Ford 'Along for That Ride' As Merkle Integrates CognitiveData of Little Rock

Merkle of Columbia, Md., a customer relationship marketing firm, said Tuesday that it will fully integrate its wholly owned subsidiary, CognitiveData of Little Rock, led by president and CEO Rod Ford.

CognitiveData keeps track of consumer browsing and purchase behavior for large retail brands. Clients include Nestlé, AT&T and

"We have a complete view of you as a customer, no matter how you interact with that brand," Ford told Arkansas Business in an interview Tuesday afternoon.

Merkle bought CognitiveData in 2009. Under the new arrangement, Ford and his team will join forces with Merkle's consulting, data, analytics and creative groups to add its proprietary data offerings to Merkle's line of services.

"Now, what's happening, is the CognitiveData piece is going away as a standalone brand," Ford said. "I'm just running a piece of innovation - the innovation development within Merkle for specialty retailers."

He said the CognitiveData name will be removed for customers, but retained internally.

Ford said CognitiveData's revenue exceeded $30 million in 2011 and he hopes to run north of $40 million in 2012. He said the company is growing at a rate of about 12 percent per year.

Ford said the company is "developing like crazy," necessitating the additions of new positions in solution development, data architecture, business analysts and project managers. The company should be adding about three new hires per month, Ford said, with most of them coming from Little Rock. 

"Innovation is the real key," he said. "I'm along for that ride. I love what I'm doing."

According to Merkle, CognitiveData has 125 employees in the Museum Center in the River Market District of downtown Little Rock, where it added 30 percent more office space last year. Merkle said the new space would allow the firm to add about 125 more employees.

In April 2011, CognitiveData acquired Lenser, a direct marketing consulting outfit based in San Rafael, Calif., that employed about 30 people. Ford planned to retain the entire Lenser staff and its home office in California but phase out the Lenser name.