Case Study

Olson Zaltman

Brand Development



HBS and Penn State professors Gerald Zaltman and Jerry Olson pioneered the use of mind science in market research when they founded Olson Zaltman in 1997. Since then, the field has grown to encompass myriad competitors, from agencies adding "neuro-marketing" to their offering to small startups replicating their approach. To continue leading, Olson Zaltman reinvigorated their brand position and developed internal capacity for communication and innovation.


We began by conducting three types of research:

  1. Interviews with the Olson Zaltman team, to understand internal brand perception and existing initiatives.
  2. The neuro-marketing category including competition, best practices, and white-space analysis.
  3. Interviews with six of Olson Zaltman's trusted clients and partners to understand shared values.


  • Research findings, conclusions, and recommendations
  • Ongoing discussion of results and emerging trends


We used this research as a foundation for our first all-team sprint, a facilitated collaboration to discuss and codify Olson Zaltman's brand position. 

Also in attendance for this sprint was award-winning designer Mike McQuade, who used the session's insights as a springboard for the development of a new visual identity.

The second all-team sprint focused on web presence. Over the course of this single day we developed user profiles and goals, site-wide calls-to-action, and a build plan. We developed the site using Squarespace, a SaaS-based content management system (CMS) that would allow Olson Zaltman to continue developing the site post-project.



  • Brand position
  • Visual identity and usage guidelines
  • CMS-based website


Developing brand culture is a holistic effort. We established one-on-one relationships with each team member, and took the time to understand their individual goals. This rallied enthusiasm for the transformation and connected individual goals to organizational vision.

We also provided the team with several workshops, customized to the firm's unique challenges, and oversaw the implementation and training for several additions to their technology stack, which included applications and frameworks for tighter collaboration and increased communication within and outside of the firm.



  • 4 one-on-one Skype sessions for each of 15 team members
  • 6 YouTube lectures covering project-specific topics and themes, with discussion
  • New tech tools implementation and training (Slack, Twitter, Google Drive) 
  • Ongoing group and individual support for brand position, new tools and processes

Organizational Design

We organized the entire nine-month engagement around three sprints, each spanning an entire day and spaced several months apart. By focusing the major pieces of work—brand positioning, website development, and new product development—into agile all-team sessions, we developed new capacity for effective collaboration, and sped up the team's time-to-innovation.



  • 3 day-long all-team collaborative sprints
  • Additional support through articles and training

Product Development

In the third sprint, the team worked with a local nonprofit to prototype a more agile format for their standard service offering. During this accelerated day-long session, we piloted the new technology tools and approaches to collaboration, and pushed the client to simplify and distill their service value.



  • Collaborative product development sprint
  • Additional support through articles and training