L2 recently hired a new CEO. Ken Allard comes from Huge, where he led their business strategy, client services, product management, data science & analytics, content strategy, and technology teams. Here is a Q&A with Ken, where he speaks about his experience and vision for L2.
What led you to leave Huge and join L2?
I started my research career 22 years ago in a management training program at Gartner. Then I moved to Jupiter Communications (acquired by Forrester) to launch research and advisory services for clients making investment decisions about digital technologies. Later, I founded my own company to help organizations monetize content, data, and brand assets, and most recently, I lead strategy and client services at the digital agency Huge. I have spent my entire career researching digital technologies and their impact on consumer behavior, and have yet to see a digital benchmark as comprehensive as L2’s Digital IQ Index.
L2 has developed a truly differentiated membership offering that gives brands deep insights about their digital performance within their industry sector. As soon as I saw the depth and rigor of the product offering, I knew that joining L2 was a unique opportunity I couldn’t pass up.
What challenges do L2 clients face?
Digital technologies are driving rapid changes in consumer behavior. Through a proliferating set of digital platforms and touchpoints, brands have access to consumers 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They also have the tools to gain an enormous amount of data about their consumers.
This combination of access and knowledge creates opportunity, but comes with new consumer expectations about the services and information they want to share and receive.
I believe that developing the strategies, technologies, teams, and capabilities required to manage this continuously evolving landscape is the biggest set of challenges brands face. L2 is uniquely poised to help brands make informed decisions.
What brands are meeting challenges?
These are the really early days. More brands are making awkward passes at engaging consumers versus meeting or leading consumer expectations.
One of my favorite examples of brands using data in a good way is Nike Fuel Points. Nike, an L2 member, created a loyalty currency that encourages people to be active and compete in their peer group. It feels authentic to the brand, and it rewards the consumer for being active. Even though Nike is no longer investing in the Fuel Band device, the currency of Fuel Points is still active. Nike has experimented with some great ideas such as Nike vending machines where Nike Fuel is used as a currency, and points can be redeemed for actual Nike products.
What makes L2 different from other research firms?
The demand for data and advice from research firms has existed for decades. When I was leading research at Jupiter, we could help our clients by staying abreast of trends in “new media” and developing forecasts about the potential growth of consumer adoption of the Internet and the size of the online market by industry. But the market has matured considerably, and brands need more sophisticated advice that both addresses macro trends and is specific to their industry and region. L2’s research products and services are grounded in deep industry-specific knowledge, and we develop our advice as a function of both our digital expertise and our analysis of more than 900 data points of every brand in each industry and every region that we cover. Our data-driven analysis is unique, and it allows us to develop much more rigorous insights than other firms at a price point that is much more attractive than those of traditional management consulting firms.
What are your first tasks at L2?
I am fortunate to be joining an organization that is already led by amazing talent, has a vibrant, rigorous, analytical culture, and market leading services and events. My most important job is to scale our research organization and continue to attract the best people. The most important thing that I have learned in my career is that the people in an organization are the single biggest determinant of success. The team with the best players wins.
I also want to make sure that clients are always at the center of everything we do. As an organization, we need to tenaciously focus on understanding our clients’ needs and providing them with the highest level of advice and service. It is exciting to see how involved clients are in our research and our ideas. I believe that we have many opportunities to expand that level of engagement.
The next big area of focus is ensuring that L2’s Digital IQ remains the global standard for measuring a brand’s digital competence. This means we have to continue to expand and evolve our methodology and provide clients with the most relevant insights that they need to stay competitive. I also expect that we will launch new products and services that enable us to help executives with decisions across a broader spectrum of digital business challenges.
What changes lie in L2’s near-term future?
Our clients who are typically CMOs and their staff should expect to see even more thought leadership content and data from us on a continuous basis.
Our clients appreciate content that is beautiful and easy to understand. We’ll continue to produce reports that are visually compelling and make additional investments in interactive data. We are on track to re-launch our website later this year. We hope that we can provide a great, easy-to-navigate platform for our clients to find that data and insights that they are seeking.