Happy MR Podcast Podcast Series

Ep. 579 – Why Consumers are Overwhelmed and how That Affects Your Brand – Brand Transformation with Dr. Emmanuel Probst at IPSOS

My guest today is Dr. Emmanuel Probst, the Global Lead of Brand Thought-Leadership & Senior Vice President of Brand Health Tracking at IPSOS, Author, and Professor at UCLA.

Founded in 1975 and headquartered in Paris France, Ipsos is among the largest global market research and consulting firms. Ipsos has over 18,000 employees and serves more than 5,000 brands. 

Find Emmanuel Online:

Find Jamin Online:

Find Us Online: 


This Episode is Sponsored by:

The Michigan State University’s Master of Science in Marketing Research Program delivers the #1 ranked insights and analytics graduate degree in three formats: 

  • Full-time on campus 
  • Full-time online 
  • Part-time online

NEW FOR 2022: 

If you can’t commit to their full degree program, simply begin with one of their 3-course certificates: Insights Design or Insights Analysis. 

In addition to the certification, all the courses you complete will build toward your graduation.

If you are looking to achieve your full potential, check out MSMU’s programs at: broad.msu.edu/marketing.

HubUX is a research operation platform for private panel management, qualitative automation including video audition questions, and surveys. 
For a limited time, user seats are free. If you’d like to learn more or create your own account, visit hubux.com.


Jamin Brazil: Hi, everybody, I’m Jamin. You’re listening to the Happy Market Research Podcast. Our guest today is Dr. Emmanuel Probst, the global leader of brand Thought Leadership and Senior Vice President of Brand Health Tracking at Ipsos. He’s also an author and professor at UCLA. Founded in 1975 and headquartered in Paris, France, Ipsos is among the largest global market research and consulting firms. Ipsos has over 18,000 employees and serves more than 5000 brands. Emmanuel, thank you so much for joining me on the Happy Market Research podcast today.


Emmanuel Probst: Jamin, thank you so much for having me on the show, and it’s so great to be connecting with you and reconnecting with your audience, your community. It’s always a pleasure coming on the podcast.


Jamin Brazil: The Michigan State University’s Master of Science in Marketing Research Program delivers the number one ranked insights and analytics degree in three formats. Full time on campus, full-time online, and part-time online. New for 2022, if you can’t commit to their full degree program, simply begin with one of their three core certifications, Insights Design or Insights Analysis. In addition to the certification, all the courses you complete will build towards your graduation. If you’re looking to achieve your full potential, check out MSNUs program at B-R-O-A-D. msu. edu/marketing. Again, B-R-O-A-D-.-M-S-U. edu/marketing. WX is a research operations platform for private panel management, qualitative automation, including video audition questions and surveys. For a limited, time user seats are free if you’d like to learn more or create your own account visit HubUX.com. So on September 7th, 2021, you released Brand Hacks, how to build brands by fulfilling the customer quest for meaning. It had outstanding content, like I went through that book, I literally read that book three times on a trip to Europe there and back. And it was transformational for me, a lot that I could talk about. We’ve already talked about the books, I don’t want to like, talk too much about it. But it was fantastic. And now in February 2023, you will be releasing your second book, which is titled Assemblage, The Art and Science of Brand Transformation. The description that Amazon has right now is brands can no longer force-feed us a plethora of products we don’t need. To succeed, brands must transform us and the world that we live in. So I wanted to kind of like pull back before we jump into the meat of the content or the questions here on the book. So my particular community, the podcast community here, there are a number of authors that listen regularly. And there’s also some aspiring authors that are listening. What is one thing that you wish you could go back in time and tell yourself when you started working on your first book Brand Hacks?


