Our Story

HITCG is a boutique, relationship-based insights consulting firm, and one of the most valued and recognized qualitative shops. It was founded in Cleveland, OH by Helen Thomas in 1994, with John joining the practice in 2000.


Helen and John originally met launching a market research start-up in the 1980’s, along with PhDs in Psychology, Anthropology, and Communications.  This business, North Coast Behavioral Research Group, was created because ad agency owners challenged us to come up with better ways to conduct and analyze qualitative research. Eventually, this business was acquired by a regional ad agency.  In the meantime, Helen and John were married, had two sons, and a dog named Cosmo.

Separately, Helen and John spent many years in ad agencies in insight and brand planning roles, as well as on the corporate and supplier-sides of research, working at companies such as Ernst & Young, KeyBank, and Owens Corning.

Our way of thinking about the marketplace has its roots in brand planning.  And while our list of influencers continues to grow, it currently includes:

  • Philip Kotler, Theodore Levitt, David Aaker & Jennifer Aaker
  • Jack Trout, Al Ries, Kevin Clancy & Robert Shulman
  • Sigmund Freud & Abraham Maslow
  • Jane Goodall & Margaret Mead
  • Jonathon Gutman (who personally trained Helen in Laddering) & Hy Miriampolski (with whom we’ve collaborated)
  • Paco Underhill, Grant McCracken, Barry Schwartz & Sheena Iyengar
  • Malcolm Gladwell & Tim Ferriss

To this list we add our past bosses, mentors, clients, peers and strategic partners … many of whom have become great friends (you know who you are!).