Interview with Kevin Lonnie – President and CEO of KL Communications, Inc.

online panelsBrief background of Kevin Lonnie: Mr. Lonnie is the CEO and Founder of KL Communications, Inc. In 1996, Mr. Lonnie began KL Communications with the specific purpose of establishing a firm that would elevate the voice of the customer via superior insights and the latest technology. Consistent with that vision, the company specializes in proprietary online communities for a wide array of Fortune 1000 clients, including TIME Inc., Delta, Avery Dennison, HBO and Sony Electronics. Mr. Lonnie is a self-proclaimed research/tech geek who currently serves on the MRA Executive Board, and is a past President of the Interactive Marketing Research Organization (IMRO).

Online MR: What 3 words can aptly sum up more than 2 decades of your research journey?

Kevin Lonnie: I’m getting old.

Online MR: What ‘drives you’ in the morning everyday towards reaching your goals?

Kevin Lonnie: A 2005 Acura TL.

OK, enough with my attempts at humor. The truth is I do feel I have unfinished business and that is very much a good thing. I see our industry in transition and I anticipate being part of the advance team as we move towards a more proactive, revenue generating model on behalf of our clients.

This is different from the previous “risk reduction” model which has described MR for the better part of a century.

Online MR: Is the market research industry in totality moving towards a right direction?

Kevin Lonnie: I think it’s splitting into two camps.

Unfortunately, I think traditional MR is viewed as a commodity good.

The proliferation and success of DIY services has removed much of the value from our work, at least as it relates to traditional quantitative services. We’re seeing Procurement Departments measuring MR firms the same way they might evaluate different cargo options.

In this camp, the researcher is the vendor and vendors are a dime a dozen.

For that reason, there’s a camp of researchers seeking higher ground. They view themselves more as insight consultancies as opposed to “big box” research suppliers.

The emphasis moves to helping clients know what they need to know before they realize the need. And this can be done by integrating Social Media Measurement and collaboration tools into an insights community.

That means focusing on opportunity areas and not simply validating a course of action that management has already decided upon.

Online MR: In the online panel data collection industry what are the major challenges you foresee?

Kevin Lonnie: Sample quality first and foremost, but that might be more of a concern among those of us on the supplier side than the client side.

Again, I think the challenge is to differentiate yourself.

If you’re in the service business and you’re offering is virtually identical to your competitors, then you are competing on price. And that’s a slippery slope no one wants to be in.

Online MR: Your views on the constant client’s complaint of the lack of “Value” in the research now days?

Kevin Lonnie: As the adage goes, you get what you pay for.

I do feel the lack of value is a legitimate gripe. Too often researchers are happy with deliverables that no one really wants to read.

And what passes as insights are just regurgitated findings. There is a lack of really good analytical support.

There is credibility to this view. But this is the bed they have made and now they don’t want to sleep in it.

Online MR: Is social media more hype and less substance in context with market research industry?

Kevin Lonnie: It’s both. And I don’t mean to be cryptic.

I would say right now that social media has been more hype than substance.

There’s a lot of white noise out there in social media. And a lot of relatively useless information to be gotten on the cheap.

I look at social media listening and measurement as I do a piece of software.

It’s not going to tell me anything if I don’t tell it exactly what I want.

As you go deeper into what social media can do, you find it requires the same level of analytic support that MR has always required. First of all, you have to tell it precisely what it is you want to learn more about.

Understanding what key words you need to perform a deep dive on requires insight on the front end. And then making sense of all the automated charting and accompanying verbatim requires analytical expertise on the back end.

At the end of the day, social media requires an awful lot of guidance and analytical expertise for it to have substance. That said, if you arm it with that expertise, who needs to do surveys any more?

Online MR: How are you strengthening the creation of panel communities @ KL Communications?

Kevin Lonnie: That’s a great question and one I wrestle with everyday. Because it is very much a fluid situation since the tools available to us via social media are ever expanding.

We’re very excited by being able to integrate Social Media measuring into our communities as a way to both drive new hypotheses and even validate what we’re hearing in our communities.

