Podcast Series

The Happy Market Research podcast publishes interviews with insight leaders on the last Tuesday of the month.

Ep. 211 – Anne Beall – Three Ways to Leverage Emotion to Create Brand Promoters

Today, my guest is Anne Beall, CEO of Beall Research. Beall Research specializes in leveraging the theory behind Psychology, Sociology, History and other disciplines to develop actionable insights.

Prior to founding Beall Research, Anne has had a storied education career, having received her M.S., M.Phil. and Ph.D. degrees in Social Psychology from Yale University.

Find Anne Online:


Website: Beall Research

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Social Media: @happymrxp


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On Episode 211 of the Happy Market Research Podcast, I’m joined by Anne Beall, but first a word from our sponsor.


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


Hi, I’m Jamin Brazil, and you’re listening to the Happy Market Research Podcast.  My guest today is Anne Beall, founder and CEO of Beall Research. Started in 2003, Beall Research is a strategic, marketing research firm based in Chicago that services some of today’s top brands.  Anne holds a Ph.D. from Yale and has worked at the Boston Consulting Group. Anne, thanks very much for being on the Happy Market Research Podcast today.


Hey, thanks for having me.  It’s my pleasure.


Like to start out with a understanding of where you grew up, your parents, and then also your journey into market research.


Sure.  So, I grew up in Worcester, Massachusetts, which is a city of about 180,000 people outside of Boston.  My parents were professors. So my dad was a professor of chemistry at a local college. Yeah, my early days were basically pretty uneventful, except for I lived in New Zealand for a year.   My entry into market research happened after I finished my Ph.D. I studied social psychology, and I didn’t want to be an academic. I really wanted to do research that would make a difference.  And so, I ended up at several companies but eventually was at the Boston Consulting Group, where I headed up the market research function for the Chicago office. My whole impetus for doing market research was just to do research that would make a difference.  I had an academic degree. I could have been a professor, but I wanted to do something that would have an impact.


So, what was this railing against academia from a career perspective?  What didn’t you just follow in your father’s footsteps?


You know I did consider it but, at the end of the day, I was really concerned that I would be writing journal articles.  They wouldn’t be seen by very many people. People won’t take my recommendations. In fact, I’d be studying very esoteric things and that I won’t be making a difference.  And so, for me at least, I wanted to go to the “real world” even though all of the academics in my life (my advisor, my parents) basically said, “Oh, my goodness, don’t do it!  You’re throwing your life away.” But I did, and I’m very happy for it. But it was really around sort of the issue was I just didn’t want to study things that a few people would read about.       


So, really breadth of impact sounds like it was important for a career motivation and then also impact of results also a driver, specifically I’m tying that because of the BCG connection, which is, of course, one of the world’s largest management consulting companies.


Yes, absolutely.


Tell us a little bit about your thesis.  


Well, I studied emotions, and I actually studied gender and emotions and how differential expression of emotion in romantic relationships leads to differential power.  So that made it really difficult to get a date in graduate school. [laughter] But that’s what I studied. I was really interested in how people are perceived when they express emotions.  I was really interested in how we perceive others when we are differentially expressive towards them. And I was just interested in the whole gender thing and how that played out. So that was what I studied.  


So, Boston Consulting Group.  Then you decided to step out on your own and start Beall Research.  Did you have any funding for that? What was your motivation for being an entrepreneur?


Well, I really wanted to work for myself.  I had a lot of ideas. And I had numerous occasions where I’d, “I have a really good idea.”   And I’d suggest it to my superiors, and they’d say, “Oh, you know that’s a great idea but not for this study, not for this client.”  I’m a pretty creative person. And so I really wanted to do my own thing; I really wanted to put forward novel ways of doing things. And I also wanted to use my training even more than I had been.  And so that’s what caused me to go on my own.

It was just me.  I had opened up the armoire.  I had a desk that was an armoire in my bedroom.  And that was my very first office, and my first employee was the cat.  She did not work out at all, really. [laughter] I had to fire her fairly shortly thereafter.  I have since added 12 humans, who are tremendous people, and we do some really interesting work.  As an entrepreneur, I’ve gotten the opportunity to work with some amazing companies. I’ve gotten a chance to suggest new and different ways of doing things.  A lot of times my clients say, “Hey, that’s kind of different. We haven’t really heard of that before, and sure let’s try it.” So being an entrepreneur has allowed me to do exactly the kind of work that I want to do.  


It’s really interesting when you think about the journey.  So, the early days for you were… Let’s just cut to the chase.  Ph.D. from Yale, that’s a big deal in academia. I think about like the people that I know that are professors, they oftentimes are thinking about tenure.  You know what I mean? It’s more of a steady state, I would consider. And then moving into Boston Consulting Group, which is high pressure, a lot of hours, but still steady in that you’ve got a paycheck coming in.  But then to step out as an entrepreneur where there is nothing guaranteed, not that I needed to tell you that. But, as entrepreneurs, we live hand to mouth, so to speak. We earn our keep; we’re the hunters, which is now quite literally there’s probably not a different, farther away career.  I guess working at the IRS, that would be more steady state than being an academic.


[laughs]  Yeah, yeah, yeah.  No, it is a bit of a jump, and I personally never saw myself as an entrepreneur; I never saw myself salesperson.  I never saw myself as many things that I’ve had to become. I always saw myself as a researcher. But I was really lucky in that I started actually doing pretty well with the business right from pretty much from day 1.  I had a great network of people I had worked with at the Boston Consulting Group, who had gone on to do other things. Some of those people are still clients to this day. Within six months, I was actually looking at office space downtown.  Having a real address made a difference to, I think, potential clients; I wasn’t working out of my bedroom any longer. So it was a pretty nice story. But, yeah, there’s no guarantee with being an entrepreneur, and I’d say there’s no guarantee any more today then there was the very first day that I started.    


One of the topics that we’re talking about this month or January, I should be more specific, is the importance of customer experience.  And the center piece of customer experience is, from my vantage point anyway, is the emotional connection that brands or that customers make to brands.  From what I understand of your thesis, you can draw some emotional… the importance of emotion and how that emotion relates to relationships. Talk to us a little bit about emotional connections to brands and how you are helping these brands address this specific concern.


So, one of the things that we have looked at is the emotional journey.  Just like you have an emotional journey with a person, you can have an emotional journey with a brand.  You start to become familiar with the brand. It gives you some type of emotional experience. Maybe you have positive experience or sense of it, maybe you have a negative.  And we know from the emotional work that we have done that when you have an emotional response that’s positive, you tend to engage more with a brand. And, as you go along, you have different types of experiences that lead to different types of emotional reactions that can either solidify and create a strong emotional bond to a brand or that can actually cause the dissolution and for you to sort of disengage with it.  But we’ve been looking at the emotional journey. We have been really looking a lot at how brands make you feel but, more than that, how they make you feel about yourself. And that’s something that a lot of brands don’t think about; they don’t think about how a brand makes you feel. So, when you buy that brand, does that make you feel good about yourself and your choices? Do you feel proud to have purchased it? Do you feel pride when you use it?  Do you feel good about what you’re doing for yourself or your family or the people that you use that product or service with? And we know that the more that you feel and the more positively you feel about yourself as a result of a brand’s product or service, the more likely you are to buy it and the more loyal you are to it. And that’s the work we’ve done quite a bit of research on.


The tear, if you want to call it that, that I’ve been on lately is all about voice.  And I’m deeply concerned that brands aren’t paying enough attention to a voice economy.  In that world of the invisible customer journey, it becomes imperative that the brand is top of mind.  Of course, the classic example is Kleenex. I don’t even know what else to call it. I guess tissue paper, but I think that goes into wrapping gifts, as the poster child.  But, when you think about acquiring or buying a product through voice, Google Home or Alexa, how are you seeing emotion in the work you are doing, specifically, helping inform the brands to make change and connect more to the customer?          


So, we’ve actually seen it in a variety of places.  First of all, the model that we use is the intensity valence model, which says you have an emotional reaction to everything.  It’s positive, negative, or neutral, but it’s to everything. It’s to the furniture around you; it’s the people you come in contact with; it’s the products you see on shelf; it’s everything.  And that emotional reaction is actually something that propels you to engage or disengage. And so, we’ve seen emotional reactions to packaging. And we do work where we actually code non-verbal behavior and facial expressions, real time in retail settings.  And we’ve had great satisfaction in terms of understanding certain types of packaging is very off-putting to people and actually causes people to kind of back away. Certain types of retail settings are problematic for people, but we know that that emotional reaction is big.  So we’ve been helping one particular manufacturer just recently take a look at how packaging is actually causing a disengagement with their products because it’s causing certain types of associations that are negative, and they’re emotionally negative in nature. So, it’s in that case we’re seeing stuff.  We actually able to see facial reactions to all kinds of things real-time or in terms of discussion forums that we do where we’ve had people upload videos of themselves, experiencing products and services. For the first time, we’re able to code that.

The place we’ve also had a lot of success is also immediate reactions to product concepts, to brands, to new ideas where people actually tell us what their emotional reaction is, and it’s been extremely predictive of their interest in engaging with those brands.


So, it’s stated?


It’s stated; it’s reported.  And we have a way of doing it that gets at the very gut level, quick sort of reaction, the kind that you have that you sometimes aren’t even aware that you even have it.  You just kind of have this, “Ugh” or “Ouy.” It’s that level that we’re looking at.


Is this done in an in-person interview or focus group or…?     


We do it qualitatively and quantitatively.  So we do it qualitatively where we’ve actually videotaped people and coded their non-verbal behavior and their facial reactions but we’ve also done it in terms of self-reported where we actually get people to tell us immediately what their emotional reaction is to stuff and then we explore further into what the underlying emotions are.    


So, when you think about companies that have done it well as you’ve articulated obviously Apple is at the top of my list, just getting the packaging…  It’s counterintuitive but the quality of the packaging in a lot of ways tells me how quality of the product is. Now it’s even to the point they’ve so educated me on the subject that, if I buy a product and it doesn’t have good packaging, then I immediately discount it as cheap.  [laughter] It’s crazy, but it’s true.


Well, they have done a lot to give you a very strong positive emotional reaction to their packaging because it’s so good, but they’ve also invested a lot in their brand to make you have a very strong, positive emotional reaction to their brand.  So, they’ve done a lot of things where, when you see their brand, you have certain associations. You think of them as innovative, as user-friendly, as trendy. You think of them as being a company you aspire to own their products, and then you see their packaging, and it reinforces those particular associations you have.  But we also know, interestingly, it’s not just your emotional reaction to that brand and that packaging; we know that people actually feel certain things about themselves when they own and use Apple products. So, in this work that I mentioned to you where I did an overview of 17 major brands in the marketplace, what we found was that people who own and use Apple feel more confident; they feel more intelligent.  So they are actually feeling things about themselves as a result of owning and using that brand. I don’t know about you but anything that makes me feel more confident and more intelligent I’d buy by the boat load.


Right, and in fact, I do.  So [laughter] I’m definitely am solving for a gap in my Apple products as I stare at my Macbook Pro, anyways.   


Exactly, yeah.


Is this work that you’re doing, is it predominantly, I’d call it, one-and-done or is it longitudinal?


It actually is different projects with different companies.  So for one company that we’re working with, we’re helping them with their communication strategy.  So, we are actually testing their advertising. And we are looking at different ways of emotionally engaging people.  There are two things we look at: one is the emotional response that people have to their communications. But then there’s another piece of it, which is the emotional identification, which is that you know “How does it make me feel about myself?” stuff that I was talking to you about?  So we’re working with them to help them increase those points of emotional resonance.

In other cases, we just did a project for a major manufacturer.  And in that case, we were actually trying to understand why a particular product wasn’t selling, and we were doing real-time emotional analysis at retail.  And we found that there was a particular issue around the packaging that was causing some disengagement – so very specific research around that. In other cases, we’re working with brands to really help them just understand what does their brand evoke and how can we help them understand more about the places of the emotional journey that could be better that lead to a better overall emotional experience with that brand.              


So, let’s shift gears a little bit.  You have run a successful agency for, I’ll call it, over ten years.  I know, I know, I know… [laughter] I’m at the spot now where I say two decades.  And I just like, “Oh, my gosh. That’s impossible. That guy is really old.” Anyways, so, what are two key challenges that you’ve faced in running a market research agency


Only two.  [laughs]


Yeah, OK, that’s a fair point.


I would say there are challenges, I think, around…  You know we compete with a lot of the big boys. So we compete with some of the big market research companies, and they just have a lot more money for advertising out there, a lot more money to increase their awareness.  Smaller companies like ours just don’t have those kinds of deep pockets. So there’s a challenge around letting people know what we do ‘cause people often say, “Oh, my gosh, we didn’t know you did this. There’s so few companies that do what you do.”  So that’s one challenge.

I think another challenge is really around having educated buyers who understand some of the intricacies of market research, I think.  Unfortunately, I’ve seen market research… you know people want it faster, cheaper, you know; they want to do it themselves. High quality.  I think that can be a challenge as well. I think some other challenges around retaining and attracting really top talent when you’re a smaller firm.  We try very hard to maintain… We have really great people, but the industry has changed over time; people sort of want to stay at a place for a couple of years and move on.  The whole concept of staying with a company for a lifetime is just an odd idea, I think, for many people.


Yeah, I think you’re right about the influx or the transition inside of the workplace, especially in a highly competitive market like Bay Area San Francisco, Chicago, New York, you’re always competing for talent either retaining or acquiring new talent.  What is one of the ways that you’ve been successful keeping high-quality talent engaged and/or attracting the right people?


I think it’s the work we do quite honestly.  People often say to me, “The projects that you do are so interesting.”  That’s one of the ways that we retain people by having something that they can sort of intellectually chew on and really kind of think about and understand.  It’s not just sort of the same-old, same-old. We are always trying to improve. That’s one of our core values as a company. We invest in research; as you know, we actually fund our own studies about research.  Things like this emotion work that I mentioned was something that we funded ourselves. We continue to publish, published a couple of books this year. So we’ve really… trying to sort of almost be like an academic-type organization, but we are a business – and sort of always have that intellectual rigor, as the center of what we’re doing.


That’s a tremendous amount of overhead, right, for the organization, especially one that’s in the sub-20s employee size.  The volume of the content that you’re spitting out, like you said, two books in 2018. I think you did two in 2017.


[laughs]  I might have done one, I don’t know.  [laughs]


Was it one?  I can’t remember but I tell you, that plus driving new initiatives like what you’ve just described.  I mean this is a significant amount of overhead and focus. How do you maintain that… walk that line of, to your point, of driving profit and also building brand?


I think it’s a function of just what we believe in.  We basically invest in what we believe in when we can.  When we have the availability to do it and the funds, we have the resources and the human power, we do that, and when we don’t, we don’t.  But it is a core value of ours ‘cause we believe that, if you’re not improving, you’re really losing. So if you’re not really focused on trying to be better, then you’re going to be really good at what you used to do, but the market changes.  And the reality is when I entered this market 25 years ago, it was really different. I think we did all-telephone interviews back then; internet was this weird concept. And now it’s getting to this point, people are saying, “Well, I really want to launch my own survey.  So how can you support me in that?” It’s really around if you’re not changing, then you’re kind of falling behind.


Yeah.  OK, this point is so important it’s actually going to be the title of a blog post I publish here in the next couple weeks.  But the gist of it is we have to see the world as it is in 2019 and 2020 when we’re framing out the products and solutions that are go-to market strategy and the way we interact with customers as opposed to viewing it as 2015, which is, unfortunately, still stuck in a lot of the market research agencies that I’ve talked to.  And I’ll give you a great example, and that is social media utilization. If you look at the millennials and Gen Z, social media is a cornerstone of their time. It’s a material place where they exist. And, in fact, just this morning I was having breakfast with another entrepreneur, and we talking about this very point. “Gosh, you know, we’re starting to punch through, but it’s not great.”  So, I sat down with him and started looking at his feed. He happens to be a B to C, not a B to B like us, but he’s not making any investment on Instagram, and yet that’s where all of his customers are. So, and, the really good news for him is nobody else is in his space either. So he has this huge opportunity, almost for free, an investment of time, but the thing he kicks against and the reason it’s so hard, he and I grew up with a rotary phones.  That’s kind of like my baseline of age. If you know what a rotary phone is, then you and I anyway… So that’s the challenge, I think, in a lot of ways, is we just have to accept the world as it is and not judge it as good or bad or as time wasters or whatever. That’s just where the consumers are. And from that, we should be able to, we will be able to punch through.

I’ll give you another great example.  (Sorry about my monologue.) LinkedIn – so this is a marketing research company or actually a services company, and I was talking to their CEO, and he was complaining about whatever.  I said, “Well, let’s look at your LinkedIn; so we looked at his LinkedIn. And there’s just no activity there, and he’s got something like 1500 to 2000 connections. I said, “Why don’t you take the time on your plane ride, on your flight, to write a post and have let it be from your heart.  Not about “Hey, look at me, look at me,” but whatever 2018 Lessons Learned. The thing got like 30,000 organic views. It’s performed better than anything I’ve produced this year. [laughter] And so, and so, anyway, my point is that… and now, all of a sudden, that, of course, is going to be a material part of his strategy going into 2019, right, because you just have to go where the consumers are and stop this whole judging right or wrong, not a good fit.  I think about the point that you made a moment ago, consumers want, by consumers I mean market researchers now, sorry… Market researchers, you’re right, they move from a caddy, which is the telephone or in-mall intercepts, now to an internet-enabled and now we’re at a “I want to do it myself” internally.  “How are you going to come along side me, researcher, and aid me?” And that’s where I think we have to start checking our assumptions and make sure they’re operating correctly in this new world.


Interestingly, you mentioned these examples…  I’ll give you another one. I had an interview with a woman recently who wrote a book, and she was interviewing me because she had a similar topic to one of my books.  And she had a release party for her book, and it was virtual. It was on Google Hangouts and it’s broadcast on YouTube. And I’ve never imagined having a release party that was virtual, but there is was.  Hundreds of people went to her “virtual” book release party.


I think exactly, exactly.  That’s the point, right? And we have to, have to, have to at least be willing to try these things because we learn from the wins and we learn from the losses, but if we don’t try, we don’t get either one of those learning opportunities.


Exactly, yep.  


So, you talked to us about the importance of investing in knowledge and growth, and I couldn’t agree more on this core value.  And I do believe that there’s no such thing as a steady state in life – you’re either advancing or you’re not. It’s this law of entropy that we have to constantly fight against.  So, what do see as a key CEO tip to success?


I would say that one of the things that no one ever tells you to prepare for is that there are some real highs and real lows to being a CEO.  And I think the highs are extraordinarily high, but I think the lows are extraordinarily low. I think we have this vision of being an entrepreneur and you get to determine your destiny and you get to do the kind of work you do.  But no one tells you about how challenging it is and how wonderful it is, I think, in some ways. So I think that’s one of things that you can always be prepared for.

The other thing that I learned along the way and this is that other CEOs have told me is that nobody will care as much about your business as you do.  And that’s something that has always kind of amazed me. I always kind of felt that I worked so hard to create this business and create jobs and get people health insurance and everything.  At some level, I will like breathe and sort of live this thing 24/7 and other people don’t have that feeling. And I care so deeply about my employees and care so deeply about my clients. I think that’s something where you really do invest your heart and soul in these things.  And sometimes you’re surprised that it’s not always reciprocated, and I think that’s one thing I’ve heard from other CEOs is how deeply they care about their businesses, whether they started them or not, and how sometimes not everyone shares that. So, those are some things that I’ve learned.  


Yeah, you definitely have to, I’ll call it, callous up.  Then the other side of it is, as entrepreneurs, we assume all of the risk, but then we also assume some of, not all of, the rewards as well.  I think that, you know that saying, you can’t understand the color white unless you understand the color black and vice versus. To your point, that contrast – the highs and the lows – that’s really creating that full view that I believe connects us to outcome of the business that isn’t just recognized at a financial level but also at an emotional level.                     


Absolutely.  And you are very emotionally invested in it.  I work with a lot of CEOs, and I don’t know any CEO who is not really sort of living this 24/7, regardless whether they started it or not.  They just care so deeply.


Yeah, for sure.  So, you have hired, fired, promoted staff for 15 years.  What do you see as three characteristics of an All-Star Employee?


The first thing is something that was said to me on my very first day at work at my very first job, my first market research job.  I said to the senior partner at the firm, I said, “What is it that really determines whether someone succeeds here or not?” He looked at me and said, “It’s the ability to see the forest from the trees and the trees from the forest.”  So the people who can have a big picture and view of things and then can get into the details and then do it from the details up to the bigger picture. And I think that really is the case in market research. The people I see that are really successful are people who are really good at going from the very high level to the low and back.  And if they’re not good at one of those things, they get people who are good at the area where they’re not good. Those are the people who do the best.

I think the other thing that I see is that people who really function as team members are the ones who do the best.  I often say that frankly with my clients I look at those as partnerships. I don’t look at myself and our services as, “Hey, we’re going to give this to you and you’re going to be happy for it.”  I want for there to be a level of involvement and reiteration with those very smart clients that we work with so that we can really do something better together than we did on our own individually.  Employees, I think, who are really smart are the ones who understand that they work really well with each other and really leverage the strengths of their colleagues, and they do the same with their clients.  So, I think those are two really big things.

And then lastly, I believe and I think this is an area where market research is not really known for, but I think being creative is really big predictor.  Having lots of ideas, lots of different ways of doing things is to me someone who is worth their weight in gold. I see people who aren’t that “smart” but who have a lot of ideas, and they go far.    


Yeah, for sure.  You have to have both.  You have to have the ideas and then you have to have the intestinal fortitude to realize a specific idea or maybe a set of ideas over time through to action or to market. So, do you have any specific, special offers?  Or what’s got you excited right now that you’re positioning in the marketplace? I know you had your book release recently.


I did.  That’s actually not a market research book.  It’s one of the few books that is not a … It’s a research book but not a market research book.  But that book is Cinderella Didn’t Live Happily Ever After:  The Hidden Messages in Fairy Tales.  So, that’s something I did on my nights and weekends and is a data analysis of fairy tales.  So a little bit different.


