Happy MR Podcast Podcast Series

Ep. 319 – Kristin Luck, founder of ScaleHouse, on 2021 Global Market Research Outlook

My guest today is Kristin Luck, founder and managing partner of ScaleHouse. 

ScaleHouse is a management consultancy that provides a range of advisory services for companies aiming for exponential growth. 

Prior to founding ScaleHouse, Kristin co-founded OTX, an online research business that was named the fastest growing research firm in the world in 2002 and 2003; and founded Forefront Consulting Group, a research technology firm that was acquired by Decipher. 

Find Kristin Online:

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kristinluck 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/kristinluck 

Website: https://www.scalehouse.consulting 

Find Jamin Online:

Email: jamin@happymr.com 

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/jaminbrazil

Twitter: www.twitter.com/jaminbrazil 

Find Us Online: 

Twitter: www.twitter.com/happymrxp 

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/company/happymarketresearch 

Facebook: www.facebook.com/happymrxp 

Website: www.happymr.com 


“Clap Along” by Auditionauti: https://audionautix.com 

Epidemic Sound: https://www.epidemicsound.com/ 

When Satan Met 2020: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zkbS-lt39SI 

Happy MR Podcast Podcast Series

Ep. 318 – Dominic Carter & Debbie Howard, of The Carter Group, on how to add Strategy to Market Research

My guests today are Dominic Carter, CEO, and Debbie Howard, Chairman, of The Carter Group. 

Founded in 1989, The Carter Group is a strategic market research agency that has been helping clients engage with consumers and businesses in Japan. 

Prior to joining The Carter Group, Dominic served as the Managing Director of Japan for Millard Brown and Debbie is the President Emeritus of the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan. 

Find Dominic Online:

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/dominic-carter-404b62/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/carterjmrm 

Website: https://the-carter-group.com 

Find Debbie Online:

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/debbiehoward 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/carterjmrn 

Website: https://the-carter-group.com 

Find Jamin Online:

Email: jamin@happymr.com 

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/jaminbrazil

Twitter: www.twitter.com/jaminbrazil 

Find Us Online: 

Twitter: www.twitter.com/happymrxp 

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/company/happymarketresearch 

Facebook: www.facebook.com/happymrxp 

Website: www.happymr.com 


“Clap Along” by Auditionauti: https://audionautix.com 

Epidemic Sound: https://www.epidemicsound.com/ 

This Episode is Sponsored by:

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Jamin Brazil: Hi, I’m Jamin. You’re listening to the Happy Market Research podcast. My guests today are Dominic Carter, CEO and Debbie Howard, chairman, of The Carter Group. Founded in 1989, The Carter Group is a strategic market research agency that has been helping clients engage with consumers and businesses in Japan. Prior to joining the Carter Group Dominic served as the managing director of Japan for Millward Brown and Debbie is the president Emeritus of the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan. Debbie, Dominic, thank you both for joining me on the Happy Market Research podcast today.

Dominic Carter: Thank you Jamin.

Debbie Howard: Absolutely. Thank you.

Jamin Brazil: I rarely do two people at the same time for these podcasts because I like to do deep dives. So this is going to be a little bit of a unique episode format wise. We’ll be asking a few less questions but of course I expect there will be a lot more kind of feedback across both of you. But I do want to take time in the beginning to get to know you a little bit and create some context for our audience and myself. And Debbie let’s start with you. Tell us a little bit about your parents, what they did, and how that’s impacted who you are today.

Debbie Howard: Thank you so much Jamin. My dad was a salesman. He was selling mainly construction equipment and [INAUDIBLE]. And he was said to be one of the best salespeople anyone had ever seen and that’s from my uncle who was the other best salesman we’d ever seen in our family. But it wasn’t because my dad pushed or sold per se. In fact, I know for a fact that he wouldn’t have been able to sell anything he didn’t believe in. And he probably wouldn’t have been able to sell anything to someone he didn’t like or think was honorable. Rather he seemed to have the ability to connect with people at a really deep personal level and he really cared about what it was he was selling and who he was selling to. My mom was an executive secretary. She graduated from the well-known Katharine Gibbs secretarial school in Boston. And she worked her way up in the 70s from an executive secretary position to be a purchasing agent for a Fortune 500 industrial company that specialized in building electronics components. And I think my mom and dad both inspired me and my sisters mainly from a motivational and values viewpoint. We were raised to think we could do anything if we worked hard. And our parents showed us by example how that could be true. I like to say that my dad taught me how to dream and reach for the stars while my mom taught me how to get things done.

Jamin Brazil: It’s interesting. Having an executive assistant will, as an executive will 3X your overall output because they’re actually the arms of what your office, of what you’re trying to get done. The, your father, I’ve been saying this for quite a while and it’s not new for me but we build our terms of trade so that we can actually make money. But at the end of the day we work with people that we like in organizations, I think. It’s really interesting how they’ve, how both of your parents connected and have raised you up that way. But I am very interested to understand chamber of commerce is different then market research. So how did you wind up making that transition?

Debbie Howard: Well I didn’t make a transition. I did it in addition to the market research. And in fact I used the market research to gain publicity for myself and to help the organization to put in a customer satisfaction system at the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan. And it’s- I basically, I started there in a really typical way. I became a committee chair of the marketing programs committee and I was basically lining up speakers and it was a natural extension of what I was doing in the market research area anyway and then I, somebody invited me to run for the board. We do elected positions there at the ACCJ and I was lucky enough to win. And so then I was on a 20 person Fortune 500 board in Tokyo because we have a real I’d say treasure trove of Fortune 500 companies headquartered in Tokyo. And so I was fortunate enough to be on the board and then I just kind of got really, I was more and more active. I helped them put in the customer satisfaction system and that gave me a lot of high-profile work and publicity for myself. And eventually I ran for vice president and then I became the first female president. But I can chalk all that up to market research actually. Does that make sense?

Jamin Brazil: Perfectly. Thank you so much for going into that detail. I love that.

Debbie Howard: And if I may Jamin, it actually expanded my ability to look at things from a wider viewpoint when it comes to looking at client’s business because that organization happens to be super involved in advocacy between the US and the Japanese governments. So I had never really done any advocacy work. I’d done some research projects that kind of touched on it but it really got me into a different area that gave me some more sensitivity to what happens in the wider world.

Jamin Brazil: It’s a significant challenge for me because I think about- So I’m part of the Boys and Girls Club of America and on their board. And it’s, I’m not employing my core skills of market research in the way that you applied yours for the chamber of commerce. And I think that’s a really good lesson for all of us to take away in the nonprofits that we are involved in inside the industry to, hey, apply our skills for the betterment of the organization and it’s going to have far reaching implications for you. Dominic we’re going to shift gears a little bit. Same question. Tell us a little bit about your parents and how that’s informed who you are today.

