role, part of a rotation which saw fast turnaround of staff and little continuity of thought and action.
  • A new mantra was emerging in business – speed (faster, cheaper, better), and to a certain extent, the natural outcome of this was increased pressure on client’s time, and therefore some of the rigour of the research process was beginning to fall by the wayside. Either the client had an issue and didn’t know how to solve it, or even who to ask to pitch, or they simply didn’t have the time to devote to what can be a quite complex business/insight issue. Our grey heads meant we often knew ‘a man who can’, and could act as facilitators, or we could just take the issue, scope a brief, short-list some agencies and help run the project as a low-maintenance extension to the client’s immediate team.


Friendly Review engagements are more than 1/3rd of our business nowadays. We operate these in a very straightforward and transparent way. After an initial discussion of the issue you face, we work out how long it will take to address the issue, agree a budget based on a fair hourly rate, keep an accurate timesheet of all time spent (which is available for you to review at any time), and if we’ve overestimated how much time your task would take, the residual pot of hours is held in reserve for future issues and support.


  1. Helped a client of ours run a pitch process for an advertising and brand tracker and, post-contract award, continue to be involved in dissemination of results, stakeholder meetings and strategy sessions. Serve as continuity in an ever-changing agency and client team.
  2. Reviewed an insight portfolio for a utility client. We interviewed senior stakeholders to determine the usefulness of the insight they received, identified areas of duplication, wastage, and contradiction as well as some gaps, and recommended a restructured portfolio approach.
  3. Helped an organisation structure a new insight team, serving as mentors while they found their feet, and ensuring that they were able to be pro-active and confident in their dealings with the board and other stakeholders. Ran introductory training sessions on the types of research and how to brief and commission it.
  4. Organised and ran workshops with staff to squeeze every ounce of insight out of findings from work they had commissioned over the years with other agencies. This enabled the client to save money as they discovered that they already had the answer to many of their current questions or could re-analyse the tracking studies to save on ad-hoc research expenditure.
  5. Acted as additional headcount to cover a short term resource shortfall in an insight team. As we had detailed knowledge of the client and how they worked, we were able to fit seamlessly into the structure without being an undue drain on time.
  6. Collected and reviewed all the data worldwide for a global ethnic food brand to identify real information gaps and to source available desk research information to supplement strategic decisions, e.g. population numbers for specific ethnic minorities in key launch cities.
  7. Reviewed global proprietary segmentation approaches to help the client adapt their own approach globally for better brand planning and portfolio management. Revisited this process 9 years later to further update and enhance, repeating the studies in the same 26 countries, and to migrate to new data collection methodologies

Deploying Friendly Review:


LightBulb for Friendly Review

If you’re interested, or have a need similar to any mentioned above, please drop us a line, and we’d be happy to chat.