We <3 Our Clients: Shining the light on good people doing good things
Dennis Devlin, Founder of CLARITY Research & Strategy
Dennis Devlin’s committed his entire career to understanding why people buy.
As a self-proclaimed “non-shopper,” he’s never related to the people who enjoy spending time at length perusing the shelves. “I’d rather be in and out in 15 minutes,” he says. “These days, I don’t even need to go into a store. I can just go to a website, pull up my shopping history, and click ‘buy again.’”
Dennis has a personal passion for improv, which isn’t surprising when you learn his story.
With saying, “yes, and” at the core of an improviser’s philosophy, Dennis knows there’s an element of fear in moving forward, but with that fear, he’s also found prosperity.
A Common Beginning
In the early years, Dennis followed a typical post-undergrad career trajectory. Out of college, he took a contract job working in sales but started learning more about market research through his manager’s wife, who worked for Horizon, a market research firm in the area. Dennis landed an interview and spent the next fourteen years working for the company. Then, when he was ready for a change, he knew he needed to relocate to a city with a broader range of opportunities in research.
Just a couple of hours north and home to Proctor and Gamble, Cincinnati was the obvious choice.
In Cincinnati, he continued to hone his research and analytics skills at a handful of companies, adding an MBA and Masters in Marketing to his resume along the way.
In 2006 he settled into a job at GfK, where he supported a single client: P&G, working on brands including Pampers, Charmin, and Bounty.
But then, Dennis was thrown the ultimate curveball.
Taking the Leap
“I remember the day. It was November 14th, 2008.” Like so many during the great recession, Dennis was let go from his job.
“I was in the fourth round of layoffs. At that point, it didn’t have to do with performance at all. It was purely out of necessity.”
It was a disappointing blow for Dennis, who loved the challenges and pace that came with having Proctor and Gamble as a client.
“They always force you to bring your A+ game,” he reflected. “And they’re always ahead of the curve with marketing tactics, so I learned about a lot of innovative ideas through supporting them.”
When he was first let go, he didn’t know how bad or long it would last. But he remembers attending a Job Search Focus Group held at a church in Hyde Park. “The place was flooded,” he recalls. And many of the people he met, also looking for work, were in the same field.
Dennis knew he didn’t want to relocate his family a second time, so he held out for local opportunities.
The following summer, he stepped into the fear of the unknown and said yes to business ownership.
“I couldn’t wait for the proverbial needle in a haystack,” he explained.
Dennis Devlin became a business owner out of necessity.
Always someone who relies upon (and thrives from) professional coaching, his coach, at the time, suggested that he niche and focus on millennials.
“That’s crazy talk,” I thought to myself. “I don’t even know how to run a business, and this coach was telling me to focus on such a specific group.”
But upon further reflection, Dennis realized that if he wasn’t about something, people would assume he was about nothing.
“There’s something to be said for putting your stake in the ground,” Dennis adds.
Dennis quickly arrived at founding Consumer Clarity, where he marketed strategy services focused around younger consumers. Initially, people weren’t ready for it, but that quickly changed, particularly in the retail and package goods industries.
Fast forward a little over ten years, and Dennis faced another crossroads when COVID-19 rocked the world.
Many of his clients were focused on cost containment to endure the global crisis. “One of the first things that goes is marketing. And within that, research,” Dennis explains.
Many of Dennis’s clients, over the years, had evolved into the retail and restaurant spaces, two industries hit particularly hard by the pandemic.
“Research opportunities dried up almost overnight,” he says.
And so, Dennis knew, it was time to go back to the drawing board and reset.
In 2021, Dennis began the process of rebranding. He viewed it as an opportunity to redefine his practices.
Dennis has always done research and strategy for B2C and B2B businesses, but many of his clients would get hung up on the “consumer” in “Consumer Clarity.”
He decided the real value lived in his ability to clarify purposes for his clients. “It’s not actually a major overhaul,” he explains.
The change, while subtle, is freeing for Dennis. “It’s a better reflection of what I already do.”
Why CLARITY? And why all caps?
“It’s the outcome I deliver for those I serve. So clarity is what I’m all about, and the research and strategy is the process I use to get there,” Dennis explains.
Saying “Yes, And” to Future Opportunity
As someone who’s had to adapt through multiple crises over the course of his career, Dennis is well aware that all businesses go through an evolution. rebrand is simply the next step of his journey.
As an individual who dabbles in improv, he also knows that embracing the unknown and saying yes to new opportunities can be frightening but is also essential to the process.
“You have to keep up with your customers, their needs, and what you’re qualified to deliver to them,” he says.
Dennis sees research as a means to an end. But, it’s also about understanding how to apply learnings from research to drive your business forward.
Dennis knows his clients want clear insight, clear direction, and clear growth.
“It’s a linear path,” he explains. Clear insight dictates the direction, allowing for clear (and purposeful) growth.
Just as he offers CLARITY to his clients, Dennis is pursuing his own clear path forward, with a healthy mix of “yes and” on the side.