Rita is Chairman of Populus and President of the Market Research Society.
She has been called ‘The doyenne of branding’ by Campaign magazine. She was London CEO then Chairman of Interbrand for over 15 years, and Vice Chairman and Strategy Director at Saatchi & Saatchi before that.
In addition to being Chairman of Populus, she has a portfolio of non-executive director roles, including Bupa and Nationwide, and she has recently taken up the Chairmanship of BrandCap, the board level brand consulting firm.
She is a regular media commentator and public speaker, and her writing has included the best-selling book ‘The Future of Brands’, and The Economist book ‘Brands & Branding’. Her pro bono roles include the boards of WWF, of the Henley Festival and as chair of the leading practical sustainability organisation The Conservation Volunteers.
She is also on the Advisory Board for BP’s carbon offset programme ‘Target Neutral’ and is Visiting Professor at Henley Business School.
Prior to co-founding Populus, Michael held a number of roles which brought home to him the importance of research and insight – what we have come to call Critical Knowledge – to ensuring success in politics, economics and business.
Having graduated from the University of Leeds and after spending time at a leading think tank, Michael worked as special adviser to three cabinet ministers and worked at the BBC’s Political Research Unit before becoming Deputy Director of the Conservative Research Department. Following the 1997 General Election, he was the Conservative Party’s Director of Membership and Marketing with responsibility for introducing a national membership database.
He set up Populus alongside Andrew Cooper in 2003 to help organisations, businesses and brands gain a detailed understanding of their markets and to put research at the heart of their business strategy. As Populus’s Chief Executive, Michael is passionate about providing talented people with the opportunity to build excellent careers.
When it comes to life and business, Michael credits US chat show host Conan O’Brien for the best advice he’s ever heard; “if you work really hard and you’re kind, amazing things will happen”. A lifelong Arsenal supporter, he admires Arsène Wenger’s vision of how football should be played, his ability to implement it through all levels of the club and to inspire the loyalty of players both to his ethos and to the club. Michael strives to live and lead by these examples as he focuses on helping Populus grow and building a group of companies with the use or generation of insight at their heart.
Starting out in advertising, Michael swiftly established his own business, WCT Live, which became the largest independently owned live marketing company. Here he worked on Britain’s Presidency of the EC, the Hong Kong Handover Ceremony, and the Millennium project.
During this time he forged close links with The Royal Household, particularly through his work on the Golden Jubilee Concerts at Buckingham Palace for which he was awarded the CVO. In 2012 he was Chief Executive of the Diamond Jubilee Pageant on the Thames. In September 2012 Michael was appointed a Knight Commander of the Victorian Order.
Michael sits on the Boards of numerous successful companies across the communications spectrum. As well as Populus, these include CTN, Aura, Unspun and The Leadership Agency.
Sue joined the Populus Board in 2013, having worked with us as a consultant for 8 years.
She is a highly experienced finance director and currently holds that position at the communications agency Blue Rubicon. Prior to this, Sue worked for Blueprint, GPC International and InterBrand.
A graduate of the University of Durham, Sue brings considerable financial experience to Populus’s Board and advises on all aspects of the company’s corporate strategy.
Duncan joined the Populus team in January 2015 having spent over 10 years working in a number of roles at WPP. He is an expert in consumer and shopper research who has delivered projects for many of the largest FMCG manufacturers and retailers including P&G, L’Oréal, Sainsbury’s and GSK. Whether he is helping businesses and brands to finesse their comms strategy in order to connect better with the customers, or develop an innovative new product, Duncan always aims to ensure that Populus’s research makes a quantifiable impact on our clients’ commercial performance.
As Populus’s Commercial Director, Duncan is responsible for driving the growth of the business, and spreading awareness of our expertise across target sectors, which include infrastructure, energy, retail and technology. He is a great believer in the power that Critical Knowledge has to help organisations overcome their business challenges and feels privileged to see Populus’s talented team working hard to uncover it every single day.
Duncan is also passionate about promoting and maintaining a positive team culture across the Populus brand and has set about achieving this through his obsession with one particular food item: the burger. He now organises an eagerly anticipated monthly burger club that has grown into a Populus lunchtime favourite in the past year.
