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A blind man, AURA and me

The title sounds like the start of a bad joke. But let me explain…

Last week, I was awarded the Best Agency Speaker award at the 2020 AURAs. These are the only awards in the research and insight sector voted purely by clients.

Receiving the award felt like coming full circle. It was at the 2011 AURA awards that I first came up with the idea of Shed Research.

I listened to an after-dinner talk by South African, Miles Hilton-Barber. He was blind. In his own words… “blind as a bat. But a very happy bat.”

Miles had travelled the world jumping out of planes, driving formula one cars, climbing the world’s tallest mountains. He said the only distance that would ever hold him back from doing what he wanted was the five inches between his ears.

Hearing him speak that night, and having made the most of AURA’s kind hospitality, I was inspired to set up my own consultancy. As our inspirational South African friend might say: what have you got to lose?

And so here I was, 11 years later, in the same setting (albeit virtual), collecting an award.

I won for a presentation I gave with Lizzi Seear. We spoke about our work together at Primark. We used no new research to solve a critical business issue.

Sales across the Eurozone were up 5.3% but like-for-like sales in Germany were down 3.2%. This was unfamiliar territory for a brand used to exponential growth.

The business had many different hypotheses as to why this was happening. But it needed an impartial, apolitical view.

We had spent lots of money on research (primary and secondary), but individual reports sat within individual silos in the business, so we had no consensus on the key drivers and barriers of choosing Primark in Germany. The Senior Leadership Team were prepared to pay for yet another research project, but we had all the answers; just spread across 27 documents! (Lizzi Seear, Global Insight Lead)

Primark brought me in. I assimilated 1,263 pages of insight to build a ‘single version of the truth’. I revisited past research, used external data, identified gaps, and gave clear solutions to address Primark’s ‘Germany problem’.

Our synthesis and recommendations were used to take swift decisions. Primark improved its in-store experience and invested in ATL advertising for the first time in its history. And these steps ultimately led to a reversal of the sales decline.

You can watch our full, award-winning webinar here.

I’d like to think Miles would be proud of this. I know I am.


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