My guest today is Pepper Miller, a principal consultant and an award-winning market researcher and speaker.
In 1995, Pepper founded Hunter-Miller Group, a market research and marketing strategy company. She followed this by being the lead consultant in the largest study about African Americans in 2008. It was called the Black American Today Segmentation Study.
Today, Pepper is the president of the Hunter-Miller Group, author of, “Black Still Matters in Marketing,” and co-author of, “What’s Black About It?”
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This episode is brought to you by Momentive. You may have heard that SurveyMonkey’s parent company recently rebranded as Momentive, a leader in agile insights and experience management. The Momentive AI-powered insights platform is built for the pace of modern business so you can deeply understand your market, elevate your brand, and build winning products faster.
Momentive offers 22 purpose-built market research solutions that incorporate an AI engine, built-in expertise, sophisticated methodologies, and an integrated global panel of over 144M people to deliver meaningful insights in hours, not months. Momentive also has a team of market research consultants that can take on anything from research design to custom reporting as needed, so you can spend more time shaping what’s next for your organization.
To learn more, visit momentive.ai
Jamin Brazil: Hi, I’m Jamin. You are listening to the Happy Market Research Podcast. My guest today is Pepper Miller, a principal consultant and an award-winning market researcher and speaker. In 1995, Pepper founded the Hunter Miller Group, a market research and marketing strategy company. She followed this, by being the lead consultant in the largest study about African Americans in 2008. It was called the Black American Today Segmentation Study. Today, Pepper is the president of the Hunter Miller Group, author of Black Still Matters and What’s Black About It. This episode is brought to you by Momentive. You may have heard that Survey Monkey’s parent company recently rebranded as Momentive, a leader in agile insights and experience management. The Momentive AI powered insights platform is built for the pace of modern business so you can deeply understand your market, elevate your brand, and build winning products faster. Momentive offers 22 purpose-built market research solutions that incorporate an AI engine, built in expertise, sophisticated methodologies, and an integrated global panel of over 144 million people to deliver meaningful insights in hours, not months. Momentive also has a team of market research consultants that can take on anything from research design to custom reporting as needed so you can spend more time shaping what’s next for your organization. To learn more, visit Momentive. AI, that’s M-O-M-E-N-T-I-V-E. AI. The Insights Association seeks to recognize as laureates outstanding, peer-nominated members with distinguished careers and contributions who have advanced and benefited the Insights Association. This is considered a life-time recognition of distinction in the field rather than a reward for a specific achievement. Pepper, tell me what does it mean for you to have been acknowledged by the Insights Association as an IPC laureate?
Pepper Miller: Honored and humbling. Thank you for nominating me, Jamin. I know you had something to do with that. So thank you so much. It’s important to be recognized with esteemed people like yourself and the CEO of Schlesinger and Associates which I use often for my research. But what I feel honored about in the work that they’re doing as a result of having me onboard, is allowing me to share my story about Black America being this under-served segment. I am speaking for a lot of the people that I’ve interviewed over and over again. That society and business leaders in and outside of our industry, understands our value as a people and as a value of market segment. So as a laureate, oh my God, it brings that story to a broader segment of people. So I am delighted and honored and very humble. Thank you and I thank the Association for recognizing me. I appreciate it.
Jamin Brazil: The laureates serve as mentors in market research as well as with other industries. Can you provide some advice for young professionals in the Insights Association or insights industry, some career advice?
Pepper Miller: That’s a great question and we get that asked a lot. People are often looking for really big ideas. I often think about Jim Collins who wrote the book From Good to Great. The essence of profound insights is simplicity he says. I think some of the things that we think we need to do that are really big, are important things that are simple. There’s a lot of things I think that we have inside of ourselves that we don’t always recognize. So when I talked about earlier about telling about your whole story, one of the things that I’ve observed is that people are afraid to bring their whole selves to the table. I think in this climate, it’s important that we do that. That’s one of the things and what that looks like is you’re telling your story and telling your story for your audience or your peer group and why that’s relevant to whatever you’re doing. Doing what you love is so important. People go for the money, go for the money and we’ve heard that over and over again. One of the questions you asked earlier in the panel, one of the questions that came up, was what we would do if we could retire and stop doing what we’re doing today and it’s what we love. I think that’s really important. I think to give networks your attention. People talk about networking more. What you are doing is an example of networking. When people say, I don’t know how to network. I love what you’re doing, and I wish I could throw it back on you. Really, is this difficult to do?
Jamin Brazil: Networking?
Pepper Miller: I mean your Happy Market Research Podcast, is it difficult to do?
