MECLABS, a Jacksonville Beach-based international marketing-research firm that focuses on the science of consumer persuasion, intends to move its headquarters to 4315 Pablo Oaks Court in the San Pablo Office Park, where it will add 50-75 jobs and employ almost 170 people.
"We're pioneering algorithms that optimize response rates," said founder, CEO and Managing Director Flint McGlaughlin, who also is the director of Enterprise Research at the Transforming Business Institute at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom.
"We need to create a space sufficient to keep up with demand," McGlaughlin said. He said the renovation budget is $1.4 million.
According to the meclabs.com website and state records, MECLABS is based in Jacksonville Beach at 1300 Marsh Landing Parkway, Suite 106.
MECLABS uses about 11,000 square feet of space in the Jacksonville Beach location, McGlaughlin said. The new site is almost double that size.
The company will hire analysts and data scientists, he said.
McGlaughlin and MECLABS have "conducted thousands of experiments aimed at figuring out what kinds of messages can still get through to skeptical Americans," said The Washington Post in a July 20, 2012, report headlined: "Romney's tax returns, Obama's birth certificate and the end of trust."
MECLABS, which state records show began doing business in Florida in 2007, says on the meclabs.com site that it is "the world's largest independent research lab focused exclusively on marketing and sales."
It says that "our scientists and analysts have conducted rigorous scientific tests across more than 10,000 pages. We have recorded and analyzed more than 5 million calls. And we have conducted interviews with more than 500,000 marketing leaders from around the world."
It says "MECLABS is a science lab that uses real-world research to help business leaders get better use out of sales and marketing technology and resources, including Internet marketing, website optimization, and lead generation and nurturing. We have been involved in direct research partnerships with companies throughout Europe and North America since 2001."
A building-permit application shows MECLABS, which was registered in Florida as MEC Labs LLC, intends to renovate 21,117 square feet of space at the Pablo Oaks Court address at a construction project cost of $450,000.
The Angelo Group is the contractor. The designer is Place Plan LLC.
According to industry standards, that space could accommodate up to 211 occupants.
McGlaughlin expects the renovations to be completed in the fall.
Plans show offices, open work area, training space, a studio, equipment and sound areas, a game room, a conference room, a break room, a library, open work area and a courtyard.
The executive offices include a room for the "Flint team."
McGlaughlin also is manager of Pablo Oaks LLC, which bought the property in November for $2.9 million.
Property records show the building was constructed in 2001 on 2.3 acres. It carried a 2012 taxable value of $3.34 million.
The leadership team includes Brian Carroll, executive director of revenue optimization; Scott Howard, executive director of operations; Paul Clowe, senior director of business operations; Bob Kemper, senior director of sciences; Pat Lorch, senior director of technology; Brandon Stamschror, senior director of content operations; Dave Green, director of marketing partnerships; Pamela Markey, senior director of marketing; and Gina Townsend, senior director operations and services.
According to the site, MECLABS has partnered with key market leaders including The New York Times, Johnson & Johnson, Microsoft and Matrikon.
Meclabs.com says "you can read about our six distinct applied research groups performing client services for companies around the world such as Reuters News Service, The Royal Bank of Canada, The New York Times, TheStreet.com, Car & Driver, Bottega Verde (Italy), Opodo (UK), Johnson & Johnson, and many others.
"We've consulted with companies like Johnson & Johnson, The New York Times, 1-800-Flowers, and Bottega Verde to optimize sales and marketing processes and achieve triple-digit ROI gains," it says, referring to return on investment.
"Since then, we've expanded into training and publishing as well. MECLABS Training Group has taught thousands of marketers from over 50 countries how to gain maximum value from their current spend," it says.
McGlaughlin said total company employment numbers are not released and that MECLABS operates in more than 60 locations. There are 92 employees at the Jacksonville Beach offices, he said.
He said its two main facilities are in Jacksonville and in Minneapolis, where it has an operations facility and a testing call center where it has recorded 5 million calls.
"It's hardcore science," McGlaughlin said. "Most of our research is focused on why people say 'yes.'"
The website says that "through our MarketingExperiments and MarketingSherpa publishing brands we enable 225,000 professionals to optimize the sales and marketing performance of their organizations."
MarketingExperiments, InTouch and MarketingSherpa are part of the MECLABS Group.
In 2006, MarketingExperiments.com, a research firm led by McGlaughlin that conducts real-time marketing experiments, announced that it was acquiring MarketingSherpa Inc., a research firm that publishes marketing case studies and benchmark data.
MarketingExperiments.com was headquartered in Jacksonville Beach. MarketingSherpa was based in Warren, R.I.
The Washington Post story in July quoted McGlaughlin as saying:
"The Post Modern Consumer just doesn't believe us anymore. They have endured too many empty promises, too many exaggerated benefits, and too many artful disclaimers."
"The predisposition now is to doubt every claim," he says.
The Post said "politicians have it worse than most businesses because the electoral process is almost perfectly designed to undermine trust."
It said the sound bites, instant response ads and focus-groups of modern political campaigns "can create the perception of inconsistency very quickly," McGlaughlin says.
"McGlaughlin now advises his corporate clients to present consumers with quantifiable claims rather than mere expressions of quality. But such advice comes with a dire warning: McGlaughlin, a theologian before he went into marketing, quotes the philosopher Soren Kierkegaard, who said that the more we demand evidence, the more we create doubt," said the Post.
Even official records don't put doubts entirely to rest, it said.
"There comes a point when you just have to move on with the credibility you have built up over your career," McGlaughlin said to the Post.
"You're not going to solve problems by producing evidence," he said.
McGlaughlin, 47, was born in Jacksonville and grew up in northern British Columbia.
McGlaughlin's bio says he has been married for 25 years and lives in Ponte Vedra Beach with his wife and three children.
It says his work has led to discoveries regarding the philosophy of human choice, experimental design and the cognitive psychology of conversion.
According to the bio, McGlaughlin has a master's degree in philosophy and theology from the University of London's Jesuit Specialist College in Philosophy and he has a doctor of divinity degree from Emmanuel Seminary in India.