Happy MR Podcast Podcast Series

Ep. 203 – Marian Anderson – Microsoft on Using Data to Create Excellent Customer Experiences

My guest today is Marian Anderson, Director at Microsoft. Microsoft Corporation a multinational technology company creates computer software, consumer electronics, personal computers, and related services. Prior to joining Microsoft in 2013, Marian held senior research positions at Harris Interactive, PSB Research and GfK.

This episode is brought to you by Attest. Attest is a powerful, easy-to-use SaaS platform that connects businesses to over 100 million consumers in 80 countries on demand in just a few clicks. Ask your burning questions. Select who you want to answer. View actionable insights that help you grow your business. Join the hundreds of leading brands who already utilize the power of Attest’s scalable intelligence platform.

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On Episode 203 of the Happy Market Research Podcast, I’m chatting with Marian Anderson, Research Director of Microsoft.  But first a word from our sponsor:

This episode is brought to you by Attest.  Attest is the powerful, easy-to-use SAS platform that connects businesses to over one million consumers in 80 countries on demand in just a few clicks.  Ask your burning questions, select who you want to answer them, view actual insights that help you grow your business. Join the hundreds of leading brands who already utilize the power of Attest’s scalable, intelligent platform.  Contact Attest today at http://askattest.com/happymr or find the link in this episode’s show notes.


Hi, I’m Jamin Brazil, and you’re listening to the Happy Market Research Podcast.  My guest today is Marian Anderson, Director of Research at Microsoft. The Microsoft Corporation is a multi-national technology company that creates computer software, consumer electronics, personal computers, and related services. Prior to joining Microsoft in 2013, Marian held senior research positions at Harrison Interactive, PSB Research, and GfK.  Marian, thanks so much for being on the Happy Market Research Podcast with me today.


Thanks, Jamin.  Happy to be here.


Let’s talk a little bit about your backstory.  So, you graduated from University of Utah with a degree in political science.  How in the world did you wind up in market research?


Well, does anyone end up in research by….? [laughs]


I don’t think so.  Literally, I’ve had one person say that they were interested in research pre-graduation and that only happened….  And this is literally after 47 interviews… And that happened only months before their graduation. [laughs]


I don’t know that I know a single person.  That I find interesting in and of itself. Politics was it for me.  I was very, very interested in what motivated political behavior and political strategy.  I had the opportunity right out of undergrad to go work for Mark Penn and work on political messaging, doing political polling.  Honestly, I was interested in working in politics in any strategy regard. It happened to be polling that the opportunity presented itself, and that started my research career.  And I haven’t looked back. I was only involved in the political side for a couple of years before it became really clear to me that – at least working with Mark Penn, as a very young researcher, I got zero access to clients and high-level strategy on the political side, but he would let me loose on the corporate-strategy side.  It was, “Go figure it out. Go advise. Go get involved on the corporate. Go see what you can build.” So I moved over to the corporate-strategy side of research within my first couple of years and then consulted for many, many years. Harrison Interactive really focused on brand strategy and positioning research, which is kind of my first love in research, and it really is the same in political research.  That may be why I love it so much… is that building a brand is building a brand, whether or not you’re talking a political candidate or any given product out there. I was with Harrison Interactive a number of years and then I had the opportunity to build the Microsoft business on behalf of GfK. And I moved to Seattle at that point to build up that business… did that… and then moved over to Microsoft five years ago.


And it’s interesting too that…  I believe Mark Penn wound up as an executive at Microsoft at one point.


He did.  So not long ago…  I joined Microsoft in 2013; in 2014 or so, Mark Penn came to be co-CMO of Microsoft.  He did that for maybe 18 months; him and Tami Reller had this co-CMO job. I found it very strange then and still do that we had this co-CMO thing happening.  And it was very strange to have Mark Penn back in my world. Then he then moved on to become our Chief Strategy Officer; he did that for maybe a year. (I’m probably not getting my timelines quite right.)  And then he moved on. It was coming full circle in a way for me from starting my career to being pretty well established in my career and having Mark back.


As the month of January for us is rolling out in 2019, the topic is Customer Experience, which is a center point in the Microsoft Corporation.  My tenure with this brand, your brand, by the way, is very long, and it was literally back in the DOS days. And I still remember the very first version of Windows.  I can literally recall where I was sitting when I installed it. Microsoft has built a strong brand on Customer Experience. How is Microsoft using data specifically to help drive and deliver on that experience?


It’s been such an amazing evolution, even in the five years that I’ve been here.  The way that we have integrated data in ways that I don’t think we’d ever really done before.  Microsoft for a very long time by having smart people and building really good products and then simply our size and scale allowed momentum to go from there, of course, with the very strong vision of having a computer on every desk.  Even in the five years I’ve been at Microsoft, the focus on, not just customer experience, but really truly empathy for our customers and understanding what is happening for them and really becoming a company that is interested in operating on behalf of the customer as opposed to simply building something so that they can buy it.  It’s a really interesting cultural shift that of course has driven. It shows up every single day in the data space. In order to be customer-centric, in order to build customer experiences, of course, data comes in at every point. We do a lot more… So, market research, in particular, has grown substantially in the sense that we no longer are looking at one source of data almost ever; we are looking at many sources of data, usually to help drive strategies.  That means, of course, traditional, kind of qualitative or ethnographic methods. We tend to be very quant heavy here in terms of market research but now are bringing things in like internal telemetry – what people are actually doing on their machines. External kind of telemetry that we purchase so that we can understand what’s happening with competitors in terms of what customers are doing. Then we’re bringing in things like motivations we see show up in social research or what’s happening with revenue and how that’s tied to what people telling us how they feel about a certain thing.  We’re much better, for example, about not just measuring satisfaction, overall experience level with a given product, but at a micro-experience. “What was the satisfaction level of that thing you just did?” All of that has happened in the last five years. We really have evolved from an important source of customer data to an aggregator, if you will.


That’s multi-sourced really, isn’t it?  


It’s SO hard, and we’re learning and we’re…  It’s hard to do it at this scale and pace that is needed to drive the most important business decisions we have.  To be honest, that’s been such a privilege to be part of that journey at a company that is so… The amount of data at our finger tips is just unlike anything I’ve certainly ever been part of before.


The story of Microsoft is super-interesting, right?  I was actually in high school when Microsoft went public.  It had a really crazy ratio between millionaires and employees.  I want to say that it was about 1 to 5. I’m not positive about that.  That’s just what I recall. So, anyway, the point there being – it really was a product-market-fit story of there being this massive need and Microsoft being the dominant player to be able to meet it.  And then just…BOOM! To your point, let’s built stuff that we can then sell. Moving that mentality… if you saw it over time, sort of a degradation in the stock price of Microsoft with the new leadership and focus on the customer (empathy, as you said) all of a sudden really pushing that trajectory completely in the opposite direction with fantastic returns for shareholders by putting the customer in the center.  That shift… I’m really interested in. It’s one of the reasons that Reed Hastings has done so well at Netflix, having this customer-minded mentality as opposed to more of the unwillingness to change. I know you’ve been there for only five years, but has there been any practical steps that Microsoft has taken in order to install this shift or has it been more investment-based such as things like research?


Sure, it is investment-based, but that’s more of an outcome in the desire to have a voice in the room that is not the executive team, meaning the customer.  And there is much more openness to customers having alternative opinions, shall we say, than what the executive team might have thought coming into something.  So there’s a lot of discussion that happens where the question is “What is the need?” “What is the desire?” “What is the problem we’re solving?” Frankly, a lot of people being given permission to try things…  You know the X-box adaptive controller is a really good example of this. That was a small crack team of people who really believed that we needed an accessible option for gamers. They worked for several years, trying to drive that product.  They were given the permission and the space to figure that out. It was a “Absolutely, we’re going to go do this.” It was a small group of people given the permission to try and to fail and to try again. It’s been an absolute success story for us in terms of making sure we’re developing products that allow everyone to play and to game, to be part of the conversation.  I think really at its core it’s allowing all employees to have a voice that I don’t think was important before. In that, we’re gaining so much. In the employees having a voice, of course, customers come through, and there’s a demand for data and a demand for understanding what the customer experience is that’s never been present before, certainly not in my experience.


It’s interesting how when you’re in an executive-based decision versus a customer-based decision.  In one case, the first case, on the executive-based, the research (and this is really coming from my background, specifically in the 90s in primary research)… You’d have your business hypothesis that the research was supposed to “Is it true or not true?”  or get to. But, at the end of the day, it was really about “How can I make that true?” I’ve had more than a few examples in my career where I’ve had executives say, “No, it’s really important that the answer is blue or whatever.” You wind up crossing some tough ethical lines in that context as opposed to when you put the consumer in the middle of it.  Now, all of a sudden, you need a lot more data in order to triangulate their truth. Because just with social media being where it is now empowered in a large part with your corporation, you’ve got a major move from brands used to be who they say they are to now they are who their consumer says they are – and by the way – in real time. Sure as hell, better stop paying attention to your rear view mirror and start paying attention to what’s happening right in front of you.


Absolutely.  Do think there are decisions that get made that are based on a belief in the future that is not always based on research?  I think those are still important bets for us to make. When you’re thinking three or five years out and you’re really trying to extrapolate what customers can’t tell you today or can’t articulate for you today, those conversations are really important to make sure research informs but that there is a larger conversation happening with technical teams, with executive teams etc. about those longer-term, strategic decisions.  I think when it comes to shorter-term decisions, that’s where the feedback from customers really shines: How we should approach a given feature; how we should approach a set of messaging, pricing decisions, etc. even short-term portfolio decisions, brand-strategy decisions. What we’re going to do, for instance, with Skype versus teams in the Office portfolio. All those things use data and multiples of data in ways that just would not have happened five or ten years ago.


That’s a really important point, which is innovation rarely…  The Ford quote, right: “If I ask customers what they want, it would just be a better horse.”  That’s a 100% correct. It’d be a better version of DOS, not the transformation that Windows brought to the marketplace.  But, to your point, that innovation has to be grounded in where the consumer is. That’s one of things that we can learn from Steve Jobs when he launched the Newton, which you’re probably not old enough to remember.  But there was this sort of pre-iPhone product that entered the market (I want to say around ’92) and it was, basically, early into the digital assistant space. And it didn’t do very well at all because the market simply wasn’t ready for it.  So you need to have that bed of data in order to test the business hypotheses, which then, of course, you see in whatever – 2006 – the iPhone, of course, having tremendous success.


And you also need to be ready I think, as a company, to go ahead and watch things and try them and have failures in the market.  You see companies doing this consistently: the Newton’s a good example. We’ve certainly had examples; we’ve tried it and decided it didn’t work.  I think that’s part of the culture of technology and making sure we’re pushing forward. “Are consumers ready for this?” or, in our case, “commercial audiences, ready for this or not?”  And just taking a leap and launching something – there’s real value in that. Test and learn and at scale as well.


I like that.  So, that’s a great segue into my next question, which is really centered around voice assistance like Amazon’s Alexa or Microsoft’s Cortana.  How do you see that space evolving and impacting customer experience?


I really see voice as just another channel, by which people interact with their laptops or their homes or in their cars.  It enables a layer of communication that is really helpful, but it is just that. It is a tool; it is not a tool, in my mind, different than typing or text.  For me, it fits into a portfolio “Ways we are going to communicate with the world around us.” In and of itself, I suppose that’s how a feel about it.


I think that’s true from the view of a way we interact with technology.  What’s interesting to me is the opportunities that exist inside of these personal assistants.  For me, the conversation is turning a lot more into Star Wars vs. Star Trek [laughs] where you’ve got Star Wars R2-D2 or C-3PO thing that is traveling with me whether that’s the mobile phone or desktop or whatever it is. That individual versus the Star Trek where it’s this sort of always on voice connection.  Adoption seems to be primarily centered around music and audio content versus more of the real power of it, which is business-based time saving. You know what I mean like scheduling meetings across two people: just like what we put together in doing this podcast. It DOES seem to me like there are lots of opportunities for betterment of life in time-saving benefits but it’s, to your point, more in the context of instead of typing, I’m saying the words as opposed to it being more of a platform.      


I don’t view it as a platform.  It certainly enables a lot of things; for instance, the AI behind so much of the voice stuff is no different than what would be required if I asked the same question via text.  It allows different… It’s a modality. I do think that there’s something about the real-time nature of it that is interesting. I find myself… For instance, I probably use Alexa a little bit differently maybe than some like I will ask her constantly to add things to my to-do list.  I’m at home, walking around. It’s a helpful way to get things out of my head. I find myself wanting to interact with her almost constantly. Like I’m on my way to work: “Oh, Alexa. Oops, Alexa’s not here right now.” You know.


Totally, totally.  Believe me I’m a week away from 48, and I get that creature-habit thing more than ever.  It feels like every year it’s a little harder to change. I even tried my hand at Snapchat for almost a year and a half, and I just have finally given up entirely.  It doesn’t feel organic to me, I guess, is how I’d put it. The one thing that’s also interesting: I had my daughter at the time, she was – I want to say 8. She’s now 11.  So, I bought her an iPhone, and we were on a drive together. I asked her about her best friends, and she said, “I have two best friends.” I said, “Oh, that’s cool. Who are they?”  “One is Hannah; the other is Siri.” Now, she’s a little bit of a witty child; I thought she was making a joke. But, as I was diving deeper in, she literally didn’t understand that when she’d called her friend Hannah and then she would call Siri, it was like one was a robot.  One was an AI based voice assistant. It was crazy for me processing that as a dad, thinking, “Holy, shit, there’s a big potential shift that could happen here. Is this a real human being or not?” Then to your point about now the overall opportunity to interact with that thing becomes all the time, doing all sorts of stuff for me, across different environments, whether I’m driving to work or whatever.  