Emmanuel Probst: Hedge I mean, first and foremost, thank you for reading Brand Hacks three times. And, look, the good news is you had to pay for your book only once each time you read it, it’s three times cheaper to you than it is to anyone who read the book only once. So in all seriousness, I appreciate as you said that in your community, our listeners, many people might have a project for a book or have published a book already. I’ll give you a few very important tips. And I will be very concise. Number one, don’t try to write a book, you have an idea, and you’re going to work on developing this idea, kind of a puzzle. So you need one central idea. And for this idea, it becomes a blog post. And then it becomes a series of articles. And then maybe it becomes a mini-series on social media. And then you’re going to socialize this idea with an audience no matter how small. And over time, you will validate that your idea is strong enough to become a book. You need more content, so book obviously is going to be 60,000 words 50,000 words and a blog post is only 700. And you also need to make sure that the idea resonates with your audience. So the number one advice when writing a book is do not try to write a book. The focus is the idea. The second advice is who are you going to sell this to? What is the audience for this book? And that is to any product you would start, any brand you would start. And frankly as romantic as you will end glamorous as writing a book might sound, at the end of the day, it is a lot of marketing and it is a lot of product placement. And it’s not that different from toothpaste and breakfast cereals. So who is the audience for that book? And that’s important that you define this audience clearly. And you qualify you really create an audience persona. And the third thing to keep in mind, and that is particularly relevant for nonfiction writers like you like me, and like our community, our listeners today, in nonfiction, a book is a vessel for an idea. And what I mean by this is, how are you going to productize the idea? How are you going to extract some mileage, for lack of a better expression? Meaning, could it become a training course? Could it become a workshop? Is it going to become a keynote presentation? Can you do some bike learnings meaning share with people 12 key tips, 15 conversation starters from the book. Importantly, again, the book is a vessel for an idea. It’s a great business card, if you will, it commands a lot of credibility in and of itself, with the exception of very few writers, Malcolm Gladwell, and Seth Godin and those guys, the book in and of itself is not enough.


Jamin Brazil: When you say not enough, you mean is that connected to them needing to do more marketing?


Emmanuel Probst: It’s connecting to more marketing, the book is a great way to start a conversation into a [CROSSTALK]. It’s not the end of it all, it’s the beginning. And I’m saying this in a very positive way. So the opportunity to start a new relationship, what I write in my books now, when I sign books, I write two new possibilities. That’s what the book is about, is starting something new, opening the door to new relationships, new opportunities, new possibilities.


Jamin Brazil: Let’s talk about Assemblage, again, the title Assemblage, The Art and Science of Brand Transformation. So what is the problem that you are trying to address or you are addressing, excuse me, and why is it urgent right now?


Emmanuel Probst: Sure. The problem is we as consumers are overwhelmed with products and overwhelmed with brands, and we expect more from those products and those brands. What I mean by this is selling breakfast cereal, selling great toothpaste, those products might be of great quality. That’s not enough. We expect this, we need those products, and we need those brands to transform us and to transform the world we live in. And what I mean by this is as an outcome of being this brand, as an outcome of using these products, I want to go from who am I to who do I want to become? That’s what I mean by transformation. You need, when using the product, when choosing the brand, I need to feel that I’m becoming a better person as an outcome of choosing this brand and using this product. I also expect this brand, this company, this corporation, and its products to make a positive impact on my world, meaning my friends and family, my community, and also to make a positive impact on the world we live in. And that has to do with economic recovery after COVID, and it has to do with citizenship and sustainability and so on and so forth. And Jamin, if I may you exemplify this, you’re now part of a well known very respected organization called Voxpopme. By the way, I’m saying this transparency, since obviously I work for Ipsos, I don’t feel we’re competitors. But in any case, I recognize that Voxpopme is a great organization, it’s a great company that sells quality solutions. But you go the extra mile through the Happy Market Research podcast, you go the extra mile because you do something that benefits the community. In the long run all this benefits your brand equity and how people perceive you Jamin Brazil, your personal brand, but also how do they perceive your offering your solutions at Voxpopme? So in that regard, you Jamin and you Voxpopme as an organization, you are making a positive impact on the market research community.


Jamin Brazil: Yeah, it is funny, it is a lot like I almost think of it as nation building in a way it’s maybe overstating it, but there’s a lot to drive positive to make a big impact on people’s lives and then tangentially, but also connected to it is the opportunity to be able to monetize those relationships. And it is kind of like getting into my nation building example. It is kind of like people vote with their feet, right? And if you have that, that ethos of prioritizing the betterment of your community, your niche, your target market, your whatever, and that’s where you start, then it really gives you material advantage, because you’re not looking at extracting, you’re looking at adding to those individuals.


Emmanuel Probst: Well, and I think what you said is very important. I’m reflecting on what you said, Jamin, you start with the audience, you start with your community. And then you build something that is beneficial to the audience and the community, meaning in what you just said, you put your community first, not yourself. And I can go back to your first question. You want to think first yeah, I have a great idea. I want to write about a given topic. Importantly, how does this benefit my audience? As opposed to squeezing whatever you have in your desk drawer, or whatever you have in your company that you can force feed someone, if that makes sense?


