LONDON — David Brain, the former Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa president and CEO of Edelman, and non-executive director of Hotwire and Frank owner Enero, has launched a new marketing research company with the aim of replacing PR practitioners’ use of traditional quantitative research.

Brain is one of four co-founders of Stickybeak: the others are market researcher David Talbot, who runs polling, research, and strategy for New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern; designer Kyle Hickey; and technology specialist Brody Nelson, creator of the Parkable app.

The new venture is based on an online survey platform that uses messaging-app-style conversational chatbot surveys, using characters and animation to engage audiences in quantitative research. Stickybeak recruits survey respondents through social media – Facebook and Instagram – and is currently able to survey groups in the UK, US, Australia and New Zealand, with more countries to be added.

Brain said: “Everyone involved in marketing and communications knows that good research can make the difference between success and failure. Yet most will admit privately that they don't use it enough because it’s slow, expensive, involves dealing with research agencies. Stickybeak fixes this and hopefully means better decisions about products, pricing, and design leading to better creative and communications strategies, more effective outputs, and more winning pitches.”

The founders claim that Stickybeak can field and return broadly nationally representative surveys at a fraction of the cost of traditional market research, as well as targeting niche groups.

Talbot said: “Agencies, academics, and marketing and communication teams have long appreciated the value of quantitative research, but have typically had no choice but to work through market research agencies and contend with increasingly outdated methods of sample recruitment and questioning. Research is therefore often too expensive, too slow, and because the survey formats are dull, can often even damage the commissioning brand. Much of the model is fundamentally broken.”

The launch of the public beta version of Stickybeak featured a panel discussion on the wider topic of the use of market research by the PR industry, with Golin joint CEO Jonathan Hughes, Weber Shandwick’s MD of strategy and insight Patricia McDonald and AI consultant Katie King, CEO of digital agency Zoodikers, who concluded that while “focus groups aren’t dead yet” the PR industry was frequently “drowning in data but starved of insights.”