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In The Early Ninetieth Century

In the early nineteenth century, from about 1820s to 1846s, immense Mexican land grants of tens of thousands of acres dominated the California landscape. The grants covered the soft rolling hills along the coast and inland and became grazing lands for cattle on a thousand hills in the halcyon days of Mexican California.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, Massachusetts had become the recognized capital of American shoe manufacturing and the booming new industry needed leather, lots of it.

That need created a whole new paradigm: sleek, three-masted clipper ships loaded with provisions such as iron cooking pots, farm tools, musical instruments, gunpowder, coffee and tea, spices, cocoa, sugar and molasses, silks and lace sailed from Boston and made the torturous 17,000 mile, 6 month journey to California. (Makes one think twice about complaining about the economy seats in the 5-hour flight across the country).


Once arrived in ports like Monterey, San Diego, Santa Barbara, they would trade their goods for the valuable cow hides which would be carried back to Boston to feed the ravenous shoe manufactures.


Fast forward several decades to 1918 and we find 16-year-old Nathan Swartz, the 4th generation in a long family tradition of shoe makers, having emigrated to America from Odessa, Russia, and getting a job as an apprentice at the Abington shoe repair shop in Boston.

In 1952, Nathan bought a 50% interest in the expanded Abington Shoe company and bought the remaining 50% in 1955. Nathan retired in 1968. His sons took over and in 1973 they created the iconic Timberland boot and brand name, later changing the name of the company to the Timberland company.


The Timberland company grew handsomely through the end of the 20th century, with sales of the boot tripling when rappers began wearing them in the 90s. Timberland expanded its markets internationally as well as its product line to include other boots, shoes and apparel. 

But after the turn of the century, sales slowed. The company was losing market share and revenue was basically flat from 2006-2012. The company’s marketing was all over the place and, according to President Stewart Whitney, the brand lacked focus.


That is tantamount to saying that they did not have a coordinated position. The brand lacked positioning.

And then, two years later, almost miraculously, the entire brand experienced a stunning turnaround: “…sales improved in every global market and every product category, delivering a fatter profit margin …”


What happened?


The company attributes its resurgence to a 2-year customer study. They surveyed 18,000 people across 8 countries. An analysis of the results enabled them to “…diagnose its problems and to zero in on its ideal customer – an urban dweller with a casual interest in the outdoors.”

Now, that’s a survey!


But it’s not just Timberland. The greatest brands in the world use surveys and credit the data they receive to their success. Most of the major brands in the world use surveys on which to craft effective marketing campaigns.

A few examples.



“Nike established a department called Digital Sport in 2010. Tasked with the responsibility of collecting market and survey data, the department is the brains behind Nike’s ability to analyze their customers’ behavior and their needs.


“A Nike spokesperson says, ‘We’re a company dedicated to activity and inspiration, and we use data that consumers have shared with us to help inspire and motivate people to become more active and to help them find the right products.’”



“Not only does Uber take 70 to 72% of the US ride-sharing market, but their marketing campaigns almost always resonate with their customers. And why is that? Uber takes data very seriously.


“Besides the data powerhouses like Arbos and Gurafu that Uber built and use to study their customers – drivers and passengers – these after-product-usage surveys provide them with a wealth of data on how their customers see them.

“And from all this data, the ride-sharing giant is able to run marketing campaigns that get customers talking and taking action…”



“Almost everyone uses Dropbox in one way or another. The cloud storage provider collects survey data that helps them power some of the most brilliant campaigns in their space.


“Plenty of all this information that Dropbox gets comes from their user survey data. Besides their Dropbox Insider program, they also run Dropbox User Research, where users apply to answer questions that can help shape the cloud storage product…

‘This way, Dropbox acquires survey data and makes brilliant campaigns…”


 The Web Hosting Platform


“SiteGround is another brand taking survey data seriously…

“Like most other brands, SiteGround is able to strategize and run marketing campaigns that resonate with their users from the survey data they assemble.”

Two million customers use the product.


Of course, you don’t need to be an international brand to benefit from the data that surveys provide for you.



Jim Mathers is the CEO of ENERGY PROFESSIONALS, a firm that provides commercial customers with a choice in who provides their energy, resulting in reduced energy costs.

On Target conducted a program of market research and surveys for Energy Professionals earlier this year. Here is what Jim had to say.


Bruce Wiseman

On Target Research


“I want to thank you and your team for the amazing survey On Target performed for Energy Professionals.  

We have been using your survey results for our website, all of our marketing materials, our training for our sales reps and for the foundation of all our company communications. One of the results we have achieved using this information was our highest ever sales last month.

Independently of your survey, we have received industry surveys from other clients, and we found that the key information has been totally in line with On Target’s original survey. 

Your services are very valuable, and we will be back for more surveys.”

Sincerely yours,


Jim Mathers


Energy Professionals, LLC.

It took Timberland 50 years to realize they should survey their customers. And, once they decided to do it, they didn’t mess around. The results enabled them to focus their brand and increase sales and income handsomely.

ddomestic energy company, or a small local firm, surveys will help you drive sales and income.

And FYI, customer surveys are surprisingly affordable.

Can we be of service?



Bruce Wiseman
President & CEO
On Target Research