Chris is an Associate of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants, with two main passions in life: finance and football. Exceptionally bright and competitive to a fault, Chris is unafraid of any challenge and consistently motivated to master new skills. He is certainly knows his way around a spreadsheet and is never happier than when he is using one to solve a financial conundrum. Chris’ desire to be the best extends to all types of sporting activities, but particularly football, and may go some way to explaining how this North London native ended up becoming a Manchester United fan.
Andrea has an insatiable appetite for all things cultural. In her spare time she loves to trawl through her favourite magazines and blogs to discover exciting new brands and products, as well as visiting the latest restaurants and exhibitions in town. She is a fashionista with a penchant for designers such as Alexander McQueen, Dries Van Noten and Saint Laurent; but, there is certainly more to Andrea than meets the eye. Not only is she fluent in Arabic and French, but prior to embarking on a career in market research, Andrea studied Human Genetics at the University of Nottingham, and later gained a PhD in Molecular Biology from Imperial College London. She joined Populus in the summer of 2015 as Business Development Director for the Business & Consumer Insight team, having gained 5 years’ experience in a similar role at Kantar Worldpanel UK.
Aman holds a first-class degree in Biology from the University of Manchester. As part of her course she carried out a placement as a science media researcher, which gave her a strong understanding of how to present complex research findings in the most accessible way possible. Her interest in research led her to join Kantar Worldpanel where she spent two years in the new business team, winning projects for FMCG brands such as R&R ice cream, Gü and Yeo Valley. She went on to join Populus’s Business Development team in December 2016 where she is now working to expand her knowledge of research methodologies and build relationships with an exciting portfolio of clients across a wide variety of sectors.
Once Aman puts her mind to something there’s no stopping her. Her all or nothing approach has obvious advantages in her line of work but it has made it tricky for her to find a happy medium between her two great loves; fitness and cake. For now Aman is very dedicated to her healthy regime but could it be just a matter of time before she swaps spirulina brownies for the real thing?
While studying for her BSc in Politics and International Relations at the University of Bath, Jess gained some impressive experience shadowing the Lieutenant Colonel of the British Army at NATO’s headquarters in Naples. After graduating in 2015, she then went on to study the effects of global terrorism on tourism as part of her MSc in International Management at the University of Exeter. Jess’ keen interest in politics and business, coupled with her confident and approachable manner, make her an ideal fit for her role as Business Development Executive at Populus where she works closely with our Reputation & Strategy experts to build strong relationships with clients seeking to improve their corporate reputation.
Jess is an accomplished skier who began hitting the slopes aged just three, worked her way up to black runs by the time she was seven and later skied competitively for the British School Girls Ski Racers. She’s visited many of the world’s top resorts such as Cervinia in Italy and Zermatt in the Swiss Alps but in her opinion nothing compares to Vail in Colorado.
Kat lived by the seaside in Bournemouth for three years, where she honed her impressive design skills studying Design BA (Hons) at Bournemouth University.
Kat’s endless creativity and eye for design has transformed a range of publications and reports, brought to life by her outside-of-the-box thinking and knack for making things visually appealing. She breathes life into materials with exquisitely aesthetic graphic designs. Under her careful watch and thanks to her vision, complex data becomes instantly accessible and understandable.
Kat is an avid cook and dedicated vegan. She loves experimenting with new recipes and discovering chefs on YouTube. Her favourite vegetarian restaurant in London is Mildred’s. When she’s not expressing her creativity in the kitchen, she likes reading about philosophy, ethics and religion and going for long walks in beautiful Richmond Park.
Kat once won a competition for designing a Christmas card for Vince Cable. As a result she had her photo taken with him, which was published in her local newspaper, and was gifted with a teddy bear wearing a Houses of Parliament hoody. Sadly she no longer has the teddy bear but she does have the memories.
