Happy MR Podcast MrWeb Podcast Series

MrWeb Series – Tobi Andersson, Chief Product Officer at Confirmit, on Data Visualization

This episode is in partnership with MrWeb’s Data Visualization segment and was recorded on April 30, 2020. Since then the merger of Dapresy and Confirmit has progressed significantly. Details of the new company’s structure and approach will be announced soon – stay tuned.

My guest today is Tobi Andersson, Chief Product Officer at Confirmit.

Founded in 1999, Dapresy is a data visualization platform for market research and customer experience data. Recently, Dapresy announced a merger with Confirmit, an early entrant in the DIY survey space as well as a leading CX platform. 

Prior to joining Dapresy, Tobi was the Vice President of Hermelin Nordic Research. 

Find Tobi Online:

Website: https://www.confirmit.com/ 

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/tobi-andersson 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/dapresy_tobi 

Find Jamin Online:

Email: jamin@happymr.com 

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/jaminbrazil

Twitter: www.twitter.com/jaminbrazil 

Find Us Online: 

Twitter: www.twitter.com/happymrxp 

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/company/happymarketresearch 

Facebook: www.facebook.com/happymrxp 

Website: www.happymr.com 

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


Jamin Brazil: Hi. I’m Jamin Brazil. You’re listening to the Happy Market Research Podcast. My guest today is Tobi Andersson founder of Dapresy and Chief Product Officer at Confirmit. . Founded in 2008, Dapresy is a data visualization platform for market research and customer experience data. Recently, Dapresy announced a merger with Confirmit, and early entrant in the DIY survey space, as well as a leading CX platform. Prior to starting Dapresy, Tobi was the vice president of Hermelin Nordic Research. Tobi, thanks so much for joining me on the Happy Market Research Podcast today.


Tobi Andersson: Thank you very much. Glad to be here.


Jamin Brazil: Let’s start with our marquee question. Give us a little bit of context for the audience. What did your parents do, and how did that inform your current career?


Tobi Andersson: Yeah. That’s a good question. Actually, I didn’t plan to work within the market research industry. I originally grew up on a farm, and I was very much focusing on – during my time at school to become a farmer. And I also started very, very many years to get a master degree in farming. But during the studies, I realized that the farming industry, they needed to be more – using more technology. And at that time, this was the late ‘90s, there was not that much of IT solutions for the farming industry. So, during my study – the time at school, I started to learn how to program, because I wanted to create software for farmers. And I think I did that quite well, because I became a quite good programmer. And then when I was finishing my studies, and I was going to apply for my first job, that was actually at a market research agency, a fieldwork house, which is primarily market research. So, I applied for that job, and I started my career as a software programmer instead. So, yeah, that was a big change in my – to my focus. But that’s how I started in the industry.


Jamin Brazil: That’s so interesting. And we have seen an explosion over the last, I’d say five years, but it’s been obviously a lot more than that – earlier than that, that really mass adoption, with companies like John Deere, in the actual technology space. So, farming is now probably one of the more technologically enabled industries or sectors in our economy.


Tobi Andersson: No, I fully agree. The farming industry, it’s really much into technology nowadays. And here in Sweden I run a farm, in parallel with everything else I’m doing. And you can clearly see now, that technology has been very, very presenting in all the modern tractors and combines, and really supporting the farmers to get more out of each square of crops.


Jamin Brazil: So, I live in Fresno, which is in the center of California, and it happens to be referred to as the breadbasket of the world. And it produces about nine billion dollars of agricultural product, which is a fair amount. And there’s a tremendous amount of innovation happening out of – where I live. And so, I apologize about this slight divergence, one of the things that I’ve come to love is the satellite imagery of you know, acreage, and how that informs things like irrigation, or as you said, fertilization of – anyway, so, it’s just been – it’s such a – it’s such a data driven ecosystem. And the – I think there’s some parallels that we can draw from that, and apply to actual consumers.


Tobi Andersson: Absolutely.


Jamin Brazil: I mean, just kind of finishing the thought, you know, there is this like information that’s provided to us, whether it’s satellite imagery, or in soil sensors, or in the field sensors, and that really helps farmers make decisions on what they should do, and when they should do it. Which is, you know, functionally what business is at any level. And these maps that we use to guide those decisions, in every way, that’s what market research is trying to do too. And I think that really gets to what you’ve built with Dapresy, with respect to like data visualization.


Tobi Andersson: Yeah. No, absolutely. And you can clearly see that there is a common denominator between the different industries, and that is, normally, you always have data, you have a lot of data. And it’s always about, how can we put this data together, in a form that people understand and know how to act on. So, this is actually why I founded Dapresy, because I was working a lot at this fieldwork house, collecting a lot of data, and I was delivering huge files of tables, and Excel files with various data that was not that easy to consume. So, I decided very early on that that’s, hey, I would like to read it to provide something to the world, where they very easily can consume data. That’s actually how I started Dapresy, and focus has at all times been to consolidate data, and make it presentable in a way that people understand. That’s more tricky than you think, because it’s so much more than just putting a shot on the web page. It’s all about creating a story around the data, and also understanding that it – depending on who you talk to, and what role they have, and the level of experience. You need to present data differently. So that’s all what my professional life has been about. It’s, how can we make data accessible? And as we have been talking about the farming industry during this call, I clearly see that there is the same type of challenge that we are in for in that industry, that once you start to make data available, people make more decisions, and more correct and faster decisions. So, yeah.


Jamin Brazil: So, give us the elevator pitch, or the overview of the listeners, what Dapresy is doing right now for the market.


Tobi Andersson: Yeah, sure, yes. So, Dapresy, we are focusing on providing insights professional, we report based on market research data. We have, from day one, been focusing on being really good at understanding the market research data. And basically saying that once you have collected data anywhere, you should be able to, in a very, very short time, present this data in a consumable format. And so, we focus on the market research industry, corporate research, and professional buyers of insights that wants to consume data in an easy, understandable way.


Jamin Brazil: Could you describe for the audience the actual like outputs that you’re generating?


Tobi Andersson: Absolutely. So, where we are – what we have seen really resonates with people is when you can create infographic based presentations of the data, because very often an image tells the story, and people can connect to that. So, at Dapresy, we are very focused on driving data in infographic lookalike dashboards. But we also provide, from this very easy to consume dashboards, you can really drill down into data, and at the end of the process, you can generate tables as well. But, the high ambition – infographic piece, that’s something that has been the focus for us.


Jamin Brazil: You merged recently with Confirmit, which I thought was a very interesting move. Confirmit, for those that don’t know it, and I’m sure everybody does know that listens to this podcast, but Confirmit is one of the earliest survey platforms that was the first, to my knowledge, that pivoted into embracing like automated NPS and CX. And they experienced rapid growth. And of course, we all know that story as it sort of continued, and languished for a little while. It now seems to be back on the rise, which is very exciting to watch. But, to give us a little bit of understanding of the overall benefits of this merger to the market.


Tobi Andersson: Yeah. I’m very enthusiastic about this merger, because as you refer to, I’ve been knowing the Confirmit team for very, very many years. And I actually got trained in Confirmit back late ‘99. And I have at all times admired the software for its capabilities to collect data in a various set of channels, and also have to present this data in a very interesting way. So when this opportunity got on my radar, where we were going to evaluate if it makes sense to merge Dapresy and Confirmit, I was very positive to this, because, by heritage, the two companies has been focusing within the same type of niche, but still with a little bit of a different focus. Dapresy, we have been very much focused on customized reporting, and being able to present in a very appealing and visual way. And Confirmit, they have a super strong heritage and a software collecting data through a multichannel mode, an all to make to processes, and present this information to the end user. So, when I really looked at this case, it was like a very, very good match. And we really believe that by providing the two platforms as one platform going forward, we can provide an end to end platform for professional insight managers, that more or less solves all the types of use cases that a modern insights professional is looking for. It spans from doing standardized surveys that are more of a volume play. But also then to be able to deliver on customized research, with complex CX studies, and brand checking studies. So, I think the combination of the two companies, it’s really giving something to the industry that they will be looking for what our – that they will see it as a positive move.


Jamin Brazil: I actually really agree with that point about it being a positive move. And what I find very interesting is, from my survey of the industry, there actually isn’t a data reporting or dashboarding tool that exists like what you’ve built at Dapresy. And I know this sounds a little infomercial-y. But I really mean this. Like, it probably does exist, and I just haven’t seen them. So, let’s – in full transparency. But, the combination of integrating the actual like data collection piece, with the highly engaging dashboards. I mean, that is a powerful combination. And so, I know it’s relatively early in the merger. Do you have a specific case where a customer is being able to add on the Dapresy dashboards?


Tobi Andersson: Yeah. So that’s – this has been really interesting, because we have already now quite a significant set of customers that are using those platforms, and maximizing the value from both of them. So, we clearly see here, as you point out, that it’s very much about supporting the industry with a technology platform. The market research agency, or the insights professional can really – where we can support them to create more efficient products processes, but also where we can support the industry to really provide results from market research to the buyers, that is a little bit different than in the past, and maybe easier to consume. And where you can really get more value for the data that you have. So I clearly see, I think it’s [INAUDIBLE] where we have a complete platform that supports all the different faces of our professional insights program. And also combining this with a powerful visualization capabilities and Dapresy, that’s really something that we – we have seen that’s been very positively received by the market.


Jamin Brazil: So, we’re in the middle of COVID-19. This is a very unusual spot for all of us. I mean, as we were talking before we hit record, right, we’re both working from home. I had to take a break in the middle of our conversation to help my daughter, who is in the process of being potty trained, because my wife was working on a call at that moment. So, anyway, it’s just kind of – there’s been a lot that’s happened. I’d like to chat briefly about your point of view of how the world will be different post COVID-19. Right? So things are really different right now. But, like, we’re gonna come out of this at some point. How will market research as an industry be different?


Tobi Andersson: I think it’s – in order to understand that, maybe we need to take a step back, and understand, how will the world be different? And I remember back in 2008, when we had the last financial crisis, and how that changed the behavior of – people maybe were traveling a little bit more before that, and then they started to move to video meetings. And I think what this crisis has done is that it has created even more focus on being digital, working remote, and using different types of technology to communicate with each other. I think that itself will then change the type of requests for what insight professionals or market researchers need to do, because, all of us out there, we need to mesh our reality from a different type of audience, that is basically an audience that is behaving differently than in the past. And also, the way people will buy different things will be changing, et cetera. So, I think there – I mean, we can go back to something that is closer to normal than it is today. But, I think still, the whole world and the way it works will be changed slightly, and we have to adapt to that, and understand what are the different type of methods that will work for the future.


Jamin Brazil: Do you have a bet? Like, do you see that there’s different methods that’re gonna work for the future?


Tobi Andersson: No, I mean, it’s super difficult to predict the future. But, I mean – 


Jamin Brazil: That’s true.


Tobi Andersson: It’s – you know, I guess one example is, that maybe we start to see that interviews will be probably done more remotely, for people working at home, than it was before. And then, maybe we need to understand more about social media data, because people will have a different behavior, and communicate more through these types of channels. So, I mean, it’s really difficult to say something. But, I think that these things could be impacted. But I also think that you will see these – on the area where we are working, where you start to digitalize even more than before the type of way that you communicate information. Because I think it will be much more of a mode where you collect the data, depending on different needs. And then you distribute this [INAUDIBLE] that you really would like to be more of a self service mode. And that will then put more focus on us as insights professionals, how can we provide data to people, where we can be assured that this data is being received correctly, and understood correctly. And also help people to explore things differently than before. That maybe was the case when you had a face to face meeting, presenting PowerPoint slides. So, things will change. And we believe it will be more on the – yeah, more digitizing.


Jamin Brazil: Did you use Zoom? Or, actually, do you currently use Zoom?


Tobi Andersson: We do. So – 


Jamin Brazil: Did you use Zoom before?


Tobi Andersson: We did, actually. Yeah. So, we switched to Zoom a couple of years ago. But, I can tell you that the usage on Zoom now has been increasing a lot. I think what has been really interesting during this pandemic, is that people have thought to use video. It’s not only noise, it’s also the video. And people get used to having these types of meetings. So, it was like – we’ve been here, in our company now, the combined company, we’ve been doing this for – we are at week six now. And I think nowadays, we are very much used to it. And video is always on, and we use voice and video together.


Jamin Brazil: Do you use Zoom personally now? Like your children or – ?


Tobi Andersson: Well, no. We actually use FaceTime the most.


Jamin Brazil: FaceTime most? I was just curious about that. [CROSSTALK] Why do you think – because it’s very obvious that Zoom has won – I mean, I presume – I actually don’t know if that’s the case in Sweden. But, in the US, you know, Zoom is very dominant now, whereas, you know, none of my family did video conferencing, and now all of them do it. And they all leverage Zoom most of the time. Sometimes we’ll do FaceTime also. Is that the case in Sweden?


Tobi Andersson: Yeah. Yeah, Zoom has been like – yeah. That’s the case here.


Jamin Brazil: Why did they win?


Tobi Andersson: I think it’s, you know, that’s a really good question. And I have a little bit of experience in this topic, because I was using different providers before I moved to Zoom. And I think that the key thing for us making the decision, is the ease of use, and that it’s not complex software to use. It’s very easy to get going, and it’s not overwhelming with different types of functionalities. So, I think it’s about, you know, making technology easy to access to people. Also that it has been a very stable platform. You have had very few interruptions in the service. So I think it’s you know, being available, being predictable, being easy to use. As with all softwares, it’s not the software that has the most complex functionality that wins, it’s the way that it’s being used, and how easy – accessible it is.


Jamin Brazil: My three and four-year -old are doing a weekly Zoom playdate with some friends. And my 80-year-old – my parents are in their 80s are doing a – every Sunday night, we as a family get together and do Pictionary through Zoom. And it’s been interesting – because obviously neither of them used Zoom before, and all of them are very capable of doing it now, which is hilarious. And I think there’s a lot of lessons that we as an industry, especially on the technology side, can apply to our businesses.


Tobi Andersson: Yeah, because what I’ve seen is that, you know, being in this industry for some 25 years, you can clearly see that there is like a generational difference in the way our colleagues are in the market research industries adopting software. Because if you compare to the type of people that work with software 15, 20 years ago, the majority of these types of people, they were people that had a background in programming, or was very, very into technology. But nowadays, we see that it’s more about the business use or that is using the software. And that also puts a completely different expectation on the software that we provide to the industry, because it needs to be more of a do it yourself, easy to use, easy to access, and self learning mode. And I think this something that we will see even more in the future for the industry. The software will continue to be much, much more advanced, and to do much, much more complex programs. But at the same time, the way it’s being used, and the user interface, and the support to get going with a software will – we will see heavy improvements in that area, in the next 10 years, because we are addressing a different type of target group nowadays than we were in the past.


Jamin Brazil: Yeah, I totally – so, it’s funny you’re bringing this point up. I completely agree with you, in terms of market research. I think that you’re gonna see a three to five x in adoption of easy to use tools – market research tools, or user experience tools, or whatever consumer insight tools. And then I think you know, you’re gonna see a very steady state in the more com – the, you know, highly sophisticated tools, like the Sawtooth Softwares. So, right, these highly niche, but very important. But you need to have like an understanding of statistics, and maybe even programming, to be able to leverage them to their full extent, right? So, I think it is gonna be a tale of two cities. But, you know, in terms of the growth, I would definitely see the growth in the easy to use space. A common theme we’ve heard over the last year on the show is that companies are data rich, but insights poor. How does that line up with your point of view?


Tobi Andersson: No, I agree to this. It’s a multidimensional question, how to address that, because it’s very easy to collect data, and also to comingulate from different data sources nowadays, because you can basically use standard APIs, and then you get like a big database with a lot of data. The challenge you have is, what are we going to do with this data? And what data can we put together that as – that will make any sense? And I think that’s one thing that we haven’t been able to really solve in the industry, how to really make data aligned, and then understand that we can work with the same data set and adjust what’s in there. And then also it’s – what we clearly see is that, once you have these big data sets, and you have a lot of data accessible, all of the sudden, you are going to address a completely different group of people in the organization, in order to benefit from this data. Maybe in the past we did research, and we provided this to a limited number of people, that were really experienced professionals, and that really could understand quite complex data tables, and significant testing reports, et cetera. But, if you’re going to really benefit from all this data, we really need to commoditize the data, and make it available for everyone in the organization. And basically, you know, make people enthusiastic about, hey, this is the data we have. This is what it means for you. And learn more about this data, because this will help you to make more decisions, and faster and more accurate decisions. So, I think that you’re absolutely right. Data – we have a lot of data. Now it’s just a matter of understanding, how can we structure this data, and how can we get this data out to everyone, to really create more value of it. And I think that’s – a lot of things go wrong in that sector. But, you know, still much things still to be done.