Jamin Brazil: That makes perfect sense. And again, I haven’t read the book, it hasn’t been published yet. But what’s interesting about how you’re framing it, I go back 20, 25 years ago, where we used to talk a lot about share of wallet, right? And so it’s all about how much of that wallet can I consume of the customer as a brand. And then the counterpoint to that is, I like McDonald’s as an example. They’re much more in the partnership mentality now with customers, where they’re two for Tuesday, or what have you, where it’s about where’s the big value that we as an organization can offer to people? And that has the tangential benefit, of course of creating a recurring customer experience.


Emmanuel Probst: For partnership with the customer, what you just mentioned, is covered in the book, in terms of brand read events, and citizens and brands are activists now. So that’s very important. In a nutshell, five, seven, 10 years ago, as marketers, we will control the narrative, we will control the brand strategy, the marketing. Today, you marketers have to live with the fact that you only co-create this narrative, you guide this narrative, you’re going to work with your audience to co create the brand. So you have to let go of some control. You don’t want to feel insecure about it, you’re here to guide and you’re here to inspire your community, this community are your clients, our citizens, our people. And that’s the skill, is to guide to moderate, and to co-create the narrative, and understand, appreciate and leverage the fact that your audience is going to co-create the brand with you, and this book tells you how.


Jamin Brazil: I’d love that. I had not ever framed it in the way of co creation. But I have said that it used to be the case that brands who are who they said they were. So they would have a narrative and they would lead with that. And that’s what the general consumer thought about them. But now it’s the case that brands are who your customer say you are. And it’s even more concerning if customers aren’t talking about you.


Emmanuel Probst: 100%.


Jamin Brazil: Who is the target reader?


Emmanuel Probst: The target reader is anyone in marketing, advertising, market research, brand strategy, management consulting, that wants to build a brand, grow a brand, be smarter about it, and wants to do so for years to come. This is not a tactical book. Well, there are some tactics that you can implement straight away. But what’s important is, how are you going to grow your brand? How are you going to increase customer lifetime value for years to come? And this strategic lens, I think, is really important. Now, just like with my first book, the writing is really approachable, meaning you might be a marketing student at a university, and you will appreciate the book. Or you might be the Chief Strategy Officer at a big four and you will also appreciate the book. I’m saying so because I just had some early feedback earlier this week from a Chief Strategy Officer at one of the big four’s, and his take on the book, and I certainly don’t mean to brag, but his email said you’re doing some important work here. And what’s rewarding with Assemblage, The Art and Science of Transformation is this feedback I’m receiving from people in our industry Jamin telling me this book is timely, this book is important because we just cannot continue to do marketing the way we’ve been doing it for the last five, seven, 10 years. And we marketers, we brand professionals and advertisers, we need to make a bigger impact on the world if, again, we want people to choose our products for many years.


Jamin Brazil: Oh, that’s really good. And to your point about bragging, I feel like in a lot of ways we don’t self-promote enough. And the problem is that we rob the audience the potential beneficiary of that knowledge, because they don’t have the context or the social proof in order to understand that it is important for them to read. I would imagine you’re thinking about like the spectrum of reader here. As you said, it could be entry level or even in the educational stage of your career. Is there also a component of the small to medium-sized businesses being able to benefit from this?


Emmanuel Probst: 100%. Because it’s interesting to look at Nike and Patagonia and Vos, great brands we all like. However, very few brands have the reach, very few brands have the budget to deploy campaigns like Nike, Patagonia, Mariette and Volvo, and all those big brands. Therefore, in this book, you have many case studies, I think you have almost 40 case studies in that book. And yes, we look at big brands sometimes, for example, Unilever is doing things that are very powerful around their project for real beauty. But we also look at very small brands, one is a brand called Anthem, and Anthem makes Thai dinners delivered to your home, there is a DTC firm in France called Asphalt. And what Asphalt does is they create clothing items based only on what people order. Therefore, there is no inventory being wasted, because they produce only what they sell. All this to say that you have examples in this book are very small brands. And for further inspiration, the last chapter is called The Assemblers. And The Assemblers are the artists and the musicians and the producers many of us admire. And this chapter shows you how they do their craft, so that you can apply this to marketing. And an example in this chapter is Pharrell Williams, and you like his music or you don’t or DJ Khaled is another example. And it doesn’t matter if you like DJ Khaled’s music. The point is to say DJ Khaled is very successful. But really DJ Khaled is not a musician, he’s an assembler, he’s an orchestrator, meaning he’s someone who is going to mix and match, combine and transform sounds and inspirations that he receives from his community into a great product. And in that regard, the book is empowering for our reader, it shows you how to do it, and it shows you that you can do it too.