Dominic Carter: Sure, well my father and I really different people. Dad’s an engineer and he’s very scientific and he knows a whole lot of stuff and I don’t know how he knows it but he’s an engineer and I’m much more, I was always much more interested in English and the humanities and that sort of thing. So I used to have to do things with him like get him to teach me the whole quantitative methods course in one night before the exam and all of- So when I grew up with my father I thought I’m never going to do what my father does. I have absolutely no interest in engineering. He always had a calculator on his desk and I was like this is not for me. But one thing my father did when I was very young is he was offered a partnership in the firm where he worked and I think my mother thought it wasn’t a very good deal. So he started his own business and he worked out of home for the next 25 years. And so I sort of always had that example of going out on your own and putting the sign up with your name on it and that was something that I think sort of really affected me and I sort of lived through all of the trials and tribulations that they had setting up that business. And I distinctly remember we- Mom had to stop buying name brand stuff at the super market and buy home brand stuff and it was weird the kind of home brand kind of stuff that she could actually buy that you never knew existed. But dad I think gave a really good example of sort of how to persist with a business and it started very small and then he ended up with, he was still quite small when he retired but he had five people working for him. My mom, well she had five children, so she had to spend most of her time looking after us. But she helped dad out with the business. She used to type up, she had a typewriter and used to type up all of the invoices but it’s fair to say that my mother was actually the business brains and my mother is actually a really good businessman and very insightful. So whenever I speak to my mother about anything that’s going on in business mom’s always got a really interesting point of view and is usually right which is very frustrating because you don’t want your parents to be right. So really interesting combination. Dad obviously had the professional practice and my mother was always in the background supporting and advising and I think it was a really good combination. So I’ve always felt, I always saw myself doing something like my father.

Jamin Brazil: Mother’s are the CEO of the household.

Dominic Carter: Absolutely.

Jamin Brazil: Where did you grow up?

Dominic Carter: I grew up in Sydney, Australia so-

Jamin Brazil: How did you wind up in Japan? I know it’s much closer than in the US but how’d you wind up in Japan?

Dominic Carter: Well I was quite interested in Japan as a teenager. At that point it was in the 80s and Japan was very topical and had become very successful at that point and in Australia at the time it was quite controversial because they were making large investments in real estate and buying companies and so forth. I think it was a similar situation to the US, but Australia’s a lot smaller. So I think Japan loomed very large for us. So it seemed like it would be a good idea if I studied Japanese at university. So when I graduated I went to the University of New South Wales which is one of the big state universities in Sydney and I did a commerce degree with a major in marketing and Japanese studies. And somewhat uncreatively I’ve ended up in Japan working in the marketing research area and have a linear thing in some ways but- So I studied Japanese at university. I wish I had studied more because when I made it to Japan I couldn’t understand what anyone was saying. Even at McDonalds I was like what did this lady just say to me. So I think learning the language takes a very long time and it’s actually still an ongoing process for me after more than 20 years. But I started working in a market research agency in Sydney called Yann Campbell Hoare Wheeler and at the time they were the longest independent agency in Australia and I sort of forgot about Japan for about a year or so. And then it just so happened that they were mentoring a [INAUDIBLE] at Millward Brown in Tokyo that they were going through the process of selling out their business to Millward Brown at the time and I just put my hand up for that and said I’d really like to be involved in that project at some point and so they kind of planned it out for a couple of years and I landed there at the beginning of 1999 to take over the licensee.

Jamin Brazil: When you landed there, the composition of the people that you worked for, were they Japanese or?

Dominic Carter: Well actually it was just me and they sent me, I was 24 and they, it was, I remember my boss saying to me, Mr. Hoare said to me, well if it doesn’t work out you can always come back. So I thought that was kind of weird because people usually say it’s going to be great and you’re going to kick butt and all the rest of it. But anyway, so, but I think that was OK. It made me feel loved in a way. But they kind of, they set me up there and I was joined by a lady who worked for the Miller Browns licensee and basically they threw me in there and said get started. Do whatever you’ve got to do and- So there were a couple of big accounts that needed rescuing at the time. But I was basically on my own.

Jamin Brazil: Did you, so you were obviously immersed in the culture which is very different than Australian, imagine from where you grew up. How did it impact you being a minority?

Dominic Carter: That was really interesting. I- It was the first time where I’d experienced discrimination I guess. Petty discrimination. Kind of sort of interesting. Japan’s not too bad of a place in that respect but definitely, certainly at that time there were much less foreigners around the place. Just the fact that you’re foreign creates a bit of a difference in the energy there and I was very sensitive to that. And of course that’s given me a lot more sensitivity to those issues in terms of how they play out in our, in the society back home. So I felt that was kind of very interesting. Also as a foreigner in Japan you have to be very careful to pay respect to the culture that you’re working in. And when I first went to Japan I thought I was there to teach everybody and I can’t believe what I used to go around saying to people. But I guess when you’re in your 20s that’s what you do.

Jamin Brazil: You have it all figured out.

Dominic Carter: And I used to go into these companies and this is how advertising works and you’re doing it all wrong and [INAUDIBLE]. And they were very polite. I’m impressed by how polite people were with me at that point. But, so I think it kind of, you sort of, there was a point where I realized I really had to learn more than I was, more than sort of be trying to teach people all the time because it’s a bit of a joke when you think about it. Not that, I don’t think I had nothing to offer but you know what I mean. It’s kind of like getting-

Jamin Brazil: I do. The how you go about that is very important. So our topic today is about conducting international research and I think the underpinnings get to exactly what you just were talking about which is we have to approach international research with a high degree of humility. But what do you see as common mistakes that companies make when they’re conducting research in other countries?

Dominic Carter: I think it’s, you really need to listen to your local partner when they’re giving you advice on the project. And so when you try to force things through that the local partner doesn’t think are advisable it can cause problems. A classic example was when we tried to do mobile ethnography with doctors and we just didn’t feel that this was going to work. But- And it didn’t work. It was like doctors don’t want anything to do with mobile ethnography or downloading an app or a web cam or something like that, but they may be perfectly capable of doing it in America. But in Japan it’s just kind of not something that they would do or they’re just a little bit, their relationship with technology is a bit different than the average doctor. But it can be, if you’re asking for that work to be done it can be very hard for you to imagine why this thing would be difficult. So, that kind of advice that people give I think is something that it’s well worth listening to and I think a lot of mistakes could be avoided.

Jamin Brazil: Debbie.

Debbie Howard: That’s one of the- I mean I- The first thing I had written down was about applying your own standards and ways of being and doing to what is often an entirely different pattern or paradigm and expecting things to be the same as they are in your home country. That’s a real mistake. We’re just simply not in Kansas anymore Toto when we get into a foreign country. And it doesn’t even, language is one thing. So we could talk about English speaking markets like, let’s say a US company going to Australia or Canada or England. But then we layer on the nuances of language. So operating in Japan for example or South Korea or somewhere where they don’t really speak much English that’s a whole different ballgame as well. Any country is different from your own home country and I think keeping an open mind and I loved your phrasing of humility. Approaching it with humility. That’s really important because things are different. I remember the case that you said, that you just mentioned Dom and I also remember a couple of, I had a couple of examples that came to my mind when you mentioned the doctors are definitely something that is, they’re treated like Gods in Japan if you will. They’re kind of Gods in any market but definitely in Japan there’s a certain structure around interviewing them. The incentives are set. The recruiting time is set. The methodologies are often set. Another example that comes to my mind is just a simple exercise that we might do in the states or in Europe. Let’s call it the bar exercise where you ask the respondent to go into a, imagine they’ve gone into a bar and start personifying the various people there with different brands. I see that guy over there, he must be Glen Fiddich and then you, then the moderator goes why and you sort of get a little more color around that. And you get more color around the brand. In Japan, we couldn’t do that bar exercise, because they don’t really have those kinds of bars, the same way. And when we tried to do it with respondents, when we were piloting it, they couldn’t even get the concept of a bar in their head, and it became a real resistance point. So we changed it to an eating and drinking place. They call it an Izakaya in Japan. And that made it a lot easier. Because that was something that people were more familiar with, and they could relate to.