A little bit.  Is that on Amazon?


It is on Amazon, yes, in eBook and paperback form.  The thing I’m probably most excited about though in the business right now is our work on emotions.  And it’s had me actually traveling around all over the country, and I’ve been presenting a really fun presentation on work that we did; it’s work we invested in.  So we own the data. It’s a couple of really big studies. It’s a statistical model. We’ve validated it, and we use it in all the work we do. But it is something that I really like to present.  I give some examples of how it actually works in the marketplace. But it really looks at and answers three questions: What is it that predicts whether or not customers will buy from you? What is it that predicts whether repeat purchases a car and what leads to brand advocacy?   And it’s an analysis of the emotions that you need to experience for those three things to happen. And it’s a really fabulous and fun presentation that people tend to say, “Hey, didn’t really think of things like that. Makes a lot of sense.” And it’s really actually changed how some people are approaching some things, which is very exciting for me.  Whether or not they use our research services or not, it’s definitely got people thinking a bit differently.


And, if people want to get in contact with you, how can they reach you?  


They could reach me by phone or by email.  


Your website is…


It’s BeallResearch.com or BeallRT.com.  So it’s B-E-A-L-LResearch, all one word, .com.  And you can get contact information there. Call or email whatever works for you.  


My guest today has been Anne Beall, founder and CEO of Beall Research.  Thank you, Anne, for being on the Happy Market Research Podcast.


Thank you so much for having me.  It’s been such a pleasure.


And thank you, everybody.  As always the show notes are complete.  You can find Anne’s contact information as well as links to her recent book, which I just purchased during our conversation today.  Can’t wait to read it this weekend. Have a wonderful rest of your day!


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

Ep. 210 – Kylan Lundeen – How Qualtrics Used Culture to Create an $8 Billion Outcome

My guest today is Kylan Lundeen, Head of Marketing at Qualtrics. Qualtrics was founded in 2002 and is a subscription software for collecting and analyzing data for market research, customer satisfaction and loyalty, product and concept testing, employee evaluations and website feedback.

On November 11, 2018 it was announced that Qualtrics would be acquired by SAP. The acquisition is expected to close in the first half of 2019.

Prior to joining Qualtrics in 2013, Kylan worked in Turnaround & Restructuring Services at DVC while getting his MBA at Stanford.

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This is episode 201 of the Happy Market Research Podcast.  I have the pleasure of chatting with Kylan Lundeen, Head of Marketing for Qualtrics.  But first a word from our sponsor.


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Hi. I’m Jamin Brazil, and you’re listening to the Happy Market Research Podcast.  My guest today is Kylan Lundeen, CMO at Qualtrics. Qualtrics was founded in 2002 and is a subscription software for collecting and analyzing consumer data.  On November 11, 2018, it was announced that Qualtrics would be acquired by SAP; the acquisition is expected to close in the first half of 2019. Prior to joining Qualtrics in 2013, Kylan worked in turnaround and restructuring services at DVC while getting his MBA at Stanford University.  Kylan, thanks very much for joining me on the Happy Market Research Podcast. I’ve been watching you guys very closely, of course, given my background at Decipher. I remember actually in 2002 when I saw you guys pop, I was in a meeting at Intuit. Intuit brought up that they had heard about you guys, and you had reached out.  And I’m like, “Oh, that really interesting.” So I started to do some digging. Based out of Utah, kind of an unusual location for a technology company in those days. Subsequently, the company just ramped. I felt like every single year, it was almost like a new phoenix.


Yeah, it was interesting because it’s funny as people look back now it’s seems real intuitive.  You look at the path and it seems [Jamie laughs]… And they’re like, “Of course.” When I joined the company out of business school, it was still very much an academic research tool.  And I say “tool” very sort of specifically. And the very soon thereafter, we kind of committed to an academic research platform. Then we went into a corporate research platform. Then we went into sort of like, generally speaking, insight platform because it was sort of beyond this kind of market research that people were doing.  And then we moved into experience management. And again, looking back, all those steps see really logical, but they were terrifying at the time. Each of one those felt like we were really taking a risk. Where we had core audience that was really important to us and that we wanted to continue to sort of prioritize and put at the center of everything.  But we needed to expand sort of the messaging and our product offering to include different people, which means the messaging gets a little bit diluted to that specific audience at first. So every time it felt really risky, and, I’ll be honest, when I first met Ryan… He and I had a chance encounter in Palo Alto. He was out there closing the first round of financing from Sequoia and Accel and we had breakfast together.  And there were two things…


And what year is that?


This is 2012.  So, in 2012, I had breakfast with Ryan Smith.  Again, he was closing the first round of financing.  There were two things in this meeting that appeared to be true instantly that have proven to be true over time.  So the first one was that Ryan, as a CEO, appeared to me to be a bet-the-business kind of person, meaning he did not come across as the kind of person that going to say, “Hey, I know Wall Street thinks we’re going to grow at 9% this year.  Let’s go blow everyone’s mind and let’s do 11%.” That was not ever his DNA. He was like, “Look, I want to go completely, invent, and take a category all the way to top, or I’m not just interested in doing this.” Like so, “Let’s go be the largest enterprise software players in the world or else what are we doing?”  He just had sort of energy of like, “Look we’re going to the moon, and if want to sign up, let’s do this.” So, that’s interesting because back to that original point, that’s what happened, right? Like he’s bet the business over and over again between going from academic research tool, to an enterprise research tool, to an inside platform, to now experience management.  Each of those has been a bet-the-business decision and have led to phenomenal results for us in the company. So just couldn’t be more excited to be part of that.


Yeah, so, …


The other piece…


I’m sorry.  Go ahead.


Yeah, yeah.  He appeared to be a bet-the-business kind of person, and he also appeared to be a bet-on-people kind of person, meaning that I got the sense from him in our first breakfast ever meeting that he assumed people could do it before he assumed that they couldn’t do it. And so, you can imagine those things together were incredibly powerful.  Someone emerging from business school – now granted I had been in the private equity space for five years, but the idea of moving to a technology company that was going to shot for moon and that would always assume someone could before they couldn’t. What that led to was a) if you’re in a hypergrowth technology company, there’s unfair opportunities in front of you all over the place ‘cause they’re just desperate for new talent to lead new functions in areas and in tactics.  But then on top of that, you have a CEO who from a very top-down approach has built a culture where they’re going to ask you to do something, and it’s yours to lose. It’s not like, “Hey, well, let’s go…” Normally, in most businesses, a role opens. Someone leaves the company or someone’s promoted and there’s a vacancy. There’s a process where 35 qualified people all apply for that role, and may the best person win. At Qualtrics in a hypergrowth tech company, it’s exactly opposite:  there’s 35 jobs that need to get done and they’re struggling to get talent into the building fast enough. So they ask you to do all of them. As long as you don’t drop the ball, “Hey, congratulations! That’s your new responsibility.”


Which is interesting, especially…  I was doing research on you in preparation for this interview.  Coming out, as you said, of the private equity world, which is a different lens than I’d put venture capital, especially in the context of the investors that you guys have.  And then, moving into special operations and very quickly (I think just outside of a year) moving into overseeing marketing. I mean it’s a tremendous amount of responsibility that was thrown…  I don’t mean “thrown on your shoulders” like in a bad way, but the opportunity that you were given that you could then subsequently grow into. Has that been a big part of the growth strategy or success is just giving people the opportunity and the autonomy to succeed?     


Well, there are a few things that led there.  That’s certainly been a circuitous path to the CMO here at Qualtrics.  Again, private equity really in a lot of ways I love the underlying sort of fundamentals that private equity brought to the table at Qualtrics for me.  Everything has to rely on data, on spreadsheets, understanding exactly what the ROI, what every decision is. That was sort of the underpinnings of this.  That’s why, as I joined Qualtrics, I actually joined the special operations team and was working on something called Redforce, which is essentially metricking the business for the first time.  How do you know how many leads you need and how many salespeople you need and what kind of a pipeline they required to meet our sales goals for next year? The company was early enough that no one had done that before.  And so, I spent the first year putting all the metrics in place to really understand how the business worked. That way, if there was ever a moment when growth stalled just a little bit or we sensed it was going to stall, we knew all the levers to pull to just accelerate right through it even if it cost money to do it.  We knew then most companies often during the growth phase, they’re not disciplined enough to do that. And, by the time they start to slow down, it’s too late to go figure out what those levers are and they hit that plateau and the end is near maybe. And so, for us, it was really important for the founders to understand those growth levers early during the growth phase so that, if we ever even smelled a pause or slowdown, we could just accelerate right through it.  So I spent the first year doing that. What was great about that is I got put my hands in all parts of the business. I got to explore marketing for the first time as I really thought about, “Well, what campaigns are running and how are they performing and what kind of budget should you require next year to be able to lead to the… feeding salesforce, how many leads is required next year for them to hit their goals. Ok, let’s go dive into sales. How often are you converting opportunities?  We just went through everything and what happened is, on the side, Ryan started to loop me in on some of his sort of marketing activity. So, the CEO is out raising money; he’s closing deals; he’s doing a lot of sort of selling and one time he said, “I want to go raise another round of financing. Would you help me put together a story?” What is our story? We just sort of gone to the insights platform at that time. Let’s put it together. So, spend some time with Ryan, creating a deck, I’m handy in Illustrator and Photoshop.  That’s kind of been a hobby throughout my childhood, just enough to be dangerous. But I could put together a PowerPoint presentation, you know beautiful keynote and then really put a story around it that was interesting. And together, I felt this like electric sort of vibe that I hadn’t experienced in business before. What I found is that any time I got to sort of live in the metrics, but then layer on creativity, I got this extra dopamine hit that I never had before in business. After that, I was hooked. And so, on the side, I started doing these marketing projects for Ryan.  He’s like, “Hey, I want to go spend a significant amount of money in Dreamforce. Let’s go make a presence there for the first time. I don’t want our classic marketing play look. I kind of want you to go do it.” So I kind of peeled off, pulled together kind of a special team and we went and did Dreamforce and did something truly incredible at Dreamforce where we basically hijacked the entire trade show for two days. It was amazing, right, on a shoestring budget. And so, all these projects that I was doing on the side with Ryan that had a creative flair… Again, they were the ones that I was most excited about.  I would wake up early; I would stay late. I was throwing everything I had into them. Of course, the result was they ended up going really well because I was personally invested in them. I got that satisfaction that was outside of just sort of like business results, which was great.


So, one of the things that’s really interesting about Qualtrics from my vantage point as an entrepreneur is you guys have very profoundly, successfully created a company that just frankly didn’t exist.  There isn’t a competitive set that I’ve been able to identify or comparables are a little bit different, right? It’s not anybody, right? You guys are fulfilling this really different, unique role, and yet you’ve been massively successful in monetizing that.  When you filed your S-1, it’s all anybody could talk about at that point in terms of the top line and the attention to the bottom line as well. When they market sees that “Oh Qualtrics is going to be there now”, I’m thinking about TMRE, I think that was in November of 2018, that conference…  you guys were the anchor point for the conference in every way, shape and form. And that is a hallmark that has existed anytime that you guys are present at a location, at an event. There’s so much hesitancy for other companies to step out and be the belle of the ball, I think. How much fear, if at all, did you guys have in, “Oh, gosh!  Is it going to be too much?” I’ll just give you an example of like Ryan giving a wedding ring to the couple that was going to get engaged, sort of that Oprahesque element of it, right? There’s part of me, when I first heard that, was like, “Oh, my gosh! That’s a scary move. Is that going to be viewed as impostor?” And then you guys just leaned in and just  dominated that narrative so much and made it your own. Has conquering fear been part of what you’ve dealt with as a CMO?


I mean absolutely.  If you think of about it, any time you do anything interesting, there are going to be people on both sides that either love it or hate it.  And it actually feels like especially things that again… Stuff that is actually interesting. You can do all kinds of stuff and no one cares, but when you do stuff that actually moves the needle, that gathers the mind space of your prospects and customers, it ends up being a little bit divisive.  And so, for the most part, we have to be committed. I think one of the good things about Qualtrics is we’ve got a CEO who is a dreamer. He is like a true dreamer. Then you’ve got a CMO who has a brain trust with them and can go execute on some of these dreams. But it’s incredibly empowering when you know that…  For example, most of our conversations are like this: “Hey, Ryan. I’ve got this crazy idea. [Jamin laughs] What if we blank (whatever)?” And Ryan’s answer is, “I’ve never heard of anybody doing that. There’s no way that would work. People are going to hate it. I think we should try it. I think we should try it. I like it.”  I mean that’s how most of our conversations go. Yes, there’s a lot of risk, and I wish I could say, “Well, I’ve got this great risk profile and whatever.” But the reality is I’m enable by a CEO who wants to go and change the world. And you don’t change the world by doing what’s done already. You go and do things that are disruptive, and disruption usually makes people uncomfortable.  The wedding ring example is a great one, right? Not only did… the first time we did this I told this story at TMRE. I didn’t give all the facts. I sort of presented it like that was the first time we done Dream team where we sort of fulfilled these dreams of the audience that attend our events. And I shared this story about how someone was hesitant to invite their partner to marry them and they said, “Hey, if you can give me any encouragement while I’m here this weekend, it’d be great.”  And Ryan said, “I’ll do one better. Here’s a diamond wedding ring if you propose before the weekend’s over, it’s yours.” Now that was actually about two years in. So, we’ve been doing this on a smaller scale before that where most things were like, “Hey, it’d be great if there were hot coffee.” or “Hey, I spilt some mustard on my shirt. Is there any way I can find a local drycleaner?” And we brought him a new shirt. We wanted to do something that explained very dramatically to our customers who we are and what we did.  In this case, it wasn’t as risky as maybe people think it is. It was really in line with our brand value. We were starting the experience management industry. We are the experience management company, and so we want to make sure that anybody that attends our events recognizes that they will have an experience unlike any other that they’ve ever had because one simple fact: we ask our customers what they’re feeling and thinking and we take action on that. Now, you might say, “Well, that’s a dramatic action to take.” Buying wedding rings, that’s not profitable in the long term for most businesses.  Correct, but it highlights sort of at the core who we are as a company and what we enable other organizations to do, which is to listen to customers, employees, prospects, all stakeholders, and then take action in a meaningful way to drive sort of loyalty and sort of excitement for the brand that doesn’t exist for most companies.


When you think about your focus as an executive team, most companies, I think, are centered around… (I don’t know really what the ratios are, but I’ll just pretend like I do like I do with everything else).  So we’ll say 80% focused on external customers and 20% internal HR. It feels like the needle is different at Qualtrics; it feels like there’s been more of a (I don’t know what it is) 50-50 or even if it is zero sum, maybe it’s a 100% in both camps.  How much of your energy is spent on, and focus, spent on internal culture versus external sales?


Yeah, I mean… I wish I could give you a percentage breakdown that’s not off the cuff.  It’s not entirely clear to me. But I’ll give you a couple of anecdotes of things and how we think about it.  Well, just give you a couple of sort of artifacts of Qualtrics culture that perpetuated throughout our 16-to-18 year history.  Every Friday for the first ten years when there was 15 people in the building, they would get together and have a TGIF meeting.  They’d get together and over the course of an hour, they would sort of celebrate the new deals that had come in, so talk about sales success.  And then they’d focus on people after that. The sales success was real important. The people part… And again, the sales piece I shouldn’t undermine that; we’re an incredibly sales-driven organization.  That was the first thing we talked about, just to be clear. But then right after that and for the majority of the meeting, there were a couple of really key activities that were never missed, and those perpetuate today.  So, one is anybody who was new at the company would get up and introduce themselves and, as they did, they would share you know where they’re from, what team they’re joining, etc., but also they would share their first concert.  As they did that, it was interesting ‘cause it would really sort of… When you share you first concert, it actually illicits quite an emotional reaction from those around you. It’s like either people that was their first concert too and like they’re somehow your soulmates with that person [Jamin laughs] for some reason or “Oh, my gosh.  You did not seem to me like a Dr. Dre or Snoop Dogg kind of person. That’s totally a mindblower.” There are all these things that are really interesting about the concert. That was an important sort of thing that perpetuated. And then, if the person said, “I’ve actually never been to a concert,” Ryan would say, “Hey, choose your dream concert.  We’re sending you to your first concert.” kind of a thing. So, it’s kind of this great celebration moment for new employees. Then we would do this thing called “Whoops.” Whoops was the chance to celebrate people and mistakes at Qualtrics and the cost of going fast, which was again what we were trying to do. Basically, each week someone would raise their hand, a few people, and they would share a story about messing up that week.  Right, if it’s like, “Hey, I.. you know, the crazy stories like [Jamin laughs] I look a support call on my phone because it was a crisis situation but I was in the bathroom. And so, I was talking to the client while I was using the bathroom, and there was this moment where they could tell I was in the bathroom. And it was super awkward.” Just everything that you could think of, someone would surface and tell the story. Then there was this award.  Whoever had the biggest, funniest voted upon (everyone voted at the end) mistake, we celebrated that then and they got this award they carried with them for the week until the next Friday when someone else would volunteer. And it just sort of made it OK for people to go fast, to take risks, to fail. And there was always a learning moment; you know like the founders would step up and our CEO, Co-founder Jared would take the mic and just sort of comment around that mistake for just a second, just to make sure it brought context to why we should never do that again or “Hey, that’s the cost of you know going fast.”  So those are kind of things… Today even now (It’s moved to Thursday; they handle our international offices) every Thursday we have a TGIT meeting now where it’s all hands globally, everybody dials in, and we do the same things. And so, we’ve tried really hard in a lot of ways to sort of make sure those components… we do stay very internally focused on making sure that we have the best benefits in the world, that our people are more engaged than their business. The rate of attrition is zero or possible. That’s a massive focus. What I think Ryan’s done is he’s built a family, at this point it’s a 2,000-person family which we intend to scale that to much greater than that.  And we’re on track to do it.


Is the plan post-close with SAP to operate autonomously, similar to a Google and Yahoo or is it to operate under the umbrella?


It’s this very cool combination of both, and I’ll tell you why.  So, one the one hand… so, right now, SAP… I mean SAP is incredible.  What they’ve been able to do almost you know their triple market cap under Bill McDermott…  Like he’s a phenomenal leader; he’s amazing. Their most recent sort of like market strategy has been to build up the intel’s enterprise because with smarter businesses, you can improve the world, and there’s a lot of reasons, so that made a ton of sense, and it’s been great for him.  But what they recognize is that the future of the business software industry is experience management. It’s not just producing more widgets faster you know with you know less overhead and you know reduce supply-chain sort of friction, but instead it’s about how do you actually manage the experience and then not only… So, for example, Ok, let’s say you buy a new pair of Under Armour shoes – they’re new HOVR shoes; they’re amazing.  And you put them on; you’re like, “Wow! I ordered a size 9, but these fit a little bit different than most of my size 9 shoes. Well, now that information, that sort of that experience data you have can not only get back to customer service reps who can maybe give you a new pair of shoes or try trading them out like yeah great… That’s important and that’s an incredibly important part of customer success but not only that now you can back into the production line to the machines, the people, the processes that made that shoe and, all of a sudden, you’ve got end-to-end experience management.  That’s something that nobody else can offer. And so, the intelligent enterprise will remain but, instead of SAP as the intelligent enterprise and Qualtrics experience management, it’ll be SAP experience management. And one of the products you can buy is Qualtrics, right, because that’s how they deliver experience management. You need the X-data, which is what we deliver, and you need O-data, which is what they’re best in the world at. 76% of all the world’s transactions; that’s amazing! So, what’s cool about this is, “Yes, the last thing they want to do is intervene with Qualtrics, who are one of their fastest growing assets.  They’re just like, “Call if you need anything; like literally, if you need anything, call us; otherwise, you guys got this. Go, go for it!” And they understand the category and like what we’re doing is pretty special. At the same time, they’re elevating their messaging up to “We are experience management.” So, it’s this really cool thing, and we’re at the table and all of these decisions talking about what the future of the company is, mostly what the future of experience management is and how we do that together.


You know one of the things that you brought up is in the very, very early days, starting in B school, I think you guys actually have or had a (Gosh, it’s been a long time since I got my MBA) but there’s like this self-reported product where you do a… you have a bunch of people survey about who you are and then it’s a self-awareness assessment.  That has a name, and I don’t know why I can’t think of it. But anyway.


Is it 360 performance assessment?


360 review.  Thank you. Do you guys still have that product?


Sure, yeah, yeah.


Ok, great.  Was that the first product or was there a B-to-B product?  Was that the original strategy?


You mean outside of our research offering for academics?




Yeah, so I’ll give you a quick overview of the history of Qualtrics.  


Sorry, really quick.  And this is the reason why I’m interested in it, is it felt to me as an outsider like there was a pivot that took place inside of Qualtrics that was super important where there was – and this is just again, this is an outsider view – where there was an intention to go to the market at large and then sort of a refocus on the B schools, and then the B schools eventually empowering organizations and, already being the tool of choice because of the experience, it created this massive distance or benefit for Qualtrics as the platform of choice.     


