Helping brands make brave, human decisions – that’s The Relish Way

“The fantastic thing about Tesco is that their most senior marketing and brand people will go out and spend time in customers’ homes to get a real, true, personal sense of what it’s like to feed a family on £20 a week.”

Monique Drummond is the founder of Relish Research, an independent consumer insights agency which sprung out of Drummond Madell; when Monique bought out her business partner.

Like others in their game, Relish takes the pulse of the people, exposing what customers think and feel so brands, such as keynote client Tesco, can infuse new products, comms and creative with those insights.

Relish Research works alongside a Tesco that we customers – and even those of us within the advertising bubble – don’t see: a Tesco that literally walks in the shoes of customers at all levels.

As part of a blitz on the retailer’s value range, the Tesco insight teams was asked, for real, to live on £40 per week and report back on the struggles that come with life on the breadline.

“I think that master-servant thing; that supplier-client thing; that brand-customer thing has got to be smashed,” says Monique. “As long as it’s us and them, two sides aren’t on an even footing – it’s detrimental to strong relationships and good work.

“Tesco are a pleasure to work with because they get it. Their whole approach, like ours, smacks of trying to bring things into a more human line and trying to speak at eye level to customers.”

Although the Relish client roster is brimming with blue chip brands, the agency sees its small size – a team of 30 spread between London and Leeds – as an ace-in-the-hole. By spending more qualitative time with brands and brand users/prospects alike, Relish cuts a deeper understanding of consumer/human motivations; layering additional richness on top of their quantitative and analytics work.

“About 80% of communication is non-verbal so you need to be in the room and in the mix to really understand,” says Monique. “Focus groups are invaluable for some of our projects but people have a natural tendency to agree with each other – and we have to work very hard to decode the group-think.

“For advertising evaluation, we prefer the intimacy of a one-on-one interview setting, being honest with participants from the get-go about the brief and why we’re there. It takes more time, but the we-need-you-more-than-you-need-us dynamic helps to peel the onion, and the data can be infinitely more valuable.”

Relish’s work spans the sectors but consumer / retail are the primaries. Underpinned by a clear culture founded on three values – being genuine, brave and curious – Relish embraces new techniques to help brands relate to customers – and carve meaningful relationships for the long term.

“I think that master-servant thing; that supplier-client thing; that brand-customer thing has got to be smashed,”

Their expertise in the grocery space originally brought Relish and Jemima Bird, Founder at Hello Finch, together some ten years ago. The two collaborated on projects for Budgens and Londis before tying up again to work on Moss Bros, Trainline and others.

“We share a similar approach,” says Monique. “We both like to move fast and pull out all stops to make things happen and Jemima has carried that into Hello Finch. Each Hello Finch agency is a sub-50 employee businesses so it really matters that all projects are done well.

“For me, it’s a new day. Business is becoming slowly more human and it’s important to try and maintain human relationships on any project. Hello Finch is an ideal vehicle for the integration of small experts who can take on big jobs but retain the human element.”

That human element is evident in Tesco’s most recent creative campaign. The supermarket’s Food Love Stories offer additional helpings of simplicity, honesty and accessibility.

From the Sarah Millican voiceover; to the homely, imperfect food shots; to customer tales rooted in reality, Relish helped the supermarket to refine a series that unequivocally hails from the customer’s world.

“We did a lot of work on the presentation of the food so it wasn’t too staged,” says Monique. “There were a lot of cues that we picked up on as to when the food was a hit and when it missed. In many cases it was too perfect, the sides of the lasagne weren’t boiling over, the macaroni and cheese was like a magazine shot.

“Creatives might squirm at how loose the final presentation is but credibility is really important. That’s a big reason why Sarah Millican was chosen: people don’t want a posh, redolent male voice from London or the south east, they want reality. Yes, she was what they describe as an ‘intelligent gamble’ but using Sarah really anchors it in the every day.

“Across the 30 or so adverts, we meet mums and stepmums, grans and grandpas, kids of school and university age – every Food Love Story has got a true customer feeling behind it.”

For the agency that helps brands to make good decisions and human decisions, the four biggest Relish Research clients have each been on the books for five years and counting. There may be something in this human thing.