Dominic Carter: Could I add something to that?

Jamin Brazil: Please.

Dominic Carter: I think one of the- you also have- you have those issues that we were just talking about. But also, you have, also- in Japan, you have sort of- there’s an added job in interpretation that you need to do. Because Japan is what they call a high-context culture. So a lot of communication is nonverbal. And a lot is communicated in what people don’t say. And that can be really hard for outsiders to interpret. And it’s hard for- I’ve lived in Japan for over 20 years, and it’s hard for me to interpret, still. And I live with Japanese. And it’s just- it’s something that- when you’re working in this country, you really need to have a good relationship with people who are local and native, who can help you interpret what you’re seeing. Because you might be seeing the same thing, but arriving at quite different [INAUDIBLE]. So I think a very common mistake is, really, just taking things very literally, placing your own interpretations based on your own experience. A good example we had- he shall remain nameless, but we had a very famous guy come and do a project with us a while ago. And he was working with the consumer in-home, creating his narrative around what they were thinking and feeling. And of course, my team were polite at the time, because that was the way that it needed to be. But they came- I remember them distinctly coming back and telling you that they absolutely disagreed with every single conclusion that the guy had come up with. And this is a really famous guy, too. And I thought, “Well, was there really the opportunity to have that dialogue with him? Is this something that he was open to hearing the interpretation of the local team?” And I think, when clients- the good clients will kind of be much more open to having that dialogue, even with the very young people on our team, or more junior people. Because they’ve got some really interesting perspectives. So I think it’s not a case of, necessarily, just taking everything that the local researcher says, and taking it onboard, and not having your own input. But I think there’s a really great synthesis of points of view and almost- you can get to these transcendent insights, where you have the local insight and the foreign insight, and then you can make some real progress. But that’s a big one for us, is getting the real-

Jamin Brazil: Collaboration.

Dominic Carter: Exactly. Because you’re just not going to get the right story unless you do that.

Jamin Brazil: So if you- great job of articulating some of the mistakes that are made, coming into the market. Let’s think a little bit about some of the solutions. Let’s say that you are in the US, and you want to conduct research in another country, like Japan. What are three tips that you would like to give yourself? What are three tips that researchers should follow, in order to have a successful project in another country?

Debbie Howard: Well, I have a few. I think keeping an open mind is extremely important. Remembering that nuance is everything. And using local expertise. I think we’ve already mentioned the importance of doing that. But I would like to also say one more. I know you asked for three, Jamin.

Jamin Brazil: It was three, but I’ll go with four.

Debbie Howard: Well- and Dom will probably have a couple of others. So the fourth one, I would say, is to immerse yourself in the culture, so that you can see something outside of the research facility. Get out in the street, look at the retail environments, look at the homes. And try to understand how those differences might impact the way that people are living and feeling and reacting to the products and services that you’re testing.

Dominic Carter: I think that’s so important, Debbie. I remember, we had- we took basically the executive board of a very large company in the US on a safari, about a year ago. And of course, we felt that we were dealing with complete neophytes. We were, to a large extent. But that client had actually, off their own bat, had actually spent some time just walking around in advance, and on previous trips. And that really added to their ability to empathize. And that’s really important. One thing I’d add. I agree with everything Debbie said. One thing I would add, in terms of tips, is ask lots of questions. And there’s a lot of- and this is especially true with Japan. There’s a lot of stuff that doesn’t get spoken about, and people don’t tell you things unless you ask them. So asking lots of questions. Ask lots of questions about process. “Can I do the same thing that I do back home? How long are things going to take?” Those sorts of questions are very important, because the answers can be different than what you expect. And then also, before you’re working with a supplier, too, I would ask around, other people who have worked in that same market, who they would recommend working with. That’s- so I’d get as much- in terms of the partner that you’re working with, I’d get as much informal feedback from people that you know in the industry, about who they’ve worked with and who they’ve had a good experience with. Because of course, it can be a bit- there’s a lot of trust that you have to place in people who are doing work for you in another country. You can’t necessarily go in there and fix it, if it’s not happening the way you want.

Jamin Brazil: Are there Google groups or other resources that you would recommend for people that may not have a network that extends internationally?

Dominic Carter: There are LinkedIn groups. We haven’t gone that far into them, as a way of getting this information. But for example, when we’re doing work in China, we will always ask people we know, who’s the best supplier in the particular area that we want to do the project in. So it’s not even a question, often, of who’s the best partner to work with? It could be a good partner that does very good consumer work. They could be one that does very good farmer work. So it’s very much a case of, who’s the right partner? Down to- if it’s qual, who’s the best moderator for that type of work, in that market, that you know? So I think asking a lot of questions around your own colleagues, maybe. I’ve gone to people that I used to work with in the past, old colleagues. And just sometimes reach out to people. And I’ll field queries about other- not just Japan, but other markets, as well. So who’s a good person to work with in Korea and Australia, and places like that? So I think that- getting that sort of informal feedback on who’s good to work with- and what are they good at, and what are they not so good at- is much better than just broadcasting a request for quotation, and getting back all the bids, and choosing the cheapest one.

Jamin Brazil: Which is how- let’s be honest- most of the time, it goes.

Dominic Carter: Well, you’ve got to be good and on the money, right?

Jamin Brazil: Yeah.

Dominic Carter: But obviously, we’d prefer it if people would take a more holistic approach.

Jamin Brazil: I think the word-of-mouth referral is always the best way to get the best solution, across the board, no matter what it is. If it’s somebody working on your car, or somebody doing your market research, you want to go with a trusted advisor. So I do want to dig in a little bit on the tips. The immersion into the culture stood out to me as very interesting. The cereal partnership between General Mills and Nestlé, which is the largest cereal company in the world- they sell cereal to 136 countries, I believe. The CEO takes time every quarter to visit consumers’ homes, and do on-site interviews. And the reason is that he understands, in context, how they’re using the cereal, which kind of seems- as I think about it, cereal’s fairly simple. But it’s actually relatively complex. And then that helps him connect and build empathy. And that’s something that, of course, has trickled down across that organization, which is fairly unique. How do you recommend your clients to- international clients to become immersed in the culture, given that they have a finite amount of time?

Dominic Carter: Well, just one example. We had a cleaning company approach us a few years ago. And the first thing that I said to them is, “Look, we’re just going to do three quick in-homes, while you’re here.” Because they had come to Tokyo just for a quick visit, [INAUDIBLE] visit. And said to them, “Let’s get you into three homes ASAP.” Because I knew that they will have absolutely no idea what they’re dealing with here. You’re dealing with smaller homes. The bathrooms are different to what- if it’s a European client, they’re very different to what they are in Europe. Much smaller. The materials that you’re cleaning are different. The issues are different, with mold and so forth. So just get them- before we even have any conversation about developing a market for your product here, just we’ll throw you in-home. And that was a very informal thing, but I think it was very important for them to have that, in a sense, experience or shock to the system, or whatever it was, to understand what they’re dealing with. So if a client’s completely new to the market, we’ll generally- it’s rare that we won’t recommend to them that they do some form of ethnographic immersion. So that can be in homes. It can be- if it’s gaming client, going to the gaming arcade, or whatever it is, going shopping with people. But there’s just a huge amount of contextual cues for conversation, and just things that you see and hear. And it’s not- I’m not saying focus groups are not fantastic in their context, which they are.