You know it’s funny because I would love to tell you, “Hey, look, we got in the basement one day and made this diabolical scheme [Jamin laughs] to go take over the world and here are all the strategic steps we were going to take, but the reality is and it’s why people keep talking about this so much –  all the good things happened to Qualtrics because we are incredibly focused on the customer. And I know that sounds so cliché and that’s what everybody says, but just let me give you evidence of what that means and how that pivot you felt that was so smart and sort of put Qualtrics into the next stratosphere was absolutely just working and listening to the customers and then being smart on top of that ‘cause sometimes customers ask for strange things, especially academics.  I mean academics in a lot of ways are the worst possible customers. Like they want really fringe-use cases sort of features that no one will ever use ever again but they need it for this very specific research thing we’re doing, and then they, they have so much time on their hands they’re in the product all day long, just pounding the product. So it’s like… I mean they’re really demanding customers, but what that did it forced us to innovate and to build something incredibly robust.  It forced us to build an enterprise offering although we didn’t know that at the time. So, think about academics. Some of the data they’re collecting is so sensitive the university will be sued if any of the information gets out, right: medical records, gender preferences, like all kinds of stuff. It has to be incredibly secure. Out of the gates, we had to build a platform where data security was front and center. Then there’s probably not a more collaborative people group of people on the planet than academics.  Not only do they want to collaborate with other professors but, “Hey, my mentor is at Princeton. I need to collaborate the same thing with this friend at Princeton.” And so, collaboration became an important part of the tool out of the gate. So, all of a sudden, you’ve got an enterprise platform that’s secure and with massive collaboration capabilities that was absolutely serving that customer, but we didn’t realize it at the time we building a lights-out enterprise commercial offering. And so, with the 360 in particular, what’s cool about that is universities who are primary customers said, “Hey, business schools in particular… we’re having trouble proving that people… there’s economic benefit to having an MBA.  So, one of the things we want to do is we want to show people how big of a transformation they have as they go through the process.” So that where they, “Hey, we could use Qualtrics and just survey their friends and find out how they feel about their skills and then afterwards survey them again, a year after school, and be like, ‘Hey, did you see any changes? What happened?’” And they said, “But you know what would be really cool is, it’d be better if you could do one assessment but instead of like one survey that one person responds and another one, another one, another one, another one, what if it was one multiple people or what the call “multi-rater feedback” could exist. We said, “That’s a cool technology problem.  We can probably fix that. Let’s go do that.” So we built the 360 to go address this B school problem of “Hey, we need to show the world that people come to our program and leave different, better, improved, more skilled more ready for the workforce.” And that’s what the 360.. that’s how it started. So, it started at Stanford.


I love that.  I have to interject really quick since you’re on the B school.  I have this. So, I have competed over the years with you guys vigorously, and I’ve won and I’ve lost.  One of my all-time biggest losses is actually in my hometown, Fresno State. So, Fresno State has a Qualtrics license.  I built a survey platform. That’s 200 employees here locally and even created a school in the CS department or a class in the CS department, which qualified programmers to be on my platform.  And yet I could not unseat Qualtrics even though I’m friends with the president of the university. So, it’s interesting how once you were dug into that ecosystem, it felt like it was really hard, if not impossible, to unseat you.  


Oh, we love that strategy and I wish I could say just because we have a great sales team, which we do, but early on, the strategy was very clearly focused on the academic market.  And so, that meant we tried relentlessly to serve that customer. When they said, “Hey, we want you to build a question type that flies in from the left, watches their eyes as they watch a video that scrolls from top to bottom and then sees if their ears move while they’re watching,” we would go build that.  And we’d say, “Like we’re going to do this you; we’re going to go do it even though we knew no one was ever do that again.” And what they liked about that was they built this trust with us where they said, “Even if I needed that one capability, the cool thing is 30 days later it was now standard in product for everyone.”  And so, we just productized all this stuff they were asking for. Instead of making it one-off, custom, we just said, “Let’s just put all this capability in the platform, make it scalable to everybody because I bet there are other people like Professor So-and-So who want to see if their ears move when they’re smiling watching video from top to bottom as their eyes scroll doing whatever.


Love it.  It felt to me a lot that one of the things that you guys did that, again being very centric to your experience data, applying those same principles to your customers and then letting that guide the road map, which ultimately created this suite of productization of research…  Once it’s baked into the operations, it’s really powerful to inform and create change inside of your customers to create better benefit to their customers.


That’s right, that’s right, absolutely.


So, if you were a… You know we have a lot of entrepreneurs.  I’ve got really three different types of listeners to these shows.  You’ve got insights professionals; you’ve got people that are looking to get careers inside of the market research space or insights space; and then there’s this group that’s these entrepreneurs.  When you think about and talk with this aspiring group of professionals that are started their businesses and trying to fill needs in the marketplace, what are a couple of recommendations that you would give them?  Keys to success?


Yeah, for recognizing needs in the marketplace, you know what’s interesting is like – and I’m pretty passionate about this and I don’t know if this is the answer you’re looking for but I’ll just go with my instincts here.  You know I have a bunch of classmates who are incredible people, but they fell onto that classic business school trap, especially at Stanford where like it feels like everyone around you has started a billion-dollar tech company.  Your classmate’s doing a billion-dollar tech company on the side apparently. It just feels like that all the time, and so there’s this process of like market assessment. It’s like, “Ok, let me do a discover of market need. Let me go build out a…; let me understand the TAM.  Let me go find a technical co-founder. We’ll fit that specific need.” That’s sort of this idea that sort of exists out there, and there’s books that talk about this, etc. And the reality is I just don’t think that works. Anybody I know that’s gone down that route, like maybe they’ve had a base hit, but most of them just folded up shop.  What’s interesting about it is really what’s led to incredible outcomes: you know happiness for the entrepreneur and success financially or technology-wise or whatever that success-metric is for them has been around that founder passion that people talk about.

It’s where not only do they have an idea but it’s something they personally care so deeply about that, if it comes time to mortgage the house, they’re like, “Pfft, of course, I’m going to mortgage the house.  Like if I don’t do this, what am I going to DO? Like I was BORN to do this.” Without that, I don’t think it works. It gets so hard, and so painful even by the time I joined Qualtrics. This is 2012, six years ago, they were well on their way, but like it was hard.  And if you don’t have that conviction, to like stay the course, it is so easy to get blown around and you wind up with some quasi-successful exit along the way.

And so, I’ll give you a quick anecdote that’s been really powerful for me, and I’ve seen this happen over and over again.  So, Andy Rachleff, one of the founders of Benchmark Capital, amazing entrepreneur, amazing leader, started Wealthfront. He’s just incredible, one of the smartest people I’ve ever met.  He’s been a great mentor; he’s a great person. As I think about… He talked early on about the investment criteria that Benchmark would make. And they’d get their board together and they’d vote on them. And they looked at them; it was this oversimplification, but they put everybody in a 2 by 2 matrix.  And on one side of the matrix, you had whether the entrepreneur was right or they were wrong, which again is hard to know as an investor but let’s just put it over there – right or wrong. Was their idea right or wrong? And then at the top across on the other axis, you’d say, “Is the entrepreneur’s idea in-consensus with the majority or non-consensus?”  Ok, think about it: you’ve got whether they’re right or wrong, in-consensus of non-consensus. And what’s interesting is they didn’t want to, of course, invest in any entrepreneurs that were right and in consensus. It’s like, “Hey, we want to create a social network that does x, y, and z.” Ok, everybody agrees that that’s a good idea; in fact, there’s a hundred people doing it.  It’s going to be a commoditized market; there’s no competitive advantage. We don’t want to be in that business. It’s going to be a base hit, and, as you know, venture capitalists are looking not base hits; they’re looking for dragon-type returns. So it doesn’t work for them, right, even though the entrepreneur they think is right and everyone agrees their right, they don’t do it.  Then you go down to whether the entrepreneur is right… or sorry, in-consensus, and they’re actually wrong. So there’s a great example like groceries.com. Everyone is like, “Yes, why would I go to store to buy groceries when I can order them online! Well, it turns out that was in 2000; they poured 800 million dollars into that business, and it didn’t work because, for whatever reason, it’s a great idea but it turns out that people just still like going to grocery store and putting cans of soup in their cart, right?  Now we’re starting to see a little bit more of the online thing. Everyone thought they were right, but the entrepreneur actually was wrong. We hate to be in that category, but who can blame you because everyone thought you were right. No big deal. Then there’s these other two really dangerous categories. One is you’re not in-consensus and you’re wrong. Everyone told you were wrong, and you ARE wrong. So, now you are just class clown; you’re an idiot basically. And everyone tells you that. It’s like that’s such a terrifying place to wind up that most people won’t do it.  Now, the interesting thing is the last box is you’re a non-consensus and you were right. Everyone told you you were wrong, but you’re right. That’s where the magic happens; that’s where you get out in front of the crowd; and that, by the way, is exactly what happened with experience management.

We went out with experience management and, before we did by the way, everyone – and I mean everyone – was going, “I don’t get it.  You guys are great survey platform, why don’t you just stick with what you know. That makes sense; people understand that. Experience management:   Are you a wedding company?  Are you a river rafting tour operator?  What do you mean “experience management?”  It took work, but we were so convinced, we were so convinced even though everyone said it was wrong.  We paid the price; we stayed the course; and we wound up in a really special place. And I think everybody in this last acquisition, it painted a picture of how special it really was.  

What’s cool and what’s counterintuitive about this is Andy tells a story about how they would have the board vote at Benchmark and, if the entire board agreed that it was an amazing investment, that they should do it, they walked away because they knew they were in that territory of box that was “The entrepreneur is probably right and everybody knew it.  That wasn’t the kind of business they wanted to it invest it,” which is so counterintuitive, so counterintuitive. It’s funny ‘cause now I have friends come to me, and it’s funny this is pretty common: there’s either the entrepreneurs who don’t want to tell anybody because they think people are going to steal their idea or the entrepreneur that’s a little… they don’t have the confidence they need, so they’re out there, “Hey, I this kind of have this idea.  What do you think?” And they’re looking for people to say, “That’s amazing. That’s genius. You should totally do that!” When the reality is, in a lot of ways, you should be doing the opposite. When you go, “Hey, I’ve got this idea. What do you think?” People are like, “That’s really stupid. I don’t get.” [Jamin laughs.] The answer should be like “So you’re saying there’s a chance.” It’s that pushback that’s uncomfortable that says, “Ok, this is something I care about so deeply; the rest of the world doesn’t quite get it yet, but they will.”  If that’s what you have inside, that’s a good thing.


Exactly.  It’s this capacity to be able to trump the fear of failure and the fear of how the market, your parents, whatever might view you and just be dogmatic about your going to be successful because this is what the market needs.  But the fear part is that you move to your… you know, using your quadrant example, you do move into that position of, “Yeah, I already said it was a bad idea and, oh yeah, it turns out it was.” [laughs] But, thinking about your transition into experience management, I think that view that you described, and I appreciate that color commentary, is exactly correct, right?  I mean I remember when you guys did the announcements of four quadrants, website change. I looked at that and I said, “Holy moly, that is a completely different company. How are…?” And this is where my brain went: “How are corporations going to pay for it?” In other words, it’s uncharted territory; there isn’t a budget line item, right, that’s been set aside for this experience management or experience data, and it seems like the corporations adapted.


Yeah, so you know what’s interesting again it wasn’t like, “Hey, we blindsided corporations with this announcement.  This was something again… Experience management was something that we were being pulled along by our clients in a lot of ways.  Try to be as customer-centric as possible. We realized is even though we’d set out a long time ago to build the number 1 online market research platform, like that’s what they want to go do, and by the time we checked (This is the time I am joining the company) we checked in and actually had usage data; we were combining our O-data from the platform with X-data from what people said they were trying to do and wanted to do with what they were actually naming and doing in surveys, we found that market research had actually slipped to the third most common use case.  The number 1 use case was customer experience, customer satisfaction; the number 2 was employee experience; and then number 3 was market research but primarily a combination of product work and brand work. And so, it emerged and it was clear to us, but you know putting a container around it, building a category that highlighted what that was that felt super risky. So what we ended up doing was… Right before that we started to build out very specific technology stacks that lined up against the unique use cases that our customers needed. So, we were delivering the needs… you know delivering products for our customers’ needs unquestionably.  How we talked about it and what we called it, that was really hard, and that was really risky. And I’ll tell you what. Here’s what people would say… people would say, “Wait a minute. So you’re going to have competitors out there who have a single buyer, a single focus, a single message, and just as much marketing money as you have. And you’re going to go out there and talk about this thing called experience management that probably only resonates with the CEO, and now you’ve got four different buyers that you’re supposed to be selling to. It’s going to be such a cluster; it’s going to be so hard; it’s not going to work.” That’s the kind of stuff people were coming back with and we had to say, “It’s the right thing to do.  You don’t get it. We’re making the bet. Let’s go.” And that was really hard. It was a classic Ryan Smith move. It was a bet-the-business move. Once we made the decision, he went top to bottom through the entire company and said, “This is our future. This is what we’re doing.” There was never like a, “Hey, we’re going to go test the waters. We’re going to… I’m going to go socialize this with the teams.” It was like, “This is what we’re doing. Let’s go.”


That’s such a great story.  It’s so inspirational, honestly.  As an entrepreneur, being willing to make those choices and, of course, it’s always nice when you’re right.  There’s so much of that the psychology part of it that is just not understood unless you’re part of that experience because you don’t know…  Steve Jobs – the dots connect when you look backward, but as you’re going through it, you don’t know that the B school grads are going to wind up using you as a platform of choice in five years. I mean you just don’t know.  It’s great if it happens, but you just don’t know. And being so dedicated towards creating and realizing that vision is, I believe, to your point the reason that there are companies that are successful and as it wavers, why they’re not.   


If I was to give one tidbit of advice to those aspiring entrepreneurs out there, and it’s not even advice that I could say, “Hey, I’ve internalized this, and I’ve exemplified this.”  It’s just that I’ve experienced it and watched at Qualtrics. So that’s why I feel like… it feels somewhat authentic to share it and that is that the founders of Qualtrics, Ryan and Jared, have always unquestionably played the long game.  They’ve always played the long game. What’s interesting about that is you think back to like the student thing. We interviewed someone from Microsoft the other day and they shared that there are 34 million free licenses available to college students right now for Office and something like 2% of them are being used.  So it’s like just getting into academics and, for example, playing the academic game, they’re saying, “Hey, we’re going to go and serve this audience. Yes, and in the long run, all the students are going to adopt it and drag it with them out to the workplace.” That’s not a slam dunk bet, but if you’re playing the long game, it’s the right decision.  So, when you’re playing the long game, it doesn’t make sense to you know give away the entire company up front for ego to be like, “We are the fastest fund-raising company or the most valuable company in Utah.”

There’s a bunch of reasons why it would have made to go raise it at higher amounts, but instead of doing that, they remained in control of the company because they wanted to build a legendary business that would be generational.  I’ve just seen this in every single decision they’ve made; they’ve stopped and said, “Fast forward 15 years. what do we want to look like? Ok, let’s take that into consideration for the decision today.” It’s just part of the decision making.  They don’t make decisions without pausing and saying, “What will it be in 15 years?” Now that’s the same thing with benefits, the same thing with technology, like as we think about future investments. Like that’s the process we go through. I see so many entrepreneurs you know doing what matters now and not staying the course.  I think that comes from what we talked about earlier: If you don’t have deep founder conviction. You’re like, “Look, I’m going to do something that’s going to change the world or change it in industry or change something.” If you’re not that passionate about, you’re probably just going to do whatever it takes to survive now because you don’t really know what the end game is, because you’re not that passionate about it, and it just doesn’t work.  Only go in on something that you’re passionate about, and then play the long game.


Yeah, it’s a lot like reading or writing rather a fiction and then reverse engineering that outcome, right?  In every way, you are creating the world around you every single day.


That’s exactly right.  


And to your point, it’s probably one of the hardest things, I think, that there is to do successfully because every day is a blank slate and every day there is this – not matter what when you’re creating from nothing – there is always headwinds.  And it just takes a tremendous amount of fortitude.


Here’s my authentic version of that and it’s maybe a less business-relevant-context example but, nevertheless, important.  I think people do this intuitively in their personal lives, then forget to do it in business. So like when I met my wife (she’s one of the most incredible people to date that I’ve still ever met. She’s bright, she’s beautiful, she’s kind; she’s just amazing on every level.) And when I met her, I was like, “There’s no way she’ll date me, zero chance that she’ll ever date me.” [Jamin chuckles.]  So what I did is that I said, “Well, who do I think she’s going to end up marrying? Who’s the person she’s going to want to be partnered with for life? What does that person probably do? What do they probably say? What kind of things do they invest time in?” I just sort of watched that story unfold when I said, “Well, there are some parts of that that I am today, and there are some parts that I’m not there yet.”  And so, I started to go and do those things and become that person because I knew that was the long game; I knew that was the end state. It was this two-year (It’s not just that long in the grand scheme of things) but this two-year dating journey to sort of get to where I knew we needed to be in the end. So, fast forward ten years. What does this life look like? How do you become that person? What decisions are you going to make today to make sure those are true ten years from now.  I think people do that intuitive in their lives, and then we forget in business. We’re like, “No, let’s just go find a market need and build something, and we’ll do whatever it takes to raise money today.”


So, do you have children?  


I do.  Four kids, four kiddos.  


Congratulations.  I have five. So, you’re still younger than me, so you’ve got a lot of time.  [laughs]


Four is the new six.  We’re done, we’re done.  [Jamin laughs.]


I imagine you travel a fair amount. How do you balance that with the heavy responsibilities at home?  Do you have any tips for us seasoned professionals, road warriors?


So a couple of things.  I actually feel… (Maybe this is one of those things where you’re always delusional.  Like you always think you’ve got a better handle on work/life balance than you really do.)  A couple of things: One – I think it’s been really helpful to… I’ve just acknowledged out of the gate; I’m very open about this that I don’t have great work/life balance.  So, I like to work; I like my job; I like coming in early; I like staying late. When Ryan comes to me and our CEO says Friday at 4 pm, he’ll be “Hey, I forgot to tell you I have a presentation Monday morning.  Can you put it together for me?” I love those scenarios. It’s like, “Oh, yeah, let’s just go and scramble the jets and get this thing done.” So, that’s something that I have to just acknowledge about me. Instead of being like, “Oh, yeah, I got to figure out balance. I just sort of acknowledge, first and foremost, that I like that, I do.  So now the question’s, “OK, how do I put checks and balances in place to make sure that…” But I also love my family. There’s nothing more important in my whole world than that. So I had to figure that out.

So, a couple of things: One – A friend gave me this advice a long time ago, and it’s been amazing.  One – is I think about at the beginning of every week, so Sunday nights my wife and I spend a bunch of…  Weekends are mostly sacred for me, mostly. They get blown up all the time, but for the most part, like that’s when I’m home; I try to unplug, etc.  I’ll talk about that in a second. But on Sunday evenings, we sit down; we say, ”OK, well, what do I need to do to make sure that I stay connected with my kids this week and with my wife.”  And so, you know in lot of ways if you just do an evaluation at the end of the week, it’s really easy to feel like you’ve failed. For example, I traveled in December; I traveled 20 of the 25 working days in December.  And so, that sucks, right? With the holidays and everything, that’s like super hard. So, it’s easy to look back and be like, “Oh, my Gosh! I totally failed as a dad, as a husband. This is a nightmare. But instead, if you take a proactive approach and you say, “OK, it’s Sunday night.  What do I need to do to feel connected to my oldest daughter this week? And you know I’ll say something like, “If I can go… and she’s got dance twice a week. If I could go and watch her dance for a full hour, just take her, drop her off, and sit there, and just watch her dance, and then take her to get an ice cream on the way home.  Like that’s probably enough this week to just feel like I stayed connected.” And what happens is then I’d say, “OK, for my son, if I’ll just ask him to tell me the names of his dinosaurs. One time, for five minutes before he goes to bed. He loves dinosaurs. I’m just going to ask him. I’m going to lay down on the floor, and I’m going to ask him to tell me the names of his dinosaurs, and we’re just going to do that til he falls asleep, you know, a 10-minute process.”  And I would do that with each of the kiddos. And even if it’s a really small thing – sometimes it’s a five-minute engagement. And I know that that sounds maybe a little bit cheap now, but in the moment, it’s actually really amazing to just be present with the people that you love and care about, even if it’s just for one or 2 moments a week. So, if I design that at the beginning of the week, at the end of the week, I’ll say, “I did it. I sat down; I played dinosaurs for 15 minutes with my son.”  That was 15 minutes for the whole week, but I did that. And without that, I found myself not doing anything and being frustrated at the end of week or maybe I did but I forgot. It felt really toxic. So, designing that you know made a big difference.


So really quickly.  I have to interrupt really briefly.  The thing that I love about that tip is all too often I hear people say, “Oh, I’m going to watch less TV or whatever so that I focus more on my family.”  But you’re doing the positive as opposed to the negative, and I think that’s a big key here, and that is you’re saying, “Alright, I’m going to do ‘boom’ five minutes or an hour or whatever the specific activity is,” which gives you a specific view of what success looks like, as opposed to framed in the negative of “I’m going to stop a behavior.  Then as a by-product of that behavior, I’ll spend more time with my kids or whatever.”


That’s exactly right.  It’s worked really well for me, and it’s not perfect every time, and there are some weeks where the commitments are larger than 15 minutes, and some weeks they’re shorter.  But the consistency over time… I feel incredibly connected to my kids. It’s been great. So, that’s a tip I’d share.

Then the other one is on weekends, I’ve taken a playbook out of Clayton Christensen’s How Will You Your Measure Life book, where he talks about you know he reserves Saturdays for teaching his kids how to work.  That was his thing. He’s like, “I don’t work Saturdays. That is the day that I teach my kids to work.”  And so, I’ve really taken to heart. On Saturdays, I grew up a little bit that way, so it was somewhat intuitive to me.  Where I’d say, “You know what? On Saturday, I’m going to get all the kids… and it’s so hard because I’m kind of a neat freak.  So like I like you know pruning the hedges with scissors just like getting it bonsai perfect. You bring the kids out there, and they’re just like running [Jamin laughs] over the bushes with the lawnmower.  It’s just not a great scenario. I have to remind myself every time like, “No, this is… I’d rather have my kids connected to me through work ethic and understanding how to take care of the things that we have than having the perfect manicured yard and a couple of dead spots where things happened.  I hold weekends sort of sacrosanct. I use them very much Saturday as a work day. Kids don’t play with friends on Saturday like maybe, maybe in the evening or something. It’s a day that we’re together. And then you know I do the same thing with my wife: Every week we say, “Hey, what do we want to do to stay connected?”        

And then one last tip – I love a good hot soak like a good hot bath.  And so, most nights, no matter how late it is, if I’m in town, I’ll hear the bathtub filling up, and my wife knows that I can’t resist.  And when you’re in the bathtub, you’re probably not using technology. It’s not…


[laughs]  I hope not.  


And it’s just like eye-to-eye, bath time with my partner at least twice, but probably three times a week.  And when you get into the bath, a hot bath, it’s like intoxicating. You have to stay in there for at least 30 minutes.  I can’t get into a hot bath and get out in two minutes. So, we invest; we talk; we catch up; it’s our time to kind of resync and connect.  So, yeah, fill up a hot bath tub. That’s worked miracles for me.


