The Origin Story of V.I.T.A.L.

December 6, 2022

Mark Clipsham
Data Science & Analytics, Senior Vice President

Every hero has an origin story… Was it a science experiment gone wrong? Were they granted their powers by aliens or a radioactive spider? 


In our last blog post [], we explained the why and where of V.I.T.A.L.’s origin story.  In this post, we’ll explain a bit more about the what and the how.  


To start off,  I’m happy to report V.I.T.A.L. was built through a combination of Agile principles, behavioral science, advanced analytics and decades of branding experience – not from the bite of a mutant statistician! 


It took us about a year to develop and test V.I.T.A.L., working with the Brand & Engagement Strategy team at our sister Stagwell agency Allison+Partners. While some of our secret recipe is protected by Stark Industries’ immutable IP policies, we can share a few details about the development process and how V.I.T.A.L. works.  

  1. We started with an initial brainstorm among the senior leadership in both A+P and Northstar to start to understand and dimensionalize how we could define each of the five individual V.I.T.A.L.  pillars. How do we define and operationalize Vision, Inspiration, Leadership and so on? What would that actually look like in a quantitative instrument? How would we analyze input?

  1. Then we conducted one-on-one interviews among various stakeholders across different sectors and industries to confirm and refine our hypotheses about how to operationalize/define the individual sectors.

  1. Next, we fielded a quantitative study to validate our initial qualitative hypotheses. We learned a lot in this step, and it enabled us to refine and shape instrument design and statistical analysis.

  1. From this initial research and development phase, we determined that within each of the five V.I.T.A.L. pillars, there are nine attributes that can be used to further understand brand perception and strength. In other words – what are the nine different facets of Leadership? How can a respondent confirm they believe a brand demonstrates its leadership?

  1.  Next, we built out a quantitative instrument (we call it V.I.T.A.L. Signs) to track and monitor all 45 distinct brand attributes. This level of detail allows us to determine what customers in our category want and need and then measure how the brand and competitors perform against those expectations. On the back-end, we determined the best ways to analyze the responses are tools like MaxDiff and TURF analysis. 

  1. Many of the 45 attributes are universal across categories (approximately 70-80% of them translate well). But then for each client, we then further refine and hone the remaining attributes to ensure they are relevant and appropriately worded for that specific industry.  

  1. We often start each V.I.T.A.L. project with an initial qualitative discovery study (we call this V.I.T.AL. Insights) with current customers and other key stakeholders. This helps refine the language of the attributes. Then within the quantitative study that follows, we can assess, monitor and track the attributes within the market, and between the brands in the competitive arena. 


The key to V.I.T.A.L. is not just assessing how your own brand performs relative to other brands in the category. It also gives our clients a clear understanding of the key drivers of choice within the category.  It’s one thing to know the strengths and weaknesses of your brand compared with your competitors. It’s entirely another to know how the brand performs on the most important drivers of choice. 


With a peek under the hood of V.I.T.A.L., I’m now going to return to the mad scientist’s lab… errr, my office… to work on some additional experiments – I mean, advanced statistical analyses. 


If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me or any of the folks from Northstar or Allison+Partners who are part of the V.I.T.A.L. team if you want to determine if this framework is right for your business needs.

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