Hello, my name is Frankie, short for Francesca, and I’m the person behind Research Arts, the company and the website.
I’ve been involved in market research, both as a client and a practitioner, for over 35 years. I’ve personally conducted thousands of focus groups and trained several successful moderators. I was among the first to do online research, both qualitative and quantitative, app and browser based, and keep current on the new tools and approaches.
I am an emeritus member of the American Marketing Association and founding member of the Qualitative Research Consultants Association.
The Long Story
Do you have a little time? Here’s more…
- I was born in London, graduating from the London School of Economics in applied micro-economics, followed by graduate work at the University of Chicago. I have dual citizenship and have worked in both the US and UK.
- I began my career at Quaker Oats where I was responsible for the research on Aunt Jemima, frozen snacks and pet foods. At that time, Quaker was one of the largest market research departments in the country. We learned research the old-school way – writing and testing questionnaires, coding, writing tab specs and other basic tasks before we were set loose as analysts. In later years, Quaker was a client for over 100 studies on their brands, including Gatorade. I was a part of internal teams to develop new products and look at long-term trends.
- My other client role was with Sears for seven years. I had several assignments, being responsible at different periods for research on home fashions, home improvements, apparel, children’s products, catalog marketing and corporate brand image. I had a staff of analysts on the 35th floor of the Sears Tower, and another office on the 7th floor where I had the dual role as strategic marketing consultant to one of the senior VPs. These were the great days when Sears was the world’s largest retailer. We had a ton of money for research and experimented with new methodologies. I conducted just about every type of study there is, from the first segmentation studies to setting up a databank of home purchases. I would go out into the malls and take over empty stores to set up displays of merchandise in order to do the preference tests that helped the buyers decide what items to put into their lines. And, towards the end of my time there, I started to moderate my own focus groups to increase my skill set, knowing that I wanted to start my own business one day.
- That day came in 1984 when I started Research Arts, a firm primarily dedicated to qualitative research. We quickly grew as I hired and trained several moderators, though I was still actively doing the research myself as well. We found ourselves having difficulty controlling the availability and quality of the focus group facilities in Chicago at the time. And so, in 1986, we opened a state-of-the-art, four room facility in Oak Brook and our own recruiting division. We had a lot of business, almost $7 million in 1989, which made us one of the largest qualitative firms at the time. This was a time when the average four group study sold for $10,000!
- We were also innovative for the time. I bought the first Mac for the office through the University of Chicago beta program in 1984, and eventually we had Macs throughout the office. This was huge since it meant that every moderator could type their own reports, cutting turn-around by days. We also introduced the concept of SuperGroups, and used professional actors as part of our development of ideation techniques.
- By 1990, I was running a firm with 45 employees, 3 offices, huge expenses and a lot of stress. Moreover, I had two young children and a difficult personal life. When my husband died in 1991, I began the long process of dismantling what I had built. Moderators were leaving to start families or their own firms and I didn’t replace them. Eventually, in 1997, I “sold” the focus group facility to employees and reconfigured Research Arts as a much smaller firm. The big change came when I accepted the position as Executive VP of Millward Brown, heading up their US qualitative division. Before joining them, I closed up Research Arts and gave up my office space and assistants. But nothing was as it seemed. I lasted 2 weeks then resigned.
- After that, I happily downsized the company. I have had a loyal group of clients, most notably the Boston Consulting Group, Petsmart, Morgan Stanley, the Tribune Group, St. Jude Medical, and several start-ups and non-profits. I’ve written and lectured on consumer trends and green marketing, and worked with folks in consumer insights, product development and design, human resources and tech.
- I’ve always been a bit of a nerd when it comes to new technology. I had a car phone in 1987 (giant case in the trunk). I did the first concept testing for Prodigy, which predated AOL and the web. I’ve been online since 1992, using the bulletin boards that were popular then. I’m still a bit of a tech nerd. I started a personal blog in the late nineties and have been writing online since then. I design my own web sites, write code and love doing it. I’m excited about finding ways to integrate the new tools with the best of the old.