My guest today has been Kylan Lundeen, CMO of Qualtrics.  Kylan, thank you so much for being on the Happy Market Research Podcast with me today.


Thanks for having me.  Great to be here.


I’d also like to point out that he accepted this interview by me submitting to the Dream Cast my wish for him to be on here. So, again, special thanks to all those who made this happen.

Additionally, please take the time to rate this podcast on Apple iTunes.  It helps other insights professionals like yourself find us. Really appreciate the support of the community.  Have a great rest of your day!


This episode is brought to you by G3 Translate.  The G3 Translate team offers unparalleled expertise in foreign language translations for market researchers and insight professionals across the globe.  Not only do they speak hundreds of languages, they are fluent in market research. For more information, please visit them at G3Translate.com.

Ep. 209 – Merrill Dubrow – Two Tips On Building A Better You And A Better Business

My guest today is Merrill Dubrow, CEO of M/A/R/C Research. M/A/R/C was founded in 1965 and was recently purchased from Omnicom by the company’s CEO, Merrill Dubrow. Prior to joining M/A/R/C in 2004, Merrill held senior roles at Harris Interactive, BizRate and Quick Test.





M/A/R/C Research 



Social Media: @happymrxp



On Episode 209 of the Happy Market Research Podcast, I’m chatting of Merrill Dubrow, President and CEO of M/A/R/C Research, but first a word from our sponsor.


Today’s podcast is sponsored by Schlesinger Quantitative, your trusted provider of global online surveys that drive the best decisions for success in the marketplace.  Schlesinger Quantitative has built an entire division of experts with extensive online research experience and an unparalleled understanding of quality drivers across panel, sample, and data.


Hi, I’m Jamin Brazil.  You’re listening to the Happy Market Research Podcast.  My guest today is Merrill Dubrow, CEO of M/A/R/C Research.  M/A/R/C was founded in 1965, later purchased by Omnicom, and recently purchased by the company’s CEO, Merrill Dubrow.  Prior to joining M/A/R/C in 2004, Merrill held senior roles at Harrison Interactive, BizRate, and Quick Test. Merrill was an OG on my podcast Episode 105.  Sir, thank you very much for being on the podcast with me today.


Thanks, Jamin.  It’s a pleasure to be here. 


So, what did your parents do?  And how has that informed your current career?


You know that’s an interesting question for me for a couple of reasons.  Number 1 – My dad, I think, was much easier to see in how he kind of molded my career.  He was a business guy; he ended up to be a CFO for a company called Miniplex. He was very hardworking.  He made the most of his skill set. He was an overachiever. You know, frankly, I wanted to be him. Later in life, that was too lofty a goal, so I just actually wanted to half of the person he was.  He was clearly my hero and taught me so much. I think the biggest takeaway was really making the most of your skill set.

With my mom, Jamin, it was just a little bit different; it was a little bit harder to see; it was a little bit harder to understand the impact of what she had on what she had on my career and how she really brought me up.  You know she was very organized. My mom was extremely outgoing. My dad is the exact opposite; he is an introvert. She was very detail-oriented, and she was in charge of dressing my two sisters and myself in terms of picking out clothes.  I can still remember going and getting my first suit, probably crying and yelling and screaming every step of the way, went to a store called Milton’s in Newton, Massachusetts. But she was very instrumental on my career because I just didn’t see it right away, right?  So, being organized and having great time management skills and being really detail-minded. And actually, one of the things she taught me was notice everything. So I tend to notice everything there is out there. I may not comment on it. So it just really differences between my parents.  You know my dad was much more of the business, the hard skills, and my mom was more of the softer skills. Both of them are incredible people. Unfortunately, I lost my dad in September. I lost my hero, but I think about him every day. And my mom is still going strong at 82 and pretty impressive, as I say, young lady.


So, you are a well-respected speaker in the market research area.  In fact, I think you just spoke at the Insights show in Las Vegas.


Yeah, I did.  Thank you, first of all.  I think it was a great, really, really, really great conference.  A big shout out to Lisa from Decision Analyst and Alice Butler on our team was heavily involved.  And Jami Pulley from Critical Mix/Dynata, she asked me to present and she’s a very, very good friend of mine.  They had about 150 or 180 people there, and it was a very successful conference. Yes, I did present on kind of transformation and changes of what’s going on with M/A/R/C, and how we did, what we did, and all that comes along with that.         


So, before we actually talk about the transformation that’s happened inside of M/A/R/C, I want to kind of dig in a little bit as it relates with…  You are, and I’ve heard you speak, probably half a dozen times. Every time, I walk away and think it’s great. In fact, one of our employees here at PureSpectrum, Travis, he wrote a summary piece, in which he wrote about your talk and how it was one of the big highlights for him in the event.  And so, my question is really… It’s interesting that your parents, your mom being more of the extrovert, and your dad – the business-minded introvert have that stark difference. How has their lenses or your lens of them, how has that helped you be strong communicator?   


You know my dad…  It’s interesting. If it takes 30 words to answer a question, my dad used 21; my mom used 4,000 and is still talking.  [Jamin laughs] So I tend to be a storyteller; my stories tend to go on a little bit. That I got from my mom, and my directness from time to time I got from my dad.  You know, Jamin, it’s interesting because I remember my first speech that I ever did. I was asked to present, and it was at the Gaylord down in Nashville. Back in the day, for most of the people (They may not even know what this was) but I used to write your notes on what’s called index cards, right?  And I remember having the index cards up on stage my first time in my probably 23, 24 years old, and I remember visibly shaking with the index card. My voice was cracking. And I was smart enough to know from a number of my mentors like John Bonney and Sanford Schwartz and Mary Ann Shaffer, just a whole host of people who helped me along the way, taught me that, if you really want to be successful and you want to get your ideas across and you want to have people understand your ideas, you have to be a good communicator, right?  If you think about it, Jamin, people can have great ideas, but if they can’t communicate effectively what they are and the value, they’re not going anywhere. So, it really started early in my career to hone in on that skill and… I think if we really give some thought to when you go to conferences, how many presenters are really top in the research community? Is it 20%? Is it 25%? So, I think if you are really an OK presenter, you get elevated a little bit in the research community because I think that people don’t work on that craft as much as they should or could.  


Yeah, there’s a ton that we could unpack relevant to speaker hacks and practice and all of that.  I, personally, have always enjoyed your interactive style of presentation. I think every time I’ve heard you speak, there’s been some level of audience or a person’s inside of the audience participation in your talks.  And I think that just is an excellent idea and also something that you know we could all of us learn from because as soon as that happens, for me there’s always two things that take place. One is that I go from passive to active ‘cause I’m terrified you’re going to call on me, right?  And the other thing is when I’m in that active mind, I’m processing along with you and thinking about the framework that your dad provided answering in 30 words using 21. I really like that because the rule of thumb right now is, as a speaker, you have to earn the right to be heard every 20 seconds when you’re giving a presentation.  Because we live in this headline context, it becomes really important that we can consolidate and summarize the actual takeaways and the key points in a way that is memorable and repeatable.


I think you bring up some really good points.  If you went to Quirks, or if you go to IIEX, or if you go to TMRE, and you say, “OK, I’m going to go see 15 presenters.”  And the cost of that is… let’s just put up a cost of $1500, right? So it’s a $100 a speech basically. One of my mottos, when I present, is I want everybody in the room to take away one or two things that they can integrate into their business the second they get back to their office, OK?  I have trouble with going to… see an author present on automation or technology. I understand what they’re saying, but I have trouble forming a link between what they just said and integrating that into my business right away, right? So I try to use practical experience; I try to use real life examples; I tell it like it is.  I got up on stage last week, and I made mention of a ton of mistakes that I’ve made along the way. Why? Not to poke fun of myself, but to say, “Look, we’re all human; we’re all in this together, and you’ve got to learn by those mistakes.” I think that’s really, really incredible.

You want it to be memorable, right?  You want it to be something that people say, “Oh, you know, he’s a little crazy,” which I am.  I’ve done to make a point… You know I usually present in a suit and tie, a red tie; I usually have a Coca-Cola on stage; I usually have a thing of water, and I walk around a lot.  I’m not a podium guy. To make a point, I basically threw off the suit and threw away the soda once. And I actually took off all my clothes and got down to basically shorts and a T-shirt and actually flip flops.  And I presented that way.  And the point I was trying to get across was get comfortable with being uncomfortable.   And the reality is there’s a lot of people who are uncomfortable in situations, but they don’t ever get comfortable with that.  And that’s the point I was trying to make. And people still remember that, and they talk about it.

A few years ago at the CEO Summit, I did the closing, standing on a table.  And I went LeBron: I ripped up all my notes and I threw it and people sent me pictures.  But they remember that because you want to have those takeaways and integrate those within your business.   If you don’t, you’ve wasted time and money. I mean people don’t realize it, Jamin, if they go conference, if they went to Qualtrics this week…   So, let’s assume that it’s three days, three-and-a-half days. Well, if you boil it down, that’s 1.6% of the whole year that they spent at Qualtrics.  Now, I’m not saying that Qualtrics wasn’t a great conference; I’m not saying it wasn’t worth it; and I’m not saying there weren’t takeaways. But let’s just for argument sake, say there wasn’t.  They’ve wasted one-and-a-half – 1.6% of their entire year at that conference. That’s a big chunk, right? I mean if you think about it. And I think that, as a presenter, I’ve always felt that you’ve got to deliver; you’ve got to make sure…  That’s why when I get off stage, I talk to Jami Pulley, and I was like, “Was that what you expected? Did I deliver?” Because, if not, shame on me. And I’m not doing it to get on a plane. I’m not doing it from an ego standpoint. I’m doing it to give something back.  That’s the only reason to do it. And I take it seriously, and I want to be the highest rated presenter, and I want to continue to get better each and every time I present. That’s my goal.


This principle of adding value as opposed to asking is something that all of us can learn a lot from.  I was meeting with one of my marketing managers yesterday, Molly, and in the conversation, we were retooling an outbound direct mail piece.  Super straightforward. We’ve all seen them. We all get them, probably a hundred today, right? Nothing particularly magical about it. We retooled the whole thing so that not once did we (1) have an ask or (2) talk about ourselves.   It was entirely based on adding value to the customer and giving them shortcuts to their insights that they could employ literally that very day in their company. If can change the way that we communicate from… ‘cause nobody cares about us as much as I like to think they wake up in the morning and can’t wait to get to this podcast, right?  I mean at the end of the day, what people really care about is themselves. And so, the reason that people will keep tuning in, just using Happy Market Research as an example, is because they are connecting with the fantastic guests, and they’re finding value in the content that we’re generating, and it’s making themselves or their business experiences better at some regular intervals, right?  We have to move away from this level of entitlement and into a level of… We really are marketing our sales efforts, our personal brands; the strength of those is really a direct relationship to how much value we’ve added in the communities, whether it’s at home or in business.


I could not agree with you more.  Totally, totally agree. I think it’s just well said; it  really is. And I believe it.


So, let’s talk a little bit about M/A/R/C.  This is a company that has been around for decades.  You’ve been the CEO for some of those, and recently you acquired the business.  What was your thesis going into it and going into that process? I know as a previous CEO, that’s a heavy lift, trying to do a acquisition, especially out of an Omnicom.  What was your thesis going into that, into that process?


Yeah.  Just getting to the other side of it.  I don’t think I knew every piece of what was going to have to been done until I was on the other side of it.  I’m extremely fortunate, Jamin, that I have a great support system. My parents did a great job teaching my sisters and myself how to stand on our own two feet.  And being in the for 35 plus years, I’ve been very fortunate to have access to a lot of industry contacts that are great friends of mine, confidants, mentors, and people that have tremendous experiences:  so, like yourself, Jamin, and Steve Schlesinger. And I reported at one time to a guy named Sandy Schwartz. Being able to call on those people and having them help you get to the other side of this… And I remember something that Steve Schlesinger had said.  At beginning, he said, “Look, you’re not going to see every move that you got to make right now today. Just take it one day at a time.” And I know that’s… everybody in sports says, “OK, you know, we’re going to take it one game at a time, right?” But it really level set it a little bit because I believed in the company, I believed in the strategy, I believed in the legacy.  And I wanted to see this through, and I wanted to make sure that I did it the right way. But to have that support system in my corner to bounce things off of from time to time really, really helped me. So it was really just, “Get to the other side and continue to have it be seamless, to have no bumps, to have business as usual.” As it turned out, we, frankly, were able to do that.       


I’m not sure if you can…  I’m not sure how much of this you can divulge, but I am really interested in this.  As the CEO of the company owned underneath Omnicom, I have to believe you had a very attractive compensation plan.  Where was the motivation to take it, take control the company on an absolute basis? What was on the other side of that that made that risk worth it?    


Well, it’s probably TBD, right, ‘cause the final chapters haven’t been written.  They won’t be written for many, many years. When that is written, you can ask me the question again.  But what I think is going to happen is this, and what has happened. You know Omnicom… I’d been there from 14½ years.  Great company. They, in Q3, the beginning of Q3, they were selling a company that they’d owned for 25 or 30 years that they were going to make a fair amount of money. They wanted to take the opportunity to divest a number of companies in Q3 that strategically didn’t fit into their strategy, moving forward, right?  So I met with my bosses, two of them on the East coast, and quickly, it was, “Look, we’ve got to list, and M/A/R/C is on the list. And here are some choices of what we can do here. But, whatever we do, you got to tell me quickly, like less than a week. And, “Oh, by the way, it has to happen in Q3.” And, Oh, by the way, we were already in Q3.  So, Jamin, you know the deal; you’ve looked a number of companies when you were all over the place at FocusVision and a number of other spots. Doing your due diligence can take a little bit of while, but having been the CEO for 14 years, I didn’t have to do due diligence. I knew about the company, the strategy, the people; I knew what things we could do, what things we couldn’t do, and decided that again the legacy, the company, the strategy, the people within it wanted to continue that and was able to work out an arrangement with Omnicom, a deal to buy the company.  I had to personally guarantee everything, I felt comfortable with that because of the team we have and strategy that we developed and the partners such as Zappi and such as PureSpectrum, who can help us get to the other side of this.


And that kind of leads into really another question from me about that process because it’s expensive to buy a company.  I was wondering, was it a debt service or rich grandpa, or were you able to do it through leveraging other private equity, another private equity entity?    


There’s no rich grandpa.  Both my grandpas, unfortunately, passed away a long, long, long time ago.  I only met one. My dad was able to retire very early in life at 50½, which is amazing, and didn’t have to go back to work. I still, to this day, have no idea how he was able to do it and how he was able live for 30+ years on what he had, but it did, and he lived a great life.  No, it was all done… I’m not going to get into the mechanics of the deal but it was… My parents were poor growing up. It’s interesting, Jamin, that my mom didn’t have her own bed until she was 22 years old. She shared a bed with her aunt. I think six people lived in a two-bedroom apartment in Montreal.  Anything that my dad accomplished was self-made. If I’ve accomplished anything, it’s self-made. I was able to draw on certain dollars that I had and then be able develop and pay Omnicom over some time. That was the mechanics. I bought the balance sheet of it. I bought, obviously, that means that I bought the receivables, but I also bought the payables.  So it has been an interesting go because we’ve… the transition happened about a little over six months ago, and I pulled the band aid off. So, what does that mean? So, nobody knew, and that was a hard part of what I did because I had to keep a big secret that I was doing this and, oh by the way, a mile and a half away, I was building a 9,000 square foot office.  So I would leave secretly for 45 minutes here and there for meetings over at the new office and pick out tile and pick out rugs and colors and blah-blah-blah, and had to put up walls and tear down walls. That was the hardest part: built an office in 28 days. So we did that. Every system that we have now is totally new. So, we have a new accounting system; we have a new payroll system; we have new benefits; we have new 401K; we have new IT; we have a new office here.  The last thing is I’m in the process of building a new office in Greensboro, North Carolina, and that, thankfully, with the lead of Rob Arnett and Brad Sypel and Susan Hanks, have done a magnificent job, taking that. And that’ll be unveiled in about two weeks… our new office there. But everything else is new and was able to put my stamp on it in terms of we did some different twists with the 401K plan that we set up. It’s been really unbelievable; it’s been a whirlwind.  It’s been… we’re moving at light speed. I can’t believe it. At one time down the road, I’ll think back and said, “Wow! How did we pull this off, but I think it was because of the talent at M/A/R/C and the trust that we had within each other and the belief that we had one common goal, which is just move this company forward. It’s been really amazing, very touching.

I’ll tell you a quick story, Jamin.  When I was going to announce the change in ownership, I was going to do it on a Monday.  And the reason I was going to do it on a Monday is because I didn’t want to ruin anybody’s weekend, right?  I didn’t want anybody to panic; I didn’t want anybody to freak out. Unfortunately, my dad had passed away, which is interestingly enough about an hour after the deal was finalized, which I think it was his time to go and he just said, “OK, Merrill, you’re good.  You’re on your own. I’ve seen this one through as well.” So I announced the change of ownership on a Friday, instead of a Monday, because I had to fly down to Florida for my dad’s funeral and to do the eulogy, which was probably the hardest thing I ever did in my life – 40 minutes talking about my hero, who had just passed away.  I remember specifically what some people had done. It’s a little bit of a blur, but people like Jennie Lovejoy, who is on our team, started a round of applause and was just really gracious with her comments. And they gave me a standing O; the company gave me a standing O, and they thanked me for doing what I did. And there’s been no looking back.  It’s been an amazing journey with this team that we have. I knew that they were amazing and great, but experiencing what we have, Jamin, brought it to a different level.   


Isn’t it interesting how we as a community knit together during those particular times even to the next level?  So, you think, “OK, my team, my management team, my staff we’re all in; then, all of a sudden, you have some major milestone or hill that’s been taken or whatever achievement, and then it just levels up the whole team.  I think that really speaks to the importance of culture inside of an organization and the accessibility to the executive team in order to… not from a self-serving perspective but just to make sure that it’s a genuine place where people want to, can, in fact, thrive.    


I think you’re a 100% right.  You know it’s interesting because back in 2005 a good friend of mine, Paul Kirch, was going to work for Jude Olinger, Olinger Group, down in New Orleans.  And then, unfortunately, Katrina hit, a Category 5 hurricane hit, and really left tremendous damage in New Orleans. And I remember… The thing I remember most about that is for 36 hours, I would dial Jude Olinger’s number every ten minutes, trying to get in touch with him.  And, finally, I did, and I said, “Look, I’m sorry about what’s going on with your great city and your company and your staff. If you can get yourself to Dallas, you can work out of our office. You can all stay in my house for as long as you need. If you need food, if you need money, whatever you need, we’re here.”  And I think that when something happens like that, when, all of a sudden, there is a change of ownership… I kind of forgot that people kind of rally, right, and are excited about what’s next and just want to help any way possible. And that’s really what’s happened with the M/A/R/C team. It’s really meant a tremendous amount to me, my family, and even shed a tear or two along the way.   


So, what has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced since becoming not just the CEO but now the owner?


Yeah, I think you know pulling the band aid off.  Most companies that divest from Omnicom keep their shared services for a fairly long time, whether that is accounting or IT or even in the same location.  And I didn’t do that. We pulled the band aid off tremendously quickly. So, within less than a month, we had little to no shared services. That’s number 1 that I think has been a little bit challenging.  I think understanding for me, personally… understanding a little bit more of, “OK, some of my day now has to go towards not just receivables, and billings, and not just cash flow and working capital and the bank account and making sure you have a line of credit, making sure that you have a great working and banking relationship that goes hand in hand.”  You know I didn’t have to do that at Omnicom. Omnicom took care of that and did an amazing job with that. So that never fell on any of the CEOs. Sure, we knew about the receivables and what it was, but we didn’t agonize over it as much as we do now and worry about it. So that’s really been the biggest challenge: probably repurposing a little bit of my time, and it’s changed my sort of to-do list every day.


Yeah, I think there’s a few that really jump out.  Number 1 – now that we’re able to invest in what we want to invest in, our senior team looked at ourselves in the mirror, and myself led that charge and said, “OK, we need a new leadership model.  We need some help with some strategy and, rather than the six or eight or ten of us whatever it is continuously working on that, we brought in an outside consultant, Bill Morley, who did a really good job with that and helped us streamline things.  He put us through some really interesting tasks that I think on the surface even, is this really going to work and it did. It was really, really solid. So I think one of our successes was admitting that you need some outside help, number 1. Number 2 – we used the tool called the AcuMax index, which has helped us with reporting structures.  It is a tool that assesses your talent, how you integrate within a company, and it helps you with hiring and training and integrating. That’s helped us tremendously. Whereas the past few years, we’ve had high team turnover rate, we’ve had not one person leave; not one person has left the company. And I think that they believe in what we’re doing, and they want to see this through too.  I think that’s the biggest success: the fact is we’ve been able to do it with this team. Jamin, you’ve been through a lot of acquisitions. And a lot of them there’s tremendous transition, right? You don’t have a spot with them. Typically, it doesn’t always go. OK, there’s some type of ownership change, and every single person in the company has a job. And every single person in the company stays six months later.  It’s not usually the same, but that’s what’s happened here. I think we have a huge success is the line of products from do-it-yourself, what we call accelerated, that we have in our pipeline is pretty impressive.

Zappi has been an amazing partner; PureSpectrum’s been an amazing partner. And I think if there is one takeaway from anything I say today, it’s “Find the right partners.”  And that’s different from finding a partner. Anybody can find a partner. But, as you know, most partnerships don’t work; most product launches don’t work. Find a partner that works that communicates the same way you do, that your goals line up tremendously and that you have the right strategy and the right partnership and right clients and the right staff to move your business forward.  And I think if one of those doesn’t line up, the product’s not going to be successful. So we’ve had some tremendous success with that in the last year or so and especially in the last six months.