Jamin Brazil: Right. And the – you know, one of the big – I don’t want to say problems, I’m gonna put opportunities there, is that you have this multilayer data set now. So, you know, it used to be the case that we had a survey, and we reported on that self reported data. But now we have market data, sales data, previous study data. I mean, there’s just like multiple layers that then has to somehow be aligned in a way that it provides context to the self reported data, that really builds a more complete story and point of view of the consumer. At Dapresy, have you guys – or are you leveraging multiple data sources?


Tobi Andersson: Yes. Yes, we do. So, we started quite early on [INAUDIBLE] different data streams, in order to provide the right context. And each time I see the effect of this, it’s so fantastic, because we recently deployed something to an organization that really wanted to distribute this data out to everyone. And we were really able to combine a few data sets, and make them very easily accessible. And when you see people reading data, and understanding data, and really be proud of making decisions on that data, that’s when you really feel that you created a software that will fill some needs. So – and I think we will see more of this, because, the future is, make data available to everyone, because that’s the only way to make sure that we really benefit from the value that we have in all this data. But, on the other hand, you also need to make sure that you use powerful technology to combine the data, and have the ability to co-mingle this data in a really correct and efficient way.


Jamin Brazil: When companies are – when you have inbound leads, what is the pain point that the customer is experiencing, that they’re hoping that you’ll address?


Tobi Andersson: Yeah. So, it’s two or three things. If you look at the corporate researchers, they are very often asking about, can you support us to get more value from a CX study, for instance, because we really have a good CX process in place. We are collecting data, and we are really getting good results. But, please help us to visualize this in a way that people understand what it means. And you need to understand when the customer says that, we need to address people that are maybe not used to working with data on a daily basis. So that’s one use case, visualize data, make people understand it better. When it comes to the market research sector, which is where we’ve been operating for more than 20 years now, it’s very much about a streamline [INAUDIBLE]. Because that – we are – even if we are focusing on infographic dashboards, we are a multitude of reporting tools. Within the tool that you generate, PowerPoint X, Excel Tables, and Dashboard. And the normal ask is, that people come to us and say, hey, we really need now to optimize the production process, because we really would like to spend more time on value creation works, and we would like to avoid copy paste data in order to create shorts. So that’s when we come in and support companies to optimize their reporting process. And that – the interesting thing here is that since we’ve been so focusing on the market research sector for so many years, we also provide this – I call it the layer around the software, where we really have a team that understands the challenges that you have in the market research industry. And I think that also is something that customers appreciate from that, because we really – with all our experience in understanding how to optimize processes can understand, how can our software support you in your specific case, because each company is unique. You can’t make a template and push it out to everyone. You really need to understand how to customize the usage of the software for each company.


Jamin Brazil: I’m gonna ask – I’m changing this question, which I have asked of most of my guests, which is, what are the three characteristics of an all-star employee, and I’m – which is usually dealing a lot more with like core values, and the actual like substance of the person, the character of the person. But, I’m changing it to, what – and I feel like this is really important for us as an industry, what skills should we be learning or developing, in order to be relevant in a post COVID insights function?


Tobi Andersson: Yeah. Well, I think it’s a – maybe you can’t find all the skills in the same person. But, one thing that I think will be very important is that you need to understand that, most likely, in the future, you need to communicate with people that are working remotely, or that is not in the same room as you. And I think that storytelling is something that will be some – a skill that will be very much appreciated, because, I have seen, working with different colleagues, that the type of skills where really see that someone understands, how can we take this data and present a story around this data, when you see someone having those skills, you really see that you can get so much, much more out of the data, by us having this storytelling perspective. And that could be like, telling a story about a specific data set, or also understanding how to create a story around several data sets, that means something. So I think that’s something that will be very much appreciated in the future. And then I think also, to maybe come back a little bit to this, call it process optimization. Because I think that in the future, we will need to just understand that we need to spend more time on analyzing the data, and understanding what type of recommendations we will like to give based on this data. And then having a layer below this – an automated production align, that will be very, very much a benefit for those companies that can achieve that. And then we need to have people that are really good in technology, but also understanding how to connect different systems into our environment, because the future, as I see it, will be an ecosystem, where you will have different software providers working together, and providing what the inside professionals need. So I’m not sure what the type of specific skills set is here. But, a technology enabler that automates the research process. I think that would be very important.


Jamin Brazil: Last question. What is your personal motto?


Tobi Andersson: Yeah, that’s a – yeah. So, it needs some background to this, because otherwise, it would be difficult to understand. But, you, I’ve been founding Dapresy, and I’ve been running this company from nothing to what it is today. And it has been a fun, but very challenging journey, because it’s always painful to grow. And you need to make sure that you continue to grow and make everyone happy, both your colleagues, and also your customers. So, 15 years ago, I started to say to everyone that, hey, guys. We are having so much fun, and we are running at a super fast pace, and we are really growing a company. And we used an expression that we are really building the rocket while we are flying. But, as part of that, it will also be that we will be in challenging situations. And then I said to people that, from now on, I will be using the following sentence. And that is, no surprises. And no surprises is actually what I tell everyone nowadays, because it’s about to make sure that – we all get into challenges, if it’s the private life, or if it’s the professional life. But, as long as you can communicate about the challenges that you’re in for at the very, very early stage, then, as a team, you can help each other to solve that. And that has really resonated really well among the Dapresy team members, that no one is ever afraid of talking about challenges and things that we need to improve or do differently, because as long as we do that, we will have no surprises. And the people really you know, replicate that. And we have a really good culture and momentum around this type of setting.


Jamin Brazil: My guest today has been Tobi Andersson, founder of Dapresy and Chief Product Officer at Confirmit. Thank you, Tobi, for being on the Happy Market Research Podcast.

Happy MR Podcast MrWeb Podcast Series

MrWeb Series – Giles Palmer on Insight in the Mobile Age

This episode is in partnership with MrWeb’s Insight in the Mobile Age segment. 

My guest today is Giles Palmer, Founder and CEO of Brandwatch. 

Founded in 2007, Brandwatch is a global enterprise social intelligence company. It allows users to analyze and utilize conversations from across the social web. Brandwatch employs more than 500 people. 

Giles is also the Chairman of Futrli, an SMB focused software company.

Prior to founding Brandwatch, Giles founded the Runtime Collective, a software company. And, he started his career in accounting. 

Find Giles Online:

Website: https://www.overtheshoulder.com/ 

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ross-mclean-9766842/ 

Find Jamin Online:

Email: jamin@happymr.com 

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/jaminbrazil 

Twitter: www.twitter.com/jaminbrazil  

Find Us Online: 

Twitter: www.twitter.com/happymrxp  

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/company/happymarketresearch  

Facebook: www.facebook.com/happymrxp  

Website: www.happymr.com  

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


Jamin: Hi, everybody, I’m Jamin. You’re listening to the Happy Market Research Podcast. My guest today is Giles Palmer, founder and CEO of Brandwatch. Founded in 2007, Brandwatch is a global enterprise social intelligence company. It allows users to analyze and utilize conversations from across the social web. Brandwatch employs more than 500 people. Giles is also the chairman of Futrli, an S&B-focused software company. Prior to founding Brandwatch, Giles founded the Runtime Collective, a software company, and he started his career in accounting. Giles, thank you so much for joining on the Happy Market Research Podcast today.


Giles: It’s a pleasure to be here, Jamin.


Jamin: Let’s start with a little bit of context. Tell us about your parents and how they informed what you’re doing today.


Giles: Yeah, my parents were – well, my dad is no longer alive. My mom is. They were kind of a traditional stay-at-home mom, working dad family. My dad had a very high work ethic. He came from a working-class background. He was kind of a smart guy that did OK at school. And eventually got into quantity surveying. So, kind of geeky surveying. And joined a firm when he was, I think, 27. And retired from the same firm when he was 55. And he worked his way up to senior partner. So, he just kind of grounded out in the same industry for 30-odd years. And just worked really hard. And didn’t put too much pressure on me and my sister to work hard when we were kids. In fact, I often asked him for advice, and he was reluctant to give me any advice. He was kind of like, you’ve just got to figure it out for yourself, Giles. I went to a private school, I went to a good university. I read physics at University, I came out of that. I was bumped up a year at school, so I came out pretty young. And I was trying to figure out what I was going to do with my life. I had no idea about anything at that point. I was kind of 21. So, a little bit like studying law in the US, you can go into British grads often – certainly back then, in the early ’90s, went into accountancy to get a kind of a general business grounding. So, I went and did that. I was really not very good at it. My heart wasn’t in it. And then I kind of joined a few industries, I explored a few different industries. Didn’t really get on with any of those. I was a geeky kid. I was into computer games and programming and stuff. And I kind of got – the Internet really didn’t appear until I was in my late 20s. And when it did, I kind of – me and some friends started up a company, which we call Runtime Collective, building web applications for people. But in terms of my parents’ influence on me, I think if I could take one thing out of that, it would be work ethic. I was kind of a lazy kid. I found schoolwork incredibly boring, but I could do it reasonably well. Especially the sciency stuff. But I always remember my father and my mother basically just kind of giving me a hard time about not working very hard. And now I work really hard. And I think that my dad – and my mom was incredibly organized and around the household. So, together they worked incredibly hard, and they set us up as kids really, really well, and provided an incredibly safe and loving environment. So, I think, I guess one other point on that is, that because I come from a – the family was middle class, we had enough money. I was put through a good school. And it was a very safe environment. I’ve always, I think probably been attracted to risk. maybe more than other people, because I was brought up in such a safe environment, where there was never any sense that there was any jeopardy anywhere. So, I think the work ethic and that kind of loving, safe family environment has kind of given me an appetite for risk, and a conscience to work hard.


Jamin: Do you have children?


Giles: I do. I have three children. Yeah. Three and a stepdaughter.


Jamin: What ages?


Giles: Twenty, nineteen. And two – my stepdaughter’s 16 as well, and my youngest daughter’s 16. So, two 16-year-old girls.


Jamin: What, out of your parents, your experience, as a child, do you think you like pulled out of that, and then helped install in your children? So, that’s one question. And then I’ll wait. Sorry. That’s one question.


Giles: Yeah, one at a time. I think that kind of – I think I’ve taken the work ethic thing, possibly too far with my own children. I think I’ve put them on – put more pressure on them than my own parents did on me. I get particularly impatient with my son, who is very happy doing absolutely nothing other than online gaming.


Jamin: I think our sons know each other.


Giles: Oh my God. You know, 5:00 in the morning, he wakes you up kind of screaming down the headphones, I’m not – this is just too much. So, but – so I lose my cool, and sorry about that. But, and then I guess the other side is, what you – the habits that you pick up from being parented in a certain way, and providing that kind of environment for your children, I think they’re very strong. So, the second point that I made about providing that kind of safe home environment, we do that. And we have a very kind of low drama household, and we all kind of muck into a degree. We all cook, and the kids clean up after dinner, pretty much all the time. And so, there’s – that side of things, I think is good. And hopefully that will give them a sense of solid footing. But, yeah, I think I do give them a little bit too much of a hard time on their academics. I think I should probably just ease up a little bit there. That’s my own guilt coming through, from when I was a kid and my parents guilted me, too. So, they’ll probably do it to their kids as well, and add into writing down the generations and some of these tragic things, right, that you do what your parents do. You repeat the mistakes that your parents – luckily my parents didn’t make too many.


Jamin: How has the – your relationship changed with your kids since COVID-19?


Giles: Oh. I think my relationship with my kids has changed less than their relationship with their granny, my mother, who’s on her own, stuck at home. And I’m really proud of the fact that my kids, who historically would never pick up the phone and talk to their granny. I mean they would speak to her if I called her, or she called me, when they’re with me. but now they’re actually calling her. Like a couple times a week they’ll pick up the phone and they’ll talk to granny. They’ve got a really good relationship with her. So, I’m really proud of the way that they’ve jumped on that. Because they see her kind of vulnerability. She’s in her 80s, she’s on her own. She’s lonely. And they care for her. So, that’s been super nice to see. In terms of my relationship with them, well, the oldest is at university, so she’s not living at home. So, that hasn’t really changed too much. And the younger two, well, my 16-year-old daughter, we exercise together, which we never did before. And she’s at least as fit as I am. So, I’m quite impressed that she – because, yeah. So, not too much, is the answer, short answer.


Jamin: The amount of time I spend with my children is – has gone up, just absolutely dramatically in this period. And like you kind of said, the mundane things that I normally would do by myself, so just working out. Now I’m doing it in the house, and so, there’s a lot more joint activity around that. Whether it’s my little ones jumping on me, or big ones joining in.


Giles: Yeah, it’s better.


Jamin: Yeah, it feels like part of the silver lining for me in this process has been the opportunity to be able to kind of connect at a different level. And a slower level with my kids.


Giles: Yeah, that’s good, that’s true – it’s true. You can have more conversations because you’re not all rushing around.


Jamin: All right, give us a little bit of context about Brandwatch. You started the company in 2007, you have 500 people now, which congratulations on your success. What is Brandwatch doing today?


Giles: We are trying to bring together some of the innovations that we’ve been working behind the scenes for the last couple of years, around natural language processing. Which are driven in large part by some of the big advances in deep learning. So, universal translation and some of the open AI projects that have come to light in the last couple hears. And we’re trying to simplify the ability to analyze this enormous amount of social data that we get in our system. Just to take a step back, the data that we collect and store is vast. I think we get something like 700 million posts a day, and we’ve been doing that for 12 years. Something like one and a half trillion pages. So, it’s enormous. And in that archive of basically online conversation, there are interesting insights. It’s just how the hell do you get at them, and how do you sift the signal from the noise? And it’s a really difficult challenge because it’s difficult from an engineering point of view, because it’s such a huge dataset. And it’s difficult from an analysis point of view, because it’s natural language. And the structure is different, depending on the source. So, the structure of a tweet is different from the structure of a forum, that’s different from a structure of a news site or whatever. So, how you bring all of this together into one system, to try to create a – the ability for users to get at the insights hidden in this vast dataset is extremely challenging. But – so we have this kind of always on, small innovations, inside the platform, sort of thing. Adding new data sources, analyzing images. Sometimes significant incremental improvements, sometimes small improvements. And then there are these longer term engineering breakthroughs that are really risky, but if you can create something which really shifts the ability to analyze this data at scale and make it more useful and more – and easy to wrestle with, then you’re doing a massive service to the users. So, that’s – we’re working on trying to productize some of the big kind of engineering programs that we’ve been – and when I say bigger, I don’t mean loads of people. Like it can be three or four people, but they’re kind of big efforts. They’ve gone on for multiple years. so, that’s the first thing. The second thing is – I think about the application that we’ve built, a bit like the first kind of Model T Ford, as a one size fits all. You can use it for lots of different purposes, but it’s one thing. It’s the same color for everybody. And, of course, people use our system for lots of different purposes. So, we’ve been kind of pulling that apart into the kind of jobs to be done framework, or user-based, use-case-based approach, and we’re trying to take what we’ve built and think of it more as a platform on which we can kind of create applications which are more – which are easier to use and more targeted to specific use cases and jobs to be done. So, that’s the second thing. The third is that we’re learning about scaling a company and doing that globally. My leadership team is 10 people, and there’s – I think there’s three in Boston, one in New York, four in the UK, one in France. I’m missing somebody. Maybe five in the UK, one in France. So, we’re a distributed leadership team. We’ve got distributed sales team, distributed marketing team, and so on and so forth. and how we structure that so that it’s efficient but not siloed is something that we’re learning as we go. And actually, this COVID, this COVID crisis has helped us work more cross-functionally, which is really interesting. Because the problem with being siloed is that it takes ages to get stuff done. You start behaving like a big company, which is awful in some ways. But it’s efficient in other ways. So, getting that balance right is really tricky. And then the final thing is something that we announced that we were doing about a year ago, when we acquired Acuity – a company called Acuity, which is an online mobile like survey company. And we’re trying to bring together different datasets to give a bigger picture, a better picture for consumer behavior. And we’re calling it Digital Consumer Intelligence. So, we’re kind of trying to expand what we – the way that we think about ourselves and how we innovate from social media analysis, or social intelligence, to digital consumer intelligence. So, taking different data sources and trying to match them up and make sense of them. Including even things like online transactions or search data, or some – a lot of that stuff is very early stage. But I’m trying to think long term.