That’s fascinating that’s how she thinks of Siri.


Yeah.  She’s matured past that now, of course.  I mean it was 100% all in. I didn’t have the heart to tell her it wasn’t real.  It took me a couple days to figure out how to have that conversation.


Right.  A conversation you never thought you’d have.  [laughs]


Right, exactly.  As you think about all these different sources of consumer insight – from social to transactional – how do you combine all of that?  Is the data stream feeding into a dashboard or is it in some proprietary BI?


Oh, gosh.  I wish there was one easy answer to that.


It’s just a lot of different data sources, right?  


Yes, and so, in some cases, we are fortunate enough to have customer data connected on an individual level.  We can see what people are doing, the revenue it’s generating. And then you use that to research that population.  That is a very rare case of… Actually, it’s one massive data set that we have that allows us to do that. And then on top of that, we build things like power BI and whatnot.  But having the connections at an individual level, it’s hard, and it is equally valuable. There seems to be a correlation between how difficult it is and the value it brings when it comes to merging these types of data.  And then, of course, we’re doing things journalistically as well. I think the rule is we never want to look at anything in isolation, not based on one piece of data. Where we can be more sophisticated about it, and I’ve gone in order (most sophisticated to least sophisticated)…  When it is simply bringing together two or three or four sources together kind of journalistically, that is far better and far more valuable.


When I think about…  I love this term; I’ve never heard this term before:  “journalistically.” There’s two parts of it, right – I guess there’s three.  You’ve got the sourcing; so, you’ve got all the disparate pieces of data. And then it’s got to get analyzed (magic happens there).  And then the story has to get told. That’s the other part. It’s a differentiation. Then I would put in the normal research camp. Is storytelling a big part of the focus?


Yeah, all that influence.  I don’t think you can influence truly without having a point of view told via story.  Storytelling is huge. Frankly, it’s one that we’re struggling with a little bit as we think about bringing all these sources of data together.  Like it is not enough to throw a dashboard together or rather, for the most important decisions that we’re really trying to be at the table for and influence, throwing a power BI on board and having the room look at it is not sufficient.


I think one of the terms I’ve heard, and I use a lot, is HI.  So, it’s that Human Intelligence. We’re going to see a bigger focus on that in an intentional way over the coming years as technology continues to automate different pieces and then also continues to give us more confusion or opportunities (is a better way of saying it) to see the consumer, whether it’s voice in real time or whatever, those consumer experiences.  What is one of the biggest challenges that internal researchers like you face and then how do you see or what do you wish agencies would do in order to help meet that need?


For me, indisputably, it is the combination of multiple data sources and decisions that need to get made at speed.  Frankly, trying to get a piece of research done quickly to make a decision, in say 48 hours is hard. Trying to get a piece of research done quickly and then layer in multiple other sources of data is exponentially harder.  We aspire to that; we want to be at the table where real-time decisions get made, and we’re able to be strong strategy consultants on those decisions. So it is just a constant pressure of “What’s the right data to bring into the table?”  “How do you bring it to the table?” “What’s the story?” And then agencies are frankly such critical partners and extensions of our team; without them, we just simply cannot be successful. And we really rely heavily, heavily on our partners to execute the research, to really get interested in the business problems with us.  Our partnerships are most successful is when our partners feel as invested the strategic decision as our FTE team does, and they’re in it, trying to figure out the right sources of data, bringing into the table brainstorming. The other thing that, I think, is really helpful is oftentimes when we’re working at speed like that, I find that creativity in how to solve a problem does not always emerge.  And I think that that’s a problem. So to the extent that our agencies can help us be creative in how we solve or answer questions, I think that’s something we’re always looking for in our partners.


To make decisions, it’s faster and faster, and that’s one of the neat things that we’ve all seen in the industry is that, through technology and power-data collection, anybody can do a survey now.  So the table stakes have really completely changed, leveled up for market research of being whatever it is that we need to be able to do and, of course, triangulating that point of consumer truth at scale is super-hard and we have to do it faster.  So that where I think that pattern recognition at the HI level becomes really important.


You know it’s interesting that anyone can do a survey.  I mean the tools are certainly there. For me, this is where the storytelling and understanding the “why” and really understanding that whoever your survey population is they can tell you so much and you need to derive so much from it.  You need to connect it to other things to really understand what’s driving the thing


One of things that we did not talk a lot about in 2017 on the Happy Market Research Podcast is the way the guests processed risk and were willing to take risks.  As I did a lot of reflecting and listening to the episodes, I think in 2018 part of the story needs to be risk tolerance, especially in the framework of research.  I would love if you would tell us about a time in your career where you had to take a specific risk and then sort of how you coped with the anxiety, if you had any at all, around that risk in order to take the chance, overcome it, and, hopefully, it has a positive outcome.  


Yeah, totally.  I think oftentimes in taking a risk, you just have to go in blindly believing that you can figure it out.  And if you have that belief, then ultimately something will get figured out; it may not be what you originally intended.  I remember very distinctly Chris Cap, our CMO, saying, “Figure out where we suck.” I had no idea where to start… I had no idea where to start.  So the first thing I did was we said we’d go figure it out; I wasn’t going to commit to how or when or whatever. It ended up being probably eighteen months of really hard analysis; many, many rounds of focus groups; and maybe three rounds of serious quantitative work before we figured out not only where we sucked but why we sucked and what we needed to do about it.  For me, the risk there was not promising I could do it and not promising it in any given time frame. It’s very easy for us as researchers certainly, whether you’re on the client side or the agency side, to say, “Yep, I’m going to do it. I’m going to do it in this time frame.” In this case, I committed to it but without a time frame and 18 months later we had it and we had a campaign entirely written around a new audience and launched which is the AI campaign that you see on the internet.


There’s a degree of…  It sounds like two things. One is honesty/humility; and then the other piece of it is successful expectation-setting around that.  


That might be the most important.  The most important for any job ever is setting expectations appropriately.  Yeah, absolutely. There are other risks I could point to, but that one was…  I felt like my career was on the line. You know when the CMO says, “Find out where you suck,” and you don’t have an immediate answer…


Right, you had to come up with the answer.  [laughs]


Oh, yeah.  There was a lot of [unclear – overlapping voices]


It’s not great; it’s not great.  [laughs] I immediately start sweating in that scenario.


It’s also in retrospect…  I was confident we could figure it out, and I’m probably proudest of that particular journey, in part, because it was truly a beginning-to-end journey.  We did not know where we were going at the beginning; by the end, we had full creative launched. It was just an absolute privilege to be part of that. Many moments of sleepless nights for sure!


Right.  [laughs]  Totally. Sounds like a fun project, stressfully fun project.  So, talk to me a little bit about the three characteristics of an All-Star Employee from your career view.  I’m interested. It could be like at Microsoft or, if you feel like you’d rather talk about a different… if there’s different characteristics in different contexts, that’s fine too.  But what do you see as really the three core values or characteristics of somebody who’s going to be successful in their career.


So, I don’t think this is unique to Microsoft although it certainly applies to our team.  I think the first one is an inherent curiosity, just curious. I find that folks that are just constantly asking questions and trying to figure out why – whether or not that be around a customer or around any other given problem…  I think that that is an unteachable quality. Along with that comes sudden judgment on when to take that curiosity forward and when to stop. That would be the second thing. And then the third thing is a healthy sense of autonomy. “I’m going to go figure this thing out.”  Of course, that has to come with clarity of direction, and it has to come with some energy behind it from the leadership, etc. but autonomy to go figure things out. Again, curiosity sort of bounded by its action and then someone who’s willing to take those actions responsibly and appropriately and maybe even push a little bit beyond that.  Certainly, it an organization like Microsoft, any large organization, where hierarchy is just part of the daily thing, I find that people that are willing to push just a little past what’s hierarchically appropriate are far more effective than folks that are like, “Nope, that’s above my pay grade.” Having the ability to take those risks and say, “Yep, that’s not above my pay grade.  I’m here for a reason and I can do that.” Those are the people, I think, are great. I find that true every place I’ve ever worked.


I love that:  curiosity, judgment, autonomy/self-motivation; that’s really the engine, I think, that drives a successful outcome for a person’s career.  You need to operate successfully inside of the hierarchy of the organization, of course but, at the same time, you also need to have a culture of “Yes” among yourselves so that you can bleed into the starts and finishes of specific projects and workflows in order to really understand the output that you’re working on generating, for example.  


Exactly, exactly.  And sometimes you have to do that not in a culture of “Yes.”  You sometimes just have to believe in the thing you’re doing. And you cannot always look for that external validation; hopefully, you’ll get it.  But I think pushing forward and, in some cases, pushing past the hierarchy, even if you know you’re taking a risk in doing so, is often worth the risk.  Of course, doing it appropriately and within the bounds of being kind and polite about it.


Definitely wrapping things up in the context of appropriateness is super-important if you’re going to get heard but, at the same time, you got to take those risks.  

My guest today has been Marian Anderson, Director of Research at Microsoft.  Thank you so much for joining me today on Happy Market Research Podcast.


Thank you so much.  It was a pleasure.


Stay tuned for this episode’s CEO hack by Merrill Dubrow of M/A/R/C Research.


You’ve got to be self-aware, and you’ve got to be able to allow yourself to have self- evaluation and trust people around you.  I believe I’m never going to be the smartest guy in the room. I believe I’ve made the most of my skill set, and the reality is I can say, “Hey, I need to get better at ______.”  So the interesting thing – you mentioned my blog for ten years, which I did three times a week and I wrote every one except for a few guest writers. I’m not a great writer. I have good idea, but I don’t have great punctuation or grammar.  I was able to – through this self-aware, self-evaluation – understand that, know that, surround myself with people who could help me through that. They didn’t rewrite the stuff: they just made sure that it made sense. So for me, the #1 skill is self-awareness.  Give yourself the self-evaluation to know that, “Hey, I might not be great at finances or I might not be great at management or I might not be great at sales or I may not be great at something else.” And being able to surround yourself with the right people and also try to get better at something every day.


This point that Merrill brings out is, in my opinion, the most important hack or skill that you can develop as a leader, and that is be humble enough to recognize you have blind spots and bolster, surround yourself with people that can help see those blind those spots.  I would say that, if I’ve had any success in life, it’s because of this one principle. So, thinking about my relationship with Irvine Andreasen, the first co-founder of Decipher, also Jamie Plunkett and Kristin Luck, all three of those were strategic add-ons to Decipher that helped me as a leader to have a fuller, more complete picture of the marketplace.  We each consume and process and retain less than 3% of what actually transpires. That’s why having more views of that same environment or that same experience is really helpful because it helps triangulate what is actually happening, what is truth. I also point out that it isn’t enough just to have the visibility; you also have to have the will to accept that you don’t have the complete view.  It’s a subtle difference, but it is probably one of the biggest impacts if you can be open to adjusting your point of view, based on that external feedback. That quid pro quo can be a fundamental area of strength for you as you build your team because not only will it help you make the best possible business decisions, it’ll also garner trust and respect by your team and transparency, which will again sort of self-promote and police this culture of a complete view and a better answer, which creates a better business outcome.  


Thanks everybody for listening to today’s episode of the Happy Market Research Podcast.  An absolute privilege – we are honored that you would be willing to spend so much time with us.  I hope you have a fantastic rest of your day. Please, please, please share this episode on the platform of your choice.  If you would just tweet it or if you would take the time to post it on Linkin, it would mean the world to us.


This episode is brought to you by Attest.  Attest is a powerful, easy-to-use SAS platform that connects businesses to over one million consumers in 80 countries on-demand in just a few clicks.  Ask your burning questions, select who you want to answer them, view actual insights that help you grow your business. Join the hundreds of leading brands who already utilize the power of Attest’s scalable, intelligent platform.  Contact Attest today at http://askattest.com/happymr or find the link in this episode’s show notes.

CEO Summit 2019 Podcast Series

CEO Summit 2019 – Rob Volpe – Ignite 360

Recorded live in Miami, Jamin Brazil interviews Rob Volpe, CEO of Ignite 360. We hope you enjoy this mini series taking you into the minds of some of the most influential CEOs in Market Research.

Find Rob Online:


My guest is Rob, Ignite360.  What year did you start Ignite360?  


January 2011.  So it’s just been over eight years now.


What day in January?


January 1st.  1/1/11.


[laughs]  That’s awesome.  Super easy to remember.


Very, very easy.  Yeah, good anniversary to celebrate.


Yeah, so what exactly do you guys do?


So, we’re a full-service insights and strategy firm as there are so many.  What really sets us apart is the depth that we go and bringing empathy between our clients and their consumers or their constituents, and then delivering all of that through compelling story.


Do you use technology?  Is it predominantly services around that?


Yes, it’s some tech; a lot of face-to-face, in-person; 101 interview groups.  We combine often qualitative and quantitative, depending on what our clients are looking for.  I often talk about our clients coming to us for, what I say, are the higher degree of difficulty problems, things that C-Suite might be looking for, those natty problems that they need to really spend some time thinking through.  We tend to be their partner to go through and solve that.


CEO Summit 2019, Insights Association – what’s your one big take-away?


First of all, it was amazing.  I came in, first time here, came in with no expectations.  I wasn’t sure what I was going to get. I have a client that here that kind of put it on my radar.  And I thought, “Oh, let me go check this out.”