Jamin Brazil: Do we have you know me, I like tactics. Can you give us a sneak peek if I open the book, like what is the key tactic or practical application that I’d be able to apply to my business today?


Emmanuel Probst: I’ll even give you two. The first one is a method called copy, transform, combine. In short, that means don’t try to reinvent the wheel, find inspiration in products that exist already and in categories that are unrelated to the brand you’re trying to create. And you’re then going to remix this. That’s what I call the remix economy. So, you’re going to transform and create juxtapositions of those, basically, an assemblage of those different elements, and you’re going to transform this into something new. And many of the artists we admire, and many of the brands we admire, they didn’t start from scratch anyway, whether it’s Star Wars that was inspired from a novel, and Apple did not invent the mouse, Apple did not invent personal computing, it did not invent the iPod, it copied, transformed an existing idea into a better product. So that’s tip number one. And so copy, transform, combine is really important. And the second one is stop googling things. Meaning it’s great to discover new things on the internet. You and I do this whole day and that’s fine. At some point, though you close the lid of your laptop, and you simply sit with maybe a notepad and a pencil. And you just brainstorm with yourselves and you start finding new ideas that way. Google is misleading because if you type something in Google, instant gratification, you’re going to find an answer. So that feels good in the moment. But now take a step back and think about whatever is on page one of Google. The problem is that if you found that answer, millions of other people had access to the exact same answer. And in fact, there is that saying in our industry, Jamin, which I’m sure you’re familiar with, that is what is the best way to hide a dead body? Page two of Google. So why Google is very useful, don’t get me wrong, I use it every day, many times a day. There’s nothing wrong with this. But there are times to be present, to start Googling things, to stop looking at social media, and sit down with yourself and simply challenge yourself in finding more ideas on your own. And that’s when the great work starts. And that is what is fulfilling in the process of writing and creating.


Jamin Brazil: I like that because one is very inward focused and draws on yourself. And the other is outward focus, when you think about the framework of remixing at least as I understand it right now. What I really like about the remix is you see that happening on Tik Tok and the growth of that platform. I guess the fundamental premise of Tik Tok is taking a trend and then re-mixing that trend into your own voice if you’re a content creator.


Emmanuel Probst: 100%. That is indeed the remix economy that is building upon something that has already been done. And in my opinion, it’s putting new things on things. It’s copying in a good way. Because you do so it’s out in the open, by the way, the title of my book Assemblage, I did not invent that word. When I talk about the art and science of brand transformation, how you can mix and match different components from culture and all that. Well, this concept is inspired from how you make whiskey, how you make cognac, how you make wine. So to make a whiskey, you assemble a range of different whiskies basically. So an assembler, a master wine maker is going to pick from up to 300 different whiskies, and they’re different because of different barrels and different ageing process and different flavors and so on and so forth. And the winemaker is going to mix and match those different alcohols to create that whiskey. That brand that taste that is unique that has a strong product identity. And this exemplifies Jamin what I’m saying this copy transform combine process, I did not invent whiskey. I did not invent the process to craft a great, unique whiskey. I did not create a word assemblage. I applied this reasoning this process, this method, this best practice to the world and the purpose of marketing.


Jamin Brazil: Perfect. Our guest today has been Dr. Emmanuel Probst, the global leader of brand thought leadership and Senior Vice President of brand health tracking at Ipsos. Author and professor at UCLA, his book is titled Assemblage, The Art and Science of Brand Transformation. You can pre-order that on Amazon today. Emmanuel, thank you so much for joining me on the Happy Market Research Podcast.


Emmanuel Probst: Jamin and everyone, our listeners on the Happy Market Research podcast, thank you so much for such a great conversation today.

Happy MR Podcast Podcast Series

Ep. 578 – The Art of Research with Susan Fader: What is Narrative Economics and how to Utilize it in Your Business Strategy

My guest today is Susan Fader, keynote speaker and founder of FaderFocus. 

Susan has run FaderFocus as a Business Strategist & Transformationalist Catalyst specializing in Qualitative methods and strategic consulting.

She helps clients achieve focus and get “unstuck”, reframing their energies, their confirmational biases, and the traditional ways of segmenting their customers. 

Find Susan Online:

Find Jamin Online:

Find Us Online: 


This Episode is Sponsored by:

The Michigan State University’s Master of Science in Marketing Research Program delivers the #1 ranked insights and analytics graduate degree in three formats: 

  • Full-time on campus 
  • Full-time online 
  • Part-time online

NEW FOR 2022: 

If you can’t commit to their full degree program, simply begin with one of their 3-course certificates: Insights Design or Insights Analysis. 