And mobile is really exploding. There, we’re looking to use mobile to augment what we couldn’t do before, such as capture insights at the actual purchase decision moment.

But that said, while we use all these cool methods in our toolbox, we really emphasize consumer empowerment. This is being driven by several market forces.

First of all, I think the value proposition for consumer engagement requires appropriate principles of dual reciprocity. And this reciprocity should be thought of in terms of social currency and not cash incentives.

There are a lot of passionate people out there, passionate about brands or categories and those are the folks we want for our communities.

From there, the question becomes, how do we empower our members? How do I create and maintain a value proposition that works for them and also provides unmatched insights to my clients. That is a noble pursuit!

Online MR: Tell us something more about “Crowdweaving™”.

Kevin Lonnie: We’re betting the ranch on CrowdWeaving.

It becomes the cornerstone of our empowerment efforts.

We’re also creating an ongoing CrowdWeaving challenge throughout our communities to help us spot the next new opportunity for our clients. This challenge is being aided and abetted by providing our members with social media listening tools.

In other words, we’re giving them the same weapons we used to reserve for ourselves. And this provides a framework for The Wisdom of Crowds to take root. Again, our focus is to empower our members.

The beneficial byproduct of this noble effort becomes actionable insights for our clients.

Please excuse me for pontificating about CrowdWeaving, I don’t want to make this a sales pitch, but I recommend to anyone in our industry, they should pursue collaborative efforts with respondents that give them the ability to co-create.

I think that’s where our industry is going.

Online MR: 2012 – what are your expansion plans? Especially in context with the emerging markets?

Kevin Lonnie: Most of our new panels & communities are going global.

Some have begun US only, but the plan is for global roll out.

Certainly, the BRIC countries are of high interest. And while we have been able to handle this global expansion to date by incorporating translation services, I see a near future that will require more on the ground support.

That would mean partnering with MR firms that already have a strong regional footprint and understand the local subtleties that we wouldn’t. And that provides us the opportunity to launch panels/communities in these developing nations first and then look to expand them to the US. That’s a very exciting proposition!

Online MR: Can ‘creativity’ be tapped between 9 to 5 work hours?

Kevin Lonnie: Has creativity ever been on a clock? It marches to the beat whenever it feels the rhytym, so the simple answer to your question is “NO!”

That means we have to create a 24/7 support system for challenging these insights. There’s no telling when the muse will strike and we need to be able to capture that.

For us, that means having different community managers and coordinators in place so that our curation process is always ongoing.

Online MR: What are the biggest pitfalls in the path of a new leader?

Kevin Lonnie: There’s a line from a song by Steve Winwood. “When even you don’t quite believe you, that’s when nothing can deceive you.”

It’s not easy taking a leap of faith. But you don’t jump a chasm in two bounds.

So it’s a matter of doing all your due diligence, spending/investing time talking with your peers, consultants, the trade journals and then heading in a direction that you feel represents the open blue waters.

And then when you make that decision, live with it, because the time for second guessing has long since passed.

But again, it’s not hard to go off in a bold direction if you have thoroughly explored every option and you have complete confidence in the right course of action.

Online MR: Which role of yours – you like the most: “FATHER” OR “HUSBAND” OR “LEADER”?

Kevin Lonnie: Tough one, I like them all. I can say that when I’m supporting others, I feel at my best.

Whether that’s helping out with my kids’ studies or sports, helping an employee learn their craft and increase their own brand worth or actually listening to my wife without interrupting her; those are the times I feel like I’m in the moment and actually making a little difference.

And I feel a leader is more about inspiring others than any great thing they’re doing themselves. If you can make others feel better about themselves, that’s being a leader.

I don’t always achieve that, but it’s always worth pursuing.

online panelsKevin’s co-ordinates are mentioned below:

50 English Plaza, Suite 6B

Red Bank, NJ 07701

T: (732) 224-9991


LinkedIn ; Website ; Twitter ; Team


  1. Great article. DYI online market research is definitely a commodity, but there will always be value added by an experienced market researcher. I want my product to be the best DYI engine out there but tied in with online market researchers, hopefully this will be the best of both worlds.