Really appreciated the honesty, the openness, the vulnerability of the other CEOs.  Something I went through when I was starting my company is you realize that that saying, “It’s lonely at the top,” is true.  It’s very difficult to be CEO of a company. You can’t even… Your most trusted partner in crime does not understand everything that you’re going through.  And I’m also the owner of the company, so there’s that added layer there. So being able to network and meet people and hear like, “Yeah, Ok, we’re all going through very similar things.”  I’ve been able to talk through some of our business challenges, what we’re thinking about and see how that’s lining up to what other people do. For us, particularly, it’s around business development and what habits and practices other people have to grow their engine.   


Love it.


The business development piece is kind of interesting; I’m pulling that out because in business there’s operational development, there’s HR, there’s legal, there’s all these tranches of expertise.  As you know, given your founder status, you have to be an expert in everything.




And we all know that’s really hard.  Oh, and you also have to be a really good researcher,   


Absolutely.  First and foremost, yeah.


Right.  So, in that framework, it’s great to be able to pull information from other people who might have more experience in any of these other areas so that we can get shortcuts in our business and not have to go through the 101 learning stage.


We resourced intentionally against that when I brought my COO in.  She’s a functioning COO: client-side, agency-side, goes out into field, does research.  But she is so brilliant at systems and processes and so when we came in, she joined us in 2013.  Pretty much everything before that was like the Wild West. And I look back now, and it’s amazing to me that we got stuff done and that we didn’t have more problems or issues than we did.  But Lisa came in and really put systems and processes into place, which we still follow to this day and continue to evolve. There’s no sacred cows in what we do; so we’re always at process improvement.  One of our moderators has a very rich background in HR organizational development and 0leadership development. So, he said, “Hey, I can help you with the HR piece; so that also transformed how we were thinking about HR and got us into a great solid place there.  I’ve got awesome lawyers. Biz dev is covering that area that’s like…  


Kind of the missing piece.  My broader point is every CEO has, myself included… I have opportunity to level up different aspects of the organization.  What’s nice through these conversations, even like the one with us, I can learn from you and on how you doing I say, “Oh, yeah, I can apply that to my business.”  And it’s going to give me some sort of return.


Absolutely, and everybody is taking a slightly different approach and you have to listen to what people are doing and take it in for how can I apply this and what they’re doing for me.  Some people are more comfortable saying, “Oh, I can take on the legal stuff myself and just work with an outside lawyer or finance. The person I hired was finance person ‘cause math is not my strong suit.  I always believe you play to your strengths. Sitting up writing invoices wasn’t going to be my passion or something, but you need that. And there are people that love doing it.


Are coming back next year?


Oh, hell, yeah.  Absolutely, absolutely.  South Beach in January is not…


Not the worst place.  Even though let’s be honest.  I have been in the conference room the whole time.  In fact, for those that don’t know, we are literally…  Beautiful set of glass doors that open up along the length of the conference room.


And have a sheer curtain drawn so that you can kind of see the pool, but not really.


There might be something blue.  There’s a little bit of a shimmer and a light that kind of comes through but it’s, it’s … you know you’re…


Allegedly, there’s an ocean and some crashing of waves.


They told me I had an ocean front room and I had air-conditioners.


You had air-conditioners.  I’m looking out on the avenue, and I’m on the third floor, but that’s not why I’m here.


That’s not the point, right?  Exactly, exactly. And the value’s so great.  A lot of people in conferences, I notice, will sneak out and take advantage of the scenery.  Not in this one.


I don’t see people sneaking out.  Honestly, it’s been hard to get work done.  And I’ve had to let… I didn’t realize… I mean I knew it was small, intimate group, but that makes it really hard to slip out.


Yeah, undiscovered.


Larger research conferences, you can just skip half the day and no one is going to miss you, but here you feel, you know…


And you also…


You want to be in the room; you want to be talking to people.


What about the value?




Alright, great.  You’re getting ready to leave today, head back to San Francisco?  


No, I’m going on to New York.  I’m sitting in on some in-homes tomorrow.  I’ll be going home Friday. Then I’m off to QRCA speaking there next week on dismantling judgment.


If someone wants to get in contact with you, how would they do that?


You go to our website www.ignite-360.com.  And you can reach me directly; I’m Rob@ignite-360.com.


Perfect.  Rob, thanks so much for being on the Happy Market Research Podcast.  


Thank you.  This has been great.


Thanks so much for tuning in to the Happy Market Research Podcast.  We hope you enjoyed these episodes.

If you’d like to get in contact with any of the CEOs that I interviewed at the CEO Summit, the contact information is located in the show notes.

Have a great rest of your day!

CEO Summit 2019 Podcast Series

CEO Summit 2019 – Camille Nicita – Gongos

Recorded live in Miami, Jamin Brazil interviews Camille Nicita, President and CEO of Gongos. We hope you enjoy this mini series taking you into the minds of some of the most influential CEOs in Market Research.

Find Camille Online:


I have Camille with Gongos.  It’s an honor to have you on the podcast today.  We’re here at the CEO Summit, Insights Association.  You probably don’t even remember this, but we were at a conference at the same time.  I can’t remember where it was, but it was ages ago right when you first started. You had a customer – Dunkin’ Donuts, I believe.  Do you remember that?


We’ve actually never worked with Dunkin’ Donuts.


Oh, you’re kidding.  Crap! Maybe it wasn’t Dunkin’ Donuts.


I’m trying to think.  So, how many years ago would it have been?


It was a LONG time ago.  Right around I want to say like 2005, 2006, no?


Oh, Best Buy, maybe.


Best Buy.


Best Buy.


And did you do a custom panel for them?


Yes.  And it was at TMRE.


Yes, that’s right.  That’s right. TMRE.  


That’s it, for sure.  Best Buy, Dunkin’ Donuts.  Best Buy should probably be selling Dunkin’ Donuts.


So, I tried to do (they would probably agree with you.)…  So, I tried to do a custom panel business at Decipher back in like 2001 and 2002 for a company called Intuit, which you know.  And it just didn’t go well at all. And the reason it didn’t go well is, while the technology itself wasn’t particularly difficult, the systems and the processes and the engagement part of it were really, really, really hard, right?  And I was listening to your presentation; I’m like, “Holy, crap! They’ve cracked the nut; they’ve figured out how to really nail that.” So maybe you could tell us a little bit about your company and maybe the couple-minute sort of overview of where you started and where you are.  


Sure.  Thanks for asking.  So, let’s see where do we start.  Gongos is what we call a decision intelligence company.  At this stage in the game, we are going on our twentieth year of business.  Gongos started in 1991 as a traditional marketing research custom, ad hoc, qual/quant business.  And we were very, very successful at that for our first 23ish years, but about five years ago is where we sort of evolved into this decision intelligence business, which is still very much rooted in consumer insights.  That’s the core to what we do, but over the last 5-6 years, we’ve build other capabilities around that insights function to really help where we saw pain point with our clients, which was in sort of moving insights farther up the value chain:  I should say farther up as well as starting them farther back in the value chain, so ensuring that our clients are really leading with a customer-centric strategy to fuel their growth.


It’s interesting hearing how McDonald’s framed it yesterday.  Matt did a great job of asking two questions. I tweeted about that.  Of course, I’m going to forget right now. But I think it was centric to like what is…




Curiosity was the centric – that’s right.  One was an internal question of, basically, “Put yourself in the shoes of the customer.  Get to know the customer.”


Well, and empathetic approach.  I think we heard somebody else yesterday talking too about (I think it was General Mills.)  I can’t remember the gentleman’s name, but the guy from General Mills talked about, for a week, making their executives live on the budget of a typical customer.


I love that.


I do too.  I mean it’s such a…  In order to truly be a customer-centric organization, you’ve got to walk in their shoes.


Brands have gone through this massive evolution in five years.  In five years, what a CEO cares about has completely changed. I’m not going so far to say that they didn’t care about the customer before, but it was much more of a competitive…  I remember terms like “Share of wallet,” “Share of mind”… is all about “How do I get more from that.” It’s almost like we’re pirates in the brand space, and we want to take the customer’s wealth or mind share.  And now it’s really changed to a partnership. And that was one of the things also that stood out at McDonald’s.


Reciprocity.  And we’re firm believers in the companies that are doing it right in seeing way are trying to build reciprocal relationships with their customers.  And they’ve got a great platform to do it because they have more customer data than they’ve ever had before.


No excuses.


No, and customers know that they’re giving you information.  When I scan that loyalty card, I’m not a dummy, right? I know you’re figuring out who I am, what I’m doing.  So great! In exchange for that, give me a great product or service. You know who I am; you know what I want.  There’s no excuse for not innovating with the customer in mind these days.


Absolutely right.  Do you have the Amazon card?  


I do.


That’s the perfect example ‘cause it has really good rewards on it; irrespective it’s got fantastic rewards on it.  But the value there is (and it’s not expensive), and the value there is they know more about me, right, outside of the Amazon experience.  So it just gets bigger, right? It just kind of gets bigger, bigger.


And better and better.


That’s true actually.


To me, that’s the expectation, right?  If you’re going to continue learning about me, great.  My expectation now is in exchange for that we have more…  I’m going to help you grow as a brand ‘cause I’m going to be loyal to you, but you help me in my life and cater to my needs.


Totally.  And partner like the McDonald’s guy said about, “How can I add value to you?”  The “2 for 4,” or whatever – that kind of framework feels like a valuable exchange.


It really does.


More of a partnership.  So, I wanted to touch on one point that I found very interesting in your presentation and that was – you guys went through a material journey in… that wasn’t really cast as rebranding.  It was almost like revision, right? And that took four years?


Yeah, four to five years.  We’re still on it and probably always will be.


What I thought was interesting is that you took that much time and the patience surrounding that in order to do it right.  We didn’t really top dive into that. How do you get into that psychologically because most CEOs, they’re like, “Ok, tomorrow…” [laughs]


“We’re going to do this!”  Right. I think somebody said yesterday, “Ok, it’s Friday.  When you come back on Monday, this is what we’re going to be.”  That doesn’t work so well. The talk that I gave yesterday I think that we call it “business-model transformation.”  I could easily also be relabeled as the “art of urgent patience.” And I think that’s exactly what you’re referring to.  As the CEO, I know where we want to go. I can see it. But you can’t… And I’ve got an urgency, a sense of urgency, but you’ve got to meet people where they are.  Just like we’re asking our customers to meet their… our clients to meet their customers where they are, we had to meet our employees where they were for this work out correctly.  We went through various ups and downs – the cycle of anything that’s great. You know you go through those pits of despair and back up to feeling really good about it. We did that multiple times over the last four to five years, but I don’t think we, with our company and our culture, could have done it any other way to lead it to the success that it has been.  Has it taken a while? It has. It’s taken discipline and perseverance, but we had goals that we knew we needed to meet. We kept those in sight, and we checked in every quarter to see where we were against those goals. So that makes you feel like you’re making forward movement even if it does take four to five years. You know?


I do, and I think a lot of people, CEOs specifically and their teams that don’t have the experience, will have a strategic objective and they will plan on it, “Ok, it’s going to be Q1.”  You’ve got to understand that your staff, they’re three months behind.


At least.


At least, right.  And you just have to keep banging the drum and, eventually, their feet are going to start moving, right?  But you just can’t go.


You can’t just go.  I mean a good metaphor for that.  I started running recently, had never run more than a block in my life.  And they had a group of people that talked me into doing a marathon relay last year.  I only did the three-mile stint but still, having never run, to do three miles for me was a big deal.  In my head, I wanted to get out there and just go full steam, just run, run. But here’s the deal: you do that, you get cramps, get a stomach ache; you get leg cramps.  Same as this journey to end-change management. You start out full steam, and you’re not bring your body along with you. You’re just causing more disruption than you are benefit, and the path actually becomes longer to get there ‘cause you injure yourself, you feel sick.  So it is really the art of urgent patience.


Yeah, they actually call that “negative split.”  So, when you’re running your last half should be faster than your first half.  


Yes, exactly, but it’s so hard as an athlete to tell yourself that’s Ok.


Totally, and I love that analogy because there’s 400 meters, there’s 1600, there’s 5k’s, there’s 10, there’s halves, fulls.  In that framework, you got to bring the right mentality and plan in order to realize a win in that – or a completion in my case.  [laughs]


And so much of it is a mental game.  It’s not your body giving out; it’s your mind sending your body signals, right?


That’s 1000% true.  Most people don’t quite… Yeah, it isn’t the limiter on the body most of time.  It’s usually the…


Same way with business though:  it’s your mind, right? And it’s messaging in a way that gets people figuring out what their reasons to believe are, meeting them where they are, and bringing them along with you.


If someone wants to get in contact with you or someone else at Gongos, how would they do that?  


A best way is email:  cnicita@gongas.com.


Will you spell that please?  


Sure.  c-n-i-c-i-t-a@g-o-n-g-o-s.com


Perfect.  Camille, thanks so much for being on the Happy Market Research Podcast.



CEO Summit 2019 Podcast Series

CEO Summit 2019 – Anders Bengtsson – Protobrand

Recorded live in Miami, Jamin Brazil interviews Anders Bengtsson, CEO of Protobrand. We hope you enjoy this mini series taking you into the minds of some of the most influential CEOs in Market Research.

Find Anders Online:


Beautiful morning here in Miami.  CEO Summit, Insights Association. Very excited.  I’ve got Anders Bengtsson. Did I say it even remotely correctly?


Yeah, like sort of.  [laughs]


Of Protobrand.  Tell us a little bit about what you guys do.  


Protobrand is a boutique research firm, full-service research firm, technology-enabled, helping companies to uncover how people think at a deep level about brands, ads, and new products.  So, I’m not just focusing on the functional side of things but the emotional, the symbolic, the experiential. So, when we talk about System 1, the automatic brain (the non-conscious brain), that’s where we have technique and measurements for uncovering those.