Jamin: One of the trends that I identified in 2019 coming out of that year, so I actually had a podcast episode on this particular topic, which dropped in January of 2020, is that companies no longer can leverage solely consumer insights or survey data, primary research. They now have to layer on top of that, usually two or more additional sources, whether it’s internal transactional data, behavioral data, market data, whatever. It feels like the acquisition that you did, enabling, connecting primary data to social data, secondary data, would create a material shortcut because – and one of the biggest pain points, in fact Mary Anderson at Microsoft identified this early on, in 2019 with me, is that it’s really, really hard to do that well. And the trade-off there is it does take time, but the benefit is that you get context with the consumer insight. So, it isn’t just consumers like it or don’t like it, you get a breadth of content that, especially in today’s market, a post-COVID market, that context is massively, massively relevant. You think about travel, or think about online enablement, or whatever.


Giles: Yeah. And I agree with all of that. And then that throws me into a line of thought around the use of that data and in particular, how it gets used in decision making with inside organizations, and whether those decisions are kind of strategic, long-term, significant, where you’re looking at big market shifts, or you’re trying to really figure out how you position your product in a kind of a one-two-three-year cycle. Or whether it’s more, what’s happening today? What’s going on online today? What are our competitors doing? What are our consumers doing? And that feedback loop is quicker and it’s more tactical. And we’re seeing – and, of course, there’s other data that informs that tactical feedback loop, such as sales data or performance of online marketing and search. Which is much more measurable and kind of understandable from an ROI perspective. So, all of this stuff kind of the boundaries around the timeline and the decision making, I think, are really important. And also, having the skills inside organizations or if they’re outside organizations, very close by. So, tight partnership with an agency, let’s say, that can turn this around incredibly quickly. That can run quantifiable analysis on data once it’s been produced or gathered. And then quickly say, oh, this is what we found here. or we haven’t found anything here, there’s no signal, and it’s not in this data. Or whatever it is. And we’re seeing that feedback loop, where information, market research, what will be, I think, historically called market research data, that feedback loop being shortened dramatically inside a lot of our customers. Which is why we think about this idea of being consumer fit, and being adaptable. Adaptable to fast-changing consumer habits or behaviors. And a lot of the customers that we have, and we saw it in the GRIT report as well, getting their budgets reduced, but their workloads increase, and the need for faster turnaround and quicker insights increased as well. So, it’s a rally interesting evolution, I think, of the market research industry from qual to quant, from quarterly to daily, from reports to quant data – quantifiable insights. We’ve seen x number of people do this. We think that this is a trend. And all powered by this availability of big data and the ability to work with it, and compute with it. and so, I think it’s an extremely, extremely interesting time in the world of market research. And in some ways, my personal view is it would be great to change the name of the industry, because the name has got a bit of the stodgy old-school thing going on with it. Whereas, actually, what’s happening with market research, and consumer insights, inside some of the most successful companies of the world today, is really quite groundbreaking, and innovative, and very forward-looking. So, it’s – I think we’re seeing a big sea change shift, like big, big shift in the market research kind of industry, shall we say. And I think it’s going to get bigger, but it’s going to change the way that it is [CROSSTALK].


Jamin: Yeah, I totally agree. Even impacting down to like the skills of a market researcher, that there’s a whole evolution around that.


Giles: Absolutely.


Jamin: So, let’s pull back a little bit about the story of Brandwatch. I want to dive into this as an entrepreneur. So, you started the business in 2007. Facebook did it’s IPO, I believe in 2012, and Twitter the following year, in 2013. So, you were like really ahead of the curve in terms of the – people knew that these were big companies before they went IPO obviously. But having said that, 2007’s very, very early in the social network life cycle.


Giles: Yeah, it makes me think we should have got a lot further than we have, to be honest.


Jamin: Well, there’s that. And then, we hit a recession, directly after you started the business. So, what was the impetus for starting Brandwatch in 2007, and then how did you navigate that course coming out of, or into – going into the recession?


Giles: So, the impetus was, I’ve been – with some friends of mine, we’ve been running a technology services business for five or six years. And I didn’t want to do that anymore. I wanted to build a product company. We started with not very much idea about how to build software, and we’d learned. We made lots of mistakes, and failed a lot, but we knew how to build software. And I wanted to build a product. So, there was this nascent – small project that we’d been working on around building a web crawler. which was never really finished, but I used that as an impetus to create Brandwatch. I spoke to my partner at the time, I said, listen, I want to go off and do this. And he was like, fine. You can buy me out, and off you go. He went off and joined Google, and then later – latterly [INAUDIBLE] So, amazing guy. But I wanted to build a product. So, we took about a year and a half, maybe not quite that long. Maybe a year, to build out the web crawler and then work on a whole bunch of user interface stuff, and build in some very very basic sentiment analysis around the results to be found. And we launched it in August 2007 as a SAS product. And really our focus then was on forums, so special interest forums. The one that springs to mind is a special interest forum in the UK, called Money Saving Expert – Money Savings Expert. Which is a place where people go to talk about their bank accounts and their finances, and they talk about what financial products are good, mortgages, and so on. And so we were crawling that site and analyzing it, and one of the big bangs in the UK basically wanted to launch a new bank account to targeted to younger people. And they wanted to use our system to understand how that was resonating with inside that community. And so that was our first subscriber. And that was in – so we launched in August, 2007, and they subscribed in September, 2007. We didn’t get our second customer until January, 2008, which was a challenging time for sure, when I was trying to raise money as well to keep the lights on. And then what happened was that the agency world in London, and the UK’s always had a very strong digital agency, or creative agency – advertising agency industry. They started realizing that there was this new ability to tap into consumer insights and understanding consumers. And so they started subscribing to our system. They weren’t paying us a lot of money, a couple thousand dollars a month. I mean it’s not a small amount, but you need a few more – you need quite a few of those to keep a team of 10 going. And we started to see some traction with those agencies, and so we really lent in with them, and we kind of built the product with their needs in mind. And then they had all sorts of different needs. So that’s why the product ended up being this very flexible system. In terms of the recession, it didn’t really impact us – well, who knows? Because I don’t have a control roof in non-recession.


Jamin: OK, that’s fair.


Giles: We did – getting back to the market research. We did pretty well throughout the recession, mainly because it wasn’t an expensive product, it wasn’t a crazy expensive product compared to people-based market research. Not that we were really thinking of ourselves as a market research platform. at that time. But also, even during the recession, the world was going online, so more people were signing up for Twitter and Facebook, and more people were using Google, and more people were buying iPhones, and getting their Smartphone experience and so on. So, it may have been a global recession on a macro level. But online was still growing like crazy. So – and that was our domain. And it’s continued to this day. So, the move for money from offline to online is – that’s the trend of the last 20 years, right? One of them. And that’s our playground. So, in that respect we were somewhat insulated from the recession.


Jamin: SAS businesses, they already get a fantastic multiple relative to service businesses, but it’s when you go through a recession you really appreciate having the guaranteed revenue. It’s a very nice model.


Giles: Too right. It’s not guaranteed though.


Jamin: That’s fair.


Giles: But it’s more reliable. I mean that is one thing that I would say, that we’ve been – the predictability of Brandwatch is actually – it’s pretty good. Except for the last 18 months, where we’ve merged with Crimson Hexagon. That’s been a much more unpredictable time. But up until that transaction, it was – we would put out a number at the beginning of the year, and we’d be there or thereabouts at the end of the year. We were always a little bit optimistic. But we would be within a 5 or 10% of where we thought we would be, almost every year, because it’s reasonably easy to look at the waterfall of put money in here, sign up a customer, have them hopefully renew, or have a certain percentage of them renew, have some of them grow, and some of them churn. And it’s not a complex model. And once you’ve done it for a few years, it’s unlikely to change dramatically the next year. And the recession was no different. But then again, it was early. But we didn’t really have that data back then.


Jamin: Let’s shift gears. I want to talk about the role of diversity in consumer insights. So, as a professional market researcher, sample frame, or the definition of who is it you want to talk to, is really important, and you want it to look like census or whatever, so that it’s representative of the people that you are trying to represent. And so we all know what that looks like as consumer insights professionals, or even as aspiring consumer insights professionals. I want to pull back a little bit, and talk about the role of diversity as it relates specifically to the research team. Do you think there needs to be some consideration when doing the analytics as it relates with the actual people doing the work of the insight, as opposed to just the sample frame?


Giles: I think that the two are related. If you’ve got a small sample size and you’re asking direct questions, then the skill of the market researcher to not over conclude, because it’s a small sample, and because it’s prompted, and run the process in an as unbiased a way as possible, is absolutely critical. And obviously, if you get two market researchers, they’re going to do it in a slightly different way, so maybe doing it multiple times to have kind of a sort of double-blind type of approach, is good as well. With the sort of data that we’re looking at, it’s massive in scale, so you have fewer biases because of the sample size. And most of what we do is trying to pull insights out of unprompted data. So, there isn’t the kind of leading question idea. so, where that leads to is a need for skill in using the products to get to the insights. So there’s a high level of – or is a different type of skill. Rather than the skillset of running a panel, or setting up a research questionnaire, it’s more the skill of interrogating the data, which is different. And then the second skill, which is important is quant type skills. So, trying to understand statistics. Because the data sizes are huge. So, how can we – how much confidence can we have in what we’re saying often is a statistical analysis. And then it comes to the actual individuals doing the work. And most of our research team are kind of under 35. So the average age is probably 30. And these are young people who are very competent and confident using these sorts of kind of programs and web applications to do this kind of analysis. We find that they pick it up really quickly, like with less training, and they natively get into it, reasonably quickly. It’s almost like watching people use a search engine. And then in terms of the diversity of the group – so I would say that it would be helpful actually if we had some older people in our research team. We’ve struggled to find them, to be honest. Because this is such a new – it’s a reasonably new thing. Anybody who’s a bit older would have to learn it anyway. Anyway, so I haven’t really thought enough about that. But in terms of the actual diversity of the team, we’re also seeing, in our research team, in terms of gender, probably more women than men, which is interesting. And then the one thing that I think is the same for all of the people that we think are the best researchers that we have, is a mindset, and that mindset is a curious mindset. They want to understand things. They want to dig around. They want to go on an exploration, on a journey. So, in terms of – yeah, I don’t want diversity in that respect. I want everybody to have a curious mindset. In terms of male/female, I don’t think that we see too much difference between the two. I would say we’ve probably got a few more women. Demographic diversity, again, we’re quite diverse. It’s really an age thing. I think for us, it’s a young team, and when I look at some of our customers who are doing the most innovative work, their teams are even younger than ours. They pull people out of university, or they take people off the university, and they train them how to use a programming language like R. And then train them how to use our platform. And they give them sales data, and they say, right. Tell us what’s going on inside all of this sort of stuff. And some of them have got very big internal teams kind of crunching this data on a daily basis. So, it’s interesting. I’m not sure – yeah, I’m not sure I’ve got too much insight into researcher diversity. I think it’s more skillsets. And these skillsets are reasonably new, as I was saying.


Jamin: Yeah, and when you think about leveling up, if you’re sort of in the boomer framework, which I am, when you think about leveling up your skills, I started my career statistics, and then SPSS, of course, was basically the – it was by far and away, the dominant platform for market research statistics in analytics. And then, just because I was a hacker, I was able to pick up SQL, but I haven’t actually learned R, and I do do some Python. Do you have – is there a specific language you think that researchers should self-teach? I mean there’s a hundred different self-teach platforms out there now.


Giles: When we started our research teams, we have one in the UK, that was run by somebody who came out of Nielsen. She was – she’s now a head of product. She’s kind of, I would say, more of a qualitative market researcher. Comes from a social science background. And then the guy that was running the team in New York, was more geeky, came from a CS background. And they developed two different methodologies which were both popular with different customers. So, the guys in New Your put together a Python library, and they were – they tried to do a lot of stuff using programming and trying to interrogate the data using algorithms and Python scripts. And R. And in the UK, it was very much using social data with – as a new spin on more traditional kind of market research report writing sort of approach. And I think the two can blend really well together. So, we encourage people to learn Python, and to kind of take – learn how to run experiments, and journals – Python journals, and so on. But also there’s still a lot of stuff that’s baked into our platform that you can just use the platform to pull out the insights, and then put them into a report. At the end of the day, it really is driven by what the customer needs are. And if the customer wants fast turnaround, and wants to understand lots of different – I’ll take an example. We have a customer who’s a Smartphone manufacturer. And analyzing Smartphone data around their products online is really challenging, because they get an enormous volume. So, doing that by hand is like forget it – so you have to create rules and categories and machine learning algorithms to try to kind of crush this data into more bite-size chunks that are then – you can look at from a quant point of view. And say this is changing more than this, and this – and that’s when these kind of big data approaches are really, really useful. Versus something where you’re looking at maybe a smaller product or a smaller audience, and actually having a human being interpret the data rather than looking at it from a quant perspective is a better approach. So, I think the two different types of approach are really important. And we encourage our people to be proficient at both. But some will actually lean one way or the other.


Jamin: Sure. I mean I think that’s a really interesting framework. The third leg of the stool for me is how qualitative may be able to humanize the researchy reports, but do you see any appetite there amongst your customer base? I’m thinking about things – yeah, like video open ends, or traditional qual, or what have you.


Giles: OK. So, the format of the report, and the way that it can be easier to access. I totally agree with that. I think that’s a huge skillset. In fact, we built a whole product around trying to do that. It’s called Vizia, and it’s about visualizing these – well, first of all, it takes in data from different places, and then it’s a visualization-building tool. But nevertheless, a tool can’t do it all. It’s really about how you can, as a human being, create a compelling, interesting, authentic story message that lands with the audience that you’re trying to get to. And, of course, the longer you take on that, the more you craft it, the more you script it, the more you put into the video, the better it is. But then you might not have time to do that, because the demand is like, I need this today. So, again, it’s one of these really, really interesting areas where market research has been PDS forever, and it doesn’t need to be. it can be a video. But then, how do you make it such that it’s searchable? Or how do you structure the video in a way that it gets the right messages to the right people, so not everybody has to listen to the whole thing? I mean, very tough questions to answer. I don’t think there’s a simple answer to any of that. But having that toolkit at your disposal, as a market researcher, is critical.


Jamin: All right. So, my next three questions are going to be more of a format of rapid fire. So, are you ready?


Giles: Yeah.


Jamin: First question. How will the market research space be different in the next five years?


Giles: More quant. Faster, easier to use, cheaper tools. Five times bigger as an industry.


Jamin: What is the biggest issue facing today’s market researchers?


Giles: Complexity of data, amount of data, the time it takes to do stuff. And the cost.


Jamin: Last question. What are three characteristics of an all-star employee?


Giles: Oh. They’re all behavioral. They’re all about attitude. So, willingness to learn, ability to collaborate, and work ethic.


Jamin: That’s perfect. Thanks for handling those three big questions so well. It was remarkable. I do really want to dive into your 5x bigger point that you made about how the market research space will be different in the next five years. The space overall has been relatively flat at an aggregate level according to SRM. Or in line with whatever market. Why so optimistic?