Jamin Brazil: Of course.

Dominic Carter: And we do focus groups a lot, as well. But just to- that kind of initial immersion, those questions that you would never even know to ask, come up a lot in those kinds of immersive sessions. So when you know nothing, you’ve really got to start with a very highly-immersive, exploratory stage. Otherwise- you have clients come to you and say, “Well, we have- here’s our product. Let’s do a survey.” And I always tell clients, “Don’t do quant off the bat in Japan. For goodness sake, just don’t do it. Because whatever the results are, you’re going to be locked into them. And you don’t even know the parameters of the way that the consumer makes decisions in that [CROSSTALK], what’s important.” So the idea of doing a survey is really crazy. And then, also, interpreting- when you ask a Japanese person their likelihood to purchase something, the way that they answer those questions is quite different to Americans and Australians. It’s actually quite different even to Chinese people. It’s very different. So just understanding how those dynamics work, and what the issues are. If you’re not- so to rush in and just implement the same survey, with a few different attributes that you’ve been using in your home market, to assess concepts, for example, is just not really the right approach.

Jamin Brazil: So I am interested in how COVID has impacted you, specifically in Japan. Japan is one of the luckier or better-equipped countries, I guess. They peaked, I remember, around mid-April, and then have been on a steady decline since, in terms of new cases. Do you think that COVID is going to have a lasting impact on the ability to become immersed in a culture, given a short-term framework?

Dominic Carter: Look, we’re doing a lot of- we had to digitalize very quickly. Until COVID came along, nobody wanted to do focus group in Zoom and this sort of- But of course, we had to convert very quickly to doing that. And we’ve been doing studies, immersive studies. The way we do it we courier out the iPad and the iPhone, or whatever it is. And everything’s preloaded and nobody has to work out how to download or anything. And then- so it’s all very- the steak is cut up into little squares for the respondent, and they just have to-

Jamin Brazil: Which is probably a good practice, in general.

Dominic Carter: Well, no, absolutely. And we don’t- and we’ve been doing this. Debbie’s worked on projects where we’re talking to over-70-year-olds. And some of them over 80, aren’t they, Debbie?

Debbie Howard: Absolutely. And we had a little bit of trouble getting a couple of them on. But most of the time, it went really smoothly. And we’ve had people, Jamin, literally walking around the house with the iPhone that we sent them, showing us the inside of their refrigerator, for example. And we had 15 clients in the so-called backroom, the virtual backroom, watching that. So it’s been amazing to see. And our team has done such an amazing job. I don’t want to use the word, pivot, but they did pivot.

Dominic Carter: Well, I think the thing that- maybe it shouldn’t have surprised us- is just that we actually prefer digital in many ways. It’s just that there are certain aspects of it that are just easier. And for in-home work, we have the problem of everybody in the client team wants to actually go to the home. Which, for a start, is not obviously-

Jamin Brazil: Not feasible.

Dominic Carter: It’s not a natural scenario. But also, people’s home are really small in Japan, too. So if you’re going out, doing ethnography, you’ve got to sit on the floor. I’ve sat in the corner of many a home here, moving around uncomfortably. Because [CROSSTALK] crossing legs and that sort of thing. But you have all of these people. And then you’ve got to tell the client, “Well, no, you can’t come to the- you actually can’t come inside, because it’s too small.” And then they’re unhappy- so digital, it solves a lot of those problems. I feel, at the end of the day, though, we’re still going to benefit from doing work face-to-face. Digital will become part of- it’s more deeply penetrated into our repertoire of things that we can offer people. But generally, I think that there are some things that happen in the face- you may want to walk around the person’s home, or just there’s a more natural back-and-forth in the communication. And so I don’t think digital replaces. I think it sort of augments and will become a very valuable part of what we do-

Jamin Brazil: I actually think your thesis is correct. I believe it’s the case that we’re going to go back to face-to-face. Whether it’s focus groups or what have you. I even think that we’re eventually going to get to a spot where we can be a little more- it’s going to feel less like air travel, and more like- used to- little more comfortable and human. But- and intimate. Maybe that’s the right word for it. But I do believe that, because we’ve been forced to operate in a digital framework, especially for qualitative, for the very first time, it’s going to open up the data to people that previously would not have had access to it. And I think that is going to be a bigger lever for insights, which is going to functionally create bigger impacts. Which, in my opinion, means the democratization of research should mean that it has more value, organizationally. So I want to end on this last question. Then we’ll move into the final personal bit. So do you have, in just a very brief story- maybe a favorite story of how a foreign company leveraged research for an oversized or very positive return? And either one of you can answer that question.

Dominic Carter: Can I take that one? So we’ve worked with- and Debbie will have- I think we can probably take it on together. Because I think Debbie’s actually worked more on this account, of course.

Debbie Howard: I think I’ve got the same example in mind.

Dominic Carter: I think it’s just a great example. So these people came to see us about five years ago. And they were quite senior in the company, and they were looking at their international expansion, and they were looking at Japan. And they came in and met us, and we sat down. And they said, “Well, we don’t really think we need to do market research in Japan. Because we’ve got a really excellent product, and we think that the consumer here is going to love it, and they’re very excited.” And I- I have to admit, it sort of irritated me a bit. Because I knew that they didn’t know anything at all. So I basically said to them, “Are you crazy? This is not the way that you’re going to be successful doing it.” And they were kind enough to let me say that to them. And we started off doing our first project with them. And of course, everything was wrong, everything. The product was wrong. The packaging was wrong. The positioning didn’t work. Nobody got what was actually interesting about their product, the way it was presented, or anything. So it was a really juicy market entry project, because everything had to be fixed. And market entry projects are pretty much my favorite type of project, because everything’s problem solving the whole time. So we ended up doing a bunch of projects for them. But even down to reformulating their product, because it’s a skincare business, and Japanese skin is different. And I remember having these many conversations around, “Is it really different? Why is it different?” But they were great, because they just accepted that there’s different cultural issues surrounding skin, to start with. But also, there is a physical basis to the belief that skin is different. Which meant that stuff has to be reformulated. It needs to be tested.

Debbie Howard: Absolutely. And they did have so many dimensions to their challenges in the market. And we were able to- Japan is a very sophisticated and highly-developed skincare and anti-aging market. You see products in the States, here, from Japan, that have been very successful in the US market. So this is a US product going to Japan. We did desk research to study the market landscape, and the competitive landscape. We did ethnography. We went into women’s vanity areas, Jamin, and had them empty out and show us their skincare routines. They met us at the door with no makeup, because we wanted to watch their skin cleansing routines, as well, cleansing and toning and everything. So we did some really interesting work there. We positioned focus groups. We did these in-home product placements, as Dominic said, where we were testing for the sting level of the skincare products. And we definitely had some reformulation that had to take place. Packaging adaptation, social media listening. And at the end, a lot of messaging research, to make sure that we were getting the brand laid down in the Japanese market, in a way that was close to what they offered in their home market of the US, and their other international markets. But it couldn’t be exactly the same, because some of the words just didn’t port over to the Japanese markets.

Dominic Carter: No. And they’ll say, in that category, skincare, it’s a classic area where there’s just really different cultural elements in Japan, compared to what you’d see in the US. So if it’s anti-aging, for example- let’s say, if you promise, in America, that the product will iron out your wrinkles in four weeks, and you’re going to look 20 years younger, everyone wants it yesterday. If you offer that in this market, people think they’re going to die, because they’re going to get poisoned. They’ll have a smooth corpse for the funeral.