How do people work with you?  Do you have like a survey system?  Or what is the actual function?


Yes, our technology platform is called Meta4 Insights.  And that’s a technology platform. You can think of it as a survey platform that allows you to do a quantitative survey on line bit with advanced System 1 measurements.  It actually gives you both data that is immediately quantifiable but we also collect data that is text data. So think data that would normally be collected in a face-to-face interview can now be collected online.  Then we quantify that data with AI-powered text analytics.


Interesting.  So, there’s definitely the sentiment, kind of the NLP element integrated in.  


Yeah, you get sentiment.  So coding of large amounts of text data is still a semi-automated, like a semi-manual process, if you will.  There are analysts that are involved: they’re looking at what themes emerge and things that belong. So it’s not just a one-click button yet, and I don’t know if text analytics ever will.  But at this stage, it helps us code large data sets very precise from hundreds or thousands of respondents and identify salient themes, the sentiment, and the meaning behind it.


Yes, I mean it’s interesting Microsoft had their announcement of the support behind Augmented Intelligence, the new kind of AI framework where we thought of AI as solving all the problems and automating everything but really it’s doing part of it really well.  A human being has to go in and finish the job.


We’re not there yet where things are fully automated.  I think… so what we’re doing right now is to leverage automation and AI to the extent it’s possible without compromising the outcomes and to still make outcomes meaningful and help decision-making.


So, where are you guys based?  


In Boston.


Boston.  Perfect, I can tell by your accent.  


[laughs] Yeah, my Swedish Boston accent.


So, CEO Summit, day 3.  What are your thoughts?


It’s been two great days, and I’m looking forward to the third day.  Lots of great networking with like-minded and not like-minded CEOs. We learn from each other.  And I think it’s been… The speakers have been really great and really making me think about my job and where I want to take Protobrand and make me thinking in different ways about that.  So, that’s always helpful.


Yeah, do you have a specific take-away so far?


I think the take-away is that some things haven’t changed that much.  If I go back to Day 1, Diane Hessan from C-Space talked about when she launched the company and how, at first, it was just a technology that she wanted companies to subscribe to.  Then she found out that she had to build services around it. I think that’s still to this day very much true. Corporate clients in America are not ready for software in market research.  Software-enabled services. Services are part of it. We’re not there yet where they just go and buy a piece of software or an automated service.


Yeah, I think that was probably one of my favorite pieces.  (They’re summoning us in.) How many years have you come to this?


This is my second time.


The second time, last year being your first.  Are you going to come back next year?


Yeah, for sure.  That’s a quick answer; that’s like a System 1 answer.


Recommendations for other CEOs that maybe have not come?  What would you see as the one big value they would get out of it?


I think that when you come here, you don’t know exactly what’s going to happen, who you’re going to talk to.  You don’t have a planned agenda. Like you know if you go to other conference, you might I’m going to talk to so-and-so-and-so.  Here it’s more organic: it’s things just happen. Last year, I came here, and I ended up talking to, sitting next to a dinner with Dave from [unclear], and after that, we initiated a partnership with them.  Those things happen, and you can’t necessarily… That wasn’t something that was planned.


Right, yeah, totally.  I think the opportunity to do networking.  I literally have a few customers that have come out of this.  But it’s interesting that the context is such where it’s… it doesn’t feel…  there’re no sales. Wow! 1 + 1 = 3 and the old cliché. If you’re dealing with CEOs, then you can cut right to it.  It does actually function in a lot of ways as a pipeline. Although I would say absolutely that should not be the objective.  It’s much more of a care and nurturing framework versus what you’re going to see at a different Insights Association or Quirks or whatever show, right?  


Absolutely.  And then the other aspect to this, I think, is this is a summit where we share good stories; we share stories around, you know…  we struggle. All companies struggle at some point. It’s not all success stories. We learn from success stories, but we also learn about turn-around stories.  I think that’s the honesty, you know, in terms of how people share their stories, I think, is huge.


So, if someone wants to get in contact you, talk about your services, how would they do that?


Go to the website Protobrand.com.  You’ll see our leadership team. You can find my LinkedIn profile and just reach out.


Anders, Protobrand.  Absolute pleasure. Thank you much for joining me on the Happy Market Research Podcast.


Thank you.  Thank you for having me.  Thank you.

CEO Summit 2019 Podcast Series

CEO Summit 2019 – Tim Hoskins – Quester

Recorded live in Miami, Jamin Brazil interviews Tim Hoskins, President of Quester. We hope you enjoy this mini series taking you into the minds of some of the most influential CEOs in Market Research.

Find Tim Online:


This is Jamin.  I’m with Tim Hoskins, Quester.  He was one of the presenters here at CEO Summit in Miami, 2019.  I’m honored to have him as a guest. Very inspiring story. How many years have you been going to the CEO Summit?


So, this is my fifth year.


Fifth year?  Ok, so what keeps bringing you back?


You know every year I walk away learning something different, whether it’s a big idea, formulating my own strategies and big bets, using every single person here that is well-respected in the industry as almost a sounding board to toss ideas off, see their reactions, their facial expressions, get advice.  It’s also a great time of the year to just re-energize you, what you’re embarking upon for the rest of the year.


So, strategic view?  Is that part of it? And then it sounds like maybe some real tactical, some practical things you’re able to take back home?




Got it.  So far, we’ve had a great set of guest speakers.  Is there one highlight for you? I know we’re halfway through the conference only.


I think that the session that we just listened to with Camille and the way that they transformed their company, not out of something they had to do but something that they saw into the future and what they wanted to do.


And how many…?  That took years, right?


2013 is when they started it.


And so, five years and that’s Gongos Research? Or just Gongos? Yeah, Gongos Research.  I’ve actually been a big fan of that company. I remember when they very first… I literally remember when they started.  

I want to pull out something from your talk that I thought was really interesting.  And that is the development of self-awareness as a CEO ‘cause we go through really difficult… we go through great seasons, and we’re really smart during the great seasons.


Oh, yes.  


And then, as they say, even a turkey can fly in a tornado, and then, all of a sudden, when the difficult times hit.  How did you stay motivated during the difficulties of being a CEO?


I think a big part of it was we looked at the data that I shared and just the rapid growth that we had from 14 to 15, 15 to 16, 16 to 17, and even 17 to 18.  At some level, you become very, very confident of who you are as a leader when you have those metrics and that growth. When we ended up having our setback in 2018 in January, hearing that news, it was a time of self-reflection.  It really was a time where I had to look myself in the mirror after hearing feedback from our employees, from some of our clients, and ask myself, Was I the leader that I thought I was. Am I the leader that can take the company through kind of the turbulence that we’re going to embark upon?  And, if not, what type of a leader do I need to become? What are my values?” Even reassessing some of those values. And taking a good hard look into the resources that are available. I think that every good leader pulls in from many different inspirations to formulate that solid foundation to build upon.  I would say that in 2018, I became the leader that the company needed, right? And it’s also I can look back on it and say, for the first time ever, I actually became the leader that I wanted to be as well selfishly.


So, we have quite a few CEOs that tune into this show.  What is one hack or skill, thing that you would recommend they apply to their business to create positive business outcomes?


So, I’m a big believer in founder’s mentality and Tim Urmston introduced it to me and I saw the profound effect it had on his company and just talking with him and seeing from the outside looking in.  For us personally, just being able to understand what does it take to get to scale insurgency. And then layering on top of that how do you motivate all of your employees to get on board and move in the right direction together?  As human beings, we all need that kind of solid piece of motivation that we’re all working for. And I think that, as a business, we put things out there like mission and values, and we assume that, because everybody nods their heads and shakes their head in that room that everybody is on board.  But, when they go about their daily lives and their tasks, do they always have that in mind? And if they don’t, that means that it’s not a mission; it’s not a value that everybody really resonates with. Founder’s mentality helped us get back to the company and what made us successful back in the early days.  And that was fun. We kind of recentered who we are and who we want to be and that remains the focal point for every single day and all of the decisions that we make in the moment and for the future.


One of the challenges as a CEO is there is so many different initiatives that we feel like we have to be driving all the time.  You might have a major customer loss, or a major customer win, or a major opportunity that presents itself, all of which seem like they take a lot of focus.  Given the speed of those things happening in business today, it can take our… you know we could talk about something that really important like core values and then two weeks later, think everybody’s on board and start talking about this new big opportunity in front in of us.  Really, they might not even have heard that we’re talking about core values over that period of time. It’s important that we apply the discipline of, even though we see what needs to get done, that we apply the discipline of pulling back and going slow so it lets everybody catch up.


Absolutely.  And you know I think that the other thing that happened is that we became, as an organization and as a company, so enamored and so motivated and so focused on growth that some of the other areas that are so… the building blocks to sustain growth and to fuel growth, we thought that everything was moving in the right direction because growth was happening, but this was the…  it was one of the most challenging years, but it was the best year, and it was the best thing that ever happened to our company since I’ve been there.


So, Merrill has this great saying:  “Profits hide problems.” I think you’re right; revenue in a lot of ways we think of it the cure-all for business, but, listening to your story…  For listeners that might not have the context, you had a major customer loss or contraction of revenue and that caused you to refocus the business and, while year over year, it doesn’t look great, if you think about December over December, very positive growth trajectory.


Absolutely.  And even in our projections and conversations that we’re having with our clients about where do we fit in within our learning plan, we have more opportunities, and it’s going to fuel significant growth this year.  While we look at 2018 as something that was challenging, it was absolutely necessary to prepare us for the next three, five, ten years plus. I believe that, in hearing from our clients and hearing from my colleagues, we all have that solid foundation to build on, and we have the right metrics and KPI’s in place to make sure that we’re not just looking at growth,  we’re not just looking at month over month, year over year, but we’re looking at all the different facets that fuel growth and sustain it as well.   


So, Quester, AI company.  Maybe could tell us a little bit about what it is you guys do.


Absolutely.  Quester is a strategy, a research and consulting company.  Our wow-factor or the unique factor is that around early 2005, between 2005-2010, we started developing the industry’s first and only Artificial Intelligence Backed Moderator.  The respondents are actually engaging in chat-based or voice-based conversation with AI versus a human moderator, which allows us to scale qualitative into larger sample sizes. But where a lot of clients are leveraging us is taking traditional quantitative and qualitative phases of research and combining them together into one hybrid solution.


That sounds fantastic.  And one of drums that I’ve been beating over the last 24 months, really two years, is… you think about what research is, quantitative research, specifically a survey, is a conversation at scale.  If you and I were a small flower, let’s say, we don’t need to do a survey because we’re talking to our customers every day. But, if we have 100 flower shops, all of a sudden, we got to do a survey because it’s a conversation at scale.  What’s interesting about artificial intelligence and machine learning and sentiment analysis and all the fantastic technology that’s come about in the last decade, is you can take qualitative data and process it so it literally is a conversation at scale.


Absolutely.  And I don’t…  everybody is enamored by the technology in our approach, but so much of the magic in what we do really is on our analysts; we have a team of quantitative analysts, marketing scientists, as well as linguistic analysts.  We do things with qualitative and unstructured data. We quantify it in a way where businesses and consumer insights departments can present a finding that is qualitative in nature, unstructured in nature, but present it with the same confidence that they do quantitative information because they’ve talked to a representative sample size, they’ve talked to hundreds, if not thousands, of their consumers.  Now the insights look a bit different because it’s not just a data point with no depth. It’s a data point with hundreds, if not thousands, of stories, to support it. And that’s really the magic happens because our clients are finding that it’s… yes, here’s the strategy that we need to move forward with, but here’s the context (the full consumer context) that provides those guardrails to strategy implementation.  That’s kind of the area we’re getting into more and more is not just stopping at the insight production but taking it all the way through insight execution.


Very interesting. My guest today, Tim, Quester.  How do people get in contact with you?


You can call me: 515-509-1975 or email me at tim.hoskins@quester.com.


Tim, thanks very much for being on the Happy Market Research Podcast.


Thank you very much.

CEO Summit 2019 Podcast Series

CEO Summit 2019 – Anne Brown – Gazelle Global

Recorded live in Miami, Jamin Brazil interviews Anne Brown, Principal of Gazelle Global. We hope you enjoy this mini series taking you into the minds of some of the most influential CEOs in Market Research.

Find Anne Online:


My guest today is Anne Brown, Gazelle Global Research Services.  Anne, thank you very much for being on the Happy Market Research Podcast with me today.


Oh, this is fun.


Yeah.  We’re at the CEO Summit.  You’re picking up our conversation.  Your husband – a Freedom Rider, and yesterday, of course, was Martin Luther King Jr.  Yeah, right, so…


Exciting times.


Do they do any celebrations or?    


My husband usually…  Unfortunately, my husband had a stroke about a year and a half ago, but he usually works with the African American men of Westchester.  And they usually do a whole day of presentations and talking to the youth in Westchester where we live and that kind of thing.


Got it, got it.  How exciting!


Yeah, it is pretty cool.  


Such an important part of America.  It’s going to be interesting to see, as this generation turns over, we will…  We’ve got a whole other generation and a coming up and with all the political climates, things like that, it’s going to be an interesting time to see how the leadership steps up in these roles.  But I don’t want to get too political, but…


Well, my husband is also on the Speaking Board for Facing History.  I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of them, but they’re a wonderful organization.  They started out of the holocaust, an organization for holocaust survivors. Now, they’re a teaching organization.  So, he’s on the Speaking Board. Yeah, it’s a very interesting time to see how we’re going to bring our youth, how are they going to grow, how is diversity going to play into the lives of our future leaders.    


Totally, totally.  Now, how many years have you been coming to the CEO Summit?