Giles: I think it might be a – the main concern – issue as well – I think that there’s certain things that go on right – today, that are market research, that are not called market research. And they’re not captured. So, I think it might be that the way they’re measured today, is not the way that it needs to be measured going forwards. But I’m optimistic because I remember Bill Gurley [ph]. He’s a famous VC who invested in Uber. I was listening to him at a conference once, and he was saying that Uber 5x’d the San Francisco taxi market. And they 5x’d the San Francisco taxi market, not because five times more people were trying to travel, but it’s because they made it cheaper, faster, and easier to use. So, rather than walk out into the street and think, where’s a taxi, and not find one, you use your Uber app, and it comes to you. And then you don’t have to tip and all of that annoying stuff, but kind of gets in the way a little bit. But they were also cheaper. And that stuck with me. And this was like, I don’t know how many years ago. Seven years ago, five years ago, something like that? Where you make something faster, cheaper, and easier to use, the usage will go up. And that’s what’s going on with market research. It’s no longer find just – find a focus group, get them in a room, spend a whole day figuring out what they feel about something. Write a report, charge a lot of money for it, and then deliver it three months after it’s commissioned. Those days are – that doesn’t happen very much anymore. So, where you can make it cheaper, faster, and easier to use, I think we’ll see usage going up. And what we are seeing on the client side, is that companies that are able to adapt more quickly to the changing consumer landscape, are more successful. So, if you’re a company, and you want to be successful, if you’re not baking consumer insights into almost every decision that you’re making inside your organization, then you’re likely to be out innovated by somebody who is. You are not adapting as quickly as your competition. So, if that were possible, the reason why that hasn’t happened up till now is because this is not possible. It’s too slow, it’s too expensive, it’s too hard to do. But if we could make it faster, easier, and cheaper, then it will happen more. So, I mean 5x could be a massive understatement, because I think it’s no longer market research. It’s decision management. And if you’re not baking consumer insights into decision management inside your organization, you’re probably not going to win.


Jamin: Last question. What is your personal motto?


Giles: I don’t – I want to get one. Did you ever see the film, the “Fantastic Mr. Fox”? Which is Wes Anderson’s adaptation of a Roald Dahl novel?


Jamin: No, I have not, but now I’m going to watch it.


Giles: You must. It’s absolutely fantastic, and I don’t know how old your kids are, but even if they’re teenagers, they’ll still love it. It’s utterly brilliant. Anyway, there’s this badger in that film that does this thing, where he makes a noise, and he goes who-who, and then he clicks his fingers or something, and then the fox goes, what the hell is that? He goes, that’s just my personal thing. It’s my personal motto. It’s like, it’s a bit weird. But I don’t have a personal motto. The cultural kind of foundation upon which Brandwatch is built, and it was done – from the very beginning. In fact, it was a cultural foundation on which Runtime Collective was built. It’s probably baked into the name, Runtime Collective, hippie sort of name. And that is the Golden Rule, is treat other people as you would like them to treat you. And that underpins kind of how I think about behavior, culture, all those sorts of things that we do inside this company. And what we do with our customers and so on and so forth. So, I guess, if I live by the Golden Rule, probably more than I do right now, then I think that would be a good thing. So, I guess the Golden Rule is my guiding principle.


Jamin: My guest today has been Giles Palmer, founder and CEO of Brandwatch. Thank you, Giles, for joining me on the Happy Market Research Podcast today.


Giles: It’s a pleasure, Jamin. Thank you so much for having me.


Jamin: Everyone else, if you found value in this episode, which I know I did, especially the 5x – reverse 5x’ing the market research base, super interesting stuff. Tweet, screen capture or tweet, share on social, tag me, I will send you a shirt. Have a great rest of your day.

Happy MR Podcast MrWeb Podcast Series

Ep. 307 – MrWeb Series – Ross McLean on Insight in the Mobile Age

This episode is in partnership with MrWeb’s Insight in the Mobile Age segment and was recorded in February 2020.

My guest today is Ross McLean, Co-Founder, Executive Director at Over the Shoulder.

Over the Shoulder was founded in 2010 as a qualitative technology platform for diary-like studies. On December 9th, 2019, Over the Shoulder announced its sell to 20|20. 20|20 is headquartered in Nashville, with an office in Denver and top-rated qualitative facilities in Nashville, Charlotte, and Miami.

Prior to co-founding OTS, Ross worked on the marketing agency side where he oversaw brand strategy on brands including Kraft Mac & Cheese, Jello, Lunchables, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and State Farm. 

Find Ross Online:

Website: https://www.overtheshoulder.com/ 

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ross-mclean-9766842/ 

Find Jamin Online:

Email: jamin@happymr.com 

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/jaminbrazil 

Twitter: www.twitter.com/jaminbrazil  

Find Us Online: 

Twitter: www.twitter.com/happymrxp  

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/company/happymarketresearch  

Facebook: www.facebook.com/happymrxp  

Website: www.happymr.com  


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


Jamin: Hi, I’m Jamin. You’re listening to the Happy Market Research Podcast. My guest today is Ross McLean, co-founder, executive director at Over the Shoulder. Over the Shoulder was founded in 2010 as a qualitative technology platform for diary-like studies. On December 9th, 2019, Over the Shoulder announced its sell to 20/20. 20/20 is headquartered in Nashville with an office in Denver and top-rated qualitative facilities in Nashville, Charlotte, and Miami. Prior to co-founding OTS or Over the Shoulder, Ross worked on the marketing agency side, where he oversaw brand agency strategies for big companies, including Kraft Mac & Cheese, Jello, Lunchables, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and State Farm. Ross, thanks so much for joining me on the Happy Market Research Podcast today.


Ross: Thank you for having me. Very happy to be here.


Jamin: This episode is brought to you by Survey Monkey. Today, almost everyone has taken a survey, but did you know that Survey Monkey offers complete solutions for market researchers? In addition to flexible surveys, their global audience panel and research services. Survey Monkey has launched a fast and easy way to collect market feedback. They have seven new expert solutions for concept and creative testing. With built in customized methodologies, AI powered insights, and industry benchmarking, you can get feedback on your ideas from your target market in a presentation ready format, and by the way, in as little as an hour. For more information on Survey Monkey’s market research solutions, visit surveymonkey.com/market-research. That’s surveymonkey.com/market-research. Mention the Happy Market Research Podcast to the Survey Monkey sales team before June 30th for a discount off your first project. So we like to start out with this context question. Tell us a little bit about your parents and how they informed what you’re doing today.


Ross: Yes. So I read ahead, and I knew this question was coming, so I thought about it a little bit. So my dad, he was a marketing guy for a big company in Canada, and I think I learned a lot through just observations and hearing his stories and hearing him discuss what that world was sort of like and how it worked. But I think, you know, I tried to boil it down a little bit more, and I think the thing that affected me most that he taught me was probably empathy. He was very, very big on hold your temper. Don’t ever judge anyone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes, and you really need to understand the perspective of somebody else, even if it’s difficult, even if it’s kind of objectionable, so that you can understand where their head’s at, and you can go forward. So I think yeah, that’s a form of empathy that’s just sort of stuck with me, and made me really curious about consumers and made me really curious about why people do the things that they do, sort of stuck with me for life.


Jamin: As I’ve gotten older, I’ve connected a little bit more on a political base, kind of across the spectrum. Your point about being basically trying to be less judgmental and more empathetic is one that’s really poignant here in the US right now going through an election cycle. So when you think about that, applying empathy specifically to insights, we still are required to come up with a recommendation from those insights, right?


Ross: Mm-hmm.


Jamin: So how do you see empathy playing into research?


Ross: I think it’s fundamental. I mean I have spent my career on the- more on the qualitative side than the quantitative side, and I think specifically for qualitative. I mean it’s an empathy-based process. What you’re leveraging to get people to tell you their stories is empathy, and what you’re trying to achieve is hearing it- enough from their perspective that you can get, even if they disagree with you, you understand exactly how they feel and why they think that way. And it’s crucial because when it comes down to marketing, I’ve always thought you can’t cynically market anything to anybody. You’ve got to know them, have a little love and a little respect for the people that you’re talking to, and if you do that, you’re just going to naturally be much better at connecting with them and being able to say things that are going to be meaningful, being able to do things that are actually going to be helpful for them. So I think it all kind of starts with empathy really.


Jamin: Do you have like a moment or an example, some of the brands that you were working with, where they leveraged empathy to connect with a consumer?


Ross: Yes. Definitely. I mean usually if you’re succeeding it’s because you’re leveraging empathy on some level. It’s usually that’s what’s at the root at it, and I’ve definitely been in situations where we really just had a big advantage over our competitors because we knew our consumers and knew their worlds and knew their stories much better than anybody else. So I’ve seen how advantageous that is. I’ve also worked in places where people were cynical about their target audiences and about their brands and about their products, and I’ve seen people really sort of flounder because they didn’t have empathy and didn’t- you know, sometimes didn’t even seem to want it. I think it’s essential if you want to interact with people and you want to build bonds and connections with them. I don’t know another way of doing it.


Jamin: What brand do you think today is doing a really good job of executing on empathy? Like for me, it’s like Coca Cola does a hell of a good job of communicating. Their Coke commercials are really never about Coke. They’re all about the moments that people enjoy the- it’s all about the experience, right? And then Coke happens to have a seat at the table, or it’s almost like product placement. It’s really funny, and yet, the moments that are being communicated in those coke commercials are always very meaningful, where there’s something like first kiss or a wedding night or whatever, right? It’s like these big sort- or hanging out with friends or poker game, right? So there’s this- is that an example of how empathy would be played out at a brand level?


Ross: Yeah, to me, it’s a really good one, and I think coke has been doing a really good job for a very long time. I mean I remember when we were growing up, Coke and Pepsi were vying for the title. 49%, 51% kind of thing. And Coke has done a great job of really understanding their brand, really understanding their consumers, and understanding how they fit into people’s lives and where they’re welcome and where they fit, what they can do, and just amplifying those kinds of moments. And not just in their advertising, but in their packaging and promotions and all of their digital stuff. They just come from a place where they know what they’re about and they know what their consumers are about. They’re not really self-conscious, so they do it in a way where they’re not appearing to try to please a certain type of consumer. They’re just saying here’s what we are, and here’s what we’re about. Do you want to buy into it? But really they know that the answer is yes because they understand those consumers pretty darn well.


Jamin: Yeah, and you see that also with Nike, taking stance- more social stances, and other key brands making more social stances. Where they’re really in a lot of ways by declaring what they’re not, they’re also declaring what they are, and that allows this almost rally cry or umbrella for their customers to be able to rally behind or get underneath.


Ross: Yeah. I don’t think that’s always the answer. I don’t think that the sort of rallying cry and the claim to sort of higher ground is always the way to go. I mean it’s very in the last decade in marketing, just about everything is switched to what’s your cause, what do you stand for, put it out there and let people decide if they want a part of it or not. But I think it’s definitely valid. I mean people, especially in spaces where you have less and less differentiation between products, you can create, maintain loyalty, and maintain relationships and profitable relationships with consumers just by saying it in a way that fits more closely into how they view the category or that just resonates with how they feel about what they’re trying to do and it can be turned into a really powerful advantage.


Jamin: We talked about your dad. What about your mom?


Ross: So my mom was a stay-at-home mom, raised four kids, and I think did a fantastic job, but I would be pretty biased in that. But she was great, and as I thought about that, I think she’s the one who taught us all perseverance and persistence in the sense that she was very, very good at, hey, you know what? Life’s gonna knock you on your backside from time to time. You need to be good at picking yourself up and dusting yourself off and feeling all right about yourself and going and hitting it again. So that was- that’s something that’s really stuck with me, and that’s a pretty powerful thing because you- I mean you get into a space where you’re trying to build things or innovate things or have ideas. You’re gonna get friction, and you’re gonna get- everyone’s not just gonna roll over and go your way. You have to be able to go, all right, that didn’t work so well. What can I learn from this? What can I change? And let’s get right back up there and get going. So I think a lot of that comes from my mom.


Jamin: So OTS. Probably some- definitely some of our audience has heard of Over the Shoulder. Maybe you can give us kind of the elevator pitch.


Ross: Yes. Well, you know what, I’ll give you the backstory because I think sometimes the backstory is better at sort of giving a real sense of who we are and what we’re trying to do. So I always so, you know, this company was started ten years ago, 11 years ago. I started thinking about it 11 years ago. I think we only started it about ten. But it was started by a bunch of strategists and qual researchers and ethnographers. And up to that point, until about 2008, 2009, when smart phones kind of exploded onto the scene, we spent a lot of time doing traditional style qualitative focus groups and interviews, and occasionally, we’d be able to do ethnographies. But ethnographies are expensive and time-consuming, and so you just don’t get to use them the way that you might like to. But we always wanted to do ethnographies because we felt like when we get out into the world and we see these moments and see these experiences and see people’s lives from their own perspective, as opposed to pulling them into a focus group and having them describe their world, if we can actually see part of their world and be in it in some way, we always learned more and we empathized more and we got much more powerful stuff. But traditional means don’t let you really do that, but when smart phones came along, we said oh my gosh, that’s- everyone’s gonna have one of these. They’re gonna be carrying them 24/7, and someone needs to write the software that will allow us to ride along in people’s pockets and purses and interact richly with them and qualitatively but in the moment and over time. I remember doing a project, and it was a crazy one. It was for a restaurant, big sort of middle American restaurant chain, and one of their things was what does mid-week dinner look like for our target audience right now. And they didn’t know. And so we did a project where we put together all of these FedEx envelopes into which we stuffed self-addressed FedEx envelopes with flip cameras and SD cards and envelopes that said things like don’t open this up until you’re just about to sit down and have dinner one night this week, just to try and get- desperately see what’s going on in those people’s worlds. And someone’s Blackberry was sitting there, and I remember just going wow. You know what? The world’s probably not- probably can’t do it yet, but this process is gonna be massively more powerful when we’re doing it instead of by FedEx back and forth, we’re doing it through the devices that people are carrying with them as they live their regular lives. So that was really- it just started that practically, and you know, we went out there, realized, OK, well, there isn’t software that does that. So we kind of took a flier and pulled some money together but it was small, pretty small amount and built the platform so that we could start just playing with it and testing it and seeing if we were right. Seeing if this was actually going to be more insightful and who knows. We didn’t know if it- we weren’t sure if it was gonna work. So we just went out and we did, I think for about the first four years, we were the researchers and the analysts and the strategic consultants, and we developed the software and did the work. So it was a lot of work. We went four years. We did over 400 projects way back before people were really doing this kind of stuff. And I always joke we bumped into every sharp object out there, and there was- we had to figure out how to do it because it’s different from [INAUDIBLE] and it’s different from face to face qualitative and it’s different from just about anything else out there. We just had to- we learned every lesson and we’ve improved the software dramatically. Focused really hard on participant user experience, which we just feel is the most important thing to get right in terms of actually getting good interaction with people and quality insight. And we built systems. We learned how to design assignments so they would really engage people and they would kind of have fun and it would kind of draw out their creativity and their imagination and emotional side of things that were going and just get us better and better responses as a result of it. Hey, how do you recruit these people? And how do you incentivize them so that they stay engaged? And how do you treat them and manage them? So we improved the software and we improved the system around it in that four years. And then by the time we got into 2018 and 2019, the situation had changed. I remember in the beginning we would make 20 phone calls or ten presentations, and people would go that’s awesome. That’s amazing. Very cool. And then they would never call. Because they just weren’t ready for it. They just weren’t ready to give up the old stuff and try new things. And then it flipped. I think it was about four years ago. We didn’t make outgoing presentations anymore. People just called because people realized, OK, well, it’s actually really beneficial to be three taps away from your consumer and be able to interact with them in this way. And I guess the- the first sign that you’ve- you’re on to a smart idea is when you get a lot of competition. And we ended up with a whole lot of competition in this space. To say nothing of the online competition that was already there when we jumped in and all smart phone specific. So yeah, the market really changed, and I think now, you know, we have competitors who have tens of millions dollars in venture capital funding and hundreds of employees. And as we looked at it, we said gosh, in that space, we are- it’s going to be increasingly hard for this little software company that’s very highly specialized to continue to develop the stuff that we want to do. So the 20/20 thing was great because it just puts Over the Shoulder alongside of some other fantastic online qualitative software, like QualBoard and QualMeeting. Puts a really nice package together with 20/20. Brings recruiting into the- makes it easier, smoother, and better through 20/20. Gives us a ton of resources that we didn’t used to have. So in addition to just being great bunch of people and a company that we really respect a lot, they also have scale and sales teams and marketing and structure that we’re going to be a lot more competitive because we are part of that and because we have access to it. So it was really a change in the marketing- in the market that made us go OK, it was fun. We’ve had a great decade. But as we look to the next one, we got to be set up differently to make sure that we’re still one of the viable players at the end of it.


