Few people are as enthusiastic about their work as our own Director of Strategy and Insights, Sue LaRue. Golden Retriever Derby Michelson, SMZ’s goodwill ambassador, is right up there but Sue is more likely to positively impact your business’s bottom line.
Sue has worked in advertising and strategic research for over 20 years at such agencies as Doner, Mullen, BBDO, Carmichael Lynch and J. Walter Thompson. Her client experience includes Ford Motor Company, IKEA, The UPS Store, DuPont, Owens Corning, Panera Bread, Maytag, Virgin, Chrysler and more.
Recently we sat down with Sue to ask her about her work, research and a few personal tidbits. Incidentally, if Sue ever gives up Diet Coke, sales will plummet.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I had a lot of ambitions growing up – truck driver, lawyer, accountant. Funny enough, advertising never occurred to me until I did an internship in college.
Why is research important when planning a new ad campaign?
During the creative process, research can be used to provide really valuable guidance and avoid unforeseen pitfalls. A new campaign is a significant investment for clients. It’s critical to determine we are hitting the mark with consumers in a way that meets business objectives in an engaging manner.
What types of research does SMZ offer and how do you decide which ones to recommend?
SMZ collaborates with research partners to offer a wide range of research solutions. Research is a critical part of our Listen. Think. Do. process. While a lot of our work addresses brand positioning and creative development, we also help clients with new product viability, brand tracking, media consumption, effectiveness and customer experience. In order to determine the best methodology, we always start with our objectives.
What do you like most about your job? What is most challenging?
The most challenging part of my job is also my favorite. I love figuring out how to get the guidance we need from consumers even when we have limitations, and then use it to develop strong strategies and communications.
Any good war stories?
People don’t often think of research as exciting or challenging, but I’ve found it to be an adventure. I have moderated focus groups from a bar stool in a Texas Roadhouse and attended product testing research 15,000 feet high in the Andes mountains.
Any other research tidbit advice you’d care to share?
Research doesn’t have to be super expensive, but it is a science. Because of the proliferation of free DIY tools, it may be tempting to just take research from online to save money. How data is collected is very important. You can ask a similar question many ways, but not all of them are valid or useful. A relatively small investment in consulting with a research professional can make a huge difference in the quality of the insight you get. We help our clients figure out the most cost-effective way to get high quality research for a range of objectives.
If money were no object, what else might you do for a living?
Hmmm. Open a yarn and knitting shop, become a travel writer, start a non-profit?
If you have other research questions for Sue, below is her contact information. She’s always up for a call or meeting. Over a Diet Coke.
Sue LaRue | SMZ Listen. Think. Do.
Director of Consumer Insights and Brand Strategy
1200 Kirts | Suite 100 | Troy, MI 48084
– Ann McGee, SVP/General Manager