You know the point that you made about investing in the company…  Staff, you know, your tribe, they feel that. There’s a tangible, a tangibleness to that.  I mean it’s not technically tangible, but it is. I mean I’m confident it’s measurable at a minimum.  And that creates a lot of buy-in and excitement and enthusiasm. It’s interesting if, if… you think about you and …  I’ll pick on an interview I’d heard (this goes back at least a decade) with Jeff Bezos where he’s talking about, “I don’t care about the short-term performance of the stock.  I’m thinking about what’s it going to look like in seven years.” Having that kind of a view and then having the autonomy to be able to act on that point of view is a very, very powerful weapon.       


Yeah, you know, culture to me is very important.  If you think about the time you’re at work, going to work, thinking about work, driving home from work, it’s probably 70% of your awake time.   And, if you’re not going to enjoy yourself then, you’re not going to have a happy life, right? The culture here is very important. We’ve established so many different programs since the ownership change.  So, one is training. You go like, “Merrill, that’s kind of basic. You put in training. Yeah, because we had to cut out a lot of that under our prior ownership.” I’m sending someone to Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting to hear Charlie Munger and to hear Warren Buffett.  It’s called the Rising Star Conference. And we’re investing in our staff that way and sending them there. They’ll be waking up at 4 a.m. to go see the annual meeting. That’s something that a lot of people don’t get the opportunity to do. We’re sending five people to a Haiti trip with Jim Bryson with the Joseph School later this year.   And, it’s going to be five people who are in different aspects of our business; so it might be a project manager, a research manager or an account manager, maybe a DA or something like that. So we’ve got a lot of task force that we’ve set up. We made a lot of mistakes where we had a senior team really trying to move the business forward and were doing everything, including our day jobs.  Well, we have had a lot more task force set up. We’ve got our goals now connected to business objectives. We developed this leadership model. We’ve also got… You know, admitting we made mistakes, admitting that I made mistakes in front of the whole company, that really helps a lot. We’ve got what we call a mark dialog team and a fun committee. So they tell us what fun are we going to have.  

I mean I walked over to somebody on the…   we do a year-end video… who’s putting together the year-end video.  I said, “KVD, I have a few ideas on the year-end video.” And I said, “Here they are, B-dah, B-dah, B-dah.”  “Yeah, Merrill, you know that’s great but I think we’re going in a different direction this year, and I don’t know if we’ll be able to incorporate them,” which translation means “We’re NOT incorporating them, but thanks.” And the reason I tell you that little boring story that happened yesterday was I love the fact that she felt strong enough to say that to me, right?  Most people would have said, “OK, I’ll put it in there.” But, if it doesn’t go into their strategy of what they’re trying to do and project, then good for her to say, “No,” right? And we’ve got a lot of that. We have… You know we had everybody redo all of our printers, what we call our printers. Before it was Dirk, and before we had our conference rooms were named like Hendricks, Presley, and Lennon, right, for John Lennon and Elvis Presley and Jimmy Hendricks.  I could never get them to do Boston ‘cause we would have a constant argument about the band Boston wasn’t that big although I think they were big. We’re just having a lot of fun while we’re accomplishing a great amount for our clients and driving insight and making sure we’re delivering on each and every project. It’s a good time; it really is. It’s a fun time; it’s a good time. People really enjoying themselves.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              


You talk a lot about mistakes, and I do too even in a public setting.  What is one that stands out to you and what was the learning from it?


Time, time.  I think that two things jump out at me. Number 1 is what I’ll call a 16-month dance.  So, when you hire a new employee, for five or six months, they’ll come in and everything they say is fresh, and you’re excited, “Oh, I got it right this time.”  And then there’s three or four months of scratching your head. You’re like, “Really, I thought I heard that.” And then there’s three or four months, “OK, I made another mistake.  Now what do I do?” So that adds up to like the 16-month dance; it’s what I call a Merrillism. And I’m trying to cut that down. How do you cut that down to eight or nine months? How do you minimize the mistakes that you’ve made?  

The other one is…  I was at my daughter’s soccer game.  If you remember, Jamin, for anybody listening who has a daughter or son who plays soccer, if the ball, as a youngster (an 8-, 9-, 10-, 11-year old), if the ball goes to the left, the entire team goes to the left.  When the ball goes to the right, the entire team goes to the right. And that’s really what I felt the market research community is. Biometrics – bam! Everybody goes after it. Sentiment analysis, iTracking, right?  The new one is AI. And I finally realized we took a lot of passes at Big Data and whether it was sentiment analysis a few different times, and social listening. The problem is it wasn’t successful for us: whether we didn’t have the right clients, we didn’t have the right strategy, we didn’t have the right tools, we didn’t have the right staff.  It didn’t matter. And I wasn’t going to make that mistake again. And that’s why we were in search of our partners. We really spent a lot time on our partnerships this time, and we’re honored to call Zappi and Ryan Berry and his entire team a partner of ours. We’re excited to call PureSpectrum and Michael McCrary and Jamin and Travis and everybody connected to your company a partner.  We’re honored; we take that seriously. And I think we did a much better job with that this time, and it’s really paying off dividends. If you think about personal assessment and if you have self-awareness, I think you’re much better off in business. How many people, Jamin, or what percentage of the people really are self-aware and know really who they are? ‘Cause I think it’s pretty low.             


Yeah, I totally agree with that.  And I think it transcends business and applies to life.  




So, market research, as you said, is a bit of a game of swarm ball but, if you kind of separate from that view, how do you think market research is going to be different in five years?


You know I think consolidation is going to continue to really streamline this industry.   So, when you think about everything that’s happened. You’ve got Dynata, which is the old Research Now, right?  So, they pick up SSI and that dust on that acquisition, I don’t even think, is dry yet, and Wow! Boom!, now they’ve got Critical Mix, in it as well.  I can tell you that in the past week I’ve heard from five to seven people who all are either selling their company or looking to buy companies. Not going to mention any names, but the reality is consolidation is really going to not just continue.  I think continue at the different rate than we’ve ever seen, number 1. Number 2 – I think that all suppliers are going to forced into doing as consultants. I think that a lot of client organizations are building services in-house, and they’re going to need consultants to really tell them what it means and maybe even implementation.  So does market research go into this marketing spin a little bit more than we have? I think so. I think those are a couple of the big takeaways that are going to happen down the road. I mean everybody is, “Yes, do-it-yourself and accelerated is going to have much more of a high percentage in five years, for sure, for sure. And I think the industry is going to be…  Suppliers are going to be forced to be consultants whether they know how to do it or not. If they don’t know how to do it, they’re not going to be around.


I completely concur with that point of view.  By consultants, in a lot of ways, we’re talking about is adding value to the product they you’re providing or service you’re providing to your customer.  Talk about full circle. So, what is your personal motto?


Wow!  I have a few.  Nine hundred seconds, 15 minutes a day, get better at something.   I don’t care if it’s be a better son, be a better husband, be a better friend, be a better brother, be a better presenter, be a better a better business executive.  Understand social media a little bit better, understand how to put together a PowerPoint presentation. It doesn’t matter what it is, doesn’t matter if it’s personal nature; it doesn’t matter if it’s business.  Take 15 minutes a day; take 900 seconds and get better at something. And I think if you do that, sky’s the limit. You know I’m a classic… I’m never going to be the smartest guy in the room. I’m a classic overachiever or, as one of my contacts in the industry, Roger Green, said to me years and years and years ago, “You’re a talent maximizer.”  I take that as a compliment, and I take that as a tribute to my father, who was the same. Make the most of your skills. I think the worst thing anybody can say to you is, “Oh, there goes blah-blah-blah; they’re an underachiever.” I’d rather get punched in the stomach 1,000 times than have somebody say that about me.


My guest today has been Merrill Dubrow, CEO and owner of M/A/R/C Research.   Merrill, thanks for joining me on the Happy Market Research Podcast.


Jamin, thank you.  I really appreciate it.  It’s been a pleasure being here today.


The honor is all of ours.   Thank you so much for your time.  

Everybody else if you would please do me the kindness of posting this episode on Linkin or Twitter.  It helps other people like you find valuable content. And, as always, if you have thoughts or opinions, you can reach out to me on any platform at Jamin Brazil.  I’m also looking for specific tech companies. So, if you’re market research technology company and you’re interested in being featured for free in one of our technology corner segments, we would love to hear from you.  

Have a great rest of your day.    


Schlesinger Quantitative is proud to have sponsored of this podcast.  Schlesinger delivers comprehensive online survey solutions, including survey programming, world class project management, intelligent recruitment, survey hosting, and data delivery services.  An uncompromising commitment to your success sets them apart.

Ep. 208 – Michael McCrary – How PureSpectrum Has Redefined Research Automation

Today, my guest is Michael McCrary, Founder and CEO of PureSpectrum. Founded in 2015 PureSpectrum is a modern day technology firm that aims to be the AWS for empowering research automation. Prior to founding PureSpectrum, Michael helped pioneer both Cint as Managing Director and Lucid as President. Additionally, he served as SVP of North American sales for Greenfield Online.






Social Media: @happymrxp



On episode 208 of the Happy Market Research Podcast, I’m chatting with Michael McCrary, founder and CEO of PureSpectrum.  But first a word from our sponsor.


This episode is brought to you by G3 Translate.  The G3 Translate team offers unparalleled expertise in foreign language translations for market researchers and insight professionals across the globe.  Not only do they speak hundreds of languages, they are fluent in market research. For more information, please visit them at G3Translate.com.


Hi, I’m Jamin Brazil, and you’re listening to the Happy Market Research Podcast.  My guest today is Michael McCrary, CEO and founder of PureSpectrum. Founded in 2015, PureSpectrum is a modern-day technology firm that aims to be the AWS for empowering research automation.  Prior to founding PureSpecturm, Michael helped pioneer both Cint as Managing Director and Lucid as President. Additionally, he served as SVP of North American sales for Greenfield Online. Michael, thanks very much for being on the Happy Market Research Podcast today.


It’s my pleasure.  Happy to be here.


So, we’d like to start the podcast with an introduction of how you wound up in market research, right?   Nobody starts their journey in kindergarten… “I want to be a market researcher.”


No, they don’t.  [laughter] Interesting question.  Before I got into this industry, I worked in publishing in New York City for a company called Meredith Corporation.  And at Meredith Corporation, I had the responsibility of selling a magazine called Midwest Living.  And being in New York City, the Midwest was thought of as the fly-over states.  So I had to become pretty proficient in using data to support the ad sales initiatives.  It was a beautiful magazine. People on the West Coast would know Sunset as its comp and Southern Living in the South and Yankee…  


We had both, by the way, in our household.


Yeah, me too.  So I knew data, and, oddly enough, I was connected to Keith Price and just outside of business.  And that was the time when Greenfield Online had just sold its customer research business to TNS and was going to be focused exclusively on data collection sample.   


So, what year is this?  This is like ’99, 2000?


It’s after the dot.com bust.  So it’s around 2002. And I’m in print magazine, and I can see the handwriting on the wall that this isn’t going to go well because you had advertising starting to take off online, but it was …


That was a tough time for print.  


It was still actually good at that time because there was a lot of skepticism.  If you go back to 2002, there was still… Television was still the big, dominant winner in ad dollars.  Print was still pretty big. Now that looks very different today, but nobody really knew exactly what was going to transpire with online.  There were a thousand different sites. This was before automation took place… the exchanges, and the platforms. Just a thousand calls from a thousand websites.  So being in a big company like Meredith gave scale and leverage. So, I knew I wanted to do something online. And I was familiar with data, and it just so happened that Greenfield Online was hiring people to do sales.  And I, obviously, had no idea what I was doing when I got there, but had great… You know, you think about the people who are on Greenfield Online. I’m very proud to say I’m part of the Greenfield Mafia. The people that came out of that company…    


I mean Greenfield, for those who don’t know, they were the early movers in the… and a dominant player by far…in the online sampling space.  Super early, super early. You and… There’s a company called Zoomerang that started right around that same time, now acquired by SurveyMonkey, of course.  They were the go-to source for sample.


Yeah, it was Zoomerang; you had Greenfield Online; you had Survey Sampling; you had Harris Interactive.


And that was when Survey Sampling was pulling their phone bank into garnering emails for exactly building that list up.


Absolutely, so it was pretty limited competition.  And I’ll never forget actually starting to work there.  For those that work in magazine or ad sales, your year, you can live and die by making the list or not.  So you spend a lot of time proactively selling, giving in to the plan. That’s up front for television. It’s the planning.  You might not be out for the whole year but, if you’re not on the first cut, then you’re constantly behind.   

Then getting into this industry, where I was so used to proactively always selling, always trying to get people to consider Midwest Living, which wasn’t the easiest sell in New York City, I started getting these things called the RFPs and RFQs.   And I just wasn’t used to this like inbound like, “Hey, how much would you charge me to do this, right?” Anyway, I just liked it.  So I almost instantly felt like this is exactly what I’ve been looking for. To me, sampling and market research is both cerebral; there was an element of it being tech and online, which I was happy to be able to say that I was in the online business.  And ever since then, I’ve never had a desire to be out of this industry. I really enjoy what we do and the people that we deal with.


So, talk to me a little bit about… there’s two things that stand out to me.   And I had never actually processed this before. The Greenfield Mafia – I love that!  And that’s exactly right. I mean Hugh Davis, Keith Price, yourself. Who else notably came out of that?     


Alright, so you have George Llorens; so he’s one of the co-founders of Innovate even though they were acquired by Matt Dusig and Gregg Lavin were acquired by Greenfield and we were public. They weren’t part of the GMI or e-Rewards.  For those of you who don’t know, Dynata Research, now e-Rewards back track. I don’t want to forget… Terence McCarron. He has started a successful business of his own.




Richard Thornton, right?  He has a very senior role at Cint, and he was part of Mark Simon, who’s still with Toluna.  So there’s just so many people that have gone on either to be important leaders in companies that became important or founded companies that are important or trying to become important.   


Yeah, it was a super fun time.  It was like a lot of the people that are in leadership right now…  By this I mean like long term, more institutional leadership in the industry – not like hired guns.   I mean they’re still around, and they’re doing freaking crazy things like the Dynata acquisition of Reimagine, yeah.  That was a big deal.


Yeah, that is a big deal.  [laughter] I’m very, very happy for both Research Now as a side group and Keith and Hugh and other people that aren’t known there, like John Almeida and those that are partners in Reimagine ‘cause I really think most people discount how hard it is to start a business, get through the first couple few years, and then to scale it, and then for it to become more valuable than just the founder, to have a business that has scale.  So I’m really happy for Keith and Hugh and John for putting this overnight success of ten years together.


Yeah, I think that’s a great point in terms of the grit associated with building real shareholder value and…  If you follow their story… Even forget the name of the company when they first started but it obviously…


Reinvention was the first name.


It was Reinvention.  That’s right. It was Reinvention.  Then they bought Critical Mix, of course, which gave them a survey platform.  And they’ve done what? Two big sample acquisitions, company acquisitions along the way?


I don’t want to get it wrong, but they’ve definitely made some really smart acquisitions along the way.  And I really respected the way they were able to keep the founders around and not try and mush the cultures in.  I think they’ve done a good job over the years upholding a good umbrella of cooperative businesses while allowing them to flourish as independent as well.    


So, you and I have talked separately outside of this conversation about the overall size of the spend in the sample space.  And we’ll call it (I mean this number isn’t right) but we’ll just call it 2 billion dollars.


I think that’s…  Probably on the high end is 2 billion, and the low end is probably

1 billion, and it’s probably 1.5.  I think it’s hard to quantify ‘cause we have a kind of a casual industry that doesn’t have to document these items.  But I think 1.5 feels right.


So, you’re at 1.5.  Now the rolled up, as you said, Reimagined Holdings and then [Dynata], SSI – it’s just this humongous beast. There’s not a bigger company by a long shot.  They’re a large part of the global spend. In fact, if you going to do a project at scale, it might be hard to do it without Access.


It’d be hard to avoid them, yeah.  I mean I don’t say that in a negative way.  It’s just I don’t think people give credit to companies and the convenience of scale that they can bring.  Where it might be one thing to work with a company in one country, but if you need to do something in 10, 20, 30 countries, the scale and expertise to pull that off.  There’s only a handful of companies that can really individually do that. Yeah, they’re large. They’ve definitely been very… They’ve pulled off these series of mergers.  It was to be see, the other ones pending approval, but they’ve done a good job. I’ve seen other meagers acquisitions not go well from my perspective.  Just for clarity’s sake, we are not part of Dynata.  I know people get confused about you know…


PureSpectrum being tethered to Dynata?


Correct, right, right.  Because both, a couple of years back, there was a press release that ResearchNow made an investment and Critical Mix made an investment.  So, I’m here to say on the podcast that there is… The business still has the same independence as it always did. But I have a lot of respect for things going well.  I am not the kind of person that wishes any company, even competitors in our space, and I don’t even know how to define a competitor and a friend anymore. But I really root for everybody to be successful, and it is a big enough market both in the sample and then the larger addressable market, which I think is pretty well documented by SMR to be more than 25 billion for primary research of a 70 billion overall data and insights pie.  There’s enough for good companies to all have a role and a place in it.


It feels like the industry has been expanding.  I know that we’ve had the SMR number now of about $75 billion space, a really big space, of which you’re seeing a lot of growth in social media and listening analysis.  But I just got off a podcast earlier with the Chief of Customer Insights and Innovation at FourSquare, Gail. In that conversation, she had this great point of view, which is market research has never been more exciting because we HAVE a seat at the table.  She’s literally involved at … Not only is she in the C-level, she’s actually the rudder of the ship when it comes to business decisions. And so, I think the point that you’re making is important, which is a rising tide, that rising tide principle. As an industry, just have to keep it together and continue to figure out how we can add value in order to…  as opposed to shoot the cannons, right? [laughter]


Well, I think there are a lot of people who wonder about traditional research and how it’s going to make it because there’s so much more data.  You leave personally a trail of data everywhere you go on your mobile.


My wife cleans them all up.


[laughs]  Yes, I have three kids; so there’s plenty of things to clean up for us too.  But there’s so much data there’s been a fear that traditional survey research is going to perish, or get smaller.  I remember talking to Jeff Miller at Burke ages ago, and he said that every Big Data is supposed to replace market research.  Where he’s basically saying, “You know they said that about social media; they said that about this.” And he felt really confident.  I really struck me the confidence. There’s certain thing that research does. It’s just not about data. It’s about analysis; it’s about recommendation; it’s about predicting, not just what’s going to happen, (of course, you get that right or wrong) but oftentimes why times are happening ‘cause there’s a lot what’s happening around us and data there.  But to be able to make sense of why it’s happening… And the next level, I think, is where it gets really brave is to try to tell people what they’re supposed to do about it. That’s a level up where someone like Gail is probably talking about. She’s probably not just using surveys in her insights. There’s probably tons of data that is being generated in their business today:  customer data, website visitation data, after-use data, and this data is there. And the appetite for data is not only growing but it’s going to continue to grow. But the augmentation of that or synthetization of that to be able to make a business decision quickly… And I think that is where… I don’t know if we’re transitioning here, but I think the speed at which businesses move compared to the speed at which our industry has moved, then our industry being this market research survey industry to me that’s where the big intersection.  So the speed at which decisions are made doesn’t fit with our current with our operational models.


And that’s something that I’ve heard.  There’s two things there, right? One is the speed element; it’s critical.  And also we’re about (I’ll give it five years) behind normally from a technology adoption perspective relative to ad tech.  But the other part of that that is really interesting is the context. So, it isn’t enough now for a market… I like boiling it down to the restaurant example; this is my go-to, right?  So, if I’m a restauranteur, I can’t care about when the customer walks into the door and when they exit the door. If they have a bad parking experience and you and wife have to walk a quarter mile in a marginally unsafe thing, the whole dining experience is screwed.  


The story that gets told includes a bad part.


Totally.  It makes the food not taste as good.  So you as a restauranteur, it isn’t enough just to do a survey.  You’ve got to understand the business context of how that data is going to impact the business so that you can help understand the full view of the user’s experience, so that it connects and drives change in the company.   


It does, right?  So, I think everybody has a tendency to let the pendulum swing too far one side to the other.  So, I could sit here and argue to you that only the high-end consulting firms are really going to add value at the boardroom and give you the compelling argument that they get to know the business; they understand the subject matter; and that’s how you get a seat at the table.  And I could turn to the other side and say, “It’s all about automated research products and how a company like McDonald’s or Taco Bell can do 30 different versions of a product test with a similar or maybe slightly larger budget but in a time… it just can happen the way it couldn’t happen before.  So that has a massive impact on what they can do in their business more so than the expensive consulting group at the table.” And they’re both true, right? So it’s important to make sure, as a business, you’re not trying to do both unless you’re really big. Then you can maybe spend both, but you have to be able to serve what the customers need because, ultimately, all of our customers are the brands and corporations that are trying to bring things to consumers and the traditional methods of going to the agencies and things, it’s still the primary way that they do research.  But we need to help them be successful.




If we’re not doing that all the way up and down the value chain, then there’s a problem for us to be concerned about.  But, as long as we can meet their needs and help them be successful and roll out the spicy chicken nuggets instead of the sour chicken nuggets, and one’s a success and one’s a failure, then we’re adding value to their shareholders and their company.    


So, let’s put a point on it.  What are you seeing as trending at a macro level in market research?


I think there’s different layers.  If you are a brand, I think you’re trying to make sure that you are pleasing your internal customers because everybody is ultimately serving somebody who’s delivering to the bottom line of the company.  So, the insights professionals that I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with this year have made it really clear to me that they need things to be quick, and they need people to be able to help them be successful to drive the business, right?  So, I do see automation and productization. It’s not like it’s brand new, but I think that it’s becoming more… People are seeing the benefits of it; it’s starting to be done right. [chuckles] It’s like everything’s bad, like false starts, but I think that people are really starting to get it right.  I think a lot of the agencies… so the market research agencies, they’re coming to grips with the fact that they need to become more technically adept and that they need to have their, you call it, data streams or data lakes or whatever their own internal references – but the way that they move from RFP to data and recommendations has to become faster.  

There are technology platforms and companies out there that can help them because the big problem with all of this is it’s expensive and it’s hard.  Automation, if you will, or technology… most people don’t have a CTO or a million dollars cap ex sitting around to go and build something internally.  So that’s why you seek companies that are technology and platform companies getting outsized valuations because they can bring solutions that can help their customers thrive without probably wasting money, trying to build it themselves.        


