Going global: focusing on consumer behavior in the G-20 nations

Vickie Abrahamson and Mary Meehan, founders of Iconoculture
Vickie Abrahamson and Mary Meehan, founders of Iconoculture

Like many successful entrepreneurs, Vickie Abrahamson and Mary Meehan felt like something was missing after their business took off.

Iconoculture, the Minneapolis company they founded in 1992, has grown to be one of the nation’s premier consumer-insight research firms, with more than 100 employees and annual revenue approaching $20 million.

But as the company got bigger, the founders wound up enmeshed in the day-to-day business of running a company — with a board of directors, layers of staff and what felt like a growing distance from creative work.

So earlier this year, they sold their share of the business and started a new consulting firm, Panoramix Global. The new venture allows them to return to their roots as consumer analysts instead of riding herd on spreadsheets and business plans.

“It’s that old itch,” said Abrahamson, explaining the change. “When you have 100 people, things have to be thought out, risks evaluated. When you’re an entrepreneur, you see something and you go for it.”

Unlike Iconoculture, which has a U.S. focus, Panoramix is geared toward analysis of consumer behavior in the G-20 nations, which account for about two-thirds of the world’s consumers and about 85 percent of global GNP.

“We saw an opportunity to take a strategic, highly customized and global approach,” Meehan said. “Analysis is the key: to link things together and articulate them in a way that is meaningful to the client.”

Iconoculture’s growth was fueled by a proprietary online system that synthesized the work of dozens of analysts, tying data points together with written interpretation and visual presentations.

At Panoramix, Abrahamson and Meehan are back to pitting their two brains against the world. They say they find the change refreshing.

“It’s a personality type,” Meehan said of her interest in consumer analysis. “As a kid seeing the Beatles on TV — even then I wondered, ‘What’s with all the screaming?’

“It’s constant entertainment trying to figure out what makes people tick.”

Rather than have massive research horsepower in-house, the pair are partnering with other organizations and consultants to gather the raw data needed for analysis.

“It’s the business model of the decade,” Abrahamson said. “We’re partnering with some really interesting people.”

Leaving the business they built for nearly 20 years has been “a huge transition,” Meehan said, but also energizing.

“We wanted to get back to our consulting roots and work closely with clients,” she said. “We’re trying to get at why things are the way they are.”

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