Jamin: And that’s really smart from my vantage point, and a similar story perhaps coming from Decipher into FocusVision, right? And the one plus one equals three scenario, since there’s this obvious scale benefit and opportunity to cross sell customers on both products. And of course, Isaac Rogers being one of the best people I’ve ever met in this space, and he didn’t pay me to say that. He’s not a bad person to having to interact with.


Ross: Definitely. I mean the vision that he’s got and that Jim’s got and that 20/20 in general has- was a very big part of- we looked for a very long time to figure out, OK, what’s gonna- what is the best move for us to make. And really, 20/20 was the number one on our list, and then when we wanted to maybe have them host, I think. And it has a lot to do with sort of practical factors, but it definitely has a lot to do with the fact that you got a leadership team there and a development team and they’re all very much focused on, OK, this stuff’s not good enough yet. How do we make it better? How are we gonna invent the next round of stuff? That’s where it gets exciting to me. So I think it also opened up the door to much more ability to go, all right, so what should the toolset that qualitative researchers have to make their work more efficient and smarter? What should that look like? Because nobody’s not that yet. That’s still sort of work to be done, and we’re lined up with a group that we’re very pleased to be sort of doing that journey with them because they’ve got a vision and a track record that we’re really impressed with.


Jamin: How old were you when you started Over the Shoulder?


Ross: I was not that- I was not very young. I was 41, I guess.


Jamin: And that’s really interesting that you were 41 years old, and almost two decades, successfully managing some of the largest brands today at a strategic level, which is a lot of fun, and it’s work, like everything else. But it’s still a lot of fun. And then you decided to make a material change to your life. I mean I love the sort of the ethnography approach, the whole meta of I saw a Blackberry while doing this flip phone recording study and I realized wow, this is the future. That makes a lot of sense to me, but there’s- it had to have been a risky proposition to kind of like pause the 401(k) or what have you and step into this unknown universe. What was that motivator?


Ross: So it was not a comfortable thing to do, honestly. But what it was, there were a few factors. I had been working in advertising for a long time, and advertising is another one of those careers where the higher up you get, the less you’re doing what they hired you for. So the less strategy work and actual [INAUDIBLE] that you’re doing, and you end up with more involvement in politics and fixing badly broken accounts that no one else can fix and that kind of becomes your thing, as opposed to being a strategist or being an ethnography. So I think the distance from the actual work that I loved was getting it so that I was beginning to be done with that. Second thing, I’ve always been a bit of a tech geek. I’ve always been really fascinated by the possibilities of technology, and it was very clear to be still working in the advertising world that that space was about to get heavily disrupted by digital social mobile technology. So I kind of became a student of it for the last eight or ten years that I was in the advertising space, and so I was kind of fed up with the business and came up with this idea that I was just very, very passionate about. This needs to exist. I’m sure this is a good idea. Let’s make it happen. And no, it definitely felt like jumping off the edge of a cliff. It was definitely scary. I mean very fun as well, but it wasn’t something that I- I never saw myself as you’re going to start a company or you’re going to develop software. It was just hey, the world needs that. That’s a great thing, and it happens to be at the intersection of two things that I’m very good at. One being human storytelling and qualitative insight stuff, and the other one being just knowing just enough about technology to go, hey, this is what’s possible. This is what can be built, and then having the means to go and give it a try.


Jamin: So you’ve been on the strategy side with brands. You’ve been on the technology side or around the technology side. And on the services side and also at the fundamentally a researcher. What is gonna be different in our space over the next five years? Do you have any predictions on- is there another Blackberry, if you’ll excuse the connection, or a similar product that’s on the dining table?


Ross: Yeah, you know what, I suspect that there probably are. I don’t know that there’s anything that’s as big as the smartphone and as prevalent. But there’s certainly other bits of technology that can be leveraged to do qualitative insight in more and more interesting ways, so I think it’s a really exciting future. I think there’s a lot of work we’ve got to do to make this more efficient and make it as quick as we can without sacrificing the quality that’s being put out there. But so yeah, I think there’s- it’s an exciting future for this specific space, but I do think that if you put a five year time limit on it, I think it will look quite different because I think that we’ve got a couple of reckonings that are gonna happen. And I think they’ll happen mostly in the next couple, five years. So I think that one thing is I’m very interested to see what some of these plays where they are taking block chain and applying it to respondent identity and credibility and stuff like that. I think that’s gonna be big, and I think it’s gonna be really positive. Because I think the reckoning that we’re sort of having now is that online surveys and things like that are nice and efficient, and we’ve got lots of very interesting ways to sort of pull them together and make them happen really quickly. But I think we’re also realizing that, hey, there’s a lot of bad data in there, and this space really needs to be sort of reformed, so that we’ve just got greater confidence in the data that we’re taking in at a very base level. And I think that we’ll be able to do that, but I think that reckoning is coming for us. And then the other big one that I think about a lot is right now, we’re using people’s data very liberally and paying them very little. And I think again once people have more control over their data and what they share, I think they’re going to start to realize how much it’s worth, and they’re gonna- we won’t be able to do quick, cheap, and cheerful stuff nearly as well as we used to be able to. We don’t really do that now. We’ve sort of gone into that space where, hey, you know what, if we’re gonna take two hours of someone’s time to interact with our project, it needs to be worth their while to do it, and it needs to be respectful of the time that they’re gonna put into it. But I think that in a lot of cases, participants are forking over data without having any idea of what its value is. And I think that’s gonna change. So again, I think it leads to a future where there’s- the work that’s being done is better and smarter, but the process of getting there might not be very easy. And I think that’s- those two things are gonna both pop up in the next five years for sure.


Jamin: I agree with that sentiment by the way or that thesis. I think that we have moved from an era of unstructured processes or operations to, in some cases, over engineered or more black box research approaches, where it’s like stimuli come in and then boom, insight comes out, but we don’t actually know what happens in the middle part. And so I do believe over the next few years, you’re gonna see that get cleaned up as researchers are demanding transparency, like point of origin for respondents, incentive paid, frequency of participating in research. Just those basic kinds of things are gonna start calling the 25 cent completes that are being paid out for a 30-minute survey.


Ross: I think ultimately it will be good. It will be better data. It will be more reliable. It will be more fair. But I think it’s gonna hurt getting there.


Jamin: I totally agree, and the brand people that I’ve spoken to about this issue, they recognize that there’s a problem. But when asked would you pay more for higher quality, inevitably there’s a- I get a little bit of coughing and, you know. The answer is always, well, I got a fixed budget unfortunately, but they would pay twice as much for half as much, right? So that’s the other piece of it, I think. So you might have an overall CPI that increases, but you’re gonna have fewer responses. So I mean I don’t know how it’s gonna materialize, but that is gonna be interesting. All right, so last question, and then I’ll get you get on to your Friday evening. What is your personal motto?


Ross: You know, I struggled with this. I think it is lift with your head, which I think my friend, Paul, who I used to work with had a hat that said that or a t-shirt that said that. But I think lift with your head is a pretty good motto and a pretty good sort of guiding light. So I’m gonna go with that.


Jamin: My guest today has been Ross McLean, co-founder, executive director of Over the Shoulder. Thank you, Ross, very much for joining me on the Happy Market Research podcast.


Ross: Thank you. It was a real pleasure to talk with you.


Jamin: Everyone else, I hoped you enjoyed the episode. I certainly did. If you found value, please take time, screen shot, tag Ross, tag myself, LinkedIn, Twitter. We would appreciate it. Have a wonderful rest of your day.

MrWeb Podcast Series

MrWeb Series – David Garcia Pawley of Samsung on Samsung’s CMI on Keys to Managing a Successful Panel [A Brand’s Perspective]

My guest today is David Garcia Pawley, Director of European Countries CMI (Consumer & Market Insights) at Samsung. Established in 1938, Samsung is the world’s largest information technology company, consumer electronics maker and chipmaker measured by 2017 revenues. Prior to joining Samsung, David has held senior roles on both the agency and client-side at leading firms including LG and GfK. 

Find David Online:

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/davidgarciapawley/?originalSubdomain=uk 

Website: https://www.samsung.com/us 

Find Jamin Online:

Email: jamin@happymr.com 

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/jaminbrazil

Twitter: www.twitter.com/jaminbrazil 

Find Us Online: 

Twitter: www.twitter.com/happymrxp 

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/company/happymarketresearch 

Facebook: www.facebook.com/happymrxp 

Website: www.happymr.com 

This Episode is in Partnership with MrWeb:

Website: www.mrweb.com 

Twitter: www.twitter.com/mrwebnews 

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Hey, everybody, this is Jamin, host of the Happy Market Research Podcast. In conjunction with MrWeb, I’ve had the honor of interviewing three of the leading custom panel companies. This is one of those three episodes. If you’re not currently subscribed to MrWeb, I just can’t recommend another resource. He gives you a daily update on happenings, whether it’s HR, M&A, technology releases, companies going out of business, companies starting. I mean there is not a single point of truth that I found to be more consistent and reliable than MrWeb. So check them out. They’re great and I hope you enjoy this episode.   


According to the GRIT report, there has been an increase in the number of qualitative based tools. This is centric to user experience, customer experience, and market research. However, as with all things, the actual research operations remains to be done and that happens usually outside of those toolsets. HubUx is a solution for that. You plug your tools directly into it; you enter in who it is that you want to talk to when you want to talk to them and HubUx literally does the rest for you. If you already have an existing customer list, you can just upload it directly into the tool. If you want to leverage social recruiting, that’s integrated as well. It is the single source for all of your research operations needs HubUx. Check it out. Thanks. 


Hi, I’m Jamin. You are listening to the Happy Market Research Podcast. My guest today is David Garcia Pawley, director of European countries for CMI (Consumer and Market Insights) at Samsung.  Established in 1938, Samsung is the world’s largest information technology company, consumer electronics maker and chip manufacturer, measured by 2017 revenues. Prior to joining Samsung, David has held senior roles on both the agency and client side at leading firms including LG and GFK. David, thanks very much for joining me on the Happy Market Research Podcast today.


Hello. Thank you for having me here. 


It is an honor to have somebody like yourself. Of course, we love our brand guests. But before we jump into our conversation, I’d like to provide some context to our listeners. Maybe you could tell us a little bit about your parents and how they informed your current career. 


Well, from my name you can gather… It’s David Garcia Pawley. I’m half English, half Spanish. So I was brought up in Spain; that’s where my father’s from. I was born in England; my mother is English and I’m married to a Russian lady. So, actually, we’re very international at home and I think that’s pretty much a lot to do with my background. I’ve always had international schools, a bit traveling a lot around the world. And I think that’s a part of this curiosity, which has helped me to be very engaged with this industry, with this market research. I think that the curiosity is something that all researchers need to have to work is in this industry. 


What language does your family speak primarily at home? 


Well, mainly Spanish, but now I’ve moved over at the beginning of the year to take on this European role at Samsung. Now I live in the UK with my wife who just came over and we have a three-month baby. So I speak to him in Spanish, my wife in Russian, and whenever he goes into nursery school, English. So I think that’s the plan in terms of languages. 


Yes. That is going to be one adequately educated child in context of culture, for sure. It’s going to be exciting to see that child grow up. I tell you what, I think that having the international lens on at an early age is such a benefit to becoming well-rounded. Also, I think being humble because you realize that actually your culture isn’t necessarily the center of the universe. 


That’s right. 


Let’s shift gears. You’ve been in this space for quite a while. Tell me about the market research project that you are most proud of.


Well, after 23 years in market research and, as you mentioned, that’s in a different areas of work. I did start at Proctor & Gamble, which is a great school to be at. I’ve had both the client side as well as the agency side and both the multinational as well as small startup companies. So I think of two areas. I mean like a Proctor & Gamble, which is a learning place. It’s a wonderful to place to start on. So, you always remember your first occasion. So I was very happy doing our first ORS, which was how we called Off-the-Air Research Studies on evaluating advertising. This was back in Spain. So I think you tend to be proud of the first things you do as you become engaged in your first project. And so, I remember analyzing a piece of research on some advertising that we’re doing for Fairy Washing Up Liquid. That was a great thing, just being the first project. Actually, also from the agency side not long ago, I was involved in a project on launching Argentinian beef in Europe. So again, that’s a very different kind of project.  But we’ve spoken earlier about having an international project is something which is very appealing to me. So, again, it also leads to the pride behind those projects. Yeah. 


So is a point of pride centric to the international context of the research and really conquering the difficulties around that? Or was it centric to the outcome of the research or something else? 


Well, it varies. In the case of the P&G project, it would just be the first one.  It was advertising in the early 1990s, and there was the main investment was only on TV. And especially for Proctor & Gamble, we invest a lot on TV. Well, it’s a key piece of research being done. So it’s interesting to start seeing what consumers value. The work you do internally you think may be relevant to consumers and you don’t always hit the nail on the head. In the case of the Argentinian meat, it was interesting because it was a completely different category, interesting to relate to the product. It took the knowledge you acquire in relation to what is behind the meat that we eat. We probably don’t give that much thought where that cow comes from, how it’s reared, and how that impacts everything. It’s interesting how that industry works. So, and it’s something which is completely new and the fact of the impact that had in terms of the Argentinian economy. Out of the output meant I had to go to Buenos Aires to actually present to all the leading figures in agriculture in the country or the people who are leading the beef producers of the country. So it’s like a big consortium of different people on both the political and social level. That was a very interesting presentation. I have to give up the results. Sometimes you’re used to presenting to 10, 15 top managers.  Here I was presenting to over a hundred people in a hotel with all the people, as I say, from the political background, and it just made it a very interesting project. So I was quite happy to be there. 


I like how you’re weaving it into the impact, not just at a financial—actually not at all from a financial return perspective—but more on a social, socioeconomic or benefit to a specific region perspective. And I think that the more that we can make those connections with the work that we’re doing, then the more meaningful that work is for us and the easier it is for other people to be able to adopt the insights that come out of it.  


That’s right. I think that’s a key point. I think we see it in terms of evolution of market research and what is expected from us. I think the impact is key. I think we’re all facing difficult situations in all organizations, in all industries. We need to justify what we’re doing and the return on investment, which is a right approach. So even within our roles, we need to make sure that all we do is actionable and impactful. So beyond the love that we can have on the actual research pieces that we do because we enjoy doing it, there obviously needs to be a clear output to it and delivery to business, which helps enhance the image of customer marketing inside the market research department. 


So, it’s nice to have somebody that’s had a couple of decades inside of the space because you’ve seen the evolution that’s happened as we migrated from caddy and in mall intercept or paper-based surveys to a digital context to now, again, we’re seeing over the last few years the adoption of this term or maybe borrowing of this term agile research, taking it from the development or product space and applying it to consumer insights.  It has become, I think in a lot of ways almost trendy or buzzwordy. What does agile research mean to you and what do you see as the key differences? 


Now you said about the caddy and so on. Before starting in business when I was 17, I remember the first money I made.  So we’re talking about the eighties; we’re going back to the 1980s and I remember having to go to do face-to-face interviews at people’s homes and on a 45-minute questionnaire with pen and paper. And if these people were not willing to see you, there was a process you had to follow on who you should be interviewing if that person wasn’t available. There’s a whole methodology behind that. So it was interesting to see that. And now any company cannot give me results within a working week and then, you know, it’s not agile, fast enough. So I’ve tried I see things of yes, speed, adaptability. I think there are those traits that a lot of it as I think you’ve mentioned it. The digital environment means that everything is fast; everything is real-time. 

I didn’t know industries and again I think we will see that, as consumers, how things are moving. Market research is at the service of the organization. I mean marketing is evolving. So do we as an industry need to evolve in line with all that and be able to deliver insights in a more timely fashion. There’s the pros and the cons in that. There is an evolution: speed is becoming paramount together with cost effectiveness. I think they’re both linked together. The things that we would deliver, they said as fast as possible in a cost-effective manner. And sometimes that can be at the expense of quality or reliability. I don’t know. For us, we’ve been all these years in market research where we were so conscious about the sampling, the confidence level, the reliability of the data, the source of the data. I do get a feel that over these years that we have become, as an industry, a lot more lenient on this, a bit too relaxed on where the 80/20 rule seems to be a predominant like, “Well, I’m quite happy to sacrifice some quality or some reliability on this at the expense of having things and being able to take decisions a lot faster.” So I think top managers are aware of that; so are we. I think there are some occasions where that needs to be the way to move forward.