Jamin Brazil: It takes time. It’s not hard. Anybody can do it. Anybody from a, there’s not a technology barrier. It’s just a time and discipline barrier. That’s a really interesting point that you’re making about don’t just go for the money, especially today because the job market is so hot. I was just speaking with somebody in a big company and they’re having such a significant problem with hiring right now on the insight’s world, people are making twice as much money as they were even a year ago. It’s insane. What’s going to be interesting is you and I are old enough to have lived through a couple of down turns and the people that make the decisions based on fit are going to be the ones that are not looking for a job when there’s a downturn.
Pepper Miller: Absolutely. Going back to the networking opportunity and what that looks like. I think when we’re networking that I think it’s important to reach out and connect with people. I usually do accept a lot of invitation particularly if they are relevant to what I’m doing. If you’re making cement balls, I might back you up a little bit. But I think when you come to the table, to network, I think you need to think about what I can offer this person. I think that’s really important. I hate when people say I just want to pick your brain. I think you need to have a little plan, what you want to ask, what is it you need to know that’s going to help you, and then how can you help them. Go to their website. I tell people all the time, go to my website, have your questions ready before you talk to me, and I’ll give you 30 minutes. Have a plan. I think helping people understand how to network is important. Finding a mentor and being pro-active I guess in the network process is really important.
Jamin Brazil: I think that the pro-activity there’s two parts of it. I think a lot of times when we’re looking for a job, we start networking. Then when we get a job, we stop networking.
Pepper Miller: Good point.
Jamin Brazil: But it’s about maintaining that muscle and that discipline the whole time in your career that really gives you over sized opportunities.
Pepper Miller: Absolutely. And I think your Happy Market Research, your luncheon sessions rather and your Podcast, they really do provide an opportunity for us to network. I would encourage all those that are listening today, to join in and hook up and link up with you and go to your sessions. I love that you invite people right away to put their LinkedIn information in the chat. Everybody does it. I can’t tell you the number of people that I’ve connected with through your lunch and learn sessions. So good job.
Jamin Brazil: I’m so glad to hear that.
Pepper Miller: Good job, I have. These off-camera sessions, emails going, Zoom with people that I met at your lunch sessions. So thank you so much for that.
Jamin Brazil: That’s so cool. I’m so glad to hear it. I mean that’s the whole mission right, is we are humans and we need to be able to have human connections and that’s what we’re trying to facility. It isn’t a sales environment, it’s just a human connection environment.
Pepper Miller: Absolutely.
Jamin Brazil: A lot of people have found jobs through it.
Pepper Miller: There was a woman who was looking for a job today and I wish her well, she did connect with another gentleman from Charlotte. So I wish them well. It was great.
Jamin Brazil: Isn’t that funny. I might have a job by the end of the week. I love that. Let’s talk a little bit about trends, issues, technology, that kind of stuff. Do you anticipate that we’re going to continue to see a big impact in the coming year relative to, I mean qualitative research is really interesting? Qualitative research totally got changed through COVID. What do you see as the outcome of that as we go forward? Are we going to start doing in-person again?
Pepper Miller: That’s a great question. I think we will. Some people will. Some are hesitant. I’m going to continue on particularly since the new strain of COVID is starting to tick up. I want to get back to in-person. One of the things I’ve been doing a lot is selling the sizzle reels. Bringing in a production team, having them interview when I do in-persons or bringing them in the focus group room, collecting all these clips, having the clips go in the report and delivering a sizzle reel to the client. So I’m looking forward to that. When I think about the trends in research, one of the-this whole idea of inclusion. I think you and I started talking about that because there has not been a lot of inclusion in the market research industry. They are notoriously not diverse. So what we are seeing is this new buzz word, inclusion, inclusion, it’s an old word, but it has more meaning today in the era of Black Lives Matter and George Floyd. So Trump, COVID, and George Floyd together were three disrupters that have change marketing and market research forever. I think because of that, I’m feeling it. I have never been so busy before doing work with companies that really finally want to understand Black people. Brands that have never ever done any work with Black America. I don’t think that’s going to be a trend. I think it’s going to become a standard when these companies are going to start doing that. The other noticeable trend or I guess around technology, is the focus on communities within social media. That has really become important. Now we’ve got Clubhouse and TikTok. We have Twitter. We have Black Twitter. Really, we have Black Facebook, we have Black Twitter, we have Black TikTok, we have Black Clubhouse, and we probably have Asian. One of the things that we’ve found is there are a lot of communities within them based on your interests, it could be travel, it could I don’t know, knitting, whatever. But we have found that people are still congregating and having these discussions around race. What we’re finding even in Clubhouse and some of these other places, is that it’s just not on all-for example, I’m focused on the Black stuff. But it’s just not a whole room full of Black people talking there, white people talking, Asian. The people that are leading the discussion, the majority of people that are talking about race or whatever, are part of these communities. I think we’re going to continue to see more and more of these communities. I think it’s a really good way for us as researchers to join in, pay attention to what the conversations are so we will know what the hot topics are that we can bring to the research table, that we can probe more on, or we could develop more podcasts or articles about to help educate business leaders and society. I found that to be very interesting, how people are gravitating to these communities around particular interest and particularly around the racial discussions. Like one discussion for example on Clubhouse, was a real job description that one of the moderators had and a real applicant that had applied to the job. And they threw out the job description. He went line by line. He gave a description of the applicant and he talked about what was working and what was wrong with the job description and how it was going to impact the applicant who was Black for example. It was rich. It was so rich and there was a lot of learning there. So the non-Black people that were on the call were diversity leaders for example. They had ah ha moments because they had made the same mistakes. That’s a huge opportunity to pay attention again to these communities. We throw out the word communities and we throw it out there, but there’s a lot of insights that are coming from those communities and I think we need to look for those things and pay attention to them.