Debbie Howard: It’s too much.

Jamin Brazil: Wow.

Dominic Carter: So you’re dealing with situations in this culture, where even your most basic assumptions of what works and what doesn’t work- another example is we did work years ago for Australian beef, in Japan. And Aussie beef is a really big brand, very successful in Japan. But their strategy was to start talking about iron content in beef. And this is a given in Australian market for the past 35 years, that beef has iron, so therefore, it helps you stay healthy, especially if you’re a woman. We just couldn’t- you can’t get that message across. Because it’s just so different to what people’s common sense is around eating, where it’s all about balance, and you’re not upweighting- drastically upweighting different types of nutrients and whatever. So it’s just different. But we worked with that client, too, on the relaunch of their band, as well. It’s another example. But we love those projects where you’re really starting from knowing nothing, and then you’ve got to work on adapting. And it’s a multi-stage process. It’s the product. It’s the brand strategy. It’s the communications. And we’ll bring copyrighters into the backroom- focus group. “They didn’t like that. Did they like that?” And you just try and fail, and try and fail, and try and fail, until you succeed. And that client we were just talking about has just literally launched in Japan in the last week. And we’re very proud of the work that we’ve done to get them ready for that.

Jamin Brazil: Last question. Debbie, I’ll ask you first. What is your personal motto?

Debbie Howard: I’m going to give you my personal motto for this year. It’s kind of a mantra. Intention, attention, no tension.

Jamin Brazil: That’s interesting. I really like that. Dominic.

Dominic Carter: My motto has always been, in this industry, that we’re here to give people a voice. So our role is to make sure that the consumer gets listened to, and is able to effect decisions that affect them.

Jamin Brazil: My guests today have been Dominic Carter, CEO, and Debbie Howard, chairman, of the Carter Group. Thank you, Debbie, thank you, Dominic, for joining me on the Happy Market Research podcast today.

Debbie Howard: Thank you, Jamin.

Dominic Carter: Thanks, Jamin.

Jamin Brazil: Everybody else, if you found value, please take time. Screen capture, share this episode. This is one of the more enlightening episodes, especially if you are considering doing work in Japan or other countries. I think you’ll find the lessons very applicable. Hope you have a fantastic rest of your day. 

Happy MR Podcast Podcast Series

Ep. 317 – Daniel Stradtman, VP of Consumer & Market Insights at The Lubrizol Corporation, on how to add Strategy to Market Research

This episode of the Happy Market Research Podcast was recorded in July 2020.

My guest today is Daniel Stradtman VP of Consumer & Market Insights at The Lubrizol Corporation, a Berkshire Hathaway Company

The Lubrizol Corporation is a provider of specialty chemicals for the transportation, industrial, and consumer markets. These products include many different types of additives from transportation-related fluids like engine oils to personal care products, pharmaceuticals and medical devices

Since 2011, Lubrizol has been a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway. It generated $7 billion in revenue and has an employee headcount of approximately 8,300 people globally.

Prior to joining Lubrizol, Dan started his career as a research project manager for a non-profit. Since then he has served as Director of Consumer Insights & Strategy at Walmart, Director of Brand and Comms at Kantar TNS, and the VP of Market Insights, Analytics, and Strategy of GE.

Find Daniel Online:

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/danstradtman 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/insightdan

Website: https://www.lubrizol.com 

Find Jamin Online:

Email: jamin@happymr.com 

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/jaminbrazil

Twitter: www.twitter.com/jaminbrazil 

Find Us Online: 

Twitter: www.twitter.com/happymrxp 

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/company/happymarketresearch 

Facebook: www.facebook.com/happymrxp 

Website: www.happymr.com 


“Clap Along” by Auditionauti: https://audionautix.com 

Epidemic Sound: https://www.epidemicsound.com/ 

This Episode is Sponsored by:

This episode is brought to you by SurveyMonkey. Almost everyone has taken its surveys, but did you know that SurveyMonkey offers complete solutions for market researchers? In addition to flexible surveys, their global Audience panel, and research services, SurveyMonkey just launched a fast and easy way to collect market feedback, with 7 new Expert Solutions for concept and creative testing. With built-in, customizable methodology, AI-Powered Insights, and industry benchmarking, you can get feedback on your ideas from your target market–in a presentation-ready format, by the way–in as little as an hour. For more information on SurveyMonkey Market Research Solutions, visit surveymonkey.com/market-research.

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Jamin Brazil: Hi, I’m Jamin. You’re listening to the Happy Market research podcast. My guest today is Dan Stradtman, VP of consumer and market insights at the Lubrizol Corporation, a Berkshire Hathaway company. Lubrizol Corporation is a provider of specialty chemicals for the transportation, industrial and consumer markets. Their products include many different types of additives from transportation related fluids like engine oils to personal care products, pharmaceuticals and medical devices. Since 2011, Lubrizol has been a subsidiary of the Berkshire Hathaway company, and it has generated over $7 billion in annual revenue. It has an employee headcount of approximately 8,300 people globally. Prior to joining Lubrizol, Daniel started his career as a research project manager for a nonprofit. Since then, he has served as director of consumer insights and strategy at Walmart, Director of brand and comms at Kantar TNS, and the VP of market insights, analytics and strategy at GE. Daniel, thanks so much for joining me on the Happy Market Research podcast today.


Daniel Stradtman: Yeah, my pleasure. Thanks for having me today.


Jamin Brazil: I like to start out with a little bit of context. It helps all of us sort of level set. Tell us a little bit about your parents, and what they did and how that informed your current career?


Daniel Stradtman: Yeah, thanks, Jamin. I grew up in somewhat rural Ohio. Halfway between Cleveland and Toledo. My mom was a schoolteacher, and when she had me and then my sister, she ended up not working until we got to the age we were both going to school. And then she worked part time. My dad worked, actually for my grandpa who owned an electric contracting company there. And so he spent 40 odd years doing electrical work around town, he’s probably been in two thirds of the buildings in Sandusky, Ohio over the course of his career, and so growing up there for the most part it is fairly rural although a lot of tourism runs through there because it’s right on Lake Erie and there’s an amusement park there that draws from the Midwest. But I think one of the biggest impacts they probably had on my development was it never was a question of whether I was going to go to college, it was an expectation that that was going to happen. And so really when I entered college, they were very supportive of it, but I had no idea what I wanted to do. I thought I did and then about four majors later, I settled on psychology and then that kind of took me down a path that eventually and somewhat haphazardly led me into market research. As I move through psychology, I think it’s interesting because you get when you’re in an academic setting, you get feedback from advisors, you get feedback from professors and they kind of hold that up as the epitome of that degree. So it was expected, you kind of go on and get an advanced degree. I was a good student, not good enough to probably go in and get a straight PhD. So I moved from Ohio, at the University of Dayton out to the University of Colorado to get a master’s degree in clinical psychology. And it was along that path I started to kind of change my focus in terms of hey, is being a clinical psychologist really the career that I want or is there something else that might be more suited to some of the things I was recognizing I was pretty good at? So thankfully, in grad school working for that nonprofit through grad school, I started to learn what’s essentially called program evaluation where you’re doing the research side of clinical psychology, but it’s a very applied research. So you’re going into different entities and working through the process on how they collect data, the impact that they’re having on a community, and then how to improve those things to get a greater impact. And I had a really forward thinking professor there who started to push me in those ways around statistical analysis around what was the beginnings of analytics. And so when I finished my graduate degree, I took a year sales job with Wells Fargo and then ended up being able to get back into kind of more the analytics side working as a business analyst for the university for a few years. And from there, that really was the launching point of recognizing like hey, if I stay inactive academia the path probably doesn’t have a lot of financial benefit. Because I wasn’t going to go on and get a PhD. I knew that that wasn’t something I wanted to do. And so I started to try to make the transition into market research and ended up moving to Atlanta for a short time, and working for Earthlink and then moving back to Ohio to Toledo with TNS for a few years in both the CPG and the automotive sectors and then eventually Walmart and GE and that’s led me to where I’m at today. But I kind of like to say I was a failed psychologists before it was cool to be one. But it’s been a background in a training that has blessed me across the years to have some pretty amazing colleagues and pretty amazing roles.