So, there’s a ton to unpack there. And just to level set because the majority of our audience probably doesn’t have more than two decades of research experience. But back in the day, (I sound so old) you would spend a ton of effort coming up with your sampling methodology. There were buyer decisions based on the quality of the sampling methodology, error rate and all that sort of thing. And then, the in-field aspect of the data analysis or the data project, I should say, was a big part of the end-deliverable. We called it a term and tally sheet, which helped identify where people were terming. The benefit from that is you’re able to size an audience. In other words, if you’re identifying that you’re having maybe it’s a 10% incidence rate when you’re in 12 different malls across whatever region that you’re targeting… if your incidence rate’s falling below that, then your term and tally sheet will tell you why and what assumptions that you made in your incidence tests that were frankly wrong. And to the point that you’re making, which is actually something that I don’t believe anyone’s brought up before, (and the audience will, of course, correct me if I’m wrong) but it’s a really important one. And that is that that amount of thoughtfulness created a lot of insights that were gleaned just during the fielding stages of the research that frankly now we’ve in a lot of ways lost access to.  


That’s right.  Yeah, I totally agree. I think that it’s part of the evolution. You let go of some things; you introduced some. I think there are some great things going on right now in the way we’re doing research and the impact we can have. And it’s amazing. Actually, I think the evolution of internet and into our industry, I think that’s a huge impact as most of the agencies are aware of that and have adapted into that. I think we have learned from, now it’s good to sit back and weigh some of these decisions that we’re making because I think there is obviously a space there for some reliable, detailed studies, some U&As where you invest the resources to get some clarity on what we’re doing. So, and I think it’s like most things in life — it has to do with the balance, getting the right balance on some things where you can experiment, come up with some basic, some fast areas of interest. And there are others which require and should have sufficient time and resources dedicated to them. So at the end of the day, obviously, when speed and cost is the only variables, then you, obviously, end up getting what you pay for. So I think from the client side now, we need to be conscious of that when we’re expecting from our partners, from our agencies to deliver in a cost-efficient and timely manner; however, that necessarily works both ways. So it’s a bit of a compromise there. 


I think that’s interesting. I don’t know if you’re familiar with the GRIT Report, produced by GreenBook’s Lenny Murphy. But in that he identifies industry trends; it’s a twice annual publication. One of the trends that he just continues to hit on is… It used to be the case “speed, quality, cost – pick two.” And we continue to see pressure really on all three. But I would completely align with what I’m hearing your point being, which is the reality is that you do have to make certain sacrifices and gives if you are really focused on quality or, sorry, price and time or just really pick the two. And we oftentimes don’t have the budgets to be able to support the large research necessary or maybe “necessary” isn’t the right word. That’s just the trade-offs that we make. And as we’re experienced, we can start understanding when it’s OK to cut and when it’s necessary not to. So we’ve been doing a series on community-panel technology companies and service companies. One of them is Verve, who I believe you’d done some business with. I was just curious as a user of these types of panel technology companies, what do you see as the role of a community panel for a brand? 


Well, I think some of the points we’ve just touched upon. I mean the right job, I think there’s the agility aspect.  Also, they’re so they’re faster, cost effective on an interview per interview base. And then from the service we’re getting from Verve, I think that excellent partners and a very important thing here is it has the capabilities. I think that works on both the client and the agency side. So in all this context and all this evolution that we’re seeing, the newcomers into the industry maybe missing some of these scientific approaches to research that maybe us people could be in a couple of decades in this probably have. On the other hand, we need to adapt to the new technologies that are developing. So I think it works both sides. The younger people may have all these digital views but are missing some of the expertise that some of us may have. 

On the other hand, we need to adapt to all the new technologies or the new digital-era tools available. So it’s getting that right balance. And I think in these community panels or in the case of Verve in particular, I’m quite happy in the level of expertise that they have in terms of research while they’re also balancing with the fact that they can be very effective and efficient in terms of being speedy with our demands and also being fair, having the assumption where speed is of paramount importance. We’re not the easiest partner to work for. As a client, we’re very demanding, I think it’s fair to say. And in this case, they have adapted themselves very well to our needs. So that’s something that I personally value very much. And again, this community panels have given us all this possibility of always being on. So it is a very quick way to react. We are aware of some of the changes that our competitors are doing, and we can immediately launch a study on a Monday and have some basic results on what’s happening in the marketplace by the end of the week. So we do something that our top management is demanding from us and which few companies can deliver. And Verve, through the community panel that we have with them, are able to do so.


Yeah, that’s, actually, such a key insight. It requires a long view in terms of an investment thesis, right? Because as opposed to it being a one-and-done or single use PO, you’ve got to know that or trust that, while you’re making an ongoing investment in the community, the payback is quite literally over time. And the benefit is that you’re shaving weeks off of those insights when you need to. What do you see as a user? Was there any surprises? Like, wow, I didn’t see that as either a benefit or potentially even a barrier issue with respect to having your own community?


Well, the community we have with Verve… Some of the panelists are our own consumers of our products. So that is quite well set up in terms of on how we use it. But one of the big advantages that we have is that we can be an international company. It’s easy that we can set these panels across countries. So it gives us a way to have an international view on international results and comparable across countries in a very fast and efficient manner. So the fact that we can have access to this at international level so that we can have a variety of projects, both tactical to more strategic ones, I think that’s important. And again, going back to this balance, we do use a lot this community panel, but we also do a lot of ad hoc research. So it’s basically knowing at which stage we need to be able to pull from one or the other, so each of them are offering some benefits and I think we need to look out for. 


So what are some of the bigger challenges that you face as an internal researcher in order to create, maintain the community panel? Was it centric to budget requests or maybe more operational considerations? 


Yeah, I think the budget is continuously our constraint in any organization these days. I think that’s pretty consistent wherever we’re working. I think in our case, we’re very fortunate in that Samsung invests a lot of money worldwide and in research. We’re very consumer-oriented and we give a lot of importance in terms of product development and communications. It’s very important for us. One of the key things I find for community panels, which I keep trying to improve, is the representativity of the panels and how these are made up. Obviously, as with everything in research, your data is only as good who you are interviewing. So we need to be very methodical and take a lot of care on what is the panel made out of, who is actually responding, any possible biases. I think that the reliability of the data ensure, that it’s there. And again, specifically for panels, I have mentioned that they are engaged.  Opposed to other research where it’s like a one-off. I mean the fact that this is a continuous panel where you have people there, you need to find the right amount of engagement. Don’t overwhelm them, but again keep them sufficiently engaged so that they will want to carry on being in those panels. So us offering relevant projects, but I can rely on our partner to make sure that they are offering the right incentives or if they are working for other clients with a given panel. But he does keep them engaged on a regular basis so we don’t lose them basically. 


Have you found that you’re spending time doing research on research, thinking about things like optimal incentives or frequency of engagement? 


Not that. What I do is I do regular checks on the panel structure. So in each case, Verve will provide me, I know exactly how many users I have, which is the talent which we have. We have our own unique panel for us and, depending on the project, we may also need to increase our sample in case we need it. And then, we may have to include other panels from outside our own one. And then in that, yes, I keep track on each of the European countries I’m responsible for: what is the size of the panel, what is the competition of that panel in terms of demographics, in terms of brand ownership to make sure that I’m fully aware on who we have and who is answering all our questions. So I don’t do research on research.   


Yeah. And Verve, it sounds like they’re providing that oversight to drive optimal outcomes. I guess one of the overarching questions for me is from a panelist perspective… So somebody as a respondent, someone who’s part of your panel, is there a motivator? Is it primarily centric to like money or points or does it feel like it’s more just overall engagement and opportunity to provide feedback? 


Well, I think it’s a bit of both. We do create panels in other organizations where I’ve been, where you try and get employees to give their own feedback. I think all of us are researchers at heart. In the same way as we ask our family members to give an opinion or I’m thinking of buying a new television, you may ask your friends and relatives. Everyone shares their opinions on things. I think even within each organization, we’re all experts in our products. So I’m sure we all have our opinions on the products we’re using. So there’s the possibility of doing that and getting engagement through the different networks that you have access to. So I think, yeah, I mean it’s a…


So, let’s say that you were sitting having a cocktail with a good friend, head of insights for whatever company. (Let’s say Apple’s iTunes.) And they were interested in starting their own community panel. What are three considerations you would tell them or three things that they should be thinking about as they embark on making that decision? 


Well, considering Apple is my main competitor, I don’t think I’d be sitting with him having a coffee. 


You know what? It’s funny you say that. I apologize about the bad taste on my part. 


Okay. Someone else in another industry. I mean… 


Not Apple!


The things I would think of for building a community, obviously, you need to give, as with every project, what is the objective? Why are you setting up a community panel? I think as with all pieces of research, you need to be very clear on the “why” and that should help you in deciding a sample. Who do you want to have in that community panel? Who’s going to help you best deliver the insight that you’re looking for for your business based on the people plus the raw material. What is it going to look like? 

Second, I think engagement. You do need to get your panelists engaged that keep the field interested in the project that you’re doing. In terms of rewards, yes, it can be money. Sometimes, the thought that you’re going to share the results with them could be an option depending on, obviously, the confidentiality or the project you’re running with them. People do like to share their opinion. Well, I think there needs to be a clear engagement done with a panel so they want to continue to be there because one of the key things about a panel, you need to look at it in the medium to long term. So creating a panel, you need to think of where do you see this panel in the mid-, long-term. I mean three, five years time. It’s not something that you can set up and close down. So that requires some thought or this is not just on a project basis. It’s like “What kind of use am I going to get out of it on an ongoing basis?” So again, that’s linked to the engagement you’re going to be able to get from your panelists. Having some quality checks as well:  Who’s going to be in? Who’s out? What kind of governance are you going to have for the way the things are going to work with the panelists in order to deliver the insights to the organization?


I like the last part. I like all of the points you made, but quality checks and governance is actually really interesting.  Do you see that as an evolution or do you expect that to be just like baked in on Day 1? 


I think quality is always an issue. I mean it’s a consideration, and it’s key for everything you do because, as we stated earlier on, I think that was a lot more ingrained in the research industry years ago. To insist, I think we’ve become very lenient. As we start seeing in the digital area, a lot of the big KPIs and methods are being used around the place, which as a researcher do not make much sense. Or you see some of the things that are being reported without having the sufficient methodology behind it to really understand what is going on. I think we’ve gone from one extreme to the other, and I think we need to start going back to really question some of the data that were sharing into the business. Where is it coming from? Is this something which is really happening in the world outside? Sampling errors. All these issues, I think we do need to have some kind of quality check on the data that we’re producing and the insights that we’re delivering as a consequence. So yes, I think you need to be clear about the governance. As soon as you start questioning the data, then you just question the whole methodology. I would start questioning the whole panel if that were the case. 


Yeah, for sure. And it is an interesting point that you’re making, and probably one of the more important things that we don’t think about ‘til it’s too late, which is trust is a slippery slope and once it’s broken and people start second guessing the data source, then you’ve got a material problem on your hands, especially from a vendor perspective. Then it also impacts our customers in terms of how they’re viewed inside of their companies. So, it’s just imperative that we pay… Quality checks and governance are kind of the… While it’s not sexy, I think it’s got to be one of the leading messages just to provide that overall level of comfort. I also wanted to just underscore this theme that I’ve been hearing among my brand guests, which is this validate a point of view or a theme based on outside data. So, like Microsoft is a great example of a company where you can’t just go in and present primary research. You’ve got to have that research backed by auxiliary sources, whether it’s third party or behavioral or whatever. 


Yeah, I think actually there’s been a history where we talk about qualitative and quantitative research, and I think there’s always been the discussions inside the brands. “Well, I went to these focus groups and there were two people who said whatever.” You need to put things into perspective. You need to validate this is quantitative and so on. I mean qualitative, when you think analysis, I mean the repetition of the point of what is being said is what validates the idea. So I saw that two people… It’s when you do half a dozen groups and you get the same overarching idea is present, you know there is something in there. That’s how I feel a lot of the Twitter and Facebook and all these social platforms. Although it’s a great way to express are like huge focus groups, I find it a bit harder to get metrics out of some of these tools or measuring of sentiment. As I look into the different European countries, everyone has their own language and the value of humor and sarcasm plays a different role in different countries. So if you could measure that and quantify that… So I think we do need to be aware of how we’re using those tools. And I do like to look whenever we’re doing a launch or a follow-up or something’s happening in the market, I love to read all the tweets and to read for like 20 minutes. That’s going to give me the overall idea of what is going on. I don’t need to know whether the sentiment is positive or negative at 17% or 37%. I will get the overall idea based on what I’m reading from consumers. So I think that is another thing to bear in mind in terms of the reliability of the data and the sources that we’re using. 


Yeah, social media is interesting. There’s been a lot of effort that was made over the last five years to create like these sentiment scores and etc., etc. But still it hasn’t been adopted at scale by researchers. You know, it definitely has found some purchase. I’m not saying it doesn’t have a role, but I don’t think it’s achieved what the original thesis was: ultimately, driving the sentiment for a specific brand as expressed on social media. The other thing that I want to unpack a little bit before we move on is this point about qualitative and quantitative. Quantitative, of course, allows us to extrapolate a point of view on an audience at scale, whereas qualitative allows us really to get to more of the uncovering the “why” or humanizing the results: that discoverability and connection with the data. Are you seeing tools come out right now or do you expect to see tools come out over the next three to five years that allow you to conduct qualitative-like research but at a scale that then allows you to extrapolate to a larger population?


Well, I think the first thing, I think that the biggest change we need to do from a brand’s point of view, we need to get out a lot more, a very basic thing. But I think the trend is research, but I think that should never be a substitute for common sense. And I think what I find in many organizations is that we’re all stuck inside offices and we don’t go to the point of sale enough. We don’t speak to consumers informally enough. I think we need to get out. Even self-moderating, I mean this is not against real research Institutes who do with professional moderators, but I think it’s interesting in several of organizations I’ve been to, I’ve even given trainings on teaching marketing departments on how to moderate. What I mean by moderate – how to ask a question, how to listen to consumers. And I think it’s good for clients to actually be able to sit around a table or go shop and go do shop-alongs. A lot of the ethnographic research… That’s been there for ages, but I think we need to do a lot more of that. Rather than just read things, it’s actually get out and talk to people, listen to people. It’s not so much inventing new things, but going in some cases back to basics to learn about those things. We’ve just mentioned also about social media. A lot of the time that is spent and a lot of the purchase decisions that are made online and through social media requires us to try and improve our measurement, our listening, how to drive business impact through these channels. So I think anything along those lines, we probably need a lot more evolution as where we are right now. I think it’s moving such a pace that it’s hard to catch on, but I think that is where most of the work I think needs to be done. 


Yeah. That’s so interesting. So, you’re the second guest I’ve had that has made this point. Estrella Lopez-Brea, who’s the head of insights for the cereal partnership between General Mills and Nestlé, had the exact same point and I can’t remember, I think it was on her podcast, but it might have been a separate conversation. But the framework is them as researchers and even like outside of the research function, they’re helping others connect with consumers and really with the intent of not just consumer insights but also just empathy with their constituents. I do think that this is a trend that we will see materialize. I can’t quantify yet, but I’m going to start incorporating it in more conversations and see how it materializes. So thanks very much for bringing that up. So, my last question, what is your personal motto?  


I haven’t really thought about that. I think there’s a balance. I like to think about work-life balance. I do take my professional career, obviously, with great importance, but now that, as I mentioned the beginning, I’ve got a three-month baby and you put things into perspective. I think it’s applicable to both work and the personal life, but I think it’s a matter of balance. If I were to think back in my life, I think one of the best decisions has been to spend my life traveling. I’ve been to over a hundred countries throughout my life. And I think that helps you to understand the people a little bit better. This is such a global environment we’re in even more so now that you have to work with the multinational companies.  It doesn’t matter where you’re based. I think you need to be islands and be able to listen to all the different points of view and try to improve on communication. So, in terms of motto, I would say, or an attribute, a value, a balanced person, I think, can go far. So yeah, I think that would be it – probably the area I would focus on.