In addition to the certification, all the courses you complete will build toward your graduation.

If you are looking to achieve your full potential, check out MSMU’s programs at: broad.msu.edu/marketing.

HubUX is a research operation platform for private panel management, and qualitative automation including video audition questions, and surveys. 

For a limited time, user seats are free. If you’d like to learn more or create your own account, visit hubux.com


Jamin Brazil: Hey, everybody, I’m Jamin. You’re listening to the Happy Market Research Podcast. Our guest today is Susan Fader, keynote speaker and founder of Fader Focus. Susan has run Fader Focus as a business strategist and transformationalist catalyst specializing in qualitative methods and strategic consulting. She helps clients achieve focus and get unstuck, reframing their energies, their conformational biases, and the traditional ways of segmenting their customers. Susan, welcome back to the Happy Market Research Podcast.


Susan Fader: I’m very happy to be here and talk with you again.


Jamin Brazil: The Michigan State University’s Master of Science in Marketing Research Program delivers the number 1 ranked insights and analytics degree in three formats, full-time on campus, full-time online, and part-time online. New for 2022, if you can’t commit to their full-degree program, simply begin with one of their three-course certifications, Insights Design, or Insights Analysis. In addition to the certification, all the courses you complete will build towards your graduation. If you’re looking to achieve your full potential, check out MSU’s program at broad. msu. edu slash marketing, again broad. msu. edu/marketing. Hub UX is a research operations platform for private panel management, qualitative automation, including video edition questions, and surveys. For a limited time, user seats are free. If you’d like to learn more or create your own account, visit hubux.com. Before we get into the core content, I wanted to talk briefly about your speaking. You have been a speaker since I’ve known you anyway, various industry events, but more recently you’ve been brought in for corporations to talk to them and their off-sites. I’m just curious, is this a trend for your career, and what are they bringing you in for?


Susan Fader: They’re bringing me in for really my original thinking of reframing how you think about business challenges, because a lot of businesses are like these cars that are stuck in the mud and the tire keeps spinning and you’re doing the same thing. They need to think differently about their businesses. They’re coming out of the pandemic. The whole dynamics of their categories, who their buyers are, how they talk to them has changed. And they want to make sure when they are thinking about business strategies that their baseline assumptions are correct, and that’s where I come in. I help them reframe how they think about what the business challenge is, what the opportunity is, and how to look at things more from a customer perspective than how business units are set up.


Jamin Brazil: It’s funny. It is in every way becoming a better listener. I’m just constantly amazed at how when we do that, we can connect more, and obviously on a one-to-one framework, but I think it works really well from a brand framework as well. Anyway, we’ll dive more into that momentarily. So this is the third time that you’ve been on the show. The first time was on contextual intelligence. The second was on cognitive demographics, and today we’re talking about yet another new thing for me, narrative economics. What in the world is narrative economics and what business question does it address?


Susan Fader: So narrative economics is really about stories. When you think about in the business world of storytelling, it really is seen as an output of how you deliver findings or how you talk to the board of directors or CEO, and you have to have a story that has beginning, middle, and end, and you’re delivering conclusions. Narrative economics is about storytelling as input. It’s about hearing what people are thinking about, and it doesn’t have to have a beginning and middle or end. It could be a song, a poem, a sermon, a joke, but gives you insight of what people are thinking. That’s what narrative economics is, and it’s about storytelling. I can give you a little more background if you want.


Jamin Brazil: So it’s about storytelling, and so that’s the narrative component of it. But then you have the economics, which is usually, at least from my point of view, is framed on whether that’s usually market conditions or what drives overall economic outcomes.


Susan Fader: So let’s step back. Behavioral economics, system 1, system 2, has become really, really big, and behavioral economics came out of the world of financial economics. What social scientists did, they recognized something that was in the world of financial economics, and they adapted it, and businesses and market researchers adapted the world of behavioral economics to something that we use, and the underpinning of behavioral economics is that people are irrational, and they make irrational decisions. When Robert J. Schiller, who’s a Nobel Prize winner in economics, came out with narrative economics in 2018, and I read the paper, and I realized, “Wow,” this was an idea that we really have to take into business, just the way behavioral economics was transformed. And I have been, for the last five or six years, the drumbeat of we have to incorporate narrative economics. And my take is narrative economics should be viewed as the insider, the person who’s being studied’s perspective of why the choice or decision may be rational to that person, and therefore it reframes how we look at behavioral economics. Behavioral economics, we have to now recognize, and this is what I really feel, is we’re making a judgment call on whether a person is rational behavior, we’re the outsiders, and we’re doing a judgment call on whether they’re being rational. Narrative economics gives us the backstory and the perspective of why the behavior might be rational to the person, but not to the observer. And that’s why I think narrative economics is so important that we integrate into any business strategy or any business thinking that we are doing.