Yeah, I do think that’s right.   Decipher – that’s one of the things I realized early on is doing, building a survey platform is really, really hard, and it’s an evolving process.  So, whether it’s mobile adoption, which happened, of course, around really 2006 – 2010… big shift there in responding consumption. And then just all the AI that can go into building a survey platform or a survey out of specifically the platform.  Like SurveyMonkey does a good job of predictive questions based on your methodology. So, you’re got these different… It’s really hard to do that. So, then to try to expand, to try to expand our technology expertise into like, say, panels, ‘cause that was for us was the natural, “Why don’t we just do our own panel?”  That was freaking hard. So we actually started and stopped that initiative two times. So, getting to your point, like we’d be so much better off incorporating an existing expert as opposed to trying to build it ourselves.


No, you’re absolutely right.  Oftentimes, the expertise in the agencies are their abilities to do analytics and insights or to understand methodologies – quite frankly, things that I don’t know.  




They also don’t know how to build good product, good technology that has the right amount of features for everybody but not too many features.  




Something that’s usable and powerful.


Love it.  So, definitely focused is the thing that we need to have more than ever before because out of focus comes speed, comes velocity, and by trying to do too many things, you dilute that focus.  And I think that’s what I’m seeing in the marketplace. The people that are going to win are the ones that are… Kantar is a great example: They’re going through a ton of refocusing right now with consolidation of the brands.  So there’s a lot to be said, I think, of repositioning the company. They say, “This is what we’re good at; this is what we’re going to focus on, and then we’re going to bring in experts to help us get the rest of the way,” which is exactly the message to their customers.


Yeah, and I think anybody who feels like they’re threatened by having technology partners, they should be concerned about the value of their business.  So, if you’re not adding a lot of value on top of what the technology does, then you should rethink that. I do want to also talk about because we… most of what we do is to automate field and sampling.


So, do you want to talk a little bit about PureSpectrum?  


I do but in the broader sense, some of what I’m seeing as well on this automation of sample, sample delivery that follows the similar type of arc where there’s a lot of hype, and it’s a wild, wild West for a number of years.  And what I’m seeing right now is actually – and some people don’t believe me when I say this – but a lot of stabilization in pricing, right, because there’s been a lot of suppliers who’ve become more comfortable, more technically capable with selling, the word is programmatically, which is really just about doing technology integration with different buying and selling mechanisms.  So what I see a whole lot more of is suppliers have become much more systematized in making the choices of what’s a good survey experience, a good price. And when those things happen, they are making better choices than people make. The salesperson that potentially may have sold a big job a big discount that creates all the binds and kinks in operations that people are used to living with in this world of, I call it, second round or phase two of programmatic where there’s less desire to do harm to suppliers or take advantage of them ‘cause, I think, there was an error of maybe there  was – not on purpose – but just people thought that they could do things they couldn’t do before. But now we’re seeing that the buyers are much more thoughtful around the sustainability and how…


I literally had that conversation with Miriam at Microsoft, and she said, “I can’t increase my budget.”  So I put the question to her, “Would you pay more for higher quality?” She said, “I can but I would do half as much,” so meaning there’s a 2X on the current cost per complete that she’s willing to pay, assuming that there is the quality to back it up.  


Absolutely.  I think most people like the concept of “cheaper,” but then there’s always a cost of “cheaper.”  There’s always going to be something else that happens, whether that’s uncertainty in the data, whether that is an actual issue with the data, that maybe it takes a lot longer to get done.  It’s never… it’s almost your zero-sum game. So finding that equilibrium where the benefits of the programmatic revolution in our industry, which has been boiling for years now, it’s starting to really take fruit where’s…  It’s like the adults are in the room, and now like, OK, like, this doesn’t make sense if it happens like that because you can’t do this without the value being there for the…we’ll call them the suppliers, the panel companies.  They need to be able to remain profitable. I always say I never want an airline to be unprofitable. I want my flight safe.


Totally.  [laughs] That’s exactly right.


So, as a buyer of data through survey participants, you should want them profitable.  You should want for them to be able to invest in different ways of engagement and recruitment.  And the number of things these companies – the good and high-quality ones – have to do to fight fraud, right, because any time you’re doing an online offer where money is available, you’re constantly playing whack-a-mole on how to defend against the fraud.  If they can’t invest in those mechanisms and they have to cut corners on where they recruit because the CPI’s are going down, it creates an unsustainable cycle. It’s kind of the life blood of… The market research industry is getting people to take surveys; so, we shouldn’t destroy it.    


Right, yeah, it’s a non-renewable resource.  So, why PureSpectrum? 2015 – You’re sitting there, and you’re thinking, “You know what I’m going to do?  I’m going to start this company.” Why was it that space?


So, it was a lifelong dream of mine to found a business.  And I think if you were to talk to my, quite frankly, my three prior bosses and CEOs, they all knew I had aspirations of starting my own business at some point.  I probably not a great employee by the time I got to this point because I was so ready to be able to call the shots and take the responsibility of, quite frankly, of all that happened in the business.  I was probably restless. I’m basically unemployable at this point is what I’m saying.

So, I actually didn’t know what I was going to start when I came back to California.  I got good advice from a good friend that… He basically told me there’s only one person on planet earth that has been in the leadership role you’ve been in in two companies that are in the technology space around sample.  You can’t separate your head from your body, and your head actually knows this industry, going back to Greenfield and into what we believe the future’s going to be. So you should highly consider being in that space. I won’t reveal who this was, but this was actually somebody from one of the two other major companies, who gave me that advice, “Don’t try to become a real estate tech platform because you don’t know anything about it.  You know all the nuances of this industry and where you think it needs to go. So do that.” So I made that choice to do that. And it’s been going on a little over three years now since I made the decision not to take a job somewhere, and not to start some other business, to start this business. And, it’s been a wild ride.


So, what exactly does PureSpectrum do for our audience?  I know.


Yeah, no, it’s a…  If you break it down ‘cause it can become kind of complicated and make people get really… makes their eyes cross.  We work very closely with panel companies, and panel companies that tend to be technologically really adept and savvy.  And what we have done is we have created a website called an application that allows buyers – researchers and companies that buy access to online survey takers – to be able to input or place their orders on our system.  By placing those orders on our system, we’re able to in real time transmit the details of those orders to the suppliers that they want to work with. So, if you think about the traditional back and forth that happens of “How much does it cost me to get a thousand completes in the U.S., nationally representative by age, region, gender, and income?”  And all of a sudden it shows up and it’s got 55 quotas. You know it’s a lot harder than just that national wrap, right? Our system, actually, can help give the suppliers exactly what they’re supposed to do with what’s called an API connection. So it’s our system telling their systems exactly what’s needed. And then we’ve worked a lot over the past couple of years on making sure that the survey platforms, companies like Decipher or even a Qualtrics – I’ll just throw out some names, Confirmit, the normal names that you would hear or CMIX platform.  That’s actually where all the information really lives ‘cause after someone writes a survey and a questionnaire, they create all these details. They don’t need a 1,000 completes; they need 25 males, 18-24 who are Hispanic in Florida, and then they need 975 others, but those are also very small, little segments of what they need. So a survey becomes all these micro-surveys. So we have focused really heavily with our customers on really being able to get a high level of alignment operationally so that we can get that data from the beginning of the workflow into our system so that we can give the supplier all of that information in real time.  

So, I’m passionate about it because it’s, I do believe, one of the largest issues in our industry (and that’s not just sample; it’s market research and insights) is how many hands touch this information and, like the game of telephone, how it doesn’t get transmitted correctly.  And there are every day hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of thousands of people who want to take surveys. They go to surveys; they get turned away. And that’s detrimental to the longevity of it ‘cause every time you have a bad experience… You mentioned the restaurant. Like they actually went to the restaurant, and the door was locked.  And the door was locked, and it might even had said, “We don’t need males in the restaurant today. Sorry.”


This literally happened to me yesterday where a GLG, $35 project – I never do these projects – I was charging my car; so, I had the time to kill.  I’m like, “Ah, I’m going to see if I can make 35 bucks. It sounds OK, right, for 15 minutes. Second question in – quote is full. I’m like, “Are you kidding?”  It’s so mean. [laughs]


It’s lame.  It’s like, “I value your opinion.  Ehh, not on this one,” right? I just think it’s a real issue, and it’s a real economic problem for our industry.  It drives cost up. So, when people ask me, “Are you doing this so that you can drive down and commoditize sample?”  The answer is, “No.” There’s so much more opportunity cost just on failure to get the right person the right survey.  There’s millions upon millions of dollars of money saved at the supplier level, at the buyer level, and all of it just because it happens better.         


Got it.  So there’s really…  If you kind of like oversimplify things with two different types of buyers or customers, I should say, right?  One are people that purchase people, completes on the platform. And then the other, of course, would be panel companies that opt to partner with us and deploy or sell their people sample on the platform.  And the beauty of it is that we are… This is my favorite statistic actually. For me, this was one of the lynchpin moments in understanding the real value of PureSpectrum and that is we have a three times better completion rate than other options that are in the marketplace because we optimize the quota stream based on availability; so, we’re overrecruiting against those “closed,” filled quotas.  And that creates just a much better user experience.


Yeah, absolutely right.  There’s kind of an emerging, less-known part of our business too, which we call “storefront.”  We know that, if we have the ability (I’ll use a really tough word) to “control” the end-to-end data process, that we know we can perfect information.  In fact, I would be willing to take hedge bets on the per-click economics of selling because, if I know I have perfect information, then we will not send anybody that’s not needed to a survey.  We won’t. So, storefront is our empowerment platform where we help typically agencies who have product-ties methodologies, things that happen over and over that need just different stimuli, kind of going back ten minutes ago, where they are not technically capable of building their own storefront where their customers or their internal customers can say I’d like to run another concept test with this copy or with this image.  And it’s very modularized. Although it requires a lot of involvement from the customer upfront to set up their product, it is human-free. The labor to actually execute from picking the product to…


upload stimuli, sample frame,


…sample, export data, create standard visualizations – all that happens without the handoffs between people.  So it’s really, really, really efficient. And we love that sort of business because the more, again, control or information we have, then the precision of being able to deliver exactly what’s needed is there.  


So, October 25th, I’m driving back with William Van Heusen on my staff from the Bay Area.  Just did an interview with Stacey Walker at Adobe. And I’m getting on to the 101 and give you a call and say, “Hey, you interested in sponsoring the podcast?”  You’re like, “Yeah, I’ll sponsor all the podcasts.” And then we sort of moved into market services and expanded and, ultimately, you acquired Happy Market Research middle of January.  So, why Happy Market Research?


That’s a great question.  I’m still beating myself up over that one. [laughter]  No, so, the obvious is you and I have known each other for 15 years and you are super capable and competent.  And our business PureSpectrum has grown, and I would like to see it continue to grow. So I wanted you to be part of the journey with us.  So that was one of the most obvious things is one – to be able to have you join the business. The other is I really love the podcast. I love it because it creates a risk-free environment for anybody in the industry, ‘cause I do love the industry, to be able to come and talk about what’s going on, where they see it going, what’s annoying them.  So, I remember talking to you about it and saying, “Like we’re keeping the podcast, right?” And you’re like, “Absolutely, I want to keep doing the podcast.” I was like, “Great!” because I really want the podcast to be there. Your mission was to serve the interests of the market research industry, add value to market research. And that’s no different than PureSpectrum’s… you know, why we wake up every day.?  To solve problems and help the market research industry. I don’t know. To me, it made a ton of sense, and you already had three fantastic and talented young people working at the company. So was happy to bring them on board, and looking forward to many, many years of growing the business and helping lead the industry where we believe it should go.


Totally.  It’s good already; it’s a lot of fun; it’s going to get more fun.  Love the plans we’re having for 2019. So, last question: three characteristics of an All-Star employee?


Alright, we’ll start off with the youngins, right, people coming in.  This is their first job or second job. So, I really don’t like the kind of the naysaying about the millennials because we’ve had WONDERFUL experience with people coming straight out of college or first job, second job.  The ones that have really at this company stood out to me, they are curious. They don’t… When you say, I need you to go from A to Z, you don’t have to tell them the thing they need to do to go from A and then to B and then to C and then to D.  They’ll clarify, they’ll figure things out, and then they will actually try to get to Z themselves. And I think that’s an important element of our culture here is letting people even bite off more than they can chew while letting them know that they can come for help.  I’ll say to other young employees there are basics like be on time, ask for vacation (don’t say when you’re going to take it), just some professional etiquette and courtesies that people should be mindful of. Because there are some people that have been at it where you actually did have to have your vacation approved well in advance.  I’m not saying that doesn’t happen, but just… there’s no entitlement. Like don’t have a sense of entitlement. I’ve got to think of a third one here: I don’t know, take pride in your work. If it’s something you’re going to do, don’t mail it in. Try to do a good job even if it’s not your favorite part of the job. Try to find a way make even the least interesting parts be good.

I’ll flip to the other side:  All-Star employees that are more senior.  So, I go out of my way not to get in the way of people that I believe to be at a certain level in their career because there’s nothing worse than trying to tell somebody how to do something that they’re probably better than you at just because you feel like you need to approve everything or be in the middle of everything.  If I could give a recommendation to people who are a little bit farther along in their careers, be willing to take risks, be willing to tell your boss that his ideas or her ideas are bad ideas if you feel like it’s a comfortable enough environment because oftentimes I’m seeking not for people to do what I tell them to do but for them to tell, inform what the company should do.  Another thing, final thing and then I’ll stop; I think that’s three and three, that’s six things. I actually believe that all of us at this company, we work for the company. I know there’s a flip side of that coin that people work for people, but I try to inform what I do with my time and what I want other people to do with their time, as a manager leader as to “What is that doing for the business?”  And it’s almost embarrassing because like Office Space, the movie, from the 90s, “What can you do for Initech?”  But really the business needs to be cared for; it needs for people to be doing the things for its best interests but that becomes circular.  So, the company needs leadership that knows that the company can’t flourish without great employees and the company must give back to the employees too.  And that is super important so that people know that they have the ability to turn off the phones at night but also know that if they have a customer that needs help that they… you know it’d be good for the company if they can do that, but to make sure there’s an appropriate set of boundaries.  So the symbiotic nature of if you are doing things that help the business grow, the business will grow and that the company should provide growth opportunities for the employee too.


My guest today has been Michael McCrary, CEO and founder of PureSpectrum.   Thank you, Michael, for joining me on the Happy Market Research Podcast.


I love the podcast.  Thank you, Jamin.


And thank you, everybody, for tuning in.  And as always, if you would be so kind as to leave a review on Apple iTunes or whatever platform you’re consuming this content as well as take a screenshot, share it on social media.  It goes a long way in expanding our reach. Really appreciate it and hope you have a great rest of your day!


This episode is brought to you by G3 Translate.  The G3 Translate team offers unparalleled expertise in foreign language translations for market researchers and insight professionals across the globe.  Not only do they speak hundreds of languages, they are fluent in market research. For more information, please visit them at G3Translate.com.

Tech Corner – Barbara Alpert – Chilmark Digital – How Chilmark Digital Is Impacting the Market Research Industry

On this Tech Corner segment, Barbara Alpert, President of Chilmark Digital joins host Jamin Brazil to discuss how Chilmark is impacting the Market Research Industry. Chilmark Digital uses media and technology to effectively engage people, deliver new experiences and assess their impact in order to keep improving and creating. Enjoy!


Phone: (212) 744-0213



Phone: (917) 847-3165

Email: balpert@chilmarkdigital.com



Social Media: @happymrxp


IIeX Europe 2019 Conference Series – Stephen Thompson – Recollective

Welcome to the #IIEX Europe Conference Series 2019. Recorded live in Amsterdam, this series is bringing interviews straight to you from exhibitors and speakers at this year’s event. In this interview, host Jamin Brazil interviews Stephen Thompson, Executive VP of Recollective.

This Episode’s Sponsor:


Contact Stephen Online:




My guest today is Stephen with Recollective. He is the executive vice president of Recollective. We’re here live today at IIeX, on the trade show. He’s getting ready to speak in a little bit. Tell me a little bit about Recollective again.


No worries. Recollective is an online platform that researchers can use to build a community, essentially of any size, any duration, whether it’s a short project popup community or whether it’s an always-on, long-term, huge community with hundreds of thousands of people. The platform is the same, you can just customize it and brand to whatever you need.


IIeX, have you been here before?


We’ve been a big supporter in the U.S. for the last probably seven, eight years now.


Atlanta, big. They’ve moved it to Austin, right? What do you think about that transition?


We’re looking forward to that. It was getting very busy at Austin.


It felt like a house party.


It did, yes.


We’ll see what it’s like this year in Austin. March, right?




Yes, April, sorry. That’s going to be a fun show. I’m excited about that one.


Yes, me too. I’m looking forward to it.


I do like the venue though, here in Amsterdam. This is spectacular.


Beautiful building.


Oh my gosh, it’s unreal. It’s absolutely unreal. Have you guys exhibited most of the time?


This is only the second time we’ve been to the Amsterdam venue. Most of our business is over in the US. We have a fair footprint in the UK, but we’d love to do more business in Europe, so this is a great conference to be at.


Tell me a little bit more about Recollective. You guys have custom panels, right? Or, communities that you developed for specific-use cases?




Tell me a little bit.


We focus on the technology, so we primarily work with agencies and large organizations that have a research team because we don’t do the research. Our market differentiator is, we’re all about the technology. We provide what we think is the best platform out there for any researcher to use very quickly, to bring their own participants in, to work with a recruiter to get them, and then to build an environment in which they can have meaningful conversations with people. It’s collected in different qualitative ways, whether it’s through photo and video uploads— It might be fill-in-the-blanks, where people are doing Mad Lib style things. It could be through discussion boards. I’d sit alongside them, socialize around responses to questions, lots of different ways in which you can essentially connect with people in that community and have a good conversation.


Do you have a favorite project?


There are lots. We’ve done all sorts of different ones. We ran a project over Christmas. It was about depression. I’m trying to study depression, particularly over a period where people are normally with family. That was great because the people there would be using the community, not just for the research but as their support group. They wanted to keep going. Those conversations were phenomenal. Then we do a whole bunch of financial services, a whole bunch of consumer goods projects. There’s a whole range. Things that build in video— That’s what I’m going to be talking about later as well, are really interesting projects. You get beyond just the core research. You get a lot more context as to what is happening with people, and you can begin to understand them, that much more in-depth. Those are always very interesting, as well.


Tell me a little bit about your talk.


The talk’s on that subject of understanding particularly human behaviors at scale, and how particularly online qualitative can be used to leverage different techniques to uncover what people are thinking, why they act in certain ways that go beyond a simple text response to questions. It’s how we can weave in video, how we can weave in different types of approaches, whether it’s synchronous or asynchronous. It’s just to try and have a better conversation with people, so that we get an authentic story that can then be used by a business to make a better decision.


That’s really powerful. Their data is abstract. Businesses rely on it and feel comfortable in the way that it’s false comfort, because they have a data score that they can attribute to how their consumers are feeling. The problem with that, from my view, is that it lacks the humanization. Without empathy, the brand and the employees that make up the brand aren’t able to shift, meaningfully, behavior and connection with the consumer.


The quality is so important, but it’s only half the story. Without the human stories beneath it to understand the bigger context, you can’t ever have real confidence in the decisions that you’re making, as to whether they’re the right ones for your brand and your product, and so on.


It’s funny, too, so on Happy Market Research Podcast, I interview leaders in market research in major brands, right? Everyone, where maybe two dozen now, have talked about the importance of story, and it’s trumping everything else. You’ve got to have the data. I’m not trying to say you can’t have quant, but it is all about, the better the story, the bigger the lever for change.


If you think about it, as human beings who remember stories best, that’s how we learn. That’s how we understand behaviors, and what’s a good way to behave is through stories. What better way to get across research insights than through a story, the real stories of real people, so that you can use them to connect to other customers in really meaningful ways.


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


Through the website, recollective.com. They can give me a call on my phone number, and everything is on the website as well. They can swing by the booth at the conference. We’re just inside the conference hall. Come and see us. We’d love to chat.


My guest today has been Stephen with Recollective. Sir, thank you very much for joining me on the Happy Market Research Podcast.


Thank you very much.

Ep. 207 – Mitchell Atchison – Biggest Challenges Pharma Researchers Are Facing In Today’s Landscape

Today, my guest is Mitchell Atchison, Senior Associate in US Immunology Marketing Research at a leading global pharmaceutical firm. Mitchell has spent his career in both retail and pharma.

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

This Episode’s Sponsor: 


Contact Mitchell Online: 


Tech Segment Guest, Barbara Alpert of Chilmark Digital:

Barbara’s Phone: (917) 847-3165

Chilmark Digital’s Phone: (212) 744-0213

Barbara’s Email: balpert@chilmarkdigital.com

Website: Chilmark Digital


On Episode 207 of the Happy Market Research Podcast, I’m chatting with Mitchell Atchison, U.S. Immunology Marketing Researcher at one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical firms.

But first, a word from our sponsor:  This episode is brought to you by Attest.  Attest is a powerful, easy-to-use SAS platform that connects businesses to over 100 million consumers in 80 countries on-demand in just a few clicks.  Ask your burning questions, select who you want to answer, view actual insights that help you grow your business. Join the hundreds of leading brands who already utilize the power of Attest’s scalable intelligence platform.  Contact Attest today at www.askattest.com/happymr or find the link in the episodes show notes.


Hey, guys.  This is Jamin Brazil.  You’re listening to the Happy Market Research Podcast.  Today my guest is Mitchell Atchison, Senior Associate in U.S. Immunology Marketing Research at a leading global pharmaceutical firm.   He has spent his career in both retail and pharma. Mitchell, thanks so much for being on the Happy Market Research Podcast with me today.


Thank you so much for having me.  Really looking forward to our conversation today.


So, tell me about your parents.  What did they do and how has that informed your career?


