V.I.T.A.L

November 4, 2022

Jennifer Yellin
SVP & Managing Director – USA

Solving problems & creating solutions together – the birth of V.I.T.A.L

Relationships with sisters can often be a complicated matter. Sometimes the relationship can be fraught with competitiveness, indifference and bitterness (take Mary and Anne Boleyn as a worst case scenario!). But on the other hand, you have Serena and Venus Williams – sisters who have each other’s backs, complement one another and push one another to be better.

Thankfully, such is the case with Northstar and Allison+Partners. Sister agencies within the Stagwell Group of companies, we have collaborated closely for many years across multiple projects.


Northstar is a custom, boutique market research and insights firm founded in 1998 built on a foundation of Fearless Intellect. The team at Northstar are driven to break every mold when researching, to make insight stick through immersive storytelling and to power our clients to make better informed decisions. We work across sectors and industries, leveraging innovative qualitative and quantitative methodologies to better understand humans and brands.


Allison+Partners is a global integrated marketing and communications agency. With roots in PR, A+P has evolved and grown its strategic marketing and advisory services – from brand strategy and visual identity, to employer branding and internal comms, risk and reputation, change management, and paid-earned-shared-owned marketing and communications.


I remember conversations over cocktails at a trendy bar in San Francisco. Allison+Partners and Northstar collaborating to hone our approach and vision for how to solve together pressing challenges for clients.  


First, the problem: too often, brands are seen as a static “thing” – positioning statements, imagery and a long list of rules. Unfortunately for many of our clients, the “brand” resides primarily within the marketing department when it should live and breathe throughout the enterprise.  


The vision: develop a framework that helps companies understand and express a brand’s humanity (and therefore build engagement). Through years of experience, Allison+Partners knows (and confirmed by Northstar’s similar work) brands are multi-dimensional and must be felt and experienced in their full humanity. Brands must demonstrate: Vision, Inspiration, Trust, Alignment and Leadership. And thus was born V.I.T.A.L. – a comprehensive brand framework that can measurably bring these five pillars to life through research, strategy, storytelling and identity, and go-to-market planning.

The ask: How can Northstar validate and operationalize this framework from a research and brand tracking perspective? How will we know which of the five pillars is most important to the consumer – and why? How can we measure and track the strengths and weaknesses of the brand relative to what’s important in the category? How can we see the performance of our brand vs. the competition? How can we use this data to express each of those pillars in a way that is measurably linked to the ways consumers think and talk about the brand? In other words… how do we know if, and when, a brand is V.I.T.A.L.?  


This is how V.I.T.A.L. was born… five pillars that help us quantify what matters most to the humans whose beliefs and actions create a category. A framework by which we can interpret this data to create and strengthen brands, and thoughtfully plan their activation in every channel. Validated and operationalized through rigorous qualitative and quantitative research.  Northstar and Allison+Partners have refined the V.I.T.A.L. approach with a number of clients throughout 2022, and we’re excited to help even more clients in 2023 and beyond.


Sometimes sisters can, in fact, get along. And sometimes, sisters working together can lead to something really cool. In this case, we think we’re onto something that can truly change the game for brands.  


In next week’s blog post, Northstar will take you “under the hood” of V.I.T.A.L. to explain exactly how and why it works.

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