Jamin Brazil: In all transparency, a little out of my depth, my understanding of economics is very much one of a hobbyist, as opposed to an academic. But at least my remembering of behavioral economics is really around scarcity and why humans or what rather humans will wind up choosing, and that driver ultimately is what is going to improve them the most or be the best thing for them from their point of view. And so then, as I understand it, as you’re describing it, narrative economics really feeds the why framework they’re making that specific choice.


Susan Fader: Yes, it does. And again, the thing we have to recognize is people rationalize behavior to themselves, even if it’s irrational. But again, then it’s a rational decision on their point. But it also gives us the context of how they’re making the decision in the missing link, because a lot of times when we’re judging consumer behavior, obviously we’re the outsider, but at the same time, we don’t have the context of what’s going on, of how they’re making it, what other things are impacting. I’ll give you an example. When in the Rust Belt, when all these factories were moving to Mexico and all these people were losing $40 an hour jobs and they were offered the opportunity to move, the company would move them and the people wouldn’t move and they were left in areas that had no jobs, and you were like, “Why wouldn’t these people move?” They’d rather be unemployed than have all these benefits and $40, $50 an hour jobs. That’s irrational. However, if you think of a person’s personal hierarchy of value, and the biggest thing to them is family, and all their family lives in that 15 mile radius, then they’re going to choose not to move, even though it’s going to negatively really impact their life. Because to them, family is more important, being around family. So that’s a rational decision. But if you think about all the articles we’ve read about, how could these people not move? That’s an outsized job. So that’s why, if you understand the narrative of how they’re talking, and that’s why listening to podcasts about any particular- there’s podcasts about anything, of every demographic. So if you listen to people talking on podcasts, or if you read biographies, or people- J. D. Vance, who was just elected Senator in Ohio, was Hillbilly Elegy, gave insight of growing up in the Rust Belt from Appalachia. And Tara Westover, her book about educated living off the grid in Utah. It gives you insight of what their lives are, and what their decisions were, and where they ended up. And that’s very important. And I don’t think enough business people do that, that they really listen to the stories. It’s not a dissident bit, it’s really hearing the context of their life, and how, and understanding why they make decisions the way they do.


Jamin Brazil: Totally. And it’s interesting that you can leverage digital frameworks, you said podcasts, but it could be other things too. It could be like TikTok channels, or hashtags, or what have you. But really as inputs to help inform your point of view of an audience or a segment. And it’s interesting because you’re basically consuming monologues, or one side of their point of view of whatever it is that they’re talking about, what they care about, what drivers are, what annoys them, all that sort of stuff.


Susan Fader: It’s also getting back to research and conversations. A lot of times, we’ve talked about this before, there’s more stuff than can fit in the guide, the 15-page guide, than you have time to talk, have a conversation, and it’s this question-answer structure. What you really need to do is devote the first 10-15 minutes of any research interaction you have, allowing the person to share a story. If I am doing research with healthcare profess- doctors, I’ll ask them in two or three sentences, tell me why you became a doctor and why your specialty. And they’d light up, and they start sharing, you’ve touched them, and gotten into a personal aspect of who they are, and it gives me context of how to have a conversation with them. But if you’re doing a consumer project, don’t assume you know everything because you’ve already interviewed this profile 40 times before. The person you’re talking to, a lot of their decision making is automatic. So what you need to do is just kind of get them to share their perspective. If you’re talking about making dinner, you have a food product and it has an integral part of dinner, you might say, “Tell me the story of what you like about making dinner and what you don’t, and tell me in five sentences. And or give me three descriptive words about how you feel about making dinner.” You kind of give them a framework because most people don’t know how to tell a story anymore. And so if you give them- and say, you have to give them a framework. So if they give you the three words, you say, “Tell me why those three words.” And you get tremendous insight into how they’re feeling as opposed to what do you like, what you don’t you like. So the three words can really jumpstart the conversation. And in ancient Greece, if a guest was at the table at the meal, their obligation was to share a story with the host to tell something about themselves. And that was belief you really get to know someone that way.