Thank you so much.  I’m really close with my parents, always have been.  My mom is a teacher, and my dad is an engineer. But he actually got his MBA and the type of work that he has done over the course of his career is very business-focused.  He does bring an engineering, analytical mindset to what he does, but he’s always been an operations manager or an operations supervisor. So he’s had that business background.  I’ve looked up to my parents my whole life; I still do. Honestly, I think the biggest thing that encouraged me to get to where I am today was probably my dad’s background, his business mindset.  And here I am: I’m actually living out the dream. I just recently started a business with my mom but also, on a day-to-day basis, working and marketing within pharmaceuticals. It’s been a journey, but it’s been a lot of fun in the process.


So, what area did you grow up in?


I’ve kind of moved all over the place, growing up.  I was born in Seymour, Indiana, before moving to South Carolina, when I was a baby.  Spent about seven years or so out on South Carolina. Loved in out there: loved the weather, loved the people, and everything about South Carolina.  It’s actually one of my favorite vacation destinations. Then moved out to south central California – Hanford, California, which is just down the road from you, Jamin.  Spent about seven years there as well before moving to the frozen tundra of Minneapolis, Minnesota, after that.


It’s so funny.  Hanford, I was literally just in Hanford, which is an hour away from where I live, in Fresno, California.  This last weekend, my grandmother at 102 years old finally passed, and so we had a lot of family flying in from all over.  It was a great experience for us, celebrating her life. It is interesting to me being in that particular ecosystem because I think of Fresno as a…  It’s a whatever, half a million people, fifth largest city in California. Hanford is this really small microcosm of tight knit community. The downtown is really cool.  The people (at least I came in contact with) were friendly. It was like a real special… It’s a special neat sort of, not Mayberry-esque, but maybe a little bit where time has quite not caught up to it.


Yeah, absolutely.  First off, I’m so sorry hear that news.  I mean it’s always tough.


Well, 102.  She had a fantastic life.  I didn’t mean to take that with it.  I will say this little anecdote about her.  She is probably the most positive person I had ever met.  She had a tremendous amount of adversity in her life, growing up.  You think about all the technological advances that she has undergone.  She grew up and lived about half of her life in Arkansas and then moved to California in the hopes of a better life.  The framework there was farm labor and just a lot of primary-earner responsibilities and the household. Just a ton of what normal people would consider to be stress.  Every day for her was the best day of her life.

I remember there’s two like anecdotes that stand out to me:  the first one being… I don’t know when she slept. Nobody knew when she slept.  And I actually asked her one time, “Grandma, when do you sleep?’” or “How much do you sleep?”  And she told me, “Jamin, if I lay down too long, they’re going to start throwing dirt on me,” which I thought was just like..  Then the second thing, which happened about three years ago, she… 99 years old, coherent, doing great, but she lost the ability to swallow food.  So they had to insert a feeding tube, which, of course, sounds very sad. But she went through that whole process. After surgery, the family comes in and checks on her and my dad says, “How are they treating you?“  She responds, “They’re treating me great, and the food is fantastic.” Of course, at this point, my father is absolutely convinced that early stage dementia has set in. She looks at him and goes, “You don’t understand.  It actually smells really good.” So she’s always had this bent on positivity, and that’s something that I’ve sort of aspired to. And I think that it’s largely fallen… a lot of that has fallen into the community that she was a part of.


Yeah, Jamin, yeah, that’s so cool to hear.  I can share on that. My grandparents have been very inspiring in that same way.  To your point about Hanford, I think what’s cool about it… You mentioned the innocence, if you will, of Hanford and the ideal, kind of simple life style, if you will.  We very much experienced that when we lived out there. I think it’s probably something… it’s what a lot of people aspire to have. I know whenever we first moved out there, I think the town might have been maybe 30,000ish.  It may not even have been that. I think now it’s probably around may be 50, 60 thousand, somewhere in that range. That’s still not a big city but, at the same time, to nearly double growth within a very short period of time, just within the last basically decade or decade and a half is pretty impressive.  I think it really speaks to the quality of the town, what the town is able to offer, and just the community as a whole.


It’s interesting through a marketing researcher’s lens, almost 20% of the U.S. population lives in what’s classified as rural areas, which is by far and away (I think it’s over 90% of the actual land in the U.S.).  There is meaningful differences between cities and rural from a consumption perspective. I think that’s one of the reasons why it’s so important to make sure that market research has an adequate representation so that you do have that clear view of the market perspective, which, of course, informs sample frames and things like that.


Yeah, and that’s something too.  Whenever I’m doing my sampling or like setting up screeners and things like that with my partner agencies, one of the first things that I always ask or more or less direct them to is to say, “Hey, at the day I want a very representative sample of the broader population of physicians or the broader population of patients or whatever the responder base may be.”  I, ultimately, am going to make decisions off of that sample. So I want that sample to be representative of the population that I’m, ultimately, informing decisions on. So it’s absolutely crucial to ensure that in the grander universe of the population, we want to ensure that our sample is very representative of that.


So, tell me about one of the biggest challenges that you have overcome either personally or professionally.


You know it’s funny.  We actually just kind of started talking a little bit about it, Jamin. As I had mentioned, we had moved around all the time growing up.  So I think if I were to synthesize in just a couple of words of the biggest challenge, I think it’s been dealing with the consistent transition that I’ve gone through within my life.  I had mentioned all the states that I have lived in. Actually, I went to three different high schools, three different states, three different parts of the country, three straight semesters.  That was a challenge. That was a very sensitive time in life to move to the degree that I had done. I really think that just the consistent transition and constant moving, not really ever feeling like I had a home so to speak, growing up was a real challenge.  To be frank though, even though it’s been a challenge, I usually look at challenges as a… to try and be optimistic about them, to say, “Hey, what can I learn from these challenges?” Because I find that in those challenges, it seems to be where you learn the most.  So I really did grow a lot within that experience. Ultimately, I think I was able to become very comfortable in uncomfortable situations, and that’s helped me today. And it’s helped me to be very adaptable, dealing with different situations, dealing with different people, dealing with just different frames of mind and different ways of thinking.  I think that’s just being surrounded by so many different types of people in so many different parts of the country and even the world, for that matter, growing up. It’s just really opened up my mind, just to be very empathetic to other person or the audience, and from a business perspective, being able to craft the message towards that particular audience.


I think one of my favorite words is “empathy,” “kindness.”  This idea that… People naturally have a tendency to judge.  As we divorce ourselves from that tendency and move in a situation where we’re non-judgmental and more empathetic towards one another or even from a brand to a consumer framework, then there’s a connection that’s able to be made that is, I believe, paramount for success whether that’s at the individual level – you, me individually – or, if you think about it, again thinking about the relationship between brands and the empathy that they show towards their consumer group.  One of my go-to examples right now: I heard a talk recently from one of the head researchers at McDonald’s, and they were talking about how they have moved from a… maximize shareholder value through an antiquated concept like share of wallet to seeing customers as partners. So the way that they’re illustrating the partnership is actually how can they maximize the wallet value of the purchase for the consumer and then communicating that at the point of sale so that it literally translates to a, “Wow, I feel like McDonald’s is helping me maximize my value when I need that help at the register.”  They have a bunch of tactics, of course, around that. But I just love those stories of how brands are, in fact, partnering with their customers in order to improve the customer’s life as opposed to steal from it.


I couldn’t agree more.  At the end of the day we have to, as industries, regardless of the field that industry is in, we have to meet our customers where they are.  Yes, we may seek to change and move attitudes and beliefs, but at the end of the day, we need to meet them where they are and seek to form our marketing and promotional efforts in a manner that’s catering to their wants and their needs and their desires.  That’s all shaped by the atmosphere that these customers whether it’s the end-consumer or not If they’ve ultimately been surrounded with. Kind of getting back to that empathy piece, we need to empathize with our customers and, ultimately, cater to where they’re at now, what are their wants, what are their needs, and what are their desires that we can, ultimately, as an organization that sells products or services that we can fit those needs for those specific customers.


Yeah, and the empathy, it’s interesting as it starts informing your overall behavior, obviously at a macro-level (brand to consumer), but at a micro-level internally.  Market researchers, we have internal customers really, don’t we? How can we help them, empower them, aid them in their decision-making processes to be data or customer-centric?


Yes, that’s exactly right, that is exactly right, yeah.


So, tell me a little bit about a research project that you’re most proud of.


Yeah, I’ve had multiple roles in my career so far, all within analytics or market research.  I think probably my favorite project actually comes from… About two jobs ago, I actually worked in forecasting market research.  Within this role, we would essentially project out the demand and, ultimately, the revenue across each of the products within a given portfolio.  Every year, we went through a process called strategic planning. And this is where again we project out the demand and the revenue for anywhere between five and ten years in the future.  This helps just to inform whatever organization it is: here’s what you can expect from a general revenue perspective. And it can just inform whether or not there are any gaps in revenue expectations.  That way, we can cater our strategy and investment strategy to whatever that may be. With this, we leverage a variety of secondary sources, syndicated sources, primary market research, ultimately, leverage our deep understanding of each of the respective areas that will be your end.  Then, we project out what that demand would be and what our expectations are for each of the given products. And then we seek to gain alignment at various levels of the company and, ultimately, the CEO is the one that signs off. It’s through those efforts that we get a really solid, collaborative effort to understand the state of the business and where we’re heading.


That sounds awesome.  [laughs] I mean any time…  I love the triangulation of truth to truth where you can take consumer self-reported data and then combine that with external data in order to really add to the story narrative on, in your case, predicting what the market’s going to do.  That sort of empowerment helps the C-Suite understand and frame the importance of those consumer opinions.


That’s exactly right, yeah.  And we try as much as we can leverage all the data that we have in front of us.  So that way, that truly guides the decisions and the inputs into the forecast that we always make.  But I will say, though, one thing that we often do caveat (now, granted we may not do this if there’s a vice-president in the room), but we always jokingly say, “The first rule of forecasting is that the forecast is always wrong.”  [laughs] We can leverage all the tools in front of us, but at the end of the day, they’re all projections. In many cases, they’re pretty close, but we do have to realize that we’re dealing with, in some cases, imperfect data, but we are making projections in the future that may or may not come true.


What is your biggest market research challenge?


There are many challenges.  I think probably the biggest one that comes to mind is probably communication synthesis.  As market researchers, we’re used to dealing with a lot of data, but I always have to remember that, as a market researcher, I have to recognize that a majority of my audience, if not all of my audience, doesn’t have two different things:  It’s one: they don’t know the data to the degree that I do because I spend as much time as what I do with the data; I have a trained market research background. So my audience just in most cases doesn’t have that. Secondly, my audience doesn’t the time to digest all of the data that I’m used to dealing with.  So I truly believe that my task as a market researcher is to make my market research and make the data matter to them. Again, communication synthesis is key.

So a couple of things that I really seek to do whenever I’m synthesizing, whatever message it is that I’m communicating:  First off, I really seek to just be… keep my message brief, concise, and to the point and, ultimately, communicating the most important things that matter to my audience or to my customer, if you will, that I’m talking to.  Then, secondly, I try and communicate the “So What’s?” of the research, as opposed to just maybe messaging that data. Some of the things that I do for that specifically… Whenever I’m communicating verbally in a formal presentation and informal presentation, (I’ll tell you I’m one of the bigger data geeks out there.)  But at the same time when I’m communicating my message, actually I’ll try to rarely communicate in numbers. I try and speak in relative terms because at the end of the day, most of the people I’m talking to are not data-junkies like what I may be. I try to communicate – again back to what we talked about earlier – empathy.  I try to empathize with them and speak in a manner that’s going to make sense to them. I really try and speak in very relative terms. I use numbers when needed, but I try to avoid them if possible. If I can deliver even a stronger message when not using those numbers. Whenever it comes to written communication, one thing that I always do is I always provide an executive summary and within that, I present the most important information for my audience.  It may be three bullet points; it may be five bullet points. But I try to keep it very concise, to the point, and even in the executive summaries I try and avoid the numbers because just trying to communicate again the “So-Whats.” Why does this matter to the audience? and What do they really need to know? If they only had two minutes to digest what I’m communicating to them, I want them to take this because that’s, ultimately, what’s needed to make and shape decisions.


So, two things there really stand out to me.  One is your framework for using relative terms versus absolute.  My go-to example for that is no one knows how much a six-cylinder car is worth on an absolute basis, but we ALL know it’s worth more than a four-cylinder car, right?  So the point is that human beings, when you give us an absolute number, it’s really hard for us to digest and process that. But, as soon as you can move it to a relative measure, then it becomes easy to say, “Holy crap!  Yeah, that’s a lot better, or a lot worse, or big problem, or doing great.”


That’s exactly right; it’s exactly right.  Even though I may have absolute numbers, I may present – speaking of the relative piece – I may use ordinal references whenever I’m talking about a particular attribute that I’m referencing.  Even though the question I may have asked in that particular survey, it may not have been an ordinal question, so to speak by nature, but I still may present it an ordinal fashion. I’ll say, “Hey, relatively speaking, our product is decently close to the leading product or a maybe little bit ahead” or something like that.  But I’ll speak in very relative terms as opposed to using “Such and such product is .3 percentage points ahead of the other product, and then that product is 6 percentage points ahead of the other product over there.” I just think presenting in relative terms, at least the audience that I’m dealing with on a day-in, day-out basis, that’s how they prefer to receive information.  I’ve always found that the discussions are much more rich and the take-aways are much more actionable whenever I present in those kinds of terms.


Yeah, absolutely.  You’re getting to the “So-What,” of course, feeds that perfectly because as soon as you get to the relative – this is bigger than that or more valuable than that – then, of course, you have to deal with what is the implication of that.

And the second thing that you said that really stood out to me (and I think that we as market researchers need to hear this repeatedly) is that we need to have headline communications.  A good example of that is when I send a memo; I might have ten hours invested in the memo itself, from just gathering content and whatever research and having a point of view. If you only have 30 seconds, just read this.   That’s the three bullet points or whatever that synthesizes exactly what the overall points are. And, if they decide they want more information or have time, then – guess what? – there’s a bunch of documentation and etc., etc.


That’s exactly right.  I often will try and think about my audience and say, “What do they really need to know?”  In the executive summary, I put the most important pieces and then too, if I’m framing a presentation, sometimes I may even just present the three bullet points that I have in executive summary.  I try and understand, “OK. What does my audience need to know and how much do they need to know?” Because there may be some other interesting points, but, at the end of the day, if those are just interesting points, I probably don’t need to waste any of my time and, definitely, I don’t need to waste my audience’s time by communicating those points whenever they may not have any sort of business relevance.


How will the market research space be different in the next five years?


You know I think one of the challenges that we’re facing in market research right now is attention spans in this day and age are in competition at a higher rate than ever before.  With the growth in technology and entertainment and things like that, maybe a 15-minute survey, you may have some respondents, they spent an hour and a half working because they’re maybe messing on their phone or watching Netflix or something like that while they’re doing it.  You have to sometimes question the reliability of that data. There’s also, of course, unfortunately, fraudulent survey techniques such as Boxiter, unfortunately becoming more prevalent in this day and age. At the end of the day, these types of things, those are just a couple of examples, they can lead to poor or, in some cases, unreliable data quality within the research that we’re conducting.  Truly, when I think of bad data, I think of bad data as bad insights. Bad insights can ultimately lead to bad decisions that are made for our customers. Meanwhile, “Big Data,” behavioral data, is becoming more and more available, and it’s increasing within its look-back history. When I think about the difference in five years, I think the reliance on that Big Behavioral Data will increase even more significantly in the future.  Not only allows us to just analyze that behavioral data in and of itself but what’s cool is we then also link it back to attitude and belief data where we can truly understand the relationship and the correlation that attitudes and beliefs actually have with behavioral, which I think is really exciting for us as market researchers and analytics professionals.


That’s so funny.  You’re bringing up some interesting points:  One centric to data quality but you’re attacking it from two different points of view.  One is the researcher’s responsibility to consider the research participant or the respondent or the other human beings that are going to take the 15-20 minutes.  I’ve read a lot on maximum attention spans. When I speak, I have a rule, which is I have to earn the consumer’s or the listener’s attention every 20 seconds. So that creates a tremendous burden around the content that I’m planning on presenting.  I think in research we have not yet completely moved away from or even materially moved away from the 20-minute survey. But, if you look at the rest of… The entertainment industry is a great canary is the coal mine. There’s a book written by (I might be misremembering, but I think it was Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death).  The context there is that the space of entertainment is all about faster…hit ‘em, hit ’em, hit ‘em, hit ’em. hit ’us.  So attention spans are just decreasing overall and, on top of it, you have so many things: notifications on your phone or kids or whatever that are now interrupting your time.  As researchers, we need to take a step back and assess the survey instruments that we’re leveraging.

And then the second part of it, which I think is, honestly, one of the, if not the biggest problem or concern of mine in research right now, and that is who’s taking the surveys.  I know of one project this last week that was fulfilled for a CPI of cost-per-interview of $3.75 among CEOs. It was an 18-minute survey. And I’ve just kind of pulled back and I’m like, “Gosh, what CEO do I know that would take an 18-minute survey, let alone for no money?”  You really have to start applying our common-sense factor. We don’t even need spidey sense here in order to say, “Is this real?” because we want it to be real. As researchers. I think that we’re willing to turn a blind eye to both of those facts, saying, “Oh, well, I got my completes.”  We just need to be honest with ourselves when we’re looking through this lens of “Would I take the survey? Would my kids? Would my target audience take the survey?” and “Would they take the survey for that much money?”


And it, ultimately, gets back to what we talked about earlier too when we think about sampling.  Let’s say we were able to get respondents for that, albeit there probably wouldn’t be that many CEOs out there who would be willing to, as you mentioned, take an 18-minute survey for nothing.  At the end of the day, if we did get some respondents, would they truly be representative of the grander population? So I’d even probably question the reliability of the data that we even have as to whether or not that can be applied to the population as well.


What are the three characteristics of an All-Star Employee?


For me, the first thing and probably the most important thing, at least for me that comes to mind, I think is an overall passion for the customer, capital C – Customer, if you will, because at the end of the day, we need to understand, regardless of the industry, that there’s, ultimately, someone on the other end of our product or service that we’re, ultimately, selling, who benefits from that product or service.  I think in the All-Star Employee, in general, again regardless of the industry or the product or service, just develops an excitement and a passion for the work that they do that, ultimately, influences that customer. I always even think about the… Fortunately, or unfortunately, my girlfriend actually hates it when I do this, but I critique the service that I get at restaurants. It’s not because I’m trying to be critical of that particular person, but truly I’m looking at, “OK, does this person or does this company, does this restaurant or whatever it is, regardless of the service, do they understand the customer and are they seeking to fill the gaps for the customer, whether it be in service of whether it be in product?”  That’s something that I’ve always found the great employees separate from the good employees. It’s just an overall passion for the end-customer in mind.

The second thing, we’ve talked about a little bit, but it’s communication.  It’s knowing your audience: What do they need to know? How much do they need to know?  And, at the end of the day, especially as market researchers, we need to communicate and carry our message in a manner that is efficient, and active to deliver the point that we’re trying to make.  We talked about attention spans just a moment ago. I know we were talking about surveys, but attention spans are tight within the marketplace. We’ve got meetings we’ve got to run to. We only have a limited capacity of things that we can think about and process.  So I want to make sure that I’m delivering a concise, effective message that going to get the point across to my audience.

The last thing that I think is a characteristic of an All-Star Employee is prioritization.  My boss always tells me that with organization, we want to focus on the most important things that we know the least about.  So what I try and do with that, I try and use that as a filter in terms of keeping my eye on the most important things that are necessary to moving the business forward.


I have not heard it said exactly like that, but I love all three of those things.  So, we’ve added a new question to the discussion guide. I’m really excited about this really for two reasons:  One is I can’t wait to hear your answer to it. The second thing is I think it is actually something that we as people should actually have if we employ this thing, this that we’re going to be talking about momentarily, then it will help us as humans do just a little bit better or maybe, to your earlier point, help prioritize.  That is, “What is your motto?”


So, my motto – and I think about this all the time – I think about it in the workplace; I think about it in the personal space, but my motto is to, “Don’t focus on moving the pebbles at your feet when there are boulders that stand in the way of your journey.”  What I mean by that is there’s going to be low hanging fruit, if you will, or maybe small things that may distract you from ultimately what you’re trying to do. But we have to recognize there’s big barriers that stand in the way of us and our customers; there’s big problems that we have to solve.  Let’s spend our time and energy and mental capacity focusing on what those big barriers are. To get back to the motto, the big boulders – what are those? Let’s not spend the time moving those pebbles that are at our feet, but let’s really focus on addressing the boulders, addressing the big barriers that are standing between us and our customers.  Ultimately, as we’ve talked about several times, filling the gaps, filling the needs, filling the wants that our customers are, ultimately, expecting out of us in the products and in the services that we, ultimately, deliver.


That’s great, and it also has this implication like a day-to-day level where if…  Getting back to the service being bad at a restaurant, that’s such a pebble in context of potentially outsized issues – maybe self-awareness – that are holding an individual back.


That’s exactly right.  One thing I do just on a very practical level every single week, the very first thing that I do when I come into work on Mondays, is I develop a prioritization list.  I say, “What are the things that I need to get right this week?” I only have three slots that I can actually put something in. So I really have to prioritize the things that I need to get right.  Then I have a second section: “What are the things that I need to get done?” Then I can put three things in there as well. So, these things, I don’t need to spend as much mental capacity on. Yes, they need to get done; they are tasks that I need to complete, but at the end of the day, being right on those tasks are not nearly as crucial as those that go under my first bucket.  And then, beyond that, I’ve got an unlimited list of low priority tasks, items and projects and tasks that I just don’t need to spend nearly as much time on and that aren’t “mission critical” to the vision that we’re, ultimately, out to achieve.


My guest today has been Mitchell Atchison.  Thank you, Mitchell, for joining me on the Happy Market Research Podcast.


Absolutely, thank you so much.  I really appreciate it and really enjoyed our conversation.


Yeah, so did I.  And to all of you who are listening if you would please, please, please take the time to screenshot this episode, share it on LinkedIn, Twitter, the platform of your choice.  As always, your reviews are greatly appreciated. I hope you have a fantastic day! Thanks.