My guest today has been David Garcia Pawley, director of European countries, CMI. That is Consumer and Market Insights at Samsung. Thank you, David, for being on the Happy Market Research Podcast today.


Thank you, Jamin. It’s been a pleasure. Thank you very much. 


Everyone else, thank you so much for your time. I truly appreciate it. If you found value, please take a moment. It takes about 60 seconds: screen capture, post on Twitter or LinkedIn. If you tag a Happy Market Research or myself, we will be give you a special gift. Ah, how’s that? And I actually have 300 stickers. So if you do a tag me, I will send you a sticker. I’ve never done that before either. I have a great rest of your day.


According to the GRIT report, there has been an increase in the number of qualitative based tools. This is centric to user experience, customer experience, and market research. However, as with all things, the actual research operations remains to be done and that happens usually outside of those toolsets. HubUx is a solution for that. You plug your tools directly into it; you enter in who it is that you want to talk to when you want to talk to them and HubUx literally does the rest for you. If you already have an existing customer list, you can just upload it directly into the tool. If you want to leverage social recruiting, that’s integrated as well. It is the single source for all of your research operations needs HubUx. Check it out. Thanks. 

MrWeb Podcast Series

MrWeb Series – Paul Lawson of Verve on Applying a Consultative Lens for Bigger Impact and Better Storytelling

My guest today is Paul Lawson, Executive Director at Verve. Based in London, Verve is a market research technology company offering solutions for agile insights and custom panels. Prior to joining Verve, Paul was a Research Director at Synovate. 

Find Paul Online:

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/paullawson1/?originalSubdomain=uk 

Website: www.addverve.com 

Find Jamin Online:

Email: jamin@happymr.com 

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/jaminbrazil

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Hi, I’m Jamin Brazil. You’re listening to the Happy Market Research Podcast. My guest today is Paul Lawson, Executive Director at Verve.  Did I say it right? 


You did yeah, Verve. We often get asked that question, but it is Verve, absolutely.


Perfect. Based in London, Verb is a market research technology company offering solutions for agile insights and custom panels. Prior to joining Verve, Paul was a research director at Synovate. Paul, thanks very much for being on the Happy Market Research Podcast today. 


It’s a pleasure. I’m happy to be here. 


We’d like to start with some context for our audience. Tell us a little bit about your parents and how they have informed your career. 


Yeah, sure. So, we’re based in London, grew up in England. So that’s the first bit of context. It was interesting thinking about this actually, and I had a chat to my parents about it last night, funnily enough. My mom had a whole bunch of different jobs, mostly I guess what you’d describe civil-service type stuff. So she worked for HM revenue and customs in the taxes department over here. So that’s the kind of money kind, not the wield kind. And she also worked for the National Health Service.  So she had a job in a hospital in an eye department. And when I was thinking about how it influenced me, I thought it was interesting because the jobs that she did often meant she was interacting with people who were probably quite stressed and potentially were having kind of times where they were quite vulnerable. And she actually got me a job at the hospital that she worked in one summer. And I always remember noticing firsthand how well she was able to empathize with people who were going through often tricky situations but also at the same time move them through the process because ultimately moving them through the process in the system was part of what she was there to do. And I always thought that it was really interesting how she managed to balance those two things. And I think the big one of those, obviously, for me is about empathy. My role in the business I work in means that I have a lot of conversations, with people that I’ve never met before. And in all of those conversations, it’s obviously, really important that you’re able to empathize with people and that you can connect with them as human beings and understand things from their point of view. And, ultimately, I suppose that helps on both a personal level, but it also helps on a business level because if I can understand them and their point of view. Then I’m more likely to be able to have a proper conversation about how we as an organization might be able to help them.

So I think that kind of empathy that she was able to display in her role was definitely something that I’ve brought forward into mine. My dad’s career was very different actually. So, my dad’s a carpenter by trade. One of my colleagues when I was talking about it the other day said, “Wow, he can make things with wood,” which I thought was a great thing to say. It’s something that has completely passed me by. He’s a brilliant carpenter, but I’m not competent in that sort of area at all. He started out in a local carpentry firm in Birmingham basically in the Midlands in England. And then he got a carpentry job with the local authority, and the local authority was actually in Coventry where I was born. And so, after a while he did the carpentry work and then after a while he moved through the local authority, through a whole bunch of different roles and got promoted basically. And he ended up working as a contracts manager and he was on the housing side of things. So effectively the local council has a whole bunch of housing stocks that they place people in. And his job was to manage the contracts with suppliers who would come in and do work on those houses and maintain them and make sure that they were up to scratch and were able to house people in the way that the council needed to. And one of the things, and not recently, but I’ve had a lot of conversations with my dad about work and one of the things that I’ve always noticed when he talks about it is how much for a large chunk of time he was there. He really, really enjoyed it. I think a lot of the people that he worked with, he was genuine friends with and still knows a bunch of them to this day, but also those kind of friendship groups extended out to their broader families as well. 

And they worked hard, but they really enjoyed each other’s company. And he has loads of stories about them, genuinely having good, fun times at work. And I think probably as he got promoted, he might’ve lost a bit of that along the way because it’s a bit of a cliché but that’s what people do. But I do think, again, one of the things that that has kind of stayed with me about that is you spend a lot of time at work and you may as well do your very best to enjoy the time that you’re there. You know? And I think if you can work with a bunch of people who have a sort of shared goal and everybody’s working in the same direction to that shared goal, which luckily enough I have a Verve, then then all of the better. But I do think that you can kind of make it a choice to be positive and enjoy your time at work because, hey, you’re going to be there anyway, so why not try and get the most out of it? 


I really appreciate you going into this detail about your folks. There’s a saying here in the States with carpenters (I don’t know if it’s limited to the States) but it’s “Measure twice cut once.”  And it’s this sort of aptitude of attention to detail on the front end will save you a bunch of work on the backend, which is, of course, a big part of the narrative of consumer insights and market research specifically as we think about informing the business decisions that enable really a lock revenues for our customers. And the other thing that kind of struck me listening to you talk about your mom is this combination of empathy and movement is also centric to insight professionals because we can’t just dwell and exist in this single plane of understanding the customer. We have to then process and apply that to action for our customers. So it’s really interesting to me you sitting in the role that you are in your storied career in consumer insights with of this broader application of or maybe characteristics that you’ve drawn from your parents. 


It’s interesting, isn’t it, when someone else plays it back to you actually what you hear and I think you’re absolutely right. I think, funny enough, one of the things that probably my dad gets frustrated with me about when I try and do DIY with him is my lack of attention to detail because I don’t enjoy it. I try and rush to the end. And he says, “You got to slow down.” But you’re absolutely right in the context, and this is something we talk a huge amount about in our world is:  so we talk about agile insight a lot and kind of working in smarter ways. One of the primary things about that is slow down to speed up. So, basically, agile people often think fast. It doesn’t mean fast right at the beginning. It means that you’re spending a lot of time at the beginning working out what the whole process is. What that means is when you get to it and you repeat it, you can do it better and better and better because you’ve put all of the hard yards in up front. So yeah, absolutely right. We talk about that a lot. And, equally, it’s interesting when you frame it that way ‘cause, equally, what we’re talking about with empathy and movement…  One of the kind of premises of our business is the idea of actually engaging the consumer in the process. So we want people to enjoy the process of taking part in research. We don’t want them to do it because they’re paid to do it or because they get points or anything like that. We want them to value participation. And so, actually, empathizing with them and understanding what their experience is going to be like and, therefore, trying to create a better one for them—that’s really important. But, also, you can’t spend your whole time on that because, as you rightly say, the kind of purpose of it is to create insight that can help clients make better decisions. So you’re absolutely right. Empathy and movement is a really key thing. I might’ve found a new way of characterizing what we do.   


Yeah, it’s funny. I’ve had a lot of conversations, most of which have been documented on Happy Market Research Podcast, and I’ve actually never heard it said exactly like as we’re riffing on it right now, which is you do have to go slow in context of agile. It’s almost like we’ve injected some level of stress on the time frames, which are requiring a feeling like we need to cut down on. And in some ways we do—on the silly work—but cut down on the prep side of it. But we actually can save a lot of steps if we’re smarter there. So anyway, I’m going to shift gears a little bit ‘cause we have a lot of things to talk about. But the last thing I just had to pull out was the…  In preparation for the show, one of the things that I do is I check out Glassdoor, and Verve has probably one of the most vibrant, I would say, portrayal of culture that I’ve seen on the show. 

And I’ve had (I can’t even tell you like the size of companies), like big companies and small companies too. And you guys really are shining. It’s interesting, as I was reading some of the open job descriptions and looking at the pictures, I literally thought to myself, “Gosh, if I was 10 years younger, I’d want to work at that spot.” It comes across very attractive and like a fun place. You know? So, I know this is probably sounding a little bit propaganda-ish, but when you think about the company culture, how would you characterize it at Verve? 


Do you know what? It’s interesting. There’s a couple of words. So we absolutely are entrepreneurial, and I’m not sure that people would sort of immediately relay entrepreneurial to something that was fun and engaging for the people who were there all the time. I think entrepreneurial can sometimes have a kind of slightly negative connotation, but we’re absolutely entrepreneurial. But our boss, Andrew, the founder of our company—and he’s still in the business running it today—absolutely believes in the idea that we want to build and grow a great business, but we want to try and have fun along the way. One of the things, to be honest, we say is that we’re called Verve for a reason. We want to get out of bed and we want to go to work and we want to enjoy doing stuff when we’re there. We want people to feel open to challenge processes, people to ask, “Why do we do it that way? And are there different ways of doing things?” So we want it to be a place where people can get on and grow and learn and do new things, but at the same time be part of a commercially successful growing business. And it’s kind of those two things. And I think if we don’t ever profess to… We don’t want it to be comfortable all the time because actually entrepreneurial businesses shouldn’t always be comfortable because you should be moving forward and doing new things. But we DO want people to be inspired and enjoy the process and have a good time while they’re there.


Yeah. Verve, of course, is vigor, enthusiasm, etc. Right. Yeah. Okay. Good. So let’s shift gears a little bit. Talk to me about Verve. How are you guys fitting
into the overall market research ecosystem? 


As I mentioned in the upfront a little bit. So we’re agile insight and community panel providers. So we deliver our research, our insights in two broad ways. So we run long-term community panels and through those we’re delivering multifunctional qual and quant and data-integrated research programs. And then we also deliver short-term projects or programs via our pop-up communities and panels. So those are the two main mechanisms for how we do what we do. In terms of what Verve is about and how we fit in, we use a range of different technologies and approaches to help us develop what we think is better insight basically. So we integrate a lot of behavioral and transactional data into the research process. So the presence of data and the emergence of all of this data that exists to help clients make decisions nowadays, I think, in some places is seen as a risk to market research. But we absolutely see it as an opportunity. So we really love data, and we integrate a lot of it into the research process. Like I say, we also really like making sure that the people who take part in the research, the consumers, take part because they enjoy it, not just because they’re getting paid to. It’s really a key part of our proposition, which is about engaging the consumers who take part in the research as well as engaging the clients and the stakeholders who were working for. Another key part is getting closer to the experiences that we’re trying to understand. So technology nowadays enables you to do a really good job of actually understanding why people are making certain decisions or how they feel about certain experiences in the moment. And that’s a big part of what we do. And we also give consumers lots and lots of different ways of sharing their feedback. So we use video; we use voice, text, links to other content, group discussions—lots of different ways of getting people to share their stuff or share feedback about the experiences that they’re having. So I guess that’s a part of the functioning of what we do. But what’s really, really important about all of this is that the technology, I think, only gets you so far. So where the real alchemy and magic happens is that we’ve got a really large team of experienced, knowledgeable researchers and broader community experts, who know how to create the right tasks, moderate them in the right way, create the right questionnaires, analyze the data, do all of that sort of stuff. That means at the end of it all our clients get information, insights and outputs that help them make the decisions that they make. So very much at the center of technology and people because it’s the people who make the technology powerful, I think. So that’s I guess what we’re doing. Ultimately, in terms of where we fit into the ecosystem more broadly, the great thing about the approach and the reason for saying all of that stuff is that, ultimately, we’re not really limited to one particular area or another. So we were in communities that are all about innovation and product and service development. We run communities that are all about customer experience and journeys and user experience. We run communities that are all about brand and communications and understanding how to make that stuff better. And we run lots and lots of communities, short- and long-term, that are about all of those things and more. So the real beauty of the approach, I guess, is the use cases for it are many and varied. And I think really in terms of communities nowadays, I think more and more clients all the time are seeing them as a really core tool, an asset in their insight armory and the reason to have it there is really dependent on what the needs and wants of the particular client is on any given day or period. 


Yeah, the asset framework, I think, is really, really interesting and accurate. So much research has done on an ad hoc basis. If you think about building out that respondent record over time, then you have an opportunity to get to know somebody in a much deeper way. And then, of course, incorporating that behavioral transactional data adds yet another layer. I’ve actually been really surprised that there hasn’t been a product that has entered the space that has an ad hoc survey and then tethered to that as an add-on, you can get some chunk of relevant behavioral or existing self-reported or whatever offering. 


Yeah, and actually not necessarily as a product, but, absolutely, that’s something that we do. So even with an ad hoc service, even in a scenario where we’re not running an ongoing community panel and all that sort of stuff, the technology exists to enable you from within a survey to actually get people via redirects to, as long as they kind of give you all the appropriate permissions and stuff, to then share with you behavioral data from a previous set period of time, which is incredibly powerful because obviously there’s this kind of perennial question in terms of research about what the kind of remembered versus the actual experience is and post-rationalized responses and all that sort of stuff. I think one of the things about the future of research is actually about really integrating and bringing in those sorts of data points and then just changing a little bit what the makeup of research project is. So in your scenario, which we do by the way, you basically take a survey as part of the survey. You actually grab some behavioral data and then you can use that as part of the analysis or what it might also be is a trigger for future activities with the same people because you’re then starting to interrogate, “Well, how do we make sure they have the same behavior next time? Or how do we try and influence them to have a different behavior?” – those sorts of things. 


Yeah, it is really interesting when you start pulling back. So are there concerns around like at a privacy level… Are you seeing that… And there’s been a lot, of course, of webinars and education that are happening in the public and private sectors, as it relates with individual tracking. Are you seeing that negatively impact your ability to be able to garner this behavioral or otherwise outside data? 


Not really. I mean, if you take a scenario where we run long-term community panels and what we often do is we link up with data in those scenarios. Now we have a double opt-in process with… So, obviously, in Europe we’re fully GDPR-compliant. And we’ve worked with big organizations; we work with big banks. We have to be all over this stuff. But, actually, the number of requests that we get from people to delete information and that sort of stuff is incredibly small, basically. And I think the key thing about it from our perspective as an agency, and I mean more broadly as an industry, is that I think we all just need to be very clear on what the purpose of collecting and asking people for that information is and, to the point I was making earlier, in a way, making them understand what value they get out of this time for participation. And I think if you can create that sort of value exchange. And there’s another reason why you need to start thinking more broadly than money. If research continues to just exist on the basis that people would do stuff for us because we’ll pay for them, then I think you’re in trouble. If you get people to kind of see the value in participation and understand why a brand is trying to understand and explore your behavior in the data and then understand why you made the decisions you made, then, I think, for the most part, people are up for that. People understand their role as consumers nowadays and they understand that brands want to get close to them and understand them so they can provide better products and services. 


Yeah, I mean, this is such an important point. At Decipher, I analyzed… So, we used to send tremendous amount of customer supplied lists, emails, soliciting people, customers, for payback. And I analyzed over 215 million invitations that we sent out in the subject lines. And what I found was that subject lines that connected sharing of information and community, actually, had oversized open rates versus those that were driven by a monetary return, whether it was sweepstakes or guaranteed. And so my takeaway there is, as you think about what are the true motivators, these intrinsic “I want to see the world be better and I, actually, want to learn stuff” can have a much bigger impact to driving your overall participation rate and engagement.


Absolutely. And you know what. It’s one of the founding principles of our business. Basically, when Andrew founded our business 11, 12 years ago, whatever it was, one of the founding principles was we want to do research with people who participate because they want to and see value in the process. And we believe through that we’ll get better information from them and we’ll get better response rates and we’ll pay less incentives. But in a way, the first one is a lot more important than the second two. 


