Home Articles Smart 100 (2009): The judging process

Smart 100 (2009): The judging process

John Shanahan

We all know that the next few years, more than any in the past, are about being smart.

By John Shanahan

Most of us have never experienced this combination of adverse economic conditions and rapid technological change.

Being smart and innovation go hand in hand. Colmar Brunton looks to encourage smart innovation. We help by keeping the eventual customer anchored at the heart of the innovation process. Our research increases the likelihood of success and speeds up the development process.

The SMART 100 is a great way to recognise good innovation. By putting consumers, particularly Mavens, at the centre of the evaluation process, we are getting close to predicting real life innovation winners.

Why is a Maven such a skilled judge of innovation? Why are they so critical to guiding likely success?

The more technology we have to track how sales occur, the more we learn about the power of ‘word-of-mouth’ and the more we understand the importance of key individuals in the viral process. Mavens act as key nodes in the spread of either positive or negative information about an idea.

That’s why Mavens offer an apt choice as the primary judging panel.

We look forward to monitoring the products that appear in this inaugural SMART 100 and building on the SMART 100 as a ‘road test’ for the innovations of today and tomorrow.

John Shanahan
Chief Executive Officer
Colmar Brunton

What is a maven?

By Peter Kenny

Peter Kenny

Academics have known about the existence of Mavens for many years, claiming they have a particular psychotype. However, it was Malcolm Gladwell’s book ‘The Tipping Point’ that really gave rise to this underutilised group in society.

Gladwell described Mavens as “those who are intense gatherers of information and impressions, and so are often the first to pick up on new or nascent trends”.

The Maven’s unique talent is his or her ability to unearth and identify, from all the new products and services available in the marketplace, the innovations that are worth propagating. He or she also generally has the ability to communicate the potential of the innovation to the broader public and, therefore, plays an integral role in the mass take-up of any innovation.

It is likely that you will know a Maven or may even be a Maven yourself in a specific area. Who do you turn to before purchasing a high-ticket item, like a television or car? Is there someone you trust for fashion tips? When evaluating political candidates, is there someone you know will always be across the issues? This person is usually a Maven.

Recent work by La Trobe University and the Brain Science Institute (Gountas-Ciorciari) confirmed that Mavens are compelled to trade market gossip because it suits their personalities. John Gountas, senior marketing lecturer at La Trobe, has published a number of original studies that involve Mavens.

Gountas and Colmar Brunton have been collaborating for several years, exploring the various opportunities that can arise from using Mavens in research to identify the success of new innovations, brands and products in the marketplace.

Importantly, Mavens are not always opinion leaders – writing reviews in the media or spouting opinions from their soapbox. Quite often, they are ordinary people whom others trust. At the same time, their influence can be incredibly powerful. Their opinions can take an innovation from being ‘just another new idea’ to ‘something everybody needs and wants’.

Mavens are special because, by virtue of their personalities, they expose themselves to a variety of media, which they seek out to acquire information about products, services, stores and shopping. But their biggest differentiator is their eagerness to share their expertise and opinions with other consumers, who often turn to them for information. That is why Mavens provide such an apt resource for measuring the potential of any given innovation.

Peter Kenny is the Managing Director of Colmar Brunton’s Melbourne and Asia Pacific businesses. A specialist in New Product Development, Peter has provided strategic high-level insight to many of Australia’s top blue chip companies. Prior to joining Colmar Brunton, Peter held senior marketing roles for Cadbury and Heinz.

How we found our mavens.

By Penelope Parnes

Penelope Parnes

Mavens are everywhere. Research by Colmar Brunton indicates that among the general population approximately one in five people can be classified as a Maven. However, what makes them rare has always been the ability of market researchers to identify and isolate them.

To solve this problem, Colmar Brunton, in conjunction with La Trobe University, has developed a unique psychometric testing that can identify mavens in the general population.

Colmar Brunton applied academic theories, developed by La Trobe University, with market research principles to develop a profiling questionnaire that identified the key characteristics of Mavens. The results were analysed by Colmar Brunton’s elite statisticians and three scales were developed, to clearly identify Mavens, Opinion Leaders and Early Adopters .

This final screening was then administered to over 10,000 consumers who belong to Colmar Brunton’s online panel. Through this exercise, a panel of approximately 2,000 Mavens was created, all of whom participate in market research projects to help brands identify whether their product is going to be successful in the marketplace. Over 1,600 were employed to judge the SMART 100 submissions.

Penelope Parnes is an account manager at Colmar Brunton

Mavens are:

  • Intense gatherers of information and impressions.
  • Often the first to pick up on new or nascent trends.
  • Trendies who love to go with the fashion and be at the “In” places.
  • Effective communicators who other people trust.

Mavens are not necessarily:

  • Opinion leaders.
  • Early adopters or those who are the first to buy the latest technology.


  • 6 months
  • 861 nominations
  • 1,600 maven judges
  • 100 winners