A lot.  Maybe 8 or 9.  


8 or 9 years!  


I’ve attended 8 or 9, not straight.  I missed a few here and there, but yeah.  


So what keeps bringing you back?


Oh, it is just an amazing, sharing experience with your peers.  The joke is what you hear you know, “What happens at the CEO Summit stays at the CEO Summit,” which is so true.  


Which is really, really funny ‘cause it’s the absolute opposite of Vegas because we’re literally stuck in a room.  There’s a pool three feet away from this beautiful glass wall, and they have decided to close the curtains. So we might as well be in an interior dungeon, right?


True.  I opened mine though.  See that one that’s open there.  I opened that one.


You’re rebellious.


Yeah, I was rebellious.  The sun’s coming in; I’m going to see the water.  [laughs]


You’re going to see it a little bit.  Oh, that’s great. So, Gazelle Global Research Services, what do you guys do?


We’re a global operations business. So we do everything, except design and analysis.  We work internationally in all methodologies. Of course, we’re a sample provider like many of the sample companies today.  We also do data processing; we translate into about 100 languages; we code in-language, recommend hosts, you know.


Got it.  What are you programming on?




Are you really?  




That’s awesome!


So we were an early beta site for Decipher, but we weren’t ready.  You know Kristen makes fun of me. She said, “Oh, yeah, you didn’t buy it from me.”  


I know.  I actually know that story.  I do. [laughs]


“Why didn’t you buy it from me?”  We weren’t ready!


Timing is really important.


It is, yes.  We love Decipher now.  


That’s true.  So, big take-aways?  This is Day 2 of the conference.  What’s your favorite thing?


My favorite thing is the communication and the freedom of speech that we have between all of us where we just share the roundtables.  My roundtable was great today. I mean it was a really good sharing experience, sharing of ideas. I also liked Jay where he talked about…  


It was sort of like a Meyers-Briggs but totally different, right?  The personality profile.


Yes, I really like that because I think we all need to step away from hearing about what wonderful insights we have and how we got them and procurement. We need to sometimes put that aside, and we need to talk about something different.  And I just thought that was a wonderful experience, something that we should all be using.


Did you take the test?  


I did.


And did it seem like it fit?


It did.  At first, I was like, “What are these letters?”    


Just a little bit of background.  Jay created – I think he created, right? or he works for that company, CEO of the company.  He’s created a personality profile test, and it’s used by Merrill Dubrow’s company M/A/R/C Research as well as many, many organizations.  And it’s employee profiling both at the entry (People are applying for jobs.) and then, as people are promoted inside the organizations. And what’s really interesting, a key take-away from Merrill, is that he asks his key clients to take the profile survey.  And then he matches his staff to those accounts based on the profile characteristics. Hiring decisions are made on this. There’s a red – yellow – green. Red, of course, being, “Don’t hire”; Green “Can’t write the check fast enough.” It’s super applicable, which I think is probably one of the strengths of the approach.   


I just thought it was amazing, and I also thought, “Well, OK, no wonder I don’t get along with this person.”  [laughs] “Of course, I’m not going to get along with them, you know.”


Have you thought about having your husband do it?


I haven’t, I haven’t. [laughter]  Maybe I should. I don’t know. But, yeah, I was thinking about it:  Of course. No wonder why I don’t get along with them, you know. Here’s the explanation after all these years.  


Insights Association’s Meryl and Steve have done a great job of creating a culture of transparency.  I can’t think of more frank conversations in my entire career, right, my entire career, where people are talking about the true failures and struggles of leadership and then how they’re either learning from those or fixing them for growth.


Yeah, that’s why I keep coming back.  Every time I come, there’s always something; there’s always a take-away; there’s always a learning experience; there’s always someone that I meet.  It’s just…


Pretty awesome.


Price of admission.  


Yeah, totally.  What did you think about the Facebook presentation today?


I thought it was interesting.  I thought it was a wonderful way that she reached out.


It was a really unique presentation.  In fact, I’ve never heard a presentation.  She actually opened it up, which I respected a lot, saying, “I need your help to solve some big problems.”  Then she proceeded to articulate the specific problems that she was having AND the rubric by which she judges vendors, which I thought was…  I’ve never had that level of transparency before. I was quite literally open hand to the industry saying, “Can you help me? These are the problems that I’m dealing with.”


I don’t really do much with the neural part of the business.  But I was… It was eye-opening really. “Oh, yeah, of course, it’s never going to work.”  The way we’ve done it traditionally is never going to work now. I thought it was eye-opening.  You know there were certain players in the room who were racing to the phone to call their team and get crackin’ on this.  It was certainly in the wheelhouse of several of the people in the room. I thought it was great. I think that kind of sharing is something that you would never get anywhere else.  The other part of it is that this is not a hard sell here. There’s none of that. There’s a listening… the environment of listening, the environment of understanding, the environment of sharing.  And I think that’s why she felt the freedom to be so open because she wasn’t going to be attacked by people who… It was very thoughtful; everyone was very thoughtful in terms of how to respond to her.  I think that’s something that’s… that we’re missing in the sell cycle that we have today where companies have teams of sales people who just about attack perspective buyers.


Totally.  So interesting, so interesting.  So, what types of companies do you work with at Gazelle Global Research?    


Full-service research firms.  99% of our business is full-service.  Occasionally, we might… once every couple of years we might work with an end-user if they happened to work with us in the past, and they just want to do something quick internally.  They might come to us and say, “Hey, you know please help me with this.” My favorite one, which we don’t do anymore so I can maybe say it, was working with a company that sells a toy at Christmas time.  It was so much fun. So it was an end-user. It’s a very famous toy that gets sold at Christmas time, and it was loads of fun doing it over the years. But rarely do we work with end-users.


Got it, got it.  


Full-service research firms.  You know we’re the operational arm.  A long time ago, when Gazelle was a niche business, the person that was instrumental in getting us started said, “I want to do what I do best, which is design and analysis.  I don’t want to do the part that you do. It dilutes my business. I have to invest too much in that area, and you can do it as well as I can. And I can just stay focused on the customer.


The added value of the core value of the…


I’m a clearinghouse really for many companies.  I have the experience; I get a better price; I know where to go; people respond to me quicker.  


Yeah, ‘cause you’re operating at scale.   You’ve got the connections.


If you do one job in Brazil in a year, you think you’re going to get…  I mean they take long even responding to me. Do you think, when I do 10, 12 in a year, do you think you’re going to get the same response time?


Totally different, totally different.


And I also know…  I also have a better understanding of what things should cost and how to get things done.  So that’s why. We’re there to make our clients lives easier. I know a lot of people feel like they have better control if everything is done in-house, but I really don’t think they do.  I don’t think they always get the best value, and I’m not sure that they… I mean sometimes we see on the data processing side, we see things that are programmed so poorly. They don’t get it.


I think that’s interesting:  the whole like penny-wise, pound-foolish principle.  In this space, logistics are – just being truthful – logistics are the material part of the delivery.  And having experts that have the connections in order to… and the experience to optimize QA, quality, quality, quality.  Is it the right companies that you’re subcontracting to? Just getting rid of all that headache from somebody so that they can focus on the client and the analytics and helping the client adopt to those… integrate those insights into the business, that’s the added value and really why the customer is really paying the mark-up on those insights.  


There’s also the offshoring versus the U.S. based that comes into play here, but I do contend…  I mean I do understand why the very large conglomerates offshore because they have a huge chuck of money that they’re saving and, when you have that many zeroes, you have to look at it.  But, when you’re a small firm, offshoring is ridiculous because the amount of time that you’re spending, the learning curve, the back and forth, the time spent in that communication when the time zones aren’t the same, it doesn’t make sense.  I think that’s a reality that is… I don’t know that everyone has grasped that reality. I mean I do think that for the conglomerates there’s no doubt that they have to have those businesses in place offshore. Then, of course, there are certain jobs that really should never go offshore.          


That’s right.  Yeah, totally, totally.  So, there are definitely use cases and, to your point, scales of business and things like that as to both but, generally speaking, I think the more in-country you can do – whether it’s in Latin America or Europe or Asia or North America – the better off your data is going to ultimately be and your overall experience.  ‘Cause that’s a painful, painful, painful… can be a very painful experience. All the pain is always right in that silo of the processes.

Anyway, so, Anne, if someone wants to get in contact with you or your business, how would they do that?     


info@gazelleglobal.com.  212-686-8808. I always answer my phone; I make a habit of answering.  I think it’s the right thing to do. The thing about us is that we’re always there for our customers.  So I’m available.


Anne Brown, Gazelle Global Research Services, thanks so much for being on the Happy Market Research Podcast.


Yeah, this was pretty happy.  It was fun. [laughter] Thank you.  

CEO Summit 2019 Podcast Series

CEO Summit 2019 – Mendy Orimland – Prodege

Recorded live in Miami, Jamin Brazil interviews Mendy Orimland, SVP of Prodege. We hope you enjoy this mini series taking you into the minds of some of the most influential CEOs in Market Research.

Find Mendy Online:


Hi, my name is Jamin Brazil, and you’re listening to the Happy Market Research Podcast.  We are live today on site at the CEO Summit in beautiful Miami. My guest today is Mendy Orimland with Prodege.  Tell us a little bit about Prodege, who, by the way, I’ve worked with for many years?


Ok, oh, wow.  Well, thank you for bringing me here.  I know we were just hanging out near the pool area, and you grabbed me, “Hey, come talk for a bit.”  And happy to do so. I’m actually a native; I’m from Miami; it’s my hometown. Raised…


That’s awesome.  


Yeah, yeah.  Always great to be back, and it’s my first time at the Insights CEO Summit.  So excited to be here.

Prodege – So, we operate several different business units, but, since we’re at a market research event and I’m responsible for the market research business at Prodege.  We are an online sample provider, data-collection provider, and again so excited. Thank you for having me.


So, CEO Summit 2019.  This is Day 1, right? What are some of your big take-aways?  


Yes, so what I really enjoyed and I think that some of the other events don’t necessarily capture the following component.  I loved hearing people’s stories about their businesses and how it got started and the pain they went through and challenges and what they had to overcome.  Oftentimes, we look at businesses that are already established and giants. People don’t realize that it was zero to one at some point. At some point, they had to go from zero to one.  And sharing that is very inspiring. Diane was fantastic; Michael did a great job. So, for me, that was fantastic.


That was Michael McCrary from PureSpectrum and Diane from C-Space?




Right?  C-Space now owned by Omnicom, I believe.




So, Prodege is a big company, a really big company.  You guys have had a tremendous amount of success. How long have you been there?


I’ve been here almost nine years.


Have you guys had any struggles?  Maybe there’s an opportunity for you to tell us a little bit about how you coped during a difficult time in the business.


Yeah, I think the struggles that I personally had within the business and the business had was actually the opportunity.  So, when we actually first decided that we’re going to make a play within the market research industry and become a sample provider, a lot of naysayers, “No, no, you can’t.”  I actually saw that as an opportunity. Let me elaborate on that for a minute. So, I happened to stumble upon the industry. I wasn’t necessarily… I haven’t been doing this for 20 years; it’s just a few years.  And the thing that really inspired me personally was when I attended some of the industry events. And speakers got up to present something that sounded somewhat innovative; the reaction from the audience was negative, was received as negative.  That was my perception, whether true or not. It just didn’t seem like the industry was embracing new tactics and innovation. That’s when for me the lightbulb moment. And, again, it’s an opportunity but a struggle because you have to overcome that barrier if a lot people are not necessarily embracing opportunities.


I love that.  So, how did you overcome it?


I think it’s pretty simple.  I know that people look for big answers when it comes to that.  If you have a strong product, you can overcome anything.


Love it.


It’s as simple as that.


Do you remember one of the early customers?  Who it was?


Yes, I’m not sure if they would want to share their name on it.   But, once we had our first customer, it really went very quickly. I also think it was an opportunistic time.  The industry was… People were talking a lot about transparency. So again, not a lot of innovation but a lot of transparency.  And I think a lot of companies appreciated the transparency they received by working with us, and we took advantage of that.   


I’m hearing a lot about data quality in the last…  I don’t know, my whole life honestly, it’s been about data quality.  But it feels like it’s trending up again in the last six months or so.  Do you have any thoughts on? Is a material issue, and, if so, what’s Prodege doing around that?


Ok, when you say “trending up,” in a positive or negative?


In a concern around…  It’s almost like, if you think about a graph where have quality and price.  We all know what the graph looks like, right? So, as you lower price, then, of course, you impact quality, at least conceptually.  So the concern that I’ve been seeing a lot and hearing a lot by major brands like including Microsoft and Google is concern around, “Gosh, we really like the fact we’re paying whatever ($3 or $4 a complete) but we’re concerned that there’s not enough incentive that going to the respondent; therefore, they’re drawing a conclusion in their head, perhaps falsely, and they don’t know if it’s true or not:  Is it a legitimate or a bad player that’s taking up a portion of the surveys?


Sure, sure.  This is actually a topic I actually really enjoy talking about.  I don’t get the opportunity to speak a lot about it often, but there’s a secret weapon out there or a secret topic that people don’t talk about often.  It comes up in a way of passing, but they don’t realize how powerful and true it is. And you touched on. As it relates to recruitment and you have the pricing and the quality.  There are so many different recruitment sources out there. So a panel provider who provides respondents (people – I’m so glad we’re finally calling them people today.)


Love it.