Whilst studying for her degree in Russian Maddie was lucky enough to spend a year studying in St. Petersburg. This year “going native” enabled Maddie to become fluent in Russian or so she thought…… There was one occasion on which her linguistic talents let her down when she inadvertently ordered and ate cow’s heart despite being a dedicated vegetarian. However, it can’t have been a truly terrible experience as Maddie has since returned to the carnivore fold.
Maddie enjoys knitting and there is one item in particular that she has a long held passion for – the snood. For those who are unaware of this essential 80’s clothing item Maddie has described it as an “elaborate scarf”. Maddie is hoping to lead the revival of the snood and if you start to see them appearing on and around the streets of Shoreditch you will know where it all began.
Maddie enjoys working at Populus because she has so much content to work with that is generated through the research teams. She is hugely talented in taking the research and creating compelling and stimulating stories for a wide variety of channels.
With a BSc (Hons) in Accounting and Business Management, a year’s work placement as a Finance Analyst at The Walt Disney Company, and 3 years working within the WPP Group under her belt, Kayon joined Populus in 2014 as a Management Accountant. Since then she has certainly proven that not all accountants live up to the “boring” stereotype.
Kayon is never more animated than when speaking about her family and her Caribbean heritage. With a particular enthusiasm for Caribbean food, music, and rum, Kayon loves big family get-togethers and is a perfectionist when it comes to preparing the traditional meal of curry goat and rice & peas. As a mum of two, Kayon’s biggest motivation is her children, who she hopes will grow up to be as proud of their culture as she is.
Having graduated from the University of East Anglia with a degree in Economic, Anootan joined Populus in 2012 and is currently studying for her Association of Chartered Certifies Accountants (ACCA) qualifications.
Anootan has bravely set herself the onerous task of sampling the afternoon tea offerings at many of London’s most elegant establishments. But don’t be fooled into thinking Anootan’s palate is strictly traditional; she is a culinary explorer who isn’t afraid to try even the most unusual ingredients. Whale burger anyone? When in Iceland.
Ben’s passion for organisation led him to pursue a career in finance after completing his degree in Film at the University of Canterbury. Having started out close to home, holding an accounts role at nearby Cambridge Airport, Ben relocated to London where he gained further experience at Warner Music. However, despite the obvious perks of working for a multinational record label, Ben was eager to progress and joined the Populus finance team in January 2017. In his role as Purchase Ledger Assistant, Ben is now responsible for a range of tasks including bank reconciliations, payments, expenses and invoicing. He is enjoying the independent nature of the role and is looking forward to beginning studying for his accounting qualifications in the coming months.
As a lover of food, Ben is in excellent company at Populus. He enjoys cooking at home and is currently testing the theory that no meal can’t be improved by the addition of egg. So far eggy lasagne is the only dish to have fallen flat. Ben is also loving his new London life, which has opened up a new world of culinary delights that he has enjoyed sampling.
Having received a first class degree in Accounting & Finance from Swansea University in 2015, Matt immediately embarked on a career in finance at Connect Catering in his home county of Oxfordshire. Here Matt gained an excellent knowledge of a wide variety of responsibilities such as invoicing, VAT returns, bookwork, handling suppliers, credit control, online purchasing and training new staff. He joined Populus in January 2017 with a view to developing these skills and taking on the exciting challenges of being part of a finance team within a rapidly growing business.
Matt’s life outside of work largely revolves around sport, be it following Arsenal’s fortunes in the Premier League or making the occasional trip to Twickenham for England rugby internationals. He recently relocated to London from sleepy Oxfordshire and is so far loving the new fast-paced life of the capital and getting to grips with the city as a local.
Having joined Populus in 2006, Sacha is one of its longest serving employees, who has seen the business grow from having just four staff to a multi-disciplinary team of almost 50 research experts.
On top of her responsibility for ensuring the office and its staff are functioning smoothly, Sacha has overseen a total of three office refurbishment projects during her time at Populus, with the latest providing stunning new reception, kitchen and open plan areas. Needless to say, there are very few questions on office administration and equipment that Sacha cannot answer, and while her to do list seems never-ending at times, she loves that her work allows her to get to know everyone in the business.