Jamin Brazil: There’s not a lot of guests that have been on the show that have both the supplier and the brand, the internal researcher perspective. I imagine having that dual background that aids you a lot in your current role?


Daniel Stradtman: Yeah, it’s funny because moving from TNS to Walmart when you’re on a supplier side, you’re doing the work and you’re really trying to figure out and you’re going out and talking to the consumers and surveys or in focus groups or whatever the methodology is. And then you deliver and it falls into a black hole a lot of the times. And so recognizing that one, I think it prepared me to be a better partner when I got on the corporate side in understanding some of the demands on suppliers and the demand on vendors and kind of what helps them improve and what helps them grow as partners. But I also walked into Walmart with a bit of a skill set to figure stuff out. In fact I remember it was within the first couple of weeks I was there, my boss at the time had said, “Hey, we’ve got this data from human resources and they’ve done some surveys, and they were asking for some help on this. It’s kind of all convoluted, I don’t know if you can make any sense of it, but they needed by tomorrow, if you can, but if not, don’t worry about it, I don’t really expect anything.” And it’s one of those cases where when you’re in a supplier side, you use Vlookups in Excel and you’re able to really manipulate poor data because you end up in situations where you’ve got to be creative, and so I was able to pull something together that was fairly cohesive, fairly quickly. And I remember my boss said, it was kind of like, wow, this guy’s got a little bit of a future here. Even today I think having that background on the supplier side, whether it was at GE or Lubrizol I think it allows us to be more effective when we think about how to direct suppliers to get the best outcomes because you don’t want these things to be transactional. And certainly, there’s been a push across most companies to push to a procurement model. To push to this centralized buying function that treats buying market research the same as treating buying a raw material, but I think I fully recognize that you’ve got to have the right mix between value but also quality of partnership.


Jamin Brazil: I couldn’t agree with that point more. I’ve not been on your side of the fence. But over 20 year veteran in the space, the companies that get the most out of me are the ones that understand that it is in fact a partnership. So our space has gone through a lot of evolution. There’s a report done by a consultancy called Watermark Consulting. They analyze the S&P 500 for commonalities among over performers and underperformers, and what they found was that last year, companies that employed consumer insights to make business decisions outperform the index by 45 points. What was really interesting in the report though for me is that companies that didn’t employ they actually underperform the index by 76 points. And so in that context, how have you seen over the last five years the role of consumer insights change inside of top companies?


Daniel Stradtman: That’s a great question. And in fact, I haven’t seen that particular consultant report. So I may need to hit you up later to get it to make sure I forward it to my CFO and my CEO, by the way. So I think you’re right. I think that is one of the key changes is you really have to be focused in as an insights leader on return on investment. And what does that dollar buy me? And that can be very difficult to do, especially when you’re talking about foundational research or early and early stage research type concept testing. And when you don’t have a clear visibility to sales like we do at Lubrizol, because in many cases, we’re providing components to things that end up becoming other things. And so having that clear vision for how to establish a return on investment metric or set of them for your organization, I think is a critical capability than any insights leader needs to develop. I think the other thing is, we’ve obviously seen a rise of data. And that data is extraordinarily diverse in terms of where it’s coming from, who’s generating and who’s analyzing it. I’m not necessarily sure that has always been translated into more insight. So we’re a little bit data rich and insight pour. And part of that is just do we have the right tools? Do we have the right talent? And are we given the time to really allow for that translation to occur? The third element to that change over the last five years is just speed and sense of urgency. I remember being somewhat of a methodologist at Walmart, probably to my own detriment. When in reality, as I was striving to get 90 to 100% variance explained, the organization was just saying, look, if you can give me 65% a way there that’s already smarter than we are and then we can kind of move faster. And so you have to come off of that methodological mountain and be pragmatic. That’s one thing I’ve stressed to the teams that I’ve led over the past decade is just the pragmatism. Yes, you want to have methodological rigor, but you also need to have a pragmatism when it comes to being able to turn those insights into action at the speed of business.


Jamin Brazil: Which is ever increasing and I think the current state of the world in this global pandemic, we’re now resurging again in the US as we’re having this conversation in July 8th, 2020. How has the global pandemic impacted market research?


Daniel Stradtman: Well, it’s certainly impacted the ability to do some methodologies at all. Calling together people to sit around a table in a dark area in a strip mall in Columbus, Ohio isn’t going to happen anytime soon. And so the tool box needs to expand. For us, it’s meant using more data collection tools that are self-provided. So the ability to capture video on a mobile device or something like that, and then use analytics or analysis to make sense of that, text to text surveys. There’s a couple of firms out there that do that I think fairly effectively. And thankfully, we had done some of the legwork even before we knew there was obviously going to be a pandemic. We had kind of pressure tested though, so we had some relationships developing. So we shifted away from some of those more traditional ethnography and focus group type qualitative work into that more distributed model. The other element is now that you don’t have shared spaces at work because we’re not in the office, we’re a distributed team now, we’re all working from home and I honestly that light at the end of the tunnel feels fairly distant. Thankfully earlier this year, we had launched our insights engine, which is really a digital hub around all the insights that make a company tick. And there’s plenty of companies that have done that, especially in the consumer packaged goods and services spaces. So we’re not unique in that area. I think we are fairly unique when it comes to maybe our competitive set, but that’s really allowed us to carry on some momentum because it’s now essentially the insights megaphone and the great thing is the organizations respond. And we’ve seen we launched honestly two weeks before these work from home orders and we’ve seen great membership, we’ve seen great engagement in the tool. And it’s really helped to push some different strategic actions as well. So I think it’s been fairly effective. So if I think about in some how is the pandemic impacting market research? You end up having to focus in on what’s going to drive the organization forward in the short term while not losing sight in the long term. So if there’s things that you can do as an insights professional that maybe even aren’t part of your job description normally, and maybe they’re not what you thought. I’m a custom researcher and I run these things. You may need to become a strategy moderator where you’re helping them develop different scenarios, and thinking through the business implications. You need to be water and you need to flow where the cracks take you to make sure that the organization is still using insight to move forward as much as possible. So I think the team here has done that, I’m really pleased with that, but I think that’s good counsel to any insights team right now is to just help where you can because the world’s never seen anything like this.


Jamin Brazil: I really like your water analogy. I wish I could quote the Bruce Lee or the Bruce Lee quote, but anyway, I can’t.


Daniel Stradtman: I just watched his biography too, and I’m failing on bringing that quote back as well. Anyway.