Right?  We are calling them people.  There are so many different ways to recruit people to anything, right?  So, you have different online sources; you have radio; you have television; you have all these different things.  And there’s different price points that companies pay to bring them in the door. The reality that we face today is when there’s tremendous pricing challenges, and there’s a lot of players in the market research industry in the sample space.  So all across the board, it impacts how much panel providers can spend on recruitment. And the rest is history. It really how much can you spend? And that’s what you’re able to bring in the door. I always like to use analogy. It’s a silly one but…  You know there are different automobiles, different types of cars out there, right? At the end of the day, some people love quality; they love a Lexus. How much added value does it provide? In terms of price point, why is it so much higher than a Honda Civic?  And, at the end of the day, you can’t get a Lexus at the same price as a Honda Civic. Why? Because to engineer the car, the dollars that go into it just cost more and, ultimately, you have to spend more to get that. Now, I’m not going to sit here; I’m not making a pitch that people should spend more anything.  I think people should just be aware that these are ingredients that all come into play when it comes to getting a survey complete. You, as the client, make the choice. It’s your choice. The beautiful thing about today (I know a lot of people complain), the beautiful thing is there are options out there, yeah. You have a lot of optionality.  Take what works for you. It’s not a one-size-fits-all anymore.


Love it.  Yeah, I think that’s a really good way of framing it.  Do you think there’s going to be an increase in transparency of the amount of the CPI that goes towards the person in the way of incentive over time?  Do you think that’s going to improve or increase?


I love that one.  So what you get…  I think what panel providers are asked quite often is “What do you do about incentives?”  “What are you paying these people?” I actually think the question is really more, “How much are you paying when they come in the door?”  Not the incentive on the panel, on the survey complete. Now, I don’t think people would share the answer to that because again that is a company’s proprietary information.  They don’t have to share that with anyone not because they’re hiding anything, because that is what they do as a company. So I think, at the end of the day, it’s not just the incentive:  incentive is one piece; it’s one ingredient, one piece of the puzzle. Recruitment matters, and it matters a lot.


So, what do you attribute to the massive success that Prodege has had in the market?  I mean you guys have become a dominant force.   


Oh, thank you.


I mean in the panel space.   So, what do you see as sort of that ingredient that you guys have brought?  


Ok,  I think there are a couple, a few components.  One of things that I think has really helped us a company, if I be very, very honest here, is we didn’t come into this with baggage.  No prior baggage that came along, right? We were able to kind of pave our own way. Oftentimes you hear: “You have to do it ‘cause this is how we’ve been doing it for all these years.  And oftentimes, depending on the stage of a company, it’s challenging on how to deal with that because it’s true. You’ve been doing things for so many years. It’s hard to change; it’s very challenging.  I don’t think people should ever make fun of that. It is a huge challenge but, for us fortunately, the time we entered we didn’t have any prior baggage. I also came with just fresh lens and said that if we just stand behind our product and the quality of the product, I do think at the end of the day, it will prevail and it’ll trump ahead because I always said the thing that I focus on the most, which I know many people probably say this, but, as a company, the quality of work, there’s no cutting corners and no comprising.  That’s the one area we want to sell. It comes at a cost, but I think it’s a longer term approach. I think we had the luxury of being able to take that approach.


I think that the point that you’re making about the long… adding value to the customer we heard this today with Cleveland Clinic, massive healthcare company.  Adding value is the key component to building a successful partnership over time, right? ‘Cause it’s all about brand, which is just performance over time. So it does not surprise me that you’ve had the amount of success that you have in that framework.    


And I’d add one thing that I think is super key, a key ingredient.  I know what I don’t know. Again, I didn’t grow up the space of market research.  We had an idea; we had a business concept; we thought we could do something. And, I went out and I was fortunate enough to hire and find really good staff and a really good team.  The team is absolutely incredible, and I give a lot of thanks to them for allowing us to do what we do. Without them, again you can have an idea but without the team behind it… And the expertise that they bring to the table has been tremendous.


CEO Summit 2019.  Mendy, Prodege, thanks so much for coming to the Happy Market Research Podcast.


Jamin, thanks for having me.  Thank you.

CEO Summit 2019 Podcast Series

CEO Summit 2019 – Mike Misel – Cint

This is the first interview of the Insight Association’s CEO Summit 2019. Recorded live in Miami, Jamin Brazil interviews Mike Misel, SVP of Cint. We hope you enjoy this mini series taking you into the minds of some of the most influential CEOs in Market Research.





www.happymr.com Social Media: @happymrxp LinkedIn


I’m here at the CEO Summit with Mike from Cint.  Mike, welcome to the Happy Market Research Podcast.


Thank you very much.  It’s a pleasure to be here.  


This is the CEO Summit.  Have you been here before?


This is my first time.  Amazing. The talent in the room.  I’m very lucky to be here, in fact.


Maybe you could tell us a little bit about your journey and to Cint.


Yeah, wow, very interesting.  So I originally was a calculus teacher,


For high school, junior high, college?


I was at a prep school where I taught 18-year olds, and then taught a little bit of junior college, and had one class at a Cal State University.


I can’t believe I just said junior high by the way.  Anyway, go ahead. Sorry.


There’s probably some kids out there.


Maybe, yeah.  Two.


Ironically, given the news today (I’ll let you talk about that later), I was brought to the industry in 2011 by a friend who I played golf with.  He started explaining to me the nuances of the market research industry. It blew me away that people actually got paid to take surveys. It was the first time that I…  you know. So that tells you the knowledge level that I had coming into this industry, but it’s been an amazing journey. So, over the past eight years, I kind of went from…  it was nice actually coming in with no experience, had fresh eyes, came in on the ground floor, and just sort of started working my way up through the industry. And I don’t need to say this to you.  So much has changed just in the eight years I’ve here. It’s amazing being in the room with these people who’ve been in this industry 20, 30, however many years they’ve been in, and seen the things they’ve seen.  Just my exposure in the last eight years has been really incredible.


Cint has gone through some transitions.  




Talk to us a little bit about what you’re seeing as one of the big trends in market research.  


I think that everybody has seen that technology can play a major role with regards to the sampling process itself.  The model that existed in the beginning of putting a lot of effort, money, whatever it is into building a panel and that cost for acquisition that people were putting in, trying to then recoup and get an ROI on that was fine for a while.  Price compression and just the way we’ve been able to deliver a sample has really put a lot strain, I think, on a lot of the traditional panel owners. And us as a company, starting 20 years ago, I think at a really advantage I guess, if you will, in terms of how we operate, where this exchange model was pretty future-proof.


It should be mentioned that actually started in 1998 and was the leader in the sample (I don’t know if this is the right term) sample marketplace, right?  


Yeah, I would say credit to Bo Mattsson, our founder, who had this vision of an exchange model.  It’s funny I mentioned that I started at Cint in 2011. We had a real tough time explaining that model to the industry here in the United States.


And what’s funny about it is, if you think about just work flow.  When I started Decipher, this was the premise: is that as a researcher I spend a lot of my time doing certain functions.  In those days, it was like things like term and tally sheets. I’m not going to get into what that is, but it was a real pain in the ass.




As we’ve evolved through technology, the surveying is actually not the hard…  The programming of the survey is not the hard part now. The hard part has become the fielding and the mapping the terms and the quotas in your survey to the actual the actual sample that you’re getting from your suppliers.  And that takes… That still is a lot of baling wire and rubber bands, it feels like.


Yeah, and I think it’s the job of technology to make that easier.  We talk about ourselves as being in the supply chain management business.  


That’s exactly it.


The supply business, it’s still a part of what we do, but truly, if we’re going to bring value to our clients, what we’re doing is we’re going there, making them more efficient.  We’re taking their supply chain from an antiquated place to a more modern place where they’re not having to do those things and use bubble gum and scotch tape to try to cobble things together.  


It’s almost like the principles we learn in B school from lean manufacturing and adopted, of course, by Eric Ries, the lean startup and now maybe it’s time for lean research.    


Listen, it is.  It’s happening already, right?  There’s companies out there, PureSpectrum one of them, looking at making the whole, entire research process being automated.   I think that the traditional way of doing research in the past was expensive, cumbersome, took a long time. The modern consumer has changed compared to five, ten, as far back as we want to go.  And things are changing so quickly that companies need the ability to be more agile and move quicker than they ever did before. So, getting that feedback, those insights as quick as possible is of the utmost importance now.   


So, thinking about Cint specifically, what are you guys offering that is bringing value to the market and people are really grabbing it, customers are grabbing it.  And it’s ok to brag.


[laughs]  Thank you.  Probably the biggest thing now is…  You know for a long time our entire business was about an open-exchange model where somebody could come to a really great user interface, DIY tool, be able to get sample.  We’re moving more to a place of allowing companies to create their own marketplace: Choose the suppliers that they want to choose with the own rates they want to dictate with those suppliers and then Cint just becomes, in essence, the plumbing system, the piping that allows for that sample to easily be transmitted from the supplier to the client themselves.  It’s really about creating a solution for them that makes their life easier.


My guest today has been Mike with Cint.   Mike, thank you so much for being on the Happy Market Research Podcast.  


Yeah, I really appreciate it, Jamin.  Thank you very much.


And thank you very much everybody that’s tuning in.  We are going to go have some cocktails.


Have a great day!

CEO Summit 2019 Podcast Series

Ep. 202: CEO Summit 2019 – Michael J. Vigeant – GreatBlue Research

This is the first interview of the Insight Association’s CEO Summit 2019. Recorded live in Miami, Jamin Brazil interviews Michael J. Vigeant, CEO of GreatBlue Market Research. We hope you enjoy this mini series taking you into the minds of some of the most influential CEOs in Market Research.







Social Media: @happymrxp



This is episode 202 of the Happy Market Research Podcast, and I’m your host Jamin Brazil, bringing you a special episode straight from the Insights Association’s CEO Summit in Miami.  We hope you enjoy these interviews. They’re conducted by some of the speakers as well as fellow CEOs.


This is Jamin Brazil.  You’re listening to the Happy Market Research Podcast.  We are live today. Well, not really live I guess when you hear this, but a few days afterwards at CEO Summit in beautiful Miami.  GreatBlueResearch is here with me. Michael, welcome.


Jamin, great to see you again, buddy.


Yeah, we met each other last year at this CEO conference.  Maybe you can tell me a little bit about your business.


So, GreatBlue is a full-service market research firm.  Our goal is to help you solve business problems, identify market opportunities, test product services, and figure how you can make your business better.


So, give me an example of a customer… kind of how they engage with you guys.  What does that look like?


So, it’s everything.  We work a lot in the utilities marketplace: so, everything from identifying whether solar or investing in solar cultures or electric vehicle services or programs make sense for a particular utility.  We work with some major product developers across the US, taking products from concept to store shelf and everything in between: so, testing prototypes within users; Identifying where there is feature benefit improvements that could made, but also designing packaging and store-shelf looks and feels, and quick startup guides and making sure they’re logical and doing what they’re intended to do.  So, lots of different things.


Yeah, so, sounds like quite a few different things, which is good.  So in other words, you really adapt the overall solution to match – it’s the right shoe for the right foot.


Yeah, typically, it has everything to do with making sure that the product or services is meeting the needs of that end-user.  Sometimes, that end-user, we’re measuring engagement and satisfaction; sometimes, we’re measuring the need, and how well they like a product or service, and what they might spend for it, or what would prevent them from purchasing or utilizing a particular service or product.  So, it can be any number of things, which is what keeps it interesting and fun for our team.


So, predominantly, primary research, right?




Yeah, awesome.  You have been at this conference at least one other time.


This is actually my fourth.  


Fourth time.  So, tell me a little bit about what’s the benefit of the CEO Summit for you as a CEO.  


Yeah, so, you know when I think about my evolution, I’ve now owned the business for going on ten years.  And, when I start to think about my growth as a CEO, as an owner, it is this group of people specifically that I really rely on for information, not just professionally, but personally.  We share. Last year was a big growth year for us not only for the business, but how I was transforming my business internally, how I wanted to be off the road more, spending more time with my family, giving that ownership and that authority and that push to my team to go out and own the space that I had for so many years – and what I say internally – is getting out their way.  It was the people here that helped me learn how to do that. And so, the insight that’s had here and the conversation that are had here, not just during the sessions, but at the bar or sitting by pool or having a coffee over breakfast – it’s all those things where folks can open up the vest and they let you in. There’s a lot of transparency, a lot of honesty, not necessarily trading client secrets but we’re trading industry secrets.  And what happens there is that the industry remains strong and gets stronger and gets better, and, as a result, we all win.


So, give me…  You’re a successful CEO with a decade of experience under your belt.  Give me one CEO hack, or tip, or trick that you would like to share our fellow CEOs that are listening to the podcast.  


For me, it is really asking my staff this question:  when do I get in your way and how can I get out of way?  That is probably the biggest piece of advice that I can give.  I think it shows them that I’m vulnerable to them. I want to help them; I want to be there for them, but I also want them to stand on their own two feet and fail, and own their failures.  But that I have their back to do it. So that’s been a big transformation because my predecessor, the gentleman that I start working for when I first entered this industry 20 years ago, said the business will only grow when you’re doing things that I don’t know about.  So part of that was his way of getting out of my way. So, I have to pay that forward. So that is probably my biggest piece of advice, and all big decisions I make over a Dairy Queen blizzard.


I love it.  [laughs] So, if people want to get in contact with you, what is the best… what’s the website or the best way for them to contact you?


Sure.  My email address is Michael@GreatBlueResearch, and our website is GreatBlueResearch.com.   Happy to have a conversation; see if there’s something that we can do. If we can’t, we’ll point you in the right direction of someone that we know who probably can.


Michael, GreatBlueResearch.  Thanks so much for being on the Happy Market Research Podcast.  


Jamin, appreciate it.  Thank you so much, buddy.  


Everybody else, more interviews to come.

