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Editor’s Note: Insights That Work is a showcase of how the GRIT Top 50 Most Innovative Suppliers create solutions to some of the biggest challenges in insights today. This year’s edition provides case studies on brands like Nestle, Shell, Frito-Lay, and more.


AZEK, an industry leader of premium building products, was looking for an expansive growth strategy for its composite decking business, a category with momentum as more and more homeowners became aware of and intrigued by its benefits versus traditional wood materials. New leadership at AZEK decided to accelerate the pace of growth to close the distance between their brands and the category leader, Trex. To be actionable in the coming selling season, we had to understand a complex category and deliver a data-driven solution in less than 70 working days.


With this aggressive timeline, we started by sifting through what they already knew. Our multidisciplinary team (brand strategists, retail experts, and social scientists) quickly found the critical knowledge gaps and means of filling them; we developed actionable segmentation to identify the Strategic Value Target (SVT) among homeowners and contractors, defined the purchase journey for both, mapped the marketspace to identify the IdealSpace™, framed the brand positioning, defined the new product strategy, and inspired the growth platform. With so much to do in such little time, we built an iterative learning agenda. We ran multiple studies in parallel, using qual and quant methodologies that integrated System 1 and System 2 thinking. In total, we connected with over 5,000 consumers and over 2,300 Pros in less than 60 days.

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Traditionally, collecting, analyzing and making sense of this volume of data takes months. However, we’ve built an organization model powered by proprietary technology that made it possible to do it in weeks. Our integrated team of researchers, planners and creatives used S+R AQuA™ (Advanced Qual Analytics), a machine learning app. It’s amplified with Luminoso, the text analytics AI from MIT Media Labs, to unearth deeper insights faster. Every qual interview was transcribed in real-time and uploaded into AQuA, allowing us to find patterns and themes right away. With every new transcript came new connections and evolving themes. As quant data rolled in, we triangulated it with the qual insights, checking and vetting with our experience and intuition along the way. A few weeks and with 12 studies across over 7,300 pros and homeowners, we hit strategic pay dirt, bringing evidence-based clarity to the most critical strategic decisions; the SVT, what they valued, where the category was falling short and where AZEK could seize the advantage.

The key homeowners (SVT), loved to live a life that’s a step more interesting, proudly outfitting their homes with innovative technologies and creative styles. Their driving need for validation from friends and family was like oxygen. Yet no decking brand was helping them achieve a look, feel and style that lived up to their demands and addressed their needs. These insights formed the basis 21 for a compelling new brand idea that


AZEK has leveraged these learnings and has seen a significant acceleration in business growth while improving brand awareness from 36% to 55% in less than 9-months.

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As Jesse Singh, CEO of the AZEK Company said—“We leveraged the research to deliver on our customers’ desires and to continue disrupting and leading our industry, our marketing has challenged both ourselves and our customers to ‘Go Against the Grain’. The data, insights, and strategies delivered by Shapiro+Raj, has been core to driving our growth.”

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