Jamin Brazil: Maybe because it’s a podcast. I, can sound really smart in the post production.


Daniel Stradtman: Yeah, you can push that right in and just blow everybody’s mind.


Jamin Brazil: Which I would never do. But that is pretty funny. So instrumentising, instrumentation, instrumentising the consumer insights role is something that I felt is one of the biggest opportunities in consumer insights. What kind of things do you put in that dashboard or system that you have?


Daniel Stradtman: It’s definitely not a dashboard. It’s truly a system. So it steals from social media practices. So you have posts and you have the ability to drill down on different markets or categories or contributors, you’ve got search capabilities. You’re able to upload multimedia, so it’s not flat and file based. And that multimedia then becomes searchable. So this is really it’s an insight engine. And that came from some early conversations we had after I joined in 2017, where the organization latched on to what was I think it was a Harvard Business Review article that took a deep dive into Unilever and the work they did in this insights engine world. And so we started in earnest on that journey probably in late 2018, and we were able to launch it by the beginning of 2020. So the instrumentation of it is that now instead of general manager or marketer calling somebody and going, “Hey, can you search for this for me on all the many resources we have?” The syndicated resources of which we have probably 50 plus, or the custom work that we’ve done to this point. Which spans almost probably 100 studies over the past couple of years. It’s self-service to start. So it’s always on, we’re a global company, the teams in Shanghai and Mumbai and the UK and Spain can all search on their own time. And then the next question, so the first question isn’t, can you search this? They can do that themselves. And then the subsequent questions are more value add. So it’s like, “Hey, I found this what do you think about this? Or can we build off of this now that I understand this topic?” And so that’s at a very base level what we’ve tried to do here is to do more with the great work the team’s already doing and force multiply it across the org. I’m always very careful because I think I’ve heard it her said inside, we need to get to this point where there’s artificial intelligence to kind of push and self-analyze some of this stuff. And I think at some point we probably get there. I don’t know if we get there in a way that’s really actionable in my career, maybe. But I have been very careful to make sure when I hear AI in that we talk about augmented intelligence and not necessarily artificial. It’s how do you enable the team’s – it’s more of an exoskeleton than a robot. And because the insights team and the marketers and the business managers like it’s more about how do we empower them to do more with what they have than necessarily replace what they are doing with kind of artificial means.


Jamin Brazil: So then – you think about this post pandemic world in a lot of ways we’ve now completely digitized or digitized the market research process, the actual research ops elements of it. Before we would do things like in person focus groups and while that obviously is still going to happen it’s fundamentally different going forward. What sort of tools or techniques or methodologies do you think a post pandemic researcher that is all of us should be cultivating in order to maintain an edge in consumer insights?


Daniel Stradtman: I mean depending on the market you serve. Certainly, in the consumer space you’ve got to be able to reach out and get a wide variety of opinions both quan and qual. So I don’t think survey research is necessarily going away because that can be done at home and there is plenty of people smarter than me who can argue whether survey research has the same validity that it once did. And I don’t begin to say that it does or it doesn’t. But I think it’s more of some of those articles that used to be done face-to-face, intercepts and focus groups and in person ethnography that just going out and making sure that you have a tool set where you can reach people in ways that avoid you having to actually physically be there. And there is plenty of companies out there that are playing in that space right now and so just find the ones that make the best partner to yours. That’s a tough one with one of the transitions you do see a lot of market research departments or insights departments moving to more that we are going to program our own surveys and we are going to hire an ethnographer. And I think those work. I wonder if those structures might be a little bit under fire though in a post pandemic world. Because you are going to need to rely on vendors probably because the technology is moving so rapidly. So certainly, having that right tool set and continuing to go out and investigate cutting edge tools – I think actually this is probably, the pandemic is probably going to create new opportunities. Create new companies out of this that can reach consumers or end users or up and down the value chain players in different ways. I’d love to see it happen more on the B2B side. Obviously, that’s self-serving because we – my team does actually go all the way to the consumer in some cases. But we are also talking to different value chain players whether its farad as it may be truck drivers or for some of our industrial sectors it might be plumbers or folks like that that just aren’t typically all that reachable in kind of a standard consumer panel. So, I think those types of things are going to be important. I think the text to analytics stuff could probably be additionally invested in. we are playing in that now and some of it is good some of it I think lacking a data dictionary, it really struggles to kind of tie those things together into true insights. Again a lot of data, not sure quite what to make of some of it. But if I was somebody who was early in my career it used to be you’d have your research folks, your custom folks almost, and then you’d have your analytics folks. And I think those are blending a bit. You’re still going to have people with great expertise in both but you can’t be a market researcher, an insights person without some understanding of analytics and some understanding of how data and the bigger data pieces fit in. And in the same band, I don’t think from an analytics perspective you are doing yourself the best service to not have that visibility into some of the things that get uncovered in insights works because you end up without the why in a lot of cases. So thankfully I have a little bit of flavor in both but if I fall on either side it’s probably more the insights side. But I know enough analytics to be Danielgerous. And then lastly just having data visualization, how to use that data to tell a story. We actually had this conversation with the team today about getting Power BI training more effectively rolled out across the team because how you can tell stories with data and be able to capture that and put that into our tool, our megaphone right, which does actually account for Power BI. It’s just a skill set that I think you look 10 years down the road and it might become somewhat table stakes like Excel or PowerPoint is now.


Jamin Brazil: Do you think in a right now world who is doing that really well? And is that the agency level or is it happening inside of the brands?


Daniel Stradtman: I think agency vendor level they tend to do really well in niches, right. So one of the trends of the last decade, decade and a half is you’ve really lost the middle-sized vendors, because they’ve been swallowed up into the bigger conglomerates and then they get rebranded in that. And so you end up with the big ones and then you end up with the boutique ones. And so the boutiques tend to do one or two things. They like to think they can do a lot of things and in some cases, they can but they do tend to do one or two things really well and so that’s fine. You can make a great living out of that. And the big ones I think have that greater continuity to be able to provide full service but in a procurement led world a lot of times they cost themselves out of it because they are adding price to everything. So I think there is definitely – in the vendor side that’s probably, what you are seeing is that these tools get developed and then they eventually work to get bought out or work to get kind of become part of these other things. So if you can catch them on the way up a lot of times you can get some really cool thinking at a pretty reasonable cost. I do think there is a ton of creativity going on on the corporate side. And just knowing a lot of folks I have worked with over the years and as that tree has gotten more full some of the former colleagues have had whether it’s’ TNS or Walmart or that. I mean I think you’ve got some in leadership positions in both the corporate side and the vendor side and there is just really cool stuff coming out of it. So I don’t mean to shut that question it’s just I think if you see a company that’s succeeding in the market most likely there is some cool stuff going on behind the scenes to help define their customers and define their value prop. Which is coming from market strategy and coming from insight.


Jamin Brazil: So when you add a new whether it’s a tool or agency or supplier what have you it could even be supporting the team from operational perspective, what do you look for?