Happy MR Podcast Podcast Series

Ep. 201 – How Kantar Creates Excellent Customer Experience & Trending Market Research Tech

My guests today are Ann Green, EVP, and Stephen DiMarco, Chief Digital Officer at Kantar North America Insights Division. Kantar is a multinational market research firm known for innovation. They actively manage Brand Z, which is an annual Top 100 Most Valuable Global brands ranking; and in 2015, announced a partnership with Snapchat to provide the first analysis of advertising effectiveness on the Snapchat platform.


Linkedin: Ann/Stephen Kantar



Social Media: @happymrxp



On Episode 201 of the Happy Market Research Podcast, I’m talking with the dynamic duo, Ann Green and Stephen DiMarco from Kantar. This is an exciting episode. We unpack customer experience from Kantar’s position, one of the leading insights professional companies in our industry.

But first a word from our sponsor.


Today’s episode is brought to you by GreenBook. The GreenBook directory helps you find marketing research suppliers, facilities, and consultants. Additionally, GreenBook helps modern marketing researchers understand industry trends via the Grid Report and the IIeX Global Conference Series. To find out more, please visit GreenBook online at GreenBook.org.


Hi, I’m Jamin Brazil, and you’re listening to the Happy Market Research Podcast. My guests today are Ann Green EVP and Stephen DiMarco, Chief Digital Officer at Kantar North America, Insights Division. Kantar is a multi-national market research firm known for innovation. They actively manage BrandZ, which is an annual, top 100 most valuable global brands ranking, and in 2015 announced a partnership with Snapchat to provide the first analysis of advertising effectiveness on the Snapchat platform. Ann and Stephen, thank you very much for joining me today on the Happy Market Research Podcast.


Ann – Thank you.

Stephen – Thank you. Nice to be here.


Our chat is going to center around one of today’s hottest topics: customer experience. But before we dive in, I’d love to know a little bit about each one of your backgrounds.


Ann – [laughs] Well, I think it’s fair to say that no child grows up and actually says, “Mom, Dad, I want to go into the field of market research.” It was a bit of a fluke for me. I ended up at a liberal arts school where I studied marketing with a math minor. At the time, I really didn’t have a good sense of what I wanted to do and a saw an ad, an actual newspaper ad, for a position in the field of market research, and it just so happened I thought, “I can do this.” And the rest is history.


You know it’s funny. Several people that I’ve interviewed wound up in market research through an advertisement in the paper. For those who don’t know, that was the jobs listing for local opportunities.


Ann – Yes, yes, I have just revealed my age. [laughter]


Don’t worry. I’m ahead of you. That’s fine. So, Stephen, you managed marketing at Comedy Central FX, and you co-founded a startup during the height of the dot.com bubble. How in the world did you wind up in research?


Stephen – It’s funny. I don’t see myself in research, but I will tell you how I got into the role I’m in right now. Like Ann, I studied marketing in college and, when I wasn’t studying or doing other things that college kids do, I was actually a DJ for the campus radio station. So I’ve always had a strong interest in marketing and music. I started my career at a record label doing everything you can imagine and decided that, while I like music, the music industry isn’t for me. So I thought long and hard and really committed myself to marketing and helping marketers becoming better marketers. What better place to do that than a company who’s got a treasure trove of consumer data that you can use to make difficult decisions about all of the things that marketers need to, ranging from which consumers to target, how to engage them, how to measure ROI. I guess ultimately, I did wind up in a research role.


So, we’re going to talk about customer experience. We’ve gone through such an evolution over the last two decades of my career. What are two ways that Kantar is creating amazing experiences for your customers?


Ann – Well, we have the opportunity to work with most of the Fortune 500; so, we are working with folks the likes of Google, Facebook, McDonalds, Coke, American Express, Kaplan, you name it. There is an interesting common thread that is emerging: that they are very much looking for research companies to raise the bar, both in terms of the suppliers, the partnerships they work with as well as internally. And they’re raising the bar in terms of how they use research within the organization. We’ve really invested in two areas in changing up the experience that we provide. The first is around client engagement. So, we really work with marketers to understand what their pain points are, what their problems are. So we don’t work on a project or product basis. What we do is we really partner up with brands to understand and get underneath the hood in terms of what it is we need to solve for. And we invest in our own teams: we actually train them in terms of listening skills, in terms of discovery skills so that they can really feel confident in getting to that point of shared understanding of the problem in front of them.

I think the second way in which we’re changing up the experience is with delivery.

If you think about the delivery reports, they have legacy basis, data tables, or a power point report or, if you are lucky, so sort of dashboard. And that doesn’t necessarily get absorbed by the organization. That just become something that sits on somebody’s shelf or sits in a folder on their laptop. What we need to do and what we are doing is we are really investing in the delivery of our research and going beyond standard reports and providing our clients with workshops where all stakeholders come together and talk about what the findings are and, most importantly, what to do with them. How do we action them?


OK, so, the pain points is really interesting. The thesis that I entered into in September when I launched this podcast is that there is a growing divide between what marketing research at an agency level is delivering versus what the brands actually want. In many cases, – I’m thinking specifically about the interview with Stacey Walker at Adobe recently; she actually used that framework as well – you can’t just force this standard methodological approach anymore. Similarly, on the delivery side, it’s not about the report or the “thump factor,” which is again paper-based reports… thicker is better in the old days. But it’s about operating research in lockstep with the executives and at each point the decisions are being made. That’s one of the reasons why she believes that things like CX is growing far and away faster than traditional market research as a job function inside of brands.


Stephen – I think you’re absolutely right, Jamin. Adobe is actually another client of ours, and we’re doing some innovative work for them. So, it’s great for us to stop doing the type of research that’s backwards looking, may be interesting and sits in a bookcase somewhere, and much more interesting to partner with the client, co-create on what they’re looking for, provide the insights that they need at the moment and time that they need them so that they can generate a business decision that has an ROI. That’s kind of tongue-in-cheek why I said I don’t see myself as a market researcher; I see myself as a clever person who knows his way around data in the effort to make a business decision.


I love that. And then the final delivery… To your point, where we used to deliver cross-tabs and then power points and written reports in many cases to later dashboards being really the monitoring of the overall organizational health. Recently, I asked another (I can’t tell you who but another Insights leader) about dashboarding capabilities. Finally, I looked at him and I said, “Tell me what dashboard you actually used to make business decisions.” He was hard-pressed to come up with more than one; and that actually centered more around BI as opposed to consumer insights. It’s about the deliverable here is the benefit to the organization to make good decisions and actually have a positive ROI on research as opposed to being a cost center.


Stephen – Yeah, I talk about dashboards being three categories. One is “always on:” it’s up on your screen; you’re looking at it because you can’t live your life without it. One is “alert-based,” which is when something happens you get a text message or something to go check it out. Or the third is “ad hoc:” you go there when you need it and you enter in a search query and, hopefully, you get back what you need. Much better to be in the “always on” category; lucky if you’re in the “alert” category;” not good to be in the “ad hoc” category ‘cause that’s where most of them are.


That’s absolutely right, and that’s where the disruption is taking place, of course. So, how are brands using your research specifically effectively to empower their CX?


Stephen – Overall, I think if you look at brands and their perspective on customer experience, some brands really embrace it because they recognize, as consumers, our customer experience has changed: we’ve got different expectations based on mobile devices, based on on-demand services like Uber or Blue Apron. We just have an expectation that we can accomplish a task whenever we want, wherever we want. Smart brands are looking at that and saying, “OK, we need to really think about how we develop a customer experience that emulates that.”

So the first thing that I think brands are looking at doing is some really primary research around what are the needs, known and unmet needs, in the category so that they can really hone their value proposition. It’s really around kind of strategy research, trying to uncover the gem that allows them to develop a differentiated customer value proposition and then the operational plan to deliver on it. It’s really kind of re-creating, re-inventing the brand promise as a whole. So that’s the first thing that brands are doing. The second thing that brands are doing is what’s quite popular right now evidenced very clearly last week by the acquisition of Qualtrics, which is a CX platform, for eight billion dollars – that is eight billion –


On about a 400 million run rate, right? That’s what even more insane. [laughter] A 20X top-line revenue. And we know that Sample like there are some costs in that multiple that are still… they’re getting credit for, which just speaks to the overall market view of the value of this category.


Stephen – Yeah, it’s a very heated market. Eight billion dollars by SAP. What we’ve since learned is that Quatrics, Medallia, and Survey Monkey, who are all at different levels collecting customer information so that you can analyze and act on it, they’re all backed by Sequoia Ventures, which is a VC firm. I have to give credit to the partner team at Sequoia for their investment thesis that this software is, as service capability, is going to be really, really profitable. They made a great bet. Anyway, back to the story. Once brands have these CX platforms, whether it’s Medallia or Qualtrics, implemented, they have it always on feed of customer insights that they’re getting that they can use to understand as we rolled out this new brand promise and it’s taking effective in how we touch our customers, whether it’s through online interactions or retail interactions or, if it’s a car dealer, through their dealership or agency interactions, are we delivering on the brand promise at all points in time? It gives them real-time information feed about where they’re performing and where they’re underperforming to really continue to hone and advance their customer experience. It’s a soup-to-nuts approach to really re-engineering how people think about engaging with their customers around the brand promise and then delivering on it all the way through to purchase and post-service interaction.


What does that look like from a product… Is it really a combination of – I’ll call it – software that is the logistical element of the pulse of the customer and then, the human element obviously, on the deployment of those systems and then also the on-going recommendations?


Stephen – I mean you nailed it. It’s basically technology-enabled, data collection and dissemination through software as a service model. So companies will have a Qualtrics platform implemented for them and instrumented for them based on whatever business they’re in – whether it’s the hotel, airline, auto, retail, financial services – it works for any company that has customers; these platforms work. So, they’re instrumented similar to how a CRM system, SalesForce.com, ERP system – it’s a piece of enterprise software that you access through a portal. But, even though you’re collecting all of this information and it’s getting displayed through this portal on the website, you really still need a lot of professional services: you need help interpreting the data; you need help taking action on the data and making sure that your actions are generating ROI; you need help connecting more data into the CX system so that you can start to bring transaction data in, other first-party data, maybe you’ll bring in third-party data like weather data (So how is weather impacting customer experience at any different point in time?). It really is a piece of software that needs a lot of contextualization around it.


Ann – I think it’s really interesting though to think about customer experience in terms of why it has become such as important topic for marketers lately. And, Stephen, you had mentioned that really the customer experience is the way to deliver and bring to life the brand purpose. That has become such an important element because, financially, if you look at the economic trends, one of things that you find is that people are spending more on experiences than they are on things or products. So, financially, for marketers to grow, it makes sense for them to be spending a lot more time in understanding what that experience could be, what people’s expectations are, and how they can deliver against that experience in new and different ways. Just think about Delta: many years ago, Delta was simply a means to get from one place to another – it was a flight; now Delta has become an experience. It’s everything from your on-board services to being able to order a cocktail at the actual gate. So this is something that is very much financially driven and recognized as an area of importance to brands today.


It’s so interesting companies like Starbucks in a lot of ways built their whole company around this thesis, and it feels like we as an industry over the last year or two have really just started catching up with framing it in words and then figuring out what the terms of trade look like. I really like, Stephen, your framing of this like context of data. Traditionally from my experience, market research data (behavioral, transactional, whatever) usually sits in some silo and getting those things overlaid is immensely powerful but oftentimes, timing-prohibitive. So, the fact that you’re helping connect the dots through your set of solutions is really important. And I think the second part of it that’s really interesting is… (I’ve been hearing this term; It’s not a new term, but I’ve been hearing it said more lately.) HI or Human Intelligence versus AI or SAS or what have you. So, it’s about leveraging of the human expertise to overlay and help even create a deeper context of those insights so that they can move the business in the right direction.


Stephen – We’ve actually had success with both of those. We have a really excellent qualitative capability. Many, many, many people across North America, who have a strong background in qual., who will then help contextualize the data – again to use that phrase – that’s coming out of a Qualtrics or Medallia because, if you don’t, you’re just going to get a lot of behavioral data and you lose that human element; you lose the “why”; you lose really the kind of core idea that makes it an experience versus a transaction. But, at the same time, we have a really incredible analytics team, who does machine learning, neural nets and are just spectacular at that, which you’re not going to get out of a typical CX platform yet – they’re just not that advanced. So you really do need the two of those. You need that combination of human understanding but connected data, technology-powered analytics to get to that next level of insight that’s going to drive the differentiated customer experience.


Alright, so let’s take it down then to sort of brass tacks. If you were a brand manager at a startup CPG company (so, not Proctor & Gamble, per se), what types of research would you do in your first year, assuming you had a finite budget of a quarter million dollars?


Stephen – Was your comment “take it down”… Was that a reflection of me being on my soapbox too much? [laughter]


[laughter] Not at all.


Stephen – OK, good. I promise I won’t go up there again during the podcast but…


I liked it, I liked it. We all liked it.


Stephen – Sorry. Ann, the non-soapbox is yours.


Ann – [laughs] I think, taking it to a very practical level, one of the things I was just talking about was the change in terms of people’s expectations in terms of their experiences. Foundationally, marketers need to have a new understanding of people; they need to demonstrate that they really understand people. I think there’s an assumption because we have so much data, that we must have a good understanding of people. And that’s not necessarily the case. With data, what you have is observations; you have behaviors. But you also need to understand what people feel, what they think, how they live, what their personal pain points are, and what they want brands to solve for. So, in all honesty, where I would start is with something which is much more ethnographic in nature, much more segmentation-based to get to a foundational understanding of how I can establish a brand that really demonstrates it gets the consumer, it gets the customer.


