Breakthrough Innovation



Our Expertise

Our Expertise

Who we are:

Pathfinder is a brand strategy and innovation boutique. We are globe trotting social anthropologists, psychologists, professors and videographers with curious minds and a desire to explore how real people in various contexts make decisions and live their lives.

For over 20 years we have been delivering breakthrough innovation by unmasking the true human experience for some of the world’s most well known brands.

We inspire companies to unleash their innovation potential by identifying and addressing unconscious and unarticulated consumer needs, around the globe and across digital channels, that lead to new, profitable growth opportunities and strengthen customer loyalty.

Pathfinder’s foundation for your breakthrough innovation success is that we believe new insights abound in every corner of every market place. We know that new and valuable insights occur every day because human behavior is not predictable!

How we unmask the human experience:

We believe breakthrough innovation is a collaborative process between the marketplace, your customers, and the client organization.

Pathfinder takes a fresh approach to innovation that unmasks the human experience by focusing on fundamental human needs. We connect these basic consumer needs, that constantly compete or combine in unpredictable ways, to brand values and opportunities leading to transformative outcomes for your company and industry. Every engagement is a customized innovation journey that reflects best practices appropriate to the specific client situation.

We create authentically unique visual stories from our fieldwork and analysis, and quantitatively measure and validate our findings. Our finished stories for our clients clearly bring to life the opportunities and action plans associated with fresh thinking and a transformative customer experience.

We believe breakthrough innovation is also about uncovering global insights from People, Culture and Brands to get to BIG IDEAS.

We design encounters with people from all over the world in whatever form it takes: face-to-face (e.g., ethnography), digital & mobile, and visual storytelling, in order to unmask unique behaviors, values, and perspectives and answer “Why, How & What.”


Our methods for unmasking the human experience:

Global Immersive Learning Face to Face, Digital & Mobile, Video Storytelling (click links for examples)

Ethnographic Video Documentary-Boston University Patient Portrait-Strength: Stacy’s Story
Ethnographic Video Documentary-Boston University Patient Portrait-Smile: Samantha’s Story
Exceptional Customer Service-The Hospitality Perspective
Customer Experience and Design Insights from a Top Global Designer
Corporate Strategy Paradigm for Developing an Organization’s Heart & Soul
Global Customer Experience-Dubai

Design Thinking and Co-Creation Innovation Workshops Client or Consumer Focused
Storytelling for Business Success (Copy and Video)
Digital Marketing – All Social Media Platforms
Brand Architecture/Corporate Identity Invention
Brand Strategy/Message Platform Exploration & Targeting
Brand or Category Restage
CX: Customer & UX: User Experience Optimization
Corporate Culture Innovation Workshops
Holistic New Product Innovation – Internally or Externally Focused
Loyalty Program Creation or Reinvention
Quantitative Learning
– A & U, Segmentation, Tracking Studies, Concept Tests, etc.

View our Specific Case Studies

Breakthrough InnovationSurprisesand Delights, a wow!

Our Process









  • See it for the first time
  • Have a genuine curiosity
  • Listen for what’s not being said
  • Friction equals opportunity
  • What doesn’t belong
  • What could be added
  • What if?
  • Why not?
  • What would a magic wand change?
  • How have these issues been solved before?
  • Borrow from the world e.g. nature, architecture, medicine, kindergarten, math, etc.
  • Restate vision
  • Revise products/services
  • Recreate work flow/process
  • Restructure organizational process
  • Recreate the brand promise
  • Organization capabilities aligned with the brand promise
  • Ethnography
  • Online communities
  • Projective techniques
  • Marketplace brainstorming
  • Historical review
  • Shop-alongs
  • Harvesting social media
  • Touch Point Blueprinting
  • Joint (marketplace and company co-creation)
  • Cross-functional:-brainstorming-immersion sessions
  • Organizational realignment
  • Positioning and message clarification
  • Touch Point examination and improvement
  • Monitoring/tracking techniques
  • Social media/online communities’ feedback loop

Breakthrough Innovation isCuriositylike that of a child

Our Clients & Work

Our Clients & Work

Aspen Club & Spa

Anderson Windows

Aspen Chamber of Commerce, Aspen, CO

Bank of America

BJ’s Wholesale Club


Boston University




Dorchester Collection Hotels

Dunkin’ Donuts

Fidelity Investments

Foster Grant

Furniture Brands International

Genworth Financial

Hannaford Supermarkets

Leading Hotels of the World

Lindt Chocolate

Keurig Coffee Roasters

PNC Bank

Polar Beverages

Procter & Gamble

Roche Pharmaceuticals

Sheraton Hotels



Shaw’s Supermarkets

The Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City

Tufts Health Plan

Vail Resorts, Stowe, VT


Virgin Companies



Retail Innovation for an Iconic Global Brand


Customer Experience Innovation for a 5-star Global Hotel Chain


Corporate Identity Innovation: Creating a New Brand


New Product Innovation for a Red-Hot Coffee Company


Customer Loyalty Innovation


Retail Innovation for the World’s Largest Retailer


Community Service Innovation to Drive Community Action Programs


Breakthrough Innovation
is Borrowing the Relevant
Magicof an Icon and
Making it Your Own

Our Experts

Our Experts are very talented individually, but are even stronger as a highly collaborative team of Innovators.

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Ed Stahl

Owner – Hospitality Guru Ed is a Partner and Co-Owner of Pathfinder Innovation. Ed is a travel and resort marketing guru; from his days managing the Sheraton Luxury Collection and Wyndham Hotels and Resorts, to his work in recent years marketing Stowe, Vermont as a year round, upscale, family destination. Ed is a global brand builder, loyalty program insider, and a published leisure marketing expert. He has traveled the world studying other cultures and weaving the local culture into the hotel guest experience in global markets. From his various Vice President titles of Marketing at Wyndham and Sheraton and Epsilon Data Management, Ed has been a leader in consumer driven innovation and loyalty marketing from the beginning. He brings a strong client and global perspective to Pathfinder. Education: The Citadel Charleston, S.C. Business Administration.