Stay tuned for this episode’s Tech Overview, featuring Chilmark Digital’s Barbara Alpert.  Hey, everybody, this is Jamin here with Barbara Alpert, who also goes by Bobbie for those interested.  She’s part of a company called Chilmark and, as our guest today, our actual first guest, on the Tech corner.  This is a piece of the Happy Market Research Podcast where we’re taking an early-stage company and introducing them to the marketplace.  So, Bobbie, thanks very much for being on the show.


OK, my pleasure, Jamin.  I don’t know if we are so much early stage, but we have an evolving technology.  So I think that’s still kind of an interesting way of looking at it because Chilmark Digital is actually a 12-year-old company.  It’s a tech company that creates video engagement and testing software that’s designed to help researchers and clients tell more compelling stories.  Our main product is called Resync. Some of the people out there might know it as Responsync, which was its original name. But now with everything being faster and more condensed for a lot of reasons, we have renamed it Resync.  It’s a media insights platform.

The company was actually born when work we were doing at the nexus of media and technology in a television production company we had, led to more opportunities with clients actually on the technology side.  That offered some interesting opportunities for us, and we changed our focus from producing to video to applying technology to help make it resonate more with people. A little note here just on where my partner, Lew, and I came from is we came out of the agency and research business.  So we have an interesting, somewhat eclectic, background. We approach research from the perspective of storytellers, and, as storytellers, we always want to know how audiences are affected by the video that they see and hear and, equally important, why the respond as they do, and now more and more with social media – how they express those feelings.  What has become clear to us over the years, working with a lot of clients with our platform, it’s not what you say – it’s what people hear. And there’s that little gap very frequently, and that’s the place that we do our magic because we find out what is responsible for what may be the difference between what people are putting out in their content and how audiences are receiving it.  We know how important it is to close that gap.

We also realized really from the first moment that we had to reflect the media world and consumer lifestyles authentically if we were going to get results that clients could act on.  It doesn’t make a lot of sense to use twentieth century tools for twenty-first century media. This was also something that was very important to us. What defines and distinguishes Resync to us is both its relevance and its adaptability to a changing-media world.  Interestingly, when we started, TV was just TV. There was really no need to define it as linear TV because it was only one way. And you saw it the way people intended you to see it. Now people don’t just see media, they actively consume it, and they consume it in the form that they prefer.  One of the important things about Resync is that that platform was designed to account for these kinds of changes. So what we do with that platform is to integrate data on where response rises and falls on a moment-to-moment basis integrated with the feelings and attitudes that are driving it, and that’s all synced to video time.  So, what creates this integrated tapestry that gives you both a detailed and complete picture and one with all the nuances of the colors… And we’re on all devices. Importantly, and we also know uniquely, we can create authentic simulations of social media platforms and test content both across different platforms and within a given platform.  All the environments that people use to get their media, we can represent. The kind of result of that is that we test the way you run. So clients are getting a much more accurate picture of what is happening when they’re testing their content and why it’s happening, and, importantly, how that varies by where people are going to see that.

A lot of the work we have done has pointed out how important that is, and now it’s not just what you create but how you are going to distribute it that’s going to determine how people are going to respond to it.  And isn’t that what you want to find out in the first place?


So, going all the way back to the beginning, not a start-up at 12 years.  At what point, do you think, does a company stop being a start-up? I have been asking myself this question now for just a little while based on the conversation I had with Kristen Luck.


Oh, that’s interesting.  I heard from her the other day.  You know I think that you really hit on something.  I think that’s evolving too because you can go off in a lot of different directions.  I think from our perspective, having started off as a production company and having gotten that to a certain point and having actually nested our technology within that environment to begin with, you took that out and that was a start-up.  But this was not our first product. So, we go back to having a product that we began the company with, and we started with this product about eight years ago. Now, with things changing as dynamically as they are, I think you’re caught in a way constantly in start-up mode because it’s also we find ourselves in a lot of cases dealing with a lot of start-up companies because all the new stuff is coming out of the new, young companies.  You’re kind of in that mode of pressing the reset button very frequently, and that is challenging and exciting. I would say that in a way you never end that until you exit, until you exit. I guess you go from constantly starting and restarting to a good exit.


Maybe the point is at which time M&A becomes part of your narrative.  I’ve heard it framed in terms of revenue, longevity, etc. but like is Uber still a start-up.  I don’t know, but I think it was interesting that it was framed that way.

Measurement in context is something I’m hearing a lot of need around among brands.  Impact of ads if you’re getting ready to catch your train or whatever, get on the subway versus the context of “I’m on my leather chair with a cat in my lap and a fire at my feet.”  The context of the consumption as well as the platform is really important. Do you have a specific example of a project that you guys have worked on and delivered a great outcome for the customer?


It’s an interesting point that you raised about the context, Jamin, because we have found that there is an enormous difference in the response based on when and where people are seeing it.  It’s not just the programming content and the platform on which it’s delivered but. as you know, it can be very much the context in which they are seeing it. Because we’re on all the devices and there is a great deal of information that we can gather about how people are viewing it, we have seen that.  I think there are a number of tales to tell as far as context, but I’ll give you one example that was an across-platform study that we did. This was a case where there was a common set of ads that we tested in six different media environments, ranging from linear TV to TV from the web to an original network, YouTube channel, and three original YouTube channels:  Machinima, Maker Studios, and BuzzFeed.  The idea really was to say, “OK, how does the platform on which people see this affect how they respond to a common set of commercials?”  We held everything constant; in essence, we created programming for the YouTube channels so that it reflected the program time of a network, a half hour, comedy, and also that it was controlled for the program to advertising ratio.  What was really interesting was that there were big differences in both demographics by platform but also not just in terms of positive and negative response to the commercial but which elements of the commercial were most persuasive or most dissuasive in the various audience sectors. What that showed very, very clearly was that any advertiser who thinks they’re going to go out with a commercial and just distribute it the same way across all the platforms is making a huge mistake because there’s a huge impact in how people are responding to the surrounding content.  Really in a way, it’s how fast their clock is running also because there are the expectations on different platforms that you’re going to see content at a certain speed, certain kind of editing, and so on. There are a lot of complicating factors, but it also gives a tremendously rich pool of information to clients as to how to be able to recut and repurpose content to be able to take advantage and give it a longer life as well as connecting in a more compelling way with various audience segments. And that was done for network. The client in that case was the network, and challenge was really to see where do the commercials do best?  Is linear TV still king of the roost? Has it been overtaken? I can’t really reveal; all I can tell you is that the results were very clear and very actionable for advertisers wanting to take advantage of each medium and platform for its best results.


Barbara, if somebody wants to get in contact with you, how would they do that?


The office phone is 212-744-0213.  If somebody needs immediate attention, they can call my cell:  917-847-3165. Let me just also give you email then, which most people prefer: balpert@ChilmarkDigital.com.


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


Thank you so much, Jamin.  I enjoyed it enormously.


This episode is brought to you by Attest.  Attest is a powerful, easy-to-use SAS platform that connects businesses to over 100 million consumers in 80 countries on-demand in just a few clicks.  Ask your burning questions, select who you want to answer, view actual insights that help you grow your business. Join the hundreds of leading brands who already utilize the power of Attest’s scalable intelligence platform.  Contact Attest today at www.askattest.com/happymr or find the link in the episodes show notes.

IIeX Europe 2019 Conference Series – Rob Marjenberg – Qualie

Welcome to the #IIEX Europe Conference Series 2019. Recorded live in Amsterdam, this series is bringing interviews straight to you from exhibitors and speakers at this year’s event. In this interview, host Jamin Brazil interviews Rob Marjenberg, Co-Founder of Qualie.

This Episode’s Sponsor:


Contact Rob Online:




I’ve got Rob with Qualie. Is that right?


Yes, right.


Here, Happy Market Research podcast, IIeX show floor. Day two. How’s it going?


This is the first I’ve been to one of these conferences. It’s just really refreshing. You got a real overall sense of where the industry is going. Because this conference works, it’s more of the edgy type of stuff as well. You get a bit of a mixed barrel like some things which you think, “That sounds amazing but I don’t really know what it is,” and other things which you think, “I’ve heard that type of thing before.” You definitely get the theme of where the industry is heading and the theme it seemed to me that came through really strongly. The last five, or seven years, or something because of this growth of data and the way it’s changing the landscape in market research. Since to me, it’s coming back to bringing the human side of it together with the data side of it. That seems to be the job of the market research industry right now to remarry some of that understanding of that people, and how they think, and how they feel.


The humanization of the data?


The humanization, yes. It might be confirmation bias, but that works perfectly because Qualie is all about that really. It is about humanizing data. It’s been really encouraging for me to see that, you want to be on the sweet spot of where the industry is and where it’s heading to. I feel like, “This is good for me.”


It’s funny about the name Qualie. It’s an industry term as well, right?


It is. Yes.


What’s your role there?


I’m a co-founder and it’s interesting because Qualie, it’s called Quan Hybrid Platform. I saw qualie.com was available as a URL and it wasn’t cheap, but I thought wasn’t that a nice thing to have, because I was always called a qualie. I used to work in a big agency in the qualies and quantities and that type of thing. When we started with Qualie, we were feeling the lot of that good stuff you get, all the magic you get from qualitative research was being lost in this rush to big data and how easy it is to get numbers flowing through the system. I could see what was having qualitative research with this methodology, which was, yes, they’ve moved online a little bit, but that was really just so you didn’t have to go to a central location but didn’t really have much automation behind it, didn’t have much efficiency behind it. The big thing it didn’t seem to have, it didn’t play nice with quant research. There was always these two separate things even in big agencies you had the qualies and quantities and that type of thing.

We tried to think .. and what Qualie is, it’s really a survey platform with the sole qualitative research baked into it. What comes naturally to qualitative research really is to help ground people and help them understand and be empowered to find your own truth with the skills you learn of qualitative research. We put that front and center in our survey. We’ve got explainers, a presenter. My co-founder Ainslie is wonderful on camera. We’ve got 600 of her videos, which working people on get them to understand what the topic is, getting too comfortable what they need to be doing. As you go through, serves another video, short little videos to help them understand what they’re meant to be doing and that type of thing.

Then it’s got a system which I’m almost 100 percent certain is unique in the industry. Essentially, this is that we have a stream of qualitative and quantitative participants in the same survey. The qualitative participants as they’re on the survey responding to material concepts, whatever it might be, and as well as entry, the quant survey questions. They have moments where they have to consider and reflect. We use a little bit of, I call it training, but it’s really only in a little short little video we get to be mindful of the emotions and the feelings that they’re feeling at that particular time and express it on video, on camera in the survey. They distill those thoughts and feelings down to 50 second sound grabs. Then what we do in Qualie in the same survey, the qualie participants receive the same material, answer some questions so we know that, I don’t know on a scale of one to eight they’re on eight. We’re going to serve them now videos from our qualitative participants who score the same way for validation. How do you feel about what this person said? Does this reflect your feelings about what this topic is? Then they will watch that video the qualitative participants done and they’ll rate it from awesome, they nailed it for me to agree with what they say. That generates a number for that video. Once with more quantitative participants coming through, we start to get scores and understand what the consensus opinion of the market is, spoken in the markets on words. You get the numbers, you get the stats, and then you get the consensus videos of these are the people who most reflective the market sentiment to whatever this is. It’s not a qualitative researcher saying, this is really good. This is what’s about, it’s about the market itself determining what the whys are. In a Qualie survey, you get the numbers, you get the data, and you get the why, and the understanding of the one platform.


How long have you guys been in business?


Two years. We’ve built around tech. Started in Australia now, we’re really one the reason we’re here is we’ve got some clients, some in the UK, and we’re doing some work in the United States as well. Pick up we have 34 clients ranging from Google, Coca Cola, Citibank, Australian government.


That’s huge.


Really big clients. What they’re getting at is, they get the numbers, but then they also really quickly understand why and what’s going on in a way that’s different from just stuff coming out of a group discussion.


Who do you compete against when you sell into these brands?


That’s an interesting thing, because and having walked around this hole here and I’ve been trying to see who’s doing what we’re doing. I haven’t found anyone who’s doing what we’re doing. I would say anyone who wants to do a survey should be doing it with a colleague. For that reason, so we do full service for clients, but we’re also launching a self-serve platform. The clients have their own surveys and also potentially track for market research agencies to use the platform to do their own surveys in this way as well. It’ll be like we exchange some time.

We pitch against the big guys like Ipsos and all those types of things and win and then we sometimes pitch against small qualitative agencies and things.


That’s very cool. Congratulations on your success.


Thanks very much.


What is the best part of the conference? Your highlight?


My highlight. (Laughter.) Having a chat with a guy from EGU firm is my highlight. Sometimes the last thing you … Your talk is brilliant overall. I really love that and what you’re doing is amazing too. That was just really, really good. Then the guy after you, he was also really good who was saying, his idea is let’s get a do over the whole market research industry and let’s just focus on what people are doing and not ask them any questions. That thought was a provocative thing to do at a market research conference. I like the fact that that you can have that range of from more fruition to the really the edgy type of new ways of approaching and thinking about behave and tracking behavior and those types of things.

I’ll tell you a big thing for me was hearing some of those panels and discussions yesterday where some of the insights of managers from larger organizations, we’re talking about how their lives have changed, the working lives have changed and managing all the different new platforms, and apps, and ability to get data into their organizations. One of the things suppliers don’t need to understand and recognize is that they are faced with a myriad of options of different approaches and they’ve got a piece of altogether and with limited budgets, think about what’s going to work here and what’s going to fit into our workflows and how we operate. I thought that was really insightful to hear in their own words how they’re adapting. They are adapting and more power to them.


I completely agree with you that the provocative nature of some of the conversations has been for me, it helps me reframe the whole industry. What does a world look like where you never ask a question. That’s really interesting. I don’t think it’s realistic, but it’s super interesting if you can get in that creative headspace. You think about what you’re doing, more inline surveying or however you want to frame it. The interesting part about that is now you have a context of where the insight is being garnered as well. We as market researchers, one of the big opportunities for us is if you frame out the context or the insight from a business point of view, like, “What does the inception point of? I need to know the answer to this question.” Then it helps frame the way that you serve that up to that stakeholder, the insight up to the stakeholder post. Sometimes depending on if you’re up or down the chain in the decision-making process there could be a lot of contexts that need to be provided for that data.


You said that when you gave your talk, they asked you what are the two most important things and one of them you said was a return on investment. Fair enough. The other one you said was storytelling, like telling the story because as well as providing the numbers and that type of thing. Ultimately, it’s about influence and absolutely decision making. One of the things I don’t think the market research industry is great at is realizing that you got to persuade the truth. It’s not just about delivering the information, it’s about persuading the people who are going to make decisions, this is what you need to do. Having those tools and I was talking to someone yesterday, one of the clients here and he says, “Superficially, I need engagement from my people upstream from me.” I said, “It’s not superficial at all, because they’re the ones who got to influence and they’re just people as well who need to understand something on some type of visceral level where you get it and understand that.” The industry and hopefully, it’s starting to happen tools to persuade the truth as outputs of research is there are critical things.


My guest today has been Rob with Qualie. Rob thanks for being on the Happy Market Research podcast.


Yes. It’s been really enjoyable.


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


Yes, they can just email me. The simple version is rob@qualie.com. That’s probably the best way.


Perfect. I got so much.


Thanks. Lovely to meet you.

IIeX Europe 2019 Conference Series – Rie Burke – Innovate MR

Welcome to the #IIEX Europe Conference Series 2019. Recorded live in Amsterdam, this series is bringing interviews straight to you from exhibitors and speakers at this year’s event. In this interview, host Jamin Brazil interviews Rie Burke, Managing Director, EMEA at Innovate MR.

This Episode’s Sponsor: 


Contact Rie Online: 


Innovate MR 


My guest today, Rie Burke, Innovate MR. We are in Amsterdam at the IIeX. We also had dinner in as a group last night which was super fun. Your husband’s hilarious.


I’ll take that as a compliment, and he’ll probably take that as a compliment.


You should! It was the funniest thing ever. I think we came up with a new app idea, right because we had a miscommunication as a group. We somehow combined Tinder and Uber.


We came up with Tuber. There’s an innovation there.


There you go! Innovate MR, tell us a little bit about the company.


We very much focus on technology. Online sample is our specialty, so we do everything from consumer, to B2B, healthcare. We are trying to innovate, as the company is called. We are focusing on DIY platform as well. Recently, we’ve fully launched our Pegasus platform, so that’s been something trendy we’ve been offering to our clients.


That’s a big move, right? There’s a ton of wasted time in procurement of sample and just that getting the bid. I mean, it’s so painful. One of the things in FocusVision, we have the same ingestion process for getting in-depth interviews done on the platform. It was barely email, phone call, literally paper forms. Moving it online, which is such a no-brainer, all of a sudden a massive gain from an efficiency perspective.

When did you launch Pegasus?


I’d say we did an initial launch probably about six months ago. Then we’ve gradually released different countries. We started out in the US, and then now we’re available in the UK. Hopefully, we’ll launch other countries as well to make it available to our clients.


What is the biggest impact on your business, or your customers’ businesses?


Again, it’s really shortening the process, making it accessible. Our clients want various things, so being able to offer that DIY platform along with what we normally provide, which is the ad-hoc samples. It has really started different conversations, I would say.


How long have you been with the company?


A year and a half.


Where were you before?


I was with a company called DataSpring. I come from a very Asian-specialized background so I’d been with them for a very long time. I’ve known Matt, Gregg, and the founders of Innovate for a long time as a client, so it worked out for all of us and I’m starting up the UK business. Well, the EMEA business, based in the UK, so all good.


Do you have a favorite go-to project that might have happened in the last whatever period of time where you’re like, “Gosh, that was really interesting. I’m surprised that we were able to fulfill the project.”?


There’s actually a lot that comes to mind. Which is, I suppose, a great thing. Yes, we do specialize in B2B, so, I’m still personally quite impressed by what we can do in the B2B field. For example, a lot of ITDMs, BDMs, those are the general population you’d think of when you talk about B2B, but we do all the lower IR stuff as well. Like ITDMs and certain industry that provides a certain product, all of that other panel companies can’t really offer, we’re being able to offer online. I wish I could think of a specific project. There’s just so many that we were able to help clients on and they didn’t even expect us to be able to fulfill.


How would someone get in contact with you if they wanted to?


Just through emails. I’m always on emails on my phone. I’m based in the UK, so I work European hours. Of course, we’ve got 24-hour coverage from the US and also our Indian operations as well.


What is your email address?


It is rie@innovatemr.com


Thank you so much for being on the Happy Market Research Podcast.


Thank you for having me.


Great, let’s go enjoy the show.

IIeX Europe 2019 Conference Series – Richard Merrick – Voxpopme

Welcome to the #IIEX Europe Conference Series 2019. Recorded live in Amsterdam, this series is bringing interviews straight to you from exhibitors and speakers at this year’s event. In this interview, host Jamin Brazil interviews Richard Merrick, Client Services Director at Voxpopme.







Richard Merrick, Voxpopme, tell us a little about what you guys do.


We are a video in-size platform. Really, the aim of the company is to make working with video as quick and as easy as possible, so we work with brands and agencies is to make that happen.


How long have you been with the company?


Just over a year, so joined last January.


We’re live today at the IIeX show. You’ve not been to one of these before then.


First one was last year. Initially, I just joined and came right over for it. It’s really good. Really great conference.


You’re based out of London?




What did you do before Voxpopme?


I worked for a few different tech companies. I was with Toluna for a couple of years and before that Instantly. I always worked in the tech side of market research.


You’ve been in the market research space for the majority of your career?




How did you wind up in market research?


Like most people I just fell into it. I’ve done sales and client service success for a while in different industries. Then an opportunity came up with a company called Chow, who was a part of Greenfield way back in the day. I joined those and unfortunately, I’ve been here ever since. (Laughs.)


Yes, I know. It’s funny. There is this gravitational pull for if you make it for about three years to five years in a career, I feel like it’s hard to break out of the space.


Yes, you’re just stuck in. (Laughs.)


It’s a big industry, it’s exciting. We are going through a lot of change right now. Of course, Voxpopme right on the forefront of that with video insights. What are you seeing that’s resonating with your customers as it relates with video right now?


There are a few different things. Firstly, and this is a quote from an actual customer, brands particularly now have more data on customers than they’ve ever had in the past. What that’s led to is the lack of empathy for consumers because they’re just stats. They look at graphs, dashboards so the power of video is to really bring the consumer back into those brands and one of the things that we always hear back from clients is the impact that it can have internally. Instead of just going through a PowerPoint presentation with stats on there and details so to be able to show a two to three-minute video bringing all those messages to life just really helps with them getting across the messages to their stakeholders or their clients.


In 2013, I did a study for eBay. Maybe it was 2012, excuse me. In the study, it was an Amazon versus eBay comparison and contrast and it was an important project for them from a strategic perspective. As I worked with the internal researchers, I was at the site at the time, and we came up with this presentation, charts, graphs, et cetera. Finally, I’m like, it just didn’t feel exactly human, so we did video testimonials as part of the survey itself so people would record themselves talking about why they use eBay, why they use… We incorporated a few of those choice videos into the PowerPoint presentation. It made it all the way up the board of directors and one of the board members said, “This is the first time we’ve had the voice of the consumer in the boardroom.”


Oh, wow. That’s incredible.


It really goes to talk about how we as an industry on the quant side, not the qual side, but on the quant side have done a bad job of humanizing data. Nobody has 2.3 kids. In that framework, what you guys are doing is really important because it isn’t enough for the now what and so what. They’ve got to deliver insights that are going to move the organization to change and that only happens if you can connect with it on a human level.


Yes absolutely. I saw a few of their events. One of the challenges a lot of researchers have within brands is being able to socialize their research internally. A lot of the times, it would just be a project to address a particular problem and no one else in the business will action on that. This is where video can have a really important part to play. It’s very easy to socialize the research. You just click on a button and you just have to watch for three minutes and you take away the key points.




That’s the power of video really.


My guest today, Richard, Voxpopme. Thanks very much for the being on the Happy Market Research podcast. Have a great rest of the show.


Thank you.