Stephen – Your question… Is it not whether it’s P&G or startup CPG company, you can almost assume that most companies when it comes to research are doing kind of a zero-based budgeting approach. Another way of kind of framing your question is what’s the first thing you would spend research on if you were a brand manager, assuming that you had to argue for every other piece of research. And I could not agree more with Ann because that foundational segmentation research is going to pay dividends over years of time as more and more marketing programs are built off of those foundational insights. And those foundational insights are going to be the things that allow you to differentiate in the market in the first place. Doing an advertisement effectiveness study to demonstrate media ROI is important because you want to know did this piece of content distributed on this media platform have a greater return than another piece of content on another media platform. But there you’re still just kind of optimizing at the edges. What Ann is talking about is really kind of game-changing, foundational researches. If you do it right, then that first year budget of $250,000 is going to generate such valuable insights and actions that that $250,000 is going to turn into $500K the next year and into a million dollars the year after that, which is kind of like a self-funding research program, which is what we advise clients to try and do. And, if we’re not providing ROI on our research and our clients aren’t getting ROI out of the actions that we’re taking, they’re taking on our recommendations, then “Houston, we have a problem,” as they say.


I like that a lot, and I’ll misquote, of course, but “Data isn’t understanding; it is observation.” And you have to connect this to the human’s feelings, the consumer’s feelings, whether positive or negative or what have you, in order to get that full context of how the rest of the projects that you do and the inputs that you get to understand how they make sense and what they actually mean and what the organization should do.

So, there’s lots of new, fancy technologies. We’ve got to talk a little about that: AR, VR, so Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality; Voice whether it’s Google Home or Alexa. This all is impacting consumer experience. How will they impact research?


Stephen – That’s good. You said Alexa versus Google. Interesting. Now we know where your loyalty lies.


I have both, FYI. [laughter]


Stephen – Good save, good save. It’s a really good question. These new technologies kind of play in two dimensions at the same time. Brands are using them to create new customer experiences. Using Alexa as an example, brands are building out skills or actions on (My Alexa just turned on as a said that; it’s now glowing blue.) They’re building out actions and skills that help kind of ingrain them in the voice-activated world. They’re not selling as much as they’re providing content that keeps them relevant. So, it’s happening in the consumer space; so, we need to figure out how to conduct research there. We’ve started to do that: we’ve been working on chatbots for a while. We have a chatbot that we use where we direct some of our respondents to go and people that we’re interviewing. We’ve actually built out a couple of pilots on my voice-controlled device that I’m not going to name right now lest it turn blue again. They’re information collection platforms for us. Right now, they’re information collection platforms; they have not become insights collection platforms. Part of it because the technology is different than writing a survey or analyzing a piece of customer data that might come in through a transaction log or website visitation. How you guide a consumer through a series of questions, it’s a whole new art form. I mean it is absolutely a new language, and the devices themselves are not always respondent to different dialects, to different brand names, to different product names. So we’re going through the process; it’s a learning process to use them as research mechanisms, and we’re figuring it out as we go.


Ann – We care a lot about the nature of the experience changing and the nature of the desired customer experience changing. And I think it’s really important that these tools be used in a new way to engage our people because they are much more organic ways of engaging with them than we have had historically. They are very used to utilization of chatbots; whether or not they know they are chatbots or not, they are used to the nature of that interface. They are used to being able to use voice skills and ask for things or give information to their device. They are used to being able to do things more in the moment; so, imagine being able to use a voice device when somebody mentions a specific brand and having the ability to ask them questions about that brand. It’s going to become much more organic and natural and part of an understood experience for people than it ever has been before. It removes a lot of the artificiality that we’ve had in research historically.


Yeah, I think it’s interesting that voice framework is, obviously, the prequel to AR – Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality – although, obviously, there’s technology that’s centered around those things now, none of it is operating at scale and yet we have seen an opportunity to get closer to the consumer through voice. So, the consumption of content all of a sudden becomes passive. The way that I can interactive with my brand app or skill while I’m driving is completely different than it has been historically, whether it’s purchasing something – which I’ve actually done on this show on accident. I purchased some paper towels on the device that won’t be named. I also purchased some markers. The paper towels actually showed up; it was a different brand than I thought, which is a whole different thing. And then the markers… I cancelled that order because it was like a 3500-dollar order, and I think I bought all the markers in North America.


Ann – What you’re talking about there is an important variable that Stephen mentioned earlier is that we need to help marketers understand how to use these devices as part of their own marketing efforts and to use it as part of their own commerce initiatives. If you look at how these devices have completely transformed the commerce environment, how products are sold, it is hugely different. And the role that they play, and the path to purchase, whether or not it’s getting something on the shopping list or getting directions to the store or adding something into the cart, is a completely different experience. So there’s two components to this: one is about helping marketers enter this space wisely and really understand the expectations of this space and how it can be optimized. But then there is the second transformative component, which is “How do I use these techniques to do better research and to get better insights.”


I like your very practical example of a way to be able to do that. The other piece that’s interesting is the brand budget consideration. You think about an add-on service – I’ll call it just “surveying through voice brand experience” or what have you. That doesn’t fit squarely in the qualitative and quantitative bucket. Are you guys seeing brands becoming more adaptive to where they’re willing to spend through new technologies or approaches or more like qualitative at scale, which is kind of what we’re talking about?


Stephen – To be honest, I think it’s early days; so, brands are seeing it as experimental and not putting it into a type of bucket yet. They’re either going to put it into an experimental bucket or they’ve got a bucket called Voice, and it’s tied to someone on the marketing team or the strategy team that said, “We need a voice strategy. What’s the voice strategy for our brand?” And they run off and they try to do some stuff and come back to satisfy a question. It has not hit scale yet; so, it really hasn’t normalized yet. Ann, I don’t know what your sense is.


Ann – No, I totally agree. I think it is something that marketers are playing with, that brands are playing with on both fronts in terms of sort of the marketing commercial side for their own businesses as well as for the research side. But they are truly playing with it; they are not committed to this yet. But it relates very nicely to the idea of experience because they know that this will be part of their brand experience and “How do I manage that? What are my expectations?”


Stephen – It’s just not there yet. This is where I put my kind of marketing research “shmethodology” hat on. You have to worry about the distribution of the devices. And are they representative? And then all of the other issues around the language you need to speak to get insights that you could really rely on to take action on out of the call it qual, call it conversation, call it voice-activated survey, whatever it is. It’s like playing in a sandbox right now. We’re not anywhere ready to scale it in any way.


Ann – I think that one of the things that we found was really interesting was initial work we had done was that the device and the research had been trained based upon British English as opposed to American English and how that small seeming subtlety could actually really throw off the learning from these types of engagements. So we do have to be really smart and really disciplined as to how we engage in this space.


Stephen – Not to change the direction completely, but you started off by talking about AR, VR. I think Virtual Reality is an easier paradigm to get to work quicker because it’s replicating an in-person experience that people, while it’s virtual, people are familiar with what it’s like to walk down an aisle and then pick out a product off a shelf or interact by opening the door of a car. There’s nothing new there: it’s just that the technology required to do it is extremely expensive and complicated. What we’re talking about on the voice side the technology may not be as expensive or complicated, but the human interaction is entirely new. Sometimes it makes you scratch your head like: “How are we going to solve this one.”


The invisible customer journey is a big problem or will become a big problem for the brands that aren’t connecting at an emotional level so that when the consumers of the dish soap or whatever place their order in five years (I don’t know when that’s going to happen.), it better not be dish soap. What’s interesting is I know that Google and Amazon are buying a lot of the generic names. So generic paper towels are now owned by Amazon, I believe. So that all of a sudden puts squarely the purchase power in Amazon’s lap, which there is a million different ways – well, probably a half a dozen ways, they could monetize that – either through the CPG’s. You’re right it’s not at scale but it’s also something that brands need to be paying attention to because once it hits scale, it’s going to be really hard to be able to address.


Stephen – Well, this is what we talk about with our clients a lot, which is what we’re really going through is an incredible period of disruption. Basically, what worked yesterday and what works today may be almost as good is not going to work at all on the paradigm of tomorrow. We’re at the top of the proverbial S-curve and, if we spend dollars in time and energy advancing on the same path, we’re only going to go down the wrong side of the S-curve. We really need to jump onto a new curve. That’s where we’re counseling clients to spend as much money as they can on thinking about voice as one investing in machine learning as another, which is probably why the whole CX category, as a whole, is so hot right now because there is a lot of good information, insights, and data that’s coming in all the time that you can analyze.


You’ve given us a lot of value today. I’m really appreciative. This next question is your right hook opportunity. You could tell our audience maybe a little bit about what Kantar is offering right now that’s got you guys really excited.


Ann – Well, I would actually say related to what we’ve just been talking about: the work that we are doing in the field of Artificial Intelligence really excites. Now it also scares me a little bit because the area that we’re primarily applying Artificial Intelligence is in the space of creative; so, it’s a really interesting balance of art and science. And we talked before about the notion of Human Intelligence. This is a space where you can never leave the human element behind. You can never leave behind the idea of human-led storytelling. But what Artificial Intelligence is allowing us to do is to get more into a data-driven optimization space.

And we are focusing on three primary areas: one is the classification of creative. How can you get to better tagging of assets within creative to understand what the parameters you should operate in? What works better for your brands versus the competitor’s? What are some of the subtle cues that you can include in your creative to make it better?

The second is diagnostics. Being able to use natural language processing to better understand how people are interpreting the stories that we are telling them. Do they actually get the key themes? Going back to the conversation we were just having about voice devices, being able to get people to just talk about a piece of creative that they may have just seen so that connecting the visual experience with the voice experience and getting that understanding and that diagnostic of creative using Artificial Intelligence.

And then the third is prediction. Stephen had mentioned earlier we have this amazing analytics team, and what they are doing within the creative space is very impressive in terms of getting to a better understanding of predictabilities. So, what if you had an ad that did well in the United States, would it actually transfer to another market? Would you be able to use it intact in India? Or would you be able to adhere to or are you adhering to certain brand guidelines with your creative and not having to make that a manual process? So there’s a huge amount of efficiency that can be driven by better application of Artificial Intelligence in the creative process, but at the same time, we can’t lose that human element.


Stephen – I think Ann, as I always do, I think she’s absolutely spot-on. Then I have to add my oddball build on what she said. Rather than what products I’m excited about, I’ll talk about what capability I’m excited about that we’re trying to empower our clients with. The analogy that I would use is a juggler. Jamin, have you ever tried juggling?


I am embarrassed to say that I have tried on a number of occasions, usually lightly intoxicated, and always catastrophic outcome.


Stephen – You put yourself in the shoes of a marketer who can probably juggle one ball easily, if not too intoxicated, right? You throw in a second ball; it starts to stretch their brain a little bit. And then you throw in a third ball and all hell starts to break loose, right? I think it’s the move from the second ball to the third ball that gets people going. What I’m talking about – each of these balls are different factors influencing what marketing decisions they need to take and when in order to engage a customer and drive growth. Let’s just say you’re a barker who’s made it to three-ball juggling and then somebody throws in an apple. Now you’re going to say, “OK, I’ve figured out how to deal with the three balls but now I’ve got to figure out an apple. I’m going to take a bite out of that apple every time I do it.” That’s a whole new skill set. Then somebody throws in a bowling pin, and you’ve got to still keep it going. Then somebody throws in a meat cleaver. And then somebody throws in the flaming, running chainsaw, and yet as a marketer you’ve got to figure out how to keep all of things going in unison; you’ve got to manage in the short-term and the long-term; you’ve got to use qualitative data; you’ve got to use quantitative data; you’ve got to figure out how to leverage surveys; you’ve got to figure out how to leverage transactional data; you’ve got to manage privacy while driving personalization. It’s absolute mayhem for a marketer right now. I think that what I’m exciting about is we’re walking in their shoes because we’re feeling the same pressure. We’re empathetic about what they’re trying to accomplish and how hard it is to accomplish it. And we’ve got either the right set of capabilities internally or the right partnerships externally or the self-confidence to say, “We don’t know what we’re doing, but we’re happy to try and learn it together with you to help marketers become really good jugglers and not have catastrophic consequences.”


Yeah, like losing arms and etc., etc., which is quite literally the picture of some real-life examples I’ve had trying to keep track of… I don’t even know what the word is. “Myriad” isn’t it, right? There’s just so much that a marketer has to pay attention to in order to be able to maximize the ROI on effort. And that’s a great application of AI where you’re addressing the creative because that’s the piece that’s the most difficult to separate in understanding those drivers, whether it’s video or elements of video or what have you.


My guests today, Anne Green, Stephen DiMarco, thank you very much for being on the Happy Market Research podcast.


Stephen – Jamin, thank you for having us. It was a great conversation.

Ann – thank you.


Stay tuned for this episode’s CEO hack brought to by Melanie Courtright of Research Now, SSI.


And even as an Executive now, one of the things I try to make sure I do is stay close to consumers. The best way to help our brands and clients be close to their consumers is by being close to consumers ourselves, spend time following their trends, knowing what devices they’re using. There’s nothing more important than just really understanding consumers if you want to help clients make decisions about them.


I absolutely love how she talks about one of the keys to success. And this is not just for CEOs. This is for everybody inside of an organization. We have got to add value to our customers and the only way we do that is to operate with the lens that they are operating in. And that is, we have to figure out who their customer is and get to know that customer because that provides the context of the insights that we deliver for them.

And thank you everyone who been tuning in. As always, if you are listening, like Shar, leave your feedback. It is a way that other insights professionals can find this podcast and take advantage of the knowledge. Have a great rest of your day!