Graphic Designer Laura is a graphic designer and a whiz in Excel. A graduate from Northeastern University with a BS in Business Administration. She works with Pathfinder on graphic design and on data assignments. In her free time she is a terrific artist and dedicated golfer.


Data Analytics Qi has so many advanced degrees we lose track, but her Doctorate from Columbia University in statistics has helped Pathfinder many times over the past 10 years merging and modeling large data sets, creating segmentation models and other important algorithms for clients such as CVS, Lindt Chocolate and Walmart. Qi has a cat and two young sons that keep her running.


French Moderator & Multi-Lingual Translator Josee is a French moderator and translator for Pathfinder’s international projects. She is also a Principal of Auracom International. She holds degrees in Business Administration and French Civil Law. She worked in Tokyo as an International Business Consultant earlier in her career. She loves to ski – so much so that she married her ski instructor and now has two college age sons.

Karen Stahl

Owner, Strategy & Design Thinking Expert Karen Stahl is Owner and President of Pathfinder Innovation, an innovation and marketing strategy consultancy in Concord, MA. Karen’s expertise is consumer and market driven innovation: from her global advertising agency experience at DDB Needham and Foote, Cone & Belding, her client marketing experience from Coca-Cola USA, and research consulting perspectives from Pathfinder. Karen delivers significant insights to all her clients because she implicitly understands that human behavior is not predictable; therefore it must constantly be observed and studied. In recent years, Karen and her team’s innovation engagements have ranged from customer experience work in beta sites for Starbucks in Seattle to Dubai to understand the marketplace desire for cultural authenticity in a new age economy. Karen’s assignments have been exhilarating and groundbreaking: from determining the IPO launch positioning for Genworth Financial to global customer experience work for the Dorchester Collection Hotels, London; as well as patiently stewarding the evolution and success of the Extra Care Card for CVS/pharmacy over a five-year period. Karen and her team have accomplished the nearly impossible for clients many times over. From the “whirlwind” retail innovation engagement for the #1 investment firm in the US to the development of the urban prototype retail store for the world’s largest retailer, Wal-Mart, Pathfinder provided the marketplace vision for the future. Karen teaches as an adjunct professor at Boston University in her spare time, works with the Boston Entrepreneur’s Group of the University of Chicago Booth, and enjoys time in Stowe, Vermont and Jackson Hole, Wyoming on snowy weekend days. Education: MBA: University of Chicago Booth Chicago, IL Marketing & International Business BA: Franklin & Marshall College Lancaster, PA Economics


Sharon is a true consumer insights guru and brand strategy expert. She has shared her insight skills with clients during her time at the Monitor Group, Boston, Lippincott Mercer Consulting, Pathfinder Innovation, and more recently Vistaprint. She is now back working with Pathfinder, lucky us! She is a graduate of the Harvard Graduate School of Education and Syracuse University. She has two girls who recently graduated from college and she has a secret desire to someday open a tearoom in Nantucket!


Moderator & Innovation Expert Laurie is a packaged goods maven trained at Leo Burnett after getting her MBA at the University of Michigan. She is an innovative moderator, an amazing story teller and has worked with Pathfinder for over 10 years on everything from Welch’s to Fidelity Investments. She loves to ski and has her second office in Aspen, CO where she also vacations with her daughters.


Psychologist & Innovation Expert Beth is a Middlebury grad but also an MBA and is a licensed psychologist. She is an expert moderator and a quantitative master, having done it all on all Pathfinder’s major accounts from Walmart to Fidelity Investments and The Dorchester Collection. Beth escapes to her lake house in New Hampshire when she has any free moments with her husband and college age daughters.





Videographer Kirby is a hard-working, creative videographer and video editor having completed over 12 Pathfinder projects in the past 18 months. When she is not shooting or editing video, in the winter she is one of the top ski and snowboard instructors at Stowe Mountain Resort, VT.

Breakthrough InnovationHappensWhen you can Daydream
About Being in Paris!

Do Good Things

At Pathfinder, Do Good Things, is a way of living and conducting business that we hope to spread and share with others around the world.

Do Good Things in Nepal: Brian, one of our videographers, returned from helping with relief efforts in Nepal after the earthquake in 2015.  His pictures below depict the devastation and loss of the Nepali people, but also the hopefulness of the children. Nepal is one of the poorer countries on earth. The average Nepali worker makes less than USD$2.00 per day, or about $50 per month, to support a family of 4-5 people.

    funeralpyres  bhaktapurman  NepalEarthquackeVictim    

Pathfinder has chosen to support two 4-Star rated charities that Do Good Things in Nepal and other parts of the world.

Clean Up Nepal   Nepal earthquake relief and rehabilitation.

Accion  a Boston based micro-lender/charitable organization, that helps women to finance small businesses in third world countries.

Two other worthy 4-Star rated charities, started by friends of Pathfinder, and/or who sit on these Boards include:

2Seeds Network believes that developing human capital is the key to catalyzing economic growth within extremely poor communities in rural Tanzania.


Cambodian Village Fund 100% of the funds they raise goes to the education of the children of this village.  This work includes keeping girls in school, providing buildings and roads, water and eye care for the village.  A model for other charities, see the web site.


We hope you will join us to Do Good Things for our favorite charities or your own.


Breakthrough Innovation isRecreatingthe Power of a Pure Life Source


Pathfinder Innovation
30 Monument Square
Suite 110-21
Concord, MA 01742
30 Monument Square

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