Green Zebras can offer top quality with experience
INSPIRED by the book Purple Cow by Seth Godin, veteran market researchers Steve Murphy and Yazid Jamian decided to approach marketing research in a different way when they formed the agency Green Zebras.
After slightly more than two years in operation, the boutique research agency has a strong clientele base from diverse sectors like financial services, education, government, retail, fast-moving consumer goods, and oil and gas.
It seems that there is no holding back this home-grown research agency as it embarks on its journey to firmly establish itself as one of the key players in the Malaysian marketing research scene amid competition from global research companies like Nielsen, Ipsos and TNS.
“We chose the name Green Zebras because it symbolises our vision of doing things differently. Right from the beginning, we wanted to stand out from our competitors by bringing a fresh outlook to marketing research as well as ensuring that the insights we bring to our clients’ brands and communications enable them to be different and unique.
“Our thinking was that for a brand to be successful and in control of its own destiny, it needs to stand out from the crowd and the increasing clutter in the marketplace,” Murphy tells StarBizWeek.
Murphy had already set up the Malaysian entity of Ipsos from scratch in 2010. “When I started Ipsos as a start-up in Malaysia, one of the first things I did was to put up a big picture of a zebra going from the floor to the ceiling in the company’s new office so that clients and employees would know that we wanted to do things differently as soon as they came into the office.
“So in my mind, a zebra was associated with being different. Add to the fact that we both liked green as a colour, and then found out that ‘green zebras’ existed as an actual type of fruit (mainly in North America), it just seemed like the best name for our new agency,” he quips.
Murphy and Yazid are co-founders and directors of Green Zebras, having previously been “friendly competitors” as managing directors of competing agencies for more than 10 years.
Yazid was previously managing director of Research International and then TNS after their merger. Murphy at the same time came to Malaysia to head Synovate in 2001, and then Ipsos up until 2014.
“We have known each other for some time and used to catch up to chat about various things, be it market research but mainly about football and our mutual love for Liverpool FC. It just so happens that when we met up a couple of years ago for one of our regular chat sessions, we were both feeling a little jaded with corporate life.
“That’s when we decided to embark on our new challenge of setting up Green Zebras. Yazid is a qualitative researcher who loves chatting with people, while I’m a quantitative researcher (numbers man). We combine well. At Green Zebras, we’re now fully involved with every project whether it’s qualitative or quantitative,” Murphy explains.
So what makes Green Zebra different from its bigger competitors? He says a key promise to clients is having experienced people like Yazid and himself leading the research projects from A to Z and getting involved in all the nitty gritty research processes. This is to ensure that the final recommendations to clients are based on an intimate knowledge of the clients’ business needs, he notes.
Unless the senior staff have been involved all the way through, he says, it can be difficult for agencies to deliver the type of insights that can transform a business. In this day and age, Murphy says clarity is crucial as well as being able to draw on previous experience of all types of marketing issues.
“That’s how we differentiate ourselves. At Green Zebras, we make sure that we work as partners with our clients and deliver reports and presentations that get to the heart of their key business issues.
“We also know that the more we get to know our clients’ overall business, beyond a research project, the more likely they are to come back to us for the next project. We like working with our clients over a long period, so that they know they can trust us to deliver what they need and we can get to know their business from different angles,” he says.
Commenting on its business model, Murphy says in this tough economic times, the agency ensures that its business model is lean and mean in terms of cost management by outsourcing some of the research processes where it’s more effective and cost competitive to do so. He believe that this business model allows the agency to deliver the best value for money to clients.
As for the company’s future plans, Murphy says Green Zebras will continue to build its core business over the next few years as well as invest in some innovative approaches by working together with its clients on methodologies such as online panels, mobile feedback, social media monitoring, etc. This is to be in line with global trends and to broaden the agency’s overall scope and consistent with the agency’s tagline to be “a market research company of a different stripe”, he says.