It bodes well for Sacha that her organisational skills are first rate; they are equally as vital outside of work when she’s acting as PA, chauffeur and chef to her sporty daughter. Is it any wonder that, given the chance, Sacha would most like to check herself into a spa and just put her feet up.
Rob joined Populus in 2016 to provide essential IT support across our growing business. Rob gained a BSc Hons in IT & Networking at the University of Middlesex, he then joined IT service provider 3Gi where his role as senior 2nd Line Engineer enabled him to develop his experience of fixing broad range of IT issues at client sites all over London.
Since Rob embarked on the challenge of IT management at Populus, his knowledge and exceptional problem-solving ability have already helped the business make significant improvements.
His desire to help people is always apparent and our entire team have benefited from his support on a daily basis.
In addition to his enquiring mind, Rob is also in possession of some inquisitive taste buds. He is a culinary explorer who loves to delve into unchartered territory; he recently set himself the challenge of trying a new type of cuisine for dinner every night for a week and is experimenting with supper clubs where up and coming chefs invite people into their homes / unique spaces to test out new recipes. Rob is an adventurous cook himself whose favourite past time is inventing dishes from whatever random collection of ingredients he can find in the fridge, most of which sound tasty, but the jury is still out on his questionable tuna, crab stick and raisin salad.
As Executive Assistant to Populus’s Chief Executive Michael Simmonds, Emily is able to put her obsession with organisation and planning to good use. She is Michael’s right-hand woman, with responsibility for managing his busy diary, assisting in the creation and implementation of company policies and liaising with other board members.
Emily caught the travelling bug after graduating from the University of Portsmouth. Not only did she spend eight months backpacking through all of Central and South America, she even called the beautiful Mexican city of Oaxaca (that’s “Wahaca” to those not in the know) home for a year. Despite claiming that she went to Mexico for the food and sunshine, this was no prolonged beach trip. In fact, during her time there, Emily worked for a small NGO that helped start-ups and small business get off the ground with interest-free loans, learnt to speak Spanish, wrote content for a travel website and still found time to write her own blog about the joys of ex-pat life in Mexico.
Pari is an experienced HR professional with a diploma in Employment Law. Having begun her career as a HR Assistant at TBWA, Pari spent four years working as an HR Advisor at media agency, Starcom Mediavest Group, during which time she saw the company expand from 300 to 600 members of staff. She joined Populus as our dedicated HR Manager in September 2016, a role that she is ideally suited to thanks to her adaptable nature and ability to build strong relationships across teams. Day-to-day Pari will be in charge of Populus’ HR policies, streamlining our recruitment process and running our training programmes.
Being HR Manager of a rapidly expanding business like Populus is a challenge, but it sounds like a relative stroll in the park compared to the summer Pari had prior to joining us, during which time she went to a total of 11 weddings! In fact, Pari is such a wedding pro that she managed to make it to two weddings in two countries within 36 hours or each other. Fortunately, Pari loves to travel, be it on luxurious trips to Barbados, Dubai or Las Vegas, or Kenya, where she and her family have done charity work for a variety of causes including helping remote villages gain access to water and with providing disabled people with artificial limbs.
Stephanie has a BSc in Marketing Management from Lancaster University, as part of which she completed a one year internship within the video games division of entertainment giant Warner Bros. During her time there she gained fantastic experience working on the launch of well-known games such as Mortal Kombat, Batman Arkham City and LEGO Harry Potter. Stephanie travelled extensively after her degree and spent time working in retail and visual merchandising for White Stuff in her hometown of Cheltenham before the bright lights of the capital came calling. Having moved to London in 2016, Stephanie joined Populus as our Receptionist & Administration Assistant and now finds herself undertaking a huge variety of tasks including all front of house duties as well as assisting our Office Manager and the Finance team.
Stephanie is in good company at Populus. Like many members of the team, she has a creative side which she likes to let loose on her beloved sewing machine. Admittedly, Stephanie is finding she has less time to indulge in her passion now that she has to balance it with her new busy London social life, but her family and friends can rest assured that they can still expect to receive cushions – Stephanie’s speciality - as Christmas and birthday gifts for many years to come.