Jamin Brazil: Oh, that’s so interesting. I recently did a study, for my blog, on a Lazy Boy and I asked a question that was a video question. So people would respond, give me their answers via video. Tell me about your most memorable experience on a Lazy Boy piece of furniture. And it was so emotional, the response, we had 350 people that qualified to take the survey. And their stories impacted me so much this year for Christmas, I’m requesting a Lazy Boy recliner.


Susan Fader: Because it was emotional, you asked about them. It was a broad question so they can interpret it whichever way they wanted. It could be memorable, could have been how it was delivered, or a memorable could have been how they made a repair on it. You didn’t put any constraints on what story they were going to do. And most research would say, “Tell me about the delivery process. Have you had any repairs? Tell me.” So that kind of guides them, but you were broad so that they could bring any story they wanted from any aspect of the relationship. And that’s a key to narrative economics.


Jamin Brazil: And what was so interesting on the- I will pick on this study a little bit more, is that you’re right in the things that surfaced, I don’t think I would have ever pulled it out of a survey, unless I had asked the question. One of the interesting thing was I asked- I got 350 responses. So even if I had just done a handful of one-on-one interviews, I don’t think the findings would have surfaced like they did, but some of the things that surprised me were the experience with the store at the store was so- my sales rep was the favorite most memorable part of having the furniture, with the furniture, which you is counterintuitive. You think it would be something else. And that was- one of those was a story of one of the sales reps saying, “Hey, I’ll come out to your apartment and check it out, and let you know what I think would be a good layout for you,” just kind of for free, going out of their way to do that kind of stuff.


Susan Fader: So that that’s very interesting. You said counterintuitive. That’s like you were going to set, you would normally set guardrails on what you think a memorable story should entail. And that’s what many businesses do. So if you had set the guardrails and don’t tell me about the sales experiences, tell me about your experience having one, you would have missed out. And narrative economics, again, is about them sharing a story with you from their perspective and you not guiding them by the hand on what story they should tell.


Jamin Brazil: So we’ve already kind of stepped on this next question, but I’m going to ask it anyway because I would really like to flesh it out more. How does narrative economics connect to consumer insights?


Susan Fader: It’s exactly what we just did. It doesn’t put constraints on what you’re going to hear. A lot of times when you start- think about it, when you’re asked a very direct question, it’s like you put blinders on and the consumer says, “Oh, they only want me to answer X, Y, and Z. Therefore, I’m only going to answer X, Y, and Z.” And you’re kind of putting tunnel vision on the consumer, not allowing them to really tell what they’re thinking. You’re guiding the conversation. You want it to be unguided, at least at the beginning, so they contextualize it and then you react to how they’re telling the story. And that’s how you’re going to get a lot more out.


Jamin Brazil: So qualitative, obviously, in nature, do you see it play out in quant-research?


Susan Fader: That’s exactly what you just did with 350 Lazy Boy. The key is with AI, you really in quant to not have an open-end video right now is, I think, ridiculous. And I think you actually should start quant surveys with an open-end.


Jamin Brazil: So on point.


Susan Fader: Because that’s how you start understanding their perspective. And then if you want to do a cross-tab, you do a cross-tab of the answers based on their perspective. Because, again, businesses tend to segment customers based on what their business unit needs are. But customers might segment themselves differently, put them in groups other than what you would see them in, and by putting an open-end at the beginning of a quant and using AI to help you figure it out, I think you would get a lot more insight from your quant.


Jamin Brazil: It’s funny, I’ve been saying this for years, a survey is really just a conversation at scale. And finally, technology is getting to the spot where it can analyze unstructured data, because nobody speaks in Likert scales.


Susan Fader: Right. No one speaks in Likert scale. And the other issue is talking about data and talking about quantifiable data, when you think about Google searches, people tend to search the top 10 or the top five ways things are categorized in that category. But if you think about it, data is historical and that’s looking backwards. And if you do that, you don’t see what the emerging trends are. Because something as simple as brushing your teeth, I went to a Google presentation and they said there was over 100,000 ways that people talk about brushing your teeth. So if you only do the top 10, you’re going to miss something. So that’s also happy conversation will help you understand what other things you should be looking for in Google searches beyond just the top 10.


Jamin Brazil: Oh, that’s super insightful. I talked to you a little bit about a project. I didn’t intentionally do narrative economics, but it may have had some overlap. Do you have a specific or a favorite project where you leverage it for a customer?