Daniel Stradtman: We did these vendor days at Walmart when I was there and our VP there started them. And it was really this chance for kind of – it was like a speed dating thing over the course of a day or two. And they’d come in and they get their 40 minutes to pitch and 20 minutes of question and then it’s on to backdoor number two. And you do that all day for a couple days. And so from that came some great vendors and I like that. And I have used that process actually coming into Lubrizol now where we didn’t really have a big vendor set. What I realized at GE was I was doing some good stuff and I had a team that was doing some good stuff but I think I lost that kind of cutting-edge, that tap into cutting-edge. And so I viewed to not do that here at Lubrizol. So we’ve done two of those now, we will probably do a virtual one this year. So we do have that kind of speed dating thing set up where we ask folks purposefully to come in in a very small amount of time or to pitch in a very small amount of time, 30 to 40 minutes with some questions. And the reason is is that I want to see how well they get their point across. How well they get their value prop across. And it’s not like we can’t continue the conversation offline but I think having firms that can kind of produce that in that short amount of time if they can really come out of it and be impressed that bods well to their ability to write reports and to kind of be able to deliver what my expectations are. So hopefully I didn’t away the firm on that one but I do think that there is a benefit. I mean we tell them upfront like hey you’ve got a small amount of time so get to the point. I don’t need the full origin story. So that’s an element of it. We also try to do pilots. I think for a newer function at a company, which we certainly are, Lubrizol, and you want to have some success points to draw from. And then we want them to have a little bit of skin in the game. So look normally this might be a $40,000 project, so for this first one given there is an unknown quantity is there some skin in the game you can put into it to try to earn new business? And that’s worked out pretty well for both sides I think. I don’t think anyone has necessarily walked away going well that wasn’t worth the 10% price reduction or 20% price reduction or whatever. Because it gives them a chance to stand out. But it comes down to just saying look what’s the one thing you do better than anybody else in the world? And then what’s that project that if it came across your desk you guys will be like yup this is our fastball, right down the center and this is the one we hit out of the park 99 times out of 100. Because that allows us to set them up for success. When trying out a new vendor I don’t want to put them in a situation where they have to stretch necessarily to do something that isn’t in their wheelhouse. I’d rather if this is the one thing they do better than anybody give them a chance to prove that. And so I push that on my directors, I want them to work with who they feel comfortable with, who they think they can deliver against their accountabilities. And so thankfully the directors I have a lot of experience and I think do a good job of ultimately picking the partners they work with on custom work. And for that matter integrated work. With this new tool in the toolbox, we want to integrate all this integrated work into the tool because that’s going to make the search more powerful. And for some vendors that’s a really tough thing to hear because they work on sea licenses or they work on access by location. I mean how is that going to work in a post pandemic world? If you are charging based on how many sites accessed I mean that’s a struggling business model I think. So we want vendors who can kind of understand like if you can get into these systems you are going to get a lot more folks using the insights that you are generating therefore you are going to have value which means that you are less likely to lose business with us. So yeah, I mean, I think that’s a bit of a snapshot on how we make that evaluation.


Jamin Brazil: I love that and actually that’s like right in the middle of my ethos which is you need to add value in a freeway and if you do that then you build relationships with humans and those relationships wind up netting more projects, right. So like if we are really concerned with the terms of trade like they used to be even like two years ago, very transactional in nature then you can start – I think in the post pandemic you are going to start losing out to companies that have, I don’t want to say philanthropic point of view, but maybe more of a liberal point of view on how they are actually getting compensated for the insights.


Daniel Stradtman: Yeah I agree with you 100%. I think that’s easier said than done, right. And hopefully you are right. And don’t get me wrong, I mean, we are a for profit company as are any of these, right, in that. And so the goal is never to get something for nothing. I think the goal is to say how do we set up the relationship so that it is mutually beneficial and has a future. I really don’t like – I try to avoid transactional relationships as much as possible because market research from a career standpoint if you are five years into it right now you’ve got to understand it’s an extraordinarily small world. Extraordinarily. I connected today with a guy who I worked with at TNS who is in a new venture and I hadn’t talked to him in 12 years. But those relationships last. And so if you are good to vendors, if you are a good vendor like that’s going to resonate. And this is tough industry if you are known for being anything but genuine. So be genuine and be real and be fair as much as you can and I think it will work out.


Jamin Brazil: Words to live by. So as you think about building successful insights teams, strategy teams, is there again any principle that you’ve used to follow somehow to optimize the talent?


Daniel Stradtman: Yeah. So it’s evolved as I’ve gotten bigger teams and different accountability you definitely have to evolve it. But I mean I stole a couple points from VP at Walmart because he always said, “Look, you hire smart nice people.” And so I was like OK that makes sense, right, because smart – you need people to really be able to think through problems and figure stuff out. You need to have that kind of ability to do that. And even if the intelligence or the experience is a little bit off from what you are asking them to do, if they are smart enough and have that right mindset they’ll figure it out. Nice, I mean you want to have folks on your team who you enjoy working with. You want to have people who assume positive intent and interactions. I have evolved that over the years and include it in kind of a driven if you would and I actually don’t mind people who have a little bit of a chip on their shoulder to prove themselves because that shows that internal drive. There is a lot of reasons why people get up every day and go to work. For some it’s the outcome, for some its look they are trying to put food on the table for their family, for some it’s they love feeling that sense of accomplishment or being congratulated or getting that award. And any of those are fine as long as there is some drive internally that fuels you and I can work with that. Above all, you need ethical folks. You have to have an ethical orientation. If you don’t you shouldn’t – whether it’s an insights team or any other team I would struggle with that. And as I have been here at Lubrizol what I’ve really tried to focus in on is development and so we’ve created some roles on the team that are really meant for high potential talent maybe a little early in their career they doesn’t necessarily have to be insights people. So we kind of bring them and the goal is for them to spend a couple of years to increase their commercial acumen, increase their storytelling abilities, increase their analytical abilities and to really have more of a think external market driven mindset. Because those are cultural beliefs that we are moving the organization to be more focused on the market drivers. And so that’s been I think a real success. We’ve already had – even in the short time I’ve been here we’ve had one person come in from human resources function and then she has rolled off actually into a product management role in the additives business. And so by focusing in on that talent and really developing it we hope to be able to create evangelists in the organization that really have the ethos. Yes, along the way they might learn how to run a focus group or they might learn how to analyze a conjoint and that but it’s more about – it’s less about OK I know how to run a focus group and more about how do I create the insights out of that data. And then how do I turn that insight into something that’s actionable, into a strategy, into a new commercial opportunity, into the innovation point. And so that’s been a lot of fun here. But overall I’m blessed to have extraordinarily good people and teams and my hope is that can continue based on some of those ethos of how we try to bring people into the group and invest in them. Mentorship is critical so if you’re wherever you are at in your career you should always have folks who are your sounding board, you should always have folks who you can truly look to and are going to give you critical feedback. Another boss of mine always – I remember as an early manager I would – there was somebody who was working for me and I wasn’t happy with the results and so I tried to kind of do it. I tried to kind of go in there and fix things. And his point was like look you can do that or you can actually let that person have a performance to measure. Because if you just go in and fix everything then the performance is yours, it’s not that person’s. And so you’ve got to be willing to put in the work to give critical feedback that’s going to grow someone. So for that – that answers that question.


Jamin Brazil: I learned something from it so thank you for that. My guest today has been Dan Stradtman, VP of consumer and market insights at Lubrizol Corporation. Dan thanks for joining me on the Happy Market Research podcast today.


Daniel Stradtman: Yeah my pleasure, anytime. Take care and be well.


Jamin Brazil: Everyone else, if you found value in this episode like I know you did, please take time screen capture, share it on social media, tag me on LinkedIn or Twitter and I will send you a special gift. Have a great rest of your day.