Jamin Brazil: That’s a really interesting point that you’re making around how brands are connecting or caring more about, in your case, Black constituents but then also more broadly. It’s a very, you have transgender.
Pepper Miller: LGBT that’s right, Hispanic that’s right.
Jamin Brazil: And you’re right about our opportunity to be able to connect and our niches for people that are like us, has never been stronger. The algorithms really self-reinforce that too. It’s interesting to me as a 50-year-old man, I’ve been in TikTok now for three weeks. My wife is a sixth-grade teacher and so she got me on it. I’ve been noticing that feed it turns out now is between 50- and 60-year-old men who are talking about things like fitness and prolonging your youth as long as you can.
Pepper Miller: That’s right.
Jamin Brazil: But I didn’t intentionally set out. It’s the systems that are starting to identify people and messages that are resonating with me and that kind of gleam onto which is so interesting.
Pepper Miller: You mentioned algorithm. I wanted to talk about that too because artificial intelligence is this other thing, trend, or whatever that’s happening. I guess the good thing is I guess we’re open to more information. And the bad thing is that there’s a lot of biases involved with artificial intelligence, and I think that’s a huge opportunity for our industry to pay attention to that and get involved. I’ve done a ton of work for a lot of banks for example, and what continues to come up as these banks are looking at trying to connect and grow their businesses with Black consumers and Black entrepreneurs, is underwriting which uses probably an algorithm to decide whether or not you get a loan. Because they were like, well how come people aren’t getting loans? It’s the underwriting. For example, some of the businesses that we talk to in the Black community are cash-based businesses. People are using the financial apps, Zell, Cash App, to collect money and Square, but Black people are still paying with cash for funerals. Grandma didn’t have a policy. We passed the hat and here’s the cash. So a Black funeral home for example is coming in with cash gets rejected because it’s like what are they doing with all this cash? They must be doing some kind of unscrupulous business practices. Or the woman that she goes to all of these community affairs, she’s a vendor and she sells her earrings, her homemade cookies, her placemats that she made for cash. Again, she’s getting scrutinized because of that. So that algorithm, it fits into the biases that society may have about Black people. If you have a lot of cash, then what are you doing to get the cash? Not having the bankers in the community to understand what’s going on with community to feed the underwriting the good, positive reality of what’s happening in the community so that underwriting can make more adjustments, which would impact the algorithm, which would be more open to provide people opportunity to get more loans. Those are things too that we have to pay attention to. Artificial intelligence is a good thing. Artificial intelligence is a little shaky because it could have a lot of biases attached to it as well. So that’s our technology challenge.
Jamin Brazil: I interviewed the CEO of Me Thanks, Aaron, I can’t remember his last name off the top of my head. But he’s a full-blooded American Indian as he casts himself the first of the American Slaves. It was interesting, he actually started his career as an analyst of credit at one of the three credit bureaus. What you are articulating is exactly right. You could look at somebody’s, not ever see their race or anything like that, and then you could look at their credit and then he said you would form in your head, what that person looked like. That’s how deep the bias is built into the algorithms and the psyche which is a whole different topic. But what you’re saying is really important and that is we need to be cognizant and aware of what the algorithms are spitting out to us and where they’re placing us because there is bias that is built into these things. It’s just like a general education that we need adhere to.
Pepper Miller: Absolutely. As researchers we really particularly need to pay attention to that. We all bring our biases to the table. But because our research industry is not very diverse, it just makes me a little concerned about this continuation of these biases. So that’s why these conversations with you and the Association bringing in people like me and allowing me to tell a story, is so important. I am learning from you as well and your colleagues. Oh I am. And it’s wonderful to hear people talk more about inclusion, people who don’t look like me because those stories have to come from you as well because sometimes, they think, oh you’re too sensitive. But if they come from people who don’t look like me who can help tell our story, is very important. So that’s why all of this is important, and the Laureate Association is important for doing things like this. And I am honored again, I am honored, and I am grateful.
Jamin Brazil: Our guest today has been Pepper Miller, president of the Hunter Miller Group. Pepper, thank you for joining me on the Happy Market Research Podcast.