Susan Fader: Oh my God. It’s like asking me who my favorite child is and I have lots of children. I think it’s hard to- your most favorite, because I work in so many different categories and I’ve had so many interesting conversations and people who have totally surprised me. I didn’t expect them to say something, but I think one of the most moving ones I had was a project I did with evangelical Christians and I was hired by a group. Let me just backtrack from it, this was at a time right after the Supreme Court had ruled same sex marriages was legal and marriage that was legal in 50 states. However, in 37 states, it was still legal to fire someone because of their sexual preference. It was still legal to evict someone from their home if they were renting if they were homosexual. So the objective here was to try to get those laws off the books in those states and not have evangelical Christians, basically to have them not fight it, not that they need to be advocates, but that they shouldn’t be against that move. So what we need- 


Jamin Brazil: De-escalation of the issue?


Susan Fader: Well, trying to figure out where the minefields were, in terms of communicating and messaging to the public in terms of voting and de-escalation, what can you say? How can you say it? Where can you say it? And I did. I must have done 50 one-on-one interviews and we also did groups and I had them tell stories things, we had an exercise, I’m not going to go into detail, but they came in and they were prepared to tell a story and then we talked. And I cannot tell you how many times during these interviews people broke down and cried. And the thing was they’re very adamant that a marriage was between a man and a woman. And anything that referenced, this was in the case with the wedding cake and everything and that was the minefield, you couldn’t go anywhere near that. But when you started hearing that people could be evicted from their homes because what they were doing in the privacy of their bedroom, that was not right. And one person said, “As long as they’re not,” I’m not going to use the word that they use, but on the conference table, why do I care what they do in their bedroom? How can you throw someone out of their home or how could you fire someone? And it was this understanding, this emotion where we were able to separate this thing that had been so tightly woven together, where homosexuals are destroying America because of marriage. “Oh my God, they’re just like me, they need to live in a home, they need a job. How could you do- what would Jesus say?” And then at the end of some of these interviews, people would tell me the stories of how a child had come out to them and they didn’t speak for them for years and years and what wasted part of their lives and would I go out with a drink with them afterwards? They were very emotional interviews and you could just see the battle people were having with their beliefs and family and just everything. And that really, really stuck with me. And that was something where it was really about having them tell us stories, this narrative economics approach.


Jamin Brazil: And in that, those stories then informed, in this case, the evangelicals point of view on the specific issue of gay marriage and also the specific messaging landmines that need to be either avoided or addressed for easier legislative adoption.


Susan Fader: Right. So what happened was in the beginning was this open-end where they told us the story and then we actually showed them concrete print ads and television, online ads that we could do and how they responded to images. But we had the context, as opposed to when you start out just showing them advertised and they go, “I like that because that’s a pretty color.” Here we had a context of what was emotional to them and they were able to reference that. It came like a lie detector test because they had told the story from their guts and they then were able to really be articulate where the communication was working and where it had gone off the rails. And so we got very clear findings as opposed to a beauty contest where you usually do when you show them concepts or ads.


Jamin Brazil: Super interesting stuff. Well, I appreciate the explanation of narrative economics, a new thing for me and I’m definitely going to be diving into it. The application to research seems just amazing and I appreciate the tips that you gave, specifically the three words as a way to get participants to start framing up their stories.


Susan Fader: Right. And you tried the word should be descriptive words, adjectives, or adverbs. You really don’t want nouns. You want emotional. You want to know how they’re feeling and sometimes a little hard, but let them give you the words and then tell me the story behind the words. You said this word, this word, or this phrase. Help me understand. So you’re not going to say, “Tell me this word, tell me,” they’ve given you a framework of, they have now have a framework and now they can start telling you a story.


Jamin Brazil: So how do you frame the initial question?


Susan Fader: I’m going to give you a term and I would like you to give me three distinctly descriptive words or phrases that capture how you feel or think about what I’m going to say to you right now.


Jamin Brazil: Oh my gosh. I love that. Oh, awesome. Perfect. Great. I appreciate the clarity and the tactical and the strategy point of this has been super informative podcast, Susan. Thank you very much.


Susan Fader: Appreciate it. So you can see how from when I do this corporate speaking, how it’s reframing how people think about business challenges.


Jamin Brazil: To say the least. Our guest today has been Susan Fader, keynote speaker and founder of Fader Focus. Susan, thank you very much for joining me on the Happy Market Research Podcast today.


Susan Fader: It was a pleasure, as always.


Jamin Brazil: Everyone else, I hope you found as much value in this as I did. As always screen capture, share on social media, tag me and I will send you a t-shirt. Have a great day.