Q&A with Best Client-Side Team finalist Wilton Brands 

Editor’s note: Wilton Brands is the winner of the 2023 Best Client-Side Team award, a category in the Marketing Research and Insight Excellence Awards. The winners of the awards were announced during a virtual celebration on November 14. To learn more about the awards go to www.quirksaward.com.

Wilton is a true consumer-centric organization, and uses its understanding of the consumer as a differentiator in the market. The Insights and Analytics Team (I&A) at Wilton has provided outstanding contributions to the success of the company. The team provides  

  • market context, 
  • category and subcategory knowledge, 
  • new product development, 
  • renovation support, 
  • advanced analytics. 

The team is also a key input into brand, product, sales and strategic initiatives. From leading ideation sessions that ignite innovation creation to using Bayesian statistics to create world class predictive models, this team brings the consumer and maker to the forefront, which in turn drives strategy and direction at Wilton Brands. 

The I&A team answered a few questions about what makes their team great.  

How do you balance teamwork with your individual tasks?  

The majority of our research studies are conducted in house without outside vendors, which means our team must work together to balance project work across differing roles and skill sets. Our passion for the subject matter has led to a truly collaborative working environment that utilizes our team’s individual expertise.  

When a research need is made known to our team, we initiate a collaborative process that begins with a research brief completed by those who commissioned the work. All consumer insights team members are included in the initial stages of a research project which allows us to tap into differing skill sets and category expertise. During this discussion we debate methodology, discuss any historical data and share learnings from past projects as we prepare for the project kick-off and assignment. 

The main tasks of the project are completed individually, but not without the option to gather feedback from our different team members. While certain elements of feedback are often built into the project timeline, e.g., questionnaire or link reviews, we often find ourselves in conversation at our desks asking one-off questions and discussing potential outcomes of a project. This helps us not feel so siloed within the project and encourages a collaborative atmosphere.  

Additionally, when a team member needs help with a project due to bandwidth or tightened deadlines there are no tasks too large or too small for our team. Each member can assist in the majority of the tasks needed per project, whether it be survey drafting, programming, link checking, data analysis or even presentations to the leadership team.  

While we each have certain roles and responsibilities, we can easily speak to different projects since we so often look to each other for advice throughout the project timeline. We encourage collaboration and balance our expertise across projects in order to provide Wilton with insight-led recommendations that are backed by our entire team. 

What would you say is your biggest hurdle as a team and how do you overcome it?  

As a team, our biggest hurdle is our smaller research budget, especially when comparing to budgets of other CPG companies. However, more often than not we have found ways to not let our budget deter us from the volume, variety or quality of the research we conduct.  


When our internal partners come to us with research needs, the last thing we want to do is tell them we don’t have the financial means to provide what they need. To avoid that, the first thing we do when we receive project inquiries is assess the key research questions and the best method to gather that insight.  

Within our capabilities toolbox we have:  

  1. A self-service platform to provide quicker and more gut-check level insights.  
  2. A larger panel and more robust vendor that offers DIY research for more in-depth and lengthy surveys.  

By funneling research into one of these two options, we are able to maximize our budget by not overspending on research that doesn’t require rigorous fielding, while also maximizing our time spent on projects. As a small team, every moment counts! 


As most researchers know, the more complex the survey, the more it costs. However, at Wilton we have been able to offer advanced survey methodologies such as conjoint, price pack architecture, MaxDiff, statistically trackable studies and more while still staying within our budget.

This is mostly a result of executing these types of studies in house instead of vending out to more partners who charge an overhead for their services. In scenarios where external research makes the most sense, we find ways to save on cost by supplementing the research provided with internally conducted data to close out any gaps and clarify areas of ambiguity.  

While there is a time and place for conducting research externally, building a team with advanced research design, programming and analytic capabilities allows us to stretch our budget much further than a traditional team that vends out most, if not all, of their research. 


One thing our team prides itself on is the quality of research we deliver, and that is made possible by tapping into the highest quality sample. Our team developed a holistic approach for vetting research vendors and the sample available through them. This process has been so successful for our team, that we were asked to speak to it at the Quirk’s Event - Chicago and subsequently received great peer feedback.  

The two-step process consists of asking the right questions to the consumers and finding the right vendor. 

  1. By asking questions that are specific to our categories, we are able to assess the validity of the respondents and if they should qualify into our surveys. By having tight restrictions on the sample we take in, we make sure we only pay for the best insight. 
  2. Having the right vendor is key to seamlessly and efficiently fielding research. The right vendor for us must not have astronomically high CPI, but we also don’t necessarily want the lowest priced option either. So, we look for customer service support and quality output that makes our job easier. With these things, we are able to rely on the quality of the data we are being supplied and focus on producing quality insights to our key stakeholders. 

Do you have any tips for researchers looking to influence decision-making and connect with key stakeholders?   

We believe that building trusted relationships internally enables successful influence. To build these relationships, we make an active effort to keep the lines of communication open and do what we say we’re going to do. The result has been spending less time defending our insights and more time delivering actionable work. 

To influence decision-making, we believe a market research professional must identify insights worthy of influencing. We hold ourselves to a high standard of building rock-solid, data-backed insights from high-quality findings and see that these learnings often find a softer landing than convoluted data-dumps. We encourage you to dig deep within your professional tool kit to identify the what, so what and now what, and use these learnings to tell a holistic, conclusive story. 

Finally, we count ourselves among the lucky who work at an organization that enthusiastically includes consumer insights in decision-making. Our jobs are that much easier by working alongside colleagues who readily welcome the consumers’ perspective, and we highly recommend candidates ask about an organization’s view of market research during the interview process.  

We believe that consumer insights is a partner, not a support function, and we hope you land in a position where you also find this to be true.