All right. So, thinking about motivators, let’s talk a little bit about… I’ve been interviewing a lot of people relative to communities. What are you seeing in the marketplace right now for brands to, actually, their motivators to want to invest in building communities? And then, as a separate point, what do you seeing as the bigger barriers for those brands adopting communities? 


Yeah, I think it’s interesting when you think about shorter-term versus longer-term communities and there are lots of benefits in motivation that are similar for both, but that some that are different as well. One that’s kind of similar for both is certainly the ability to do great quality, in-depth work in a more scalable way. So we were in global pop-up communities that mean you can do international qualitative research in a centralized way. And, ultimately, doing it in a centralized way means less cost. That’s a good thing. Now as long as our clients understand and we make sure in what we deliver that there isn’t a compromise on the quality of what you were doing, then that’s a massive thing. And, actually, the technology that’s available nowadays enables us to do really, really good work, work that genuinely explores motivations and behaviors in an in-depth way. But we can do it internationally and in an internationally scalable way as well. I think that’s a huge part of it. Organizations whose businesses go across geographies and who want to be able to deliver research kind of internationally in a centralized way, but ultimately need to reach audiences who are across the globe – l think that’s a really big thing. I think the data point is an interesting one as well. Not for everyone, but certainly you think about organizations who have a lot of data… I think a motivation for building a community panel can be that actually a community panel enables you to integrate multiple sources of data in one place and kind of make the result of it greater than the sum of its parts. 

So at a simple level, you can put it in the transactional and the behavioral data; you can gather profiling data when people join a community. And then, every time they give you some feedback, every time they respond to an activity—all of that information kind of gets put into the database as well. Now, when you’re then building out projects, you’ve got loads more information with which to understand what is happening and then what you can start to do is just use your research to understand why and what you should be doing about it. So I think maybe a need to try and integrate more data as part of the research process is definitely a motivation for having communities and community panels, certainly the longer form variety. I think there’s one thing that you can’t avoid, which is that they do enable you to respond more quickly. And the only reason I say you can’t avoid it is because, ultimately, we’re very keen not to just make agile and fast the same thing because they absolutely are not. “Agile” is the ability to respond in a kind of iterative way, the ability to be nimble and flexible and to get really good information but via a process that’s lean. “Fast” is just fast. But, ultimately, we can still, if the processes are there and we’ve set it up in the right way, we can deliver responses in hours. We can make hours this sort of high watermark; we can make days the standard product. So the ability to get out there and ask questions in a more nimble and more agile and quicker ways is definitely a motivation. I think as well there is increasingly a desire for people to be able to work in a slightly different way. 

So the great thing about communities is that they can kind of support a more iterative and collaborative working style. So moving away a little bit from the old kind of bookended approach of brief, proposal, fieldwork, analysis, report and moving to something that’s a bit more: Let’s get a larger group of stakeholders; let’s agree on a set of outcomes that we require; let’s run some activities; then let’s pause; and let’s understand what we’ve heard; let’s actually understand whether that feedback changes what we want to ask next then; and then let’s adapt it and change it a little bit; and then let’s run a few more activities. And I think that sort of working style is kind of more in line with this agile transformations and stuff that a lot of businesses are going through nowadays. 

So I think the ability to work more in that iterative, collaborative way is a motivator. And I think the big one that sits across all of this is the ability to be able to service multiple different objectives under one roof. So the ability to be able to do quant research, qual research, the ability to be able to link the two things together and the ability to be able to service innovation, product and service development, brand comms, customer experience, journey mapping, UX, whatever else it is, all of the things that I described earlier — the ability to be able to service all of that in one place with a whole bunch of different kind of ways of doing that work is absolutely a huge motivator. 


So, okay, that’s really interesting. What I didn’t hear you say is cost and so it sounds like… Because for me, ad hoc research is expensive. It costs money to get people to take surveys. So why not assign a certain proportion of my spend to this more renewable resource, which is the community. Do you see a ROI motivator or is it predominantly (and I’m not suggesting that it’s not entirely worth it, by the way) but like is it just centric to the added value that you get from a time and a quality perspective?


Do you know what. It’s interesting isn’t it? You’re absolutely right and it absolutely is a motivator. When I made the point at the end about the ability to do all sorts of different kinds of work under one roof with lots of different kinds of approaches, the natural thing that goes with that is actually in to be able to do all of that for less money. And yet, absolutely right, ultimately, doing ad hoc research is expensive and actually the idea of clients going and paying to access their own customers via our access panels is kind of oddly expensive. And so. yeah, you’re absolutely right. ROI on your research program is a big, big deal. And, actually, I think, particularly in the kind of uncertainly… There’s obviously a lot of uncertainty in the UK and Europe and stuff at the moment in these slightly straitened times. I think the ability to get more bang for your buck in terms of your kind of research budget is a huge thing, absolutely. I guess it’s interesting from my perspective; I left that off the bottom. I think if you’d asked me the question ten years ago, I think probably the first thing I would have said to you is cost. I suppose the thing about it is nowadays there is a huge number of benefits that come with having these communities and missing off cost isn’t the right thing to do. I guess the point is that it’s not just about cost anymore.


One of the themes that I’ve seen materialize over the last two years is this rise in insights enablement across the organization. So, the way I frame it is that it used to be the case that market research was where people would turn to for consumer insights. But now technology has really democratized access to the consumer. How does technology influence the work that you guys are doing? 


I mean, absolutely and in a huge way. I suppose the one preface I would make to what I’m about to say is, as I said earlier, I think that it’s always important to remember that the technology alone doesn’t… We don’t think the technology alone gets you there basically. So we are a kind of research services business who use a lot of great technology, but, that said, the technology is a massive enabler of what we’re able to do. So if you think about a lot of the themes that I’ve kind of discussed with you today, the ability to actually pull… If you take a long-term community, the technology enables you to take a single person or our technology enables you to take a single person and basically collect all of these multiple data points around that person. And then you can target individual activities based on any one single data point or any combination of those data points. Actually, the kind of potential of that is pretty profound. And the collection of all of that data has huge potential as well. So we’re working on use cases where say we work for a retailer and we’ve got community panels that got really large numbers of people on them and if we do pieces of work where we ask people how likely they are to buy a certain kind of product, what we can then do over time is actually go back and check how many of those people actually bought it. And then you can do really interesting things. So you can go back to groups of people. And because you’ve got all the permissions in place, you can go back to groups of people and ask a certain group of people, “Well, you said you were going to buy it, but why didn’t you? So, was it because you didn’t know it was available? Was it because you couldn’t find it in your store? Was it because actually when you got there you didn’t think it was the right thing for you?” So you can do really interesting things with that data. Even over time you can start to think about working out what is the correlation between what people are saying they’re doing in research and what they’re then doing in real life. Obviously, a thing for the future because you need big data sets in order to achieve that. But, actually, starting to bridge that gap between what people say they’re going to do and what they actually do—that’s a pretty big deal in market research, I think. So the ability to collect and use all of this data is a huge thing that the technology enables us to do.

Quite simply, and I guess this harks back to a point I think we were talking about before: it does mean that you can deliver more for your money – the ability to do international qual, basically. Everybody knows about international qual and everybody knows about the revolutionary impact of panels 15, 20 years ago and online panels and the impact that had. But, actually, we’re certainly seeing that with qualitative research as well. We do fantastic, culturally relevant, in-depth qualitative research in China and Russia and all over the world from our offices here in London or our offices in Chicago. Ultimately, doing that in a centralized way means you spend less money on it. I think also the big thing that the technology does is it enables us to get much closer to the consumers that we’re trying to understand. Mobile phones have been so revolutionary for the work that we do because effectively they are carrying around with them a way of us interacting with them everywhere they go. This has so many advantages: the ability to actually get them to give feedback much closer to those experiences that they’re having, which means we’re able to get past some of this post-rationalized stuff, but also the ability for them to use that technology to share their experiences there and their feedback in really interesting ways and their ability to just record a video or share a picture or link to some content that somebody else shared or you kind of share a voice message or just upload something in text. All of these different means that we can give people to explain their attitudes and their behaviors and their experiences, that’s what the technology does for us. And, ultimately, the really interesting thing is actually then the platform that gives us as an agency and the content it gives us to try and create better insight communication. So we think insight communication is a big, big deal. And, actually, a lot of that is about using all of the content that consumers share virally via great technology in better ways to create insight communications that that are more emotionally engaging for stakeholders. 


The framework of agile—and we started here in context of going slow to go fast—has been borrowed from the tech sector and product sector, and I actually think it’s exactly how we need to be framing our… Regardless of what we’re doing, which is we need to be close to the point of decision as insight professionals so that it addresses a time and a space and an overall value to the company, to the organization. When you think about the actual ROI on research, how do you think that market research can do a better job of ensuring that the insights are, in fact, used in the organization?


Yeah, it feels like a perennial question, doesn’t it as well? And I think it’s a really interesting one. And every time you go to a conference and that sort of stuff, people are always having these debates around it. And this question around how can market research do a better job of getting a seat at the table, that’s one of the things I hear quite a lot. And I think from our perspective it’s about a couple of things. One of the things that I hear quite a lot is this idea that market research needs people who can act as consultants; so they’re not just deliverers as of data and deliverers of information. And I completely agree with that. We have to be able to act as consultants to businesses. But I do believe that there are plenty of people in market research… I think market research is full of people who can act as consultants or there’s certainly a lot of them anyway. And we have those types of people within our business. I think that the challenge there is how do you get there. It’s fine saying we need people who can act as consultants but the fact that they can doesn’t mean that they do. And I think that’s all about having the platform. And I think from our perspective, it all comes down to partnership, basically. So the only way that you’re going to get a platform when you’re genuinely going to be able to act as a consultant is if you are trusted by clients and trusted by their stake holders. And so when you talk to people they listen and then what that means is that the information you are sharing with them is more directly impacting the decisions that they make and, therefore, more directly linking into ROI and all those types of things. 

And, actually, I think certainly long-term community panels… Our experience certainly of it is that the community panel relationship can give us that platform. The reality of running community panels for us is that we sit in our clients’ offices; we hear them talk; we get to know their problems like the ones that they put in the briefs, but also the ones that they don’t, which are really, really important. And the really, really critical thing is that we talk to their customers all the time. And so when you’ve got that combination, you know when you’re there and you’re working with them and you understand them as a business, but you get to a point where you are the person who understands their customer and their consumer, then that’s a real partnership. And I think at that point and our experience is that at that point, you start to have that seat at the table and, when you talk, you get listened to. I think the other big thing that as an industry and that we can do and certainly what we are focusing on a lot is how we communicate the insights that we generate. So I’m a huge believer that there is a lot of really fantastic research that gets done, an insight that gets created that potentially doesn’t have the impact and value that it should do because of the way that it’s communicated. What we do is focus on the communication much more as part of the process. And again, to the point we were making earlier about slow down to speed up, it’s actually about starting at the beginning and saying, “Well, I need to understand the stakeholders in your organization. I need to understand who we are trying to influence. I need to understand what sort of information and content and experiences they’re most likely to respond to.” 
Some people want data; some people need to be able to more emotionally engage with the consumers. There’s lots of different kinds of ways that people can be influenced. And so, we do a lot of work up front on that and on understanding those stakeholders. And then, when we create these research projects and we generate all of this great content and information, what we’re then able to do is take all of that stuff through and build more emotionally engaging outputs. And I think if we can emotionally engage stakeholders, if we can get them to understand that this isn’t us, as a research organization, standing there telling you to do something. This is us, as your partner, and giving you the viewpoint of your customer and showing you in an emotional way why it has an impact on the experience they have. I think we are more likely to influence the decisions that they make. 


Yeah, I totally agree with that. I think the other thing that really can be powerful when you’re thinking, again, in context of a community, is you, as a researcher, get to know that group of people in a way that makes the storytelling less transactional and more community-oriented, which, again, we know that the better story, then the better the opportunity or the improved opportunity the organization has to adopt those insights. I call it the water cooler effect. It’s not about how well I tell the story; it’s what story is told after I tell the story. Right?


Well, absolutely. Yeah, and we like to think a bit of a sort of more immersive approach to the way that you communicate insight, and it’s applying that to all of the insight communication that you do. That there’s a client that I have who… It’s her phrase. I’m not going to tell you who she is, but it’s her phrase. I’m not going to pretend it’s mine, but she had a great phrase. She always said that basically insight tells you what to do; immersion gives people the emotional context and the emotional reason to do something about it. And I love that because it’s basically creating those stories and creating that emotional connection, which means when they’re at the water cooler and when they’re talking to other people, they understand and share why it’s really important that you do something about it. 


Yeah, that’s great. OK, well, we have, this has been a fascinating episode and I’m going to have to move into our last question even though I’ve got so many more for you. What is your motto?


So yeah, I’ve thought a little a bit about this. And, actually, do you know what. When it comes down to it, I actually think it’s something that’s really simple and it’s influenced by the stuff that we talked about upfront in terms of what my parents do and it’s influenced in terms of the role I do at work and my whole career. I think it’s really, really simple. If you’re going to do something, commit to it fully and show people that you care about it. Market research is an incredibly crowded marketplace, and we have lots of conversations and we go through lots of pitch processes for programs and projects and all that sort of stuff. And there’s loads and loads of reasons why we can and can’t win stuff. In most of those things, it’s hard to always be in control of. You have an idea; you try and communicate that idea; and there are going to be certain reasons why that does or doesn’t become the one that wins. However, I think the one thing that you can always be in control of is how passionately you respond to people and how committed you show that you are to trying to create a relationship with them and wanting to work with them. And I think that’s the thing that you can always be in control of. And I think that is also something that you can pretty easily apply to your sort of life outside of work as well. You know if you’re going to do something, connect to it and show you care about it or don’t do it at all. 


My guest today has been Paul Lawson, Executive Director at Verve. Thank you, Paul, very much for joining me on the Happy Market Research Podcast today. 


Pleasure to be here. Thank you. 


Everyone else, if you found value in this episode, please take the time to screen capture, share it on social media. It would mean the world to me. As always, your five-star reviews help us bubble to the top for other insight professionals to be able to find this content. We’ve got over 50,000 listeners and growing. Really appreciate the ongoing support. Have a great rest of your day.

According to the GRIT report, there has been an increase in the number of qualitative-based tools. This is centric to user experience, customer experience, and market research. However, as with all things, the actual research operations remains to be done and that happens usually outside of those toolsets. HubUx is a solution for that. You plug your tools directly into it; you enter in who it is that you want to talk to, when you want to talk to them, and HubUx literally does the rest for you. If you already have an existing customer list, you can just upload it directly into the tool. If you want to leverage social recruiting, that’s integrated as well. It is the single source for all of your research operations needs. HubUx, check it out. Thanks. 

MrWeb Podcast Series

MrWeb Series – Stephen Cribbett of Further on How Insights Embedded in Full Market Context Ensures Success

My guest today is Stephen Cribbett, Founder and CEO of Further. Established in 2007, Further is a team of consultants, strategists, researchers and technology experts that support organizations in becoming more people-centric, empathic and instinctive. Prior to starting Further, Stephen was a managing partner of Landini Associates along with an expensive consulting experience. 

Find Stephen Online:

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/scribbett 

Website: www.go-further.co 

Find Jamin Online:

Email: jamin@happymr.com 

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/jaminbrazil

Twitter: www.twitter.com/jaminbrazil 

Find Us Online: 

Twitter: www.twitter.com/happymrxp 

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/company/happymarketresearch 

Facebook: www.facebook.com/happymrxp 

Website: www.happymr.com 

This Episode is in Partnership with MrWeb:

Website: www.mrweb.com 

Twitter: www.twitter.com/mrwebnews 

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This episode is brought to you by HubUx. HubUx reduces project management costs by 90%. Think of HubUx as your personal AI project manager, taking care of all your recruitment and interview coordination needs in the background. The platform connects you with the right providers and sample based on your research and project needs. For more information, please visit HubUx.com.


Hey, everybody, this is Jamin, host of the Happy Market Research Podcast. In conjunction with MrWeb, I’ve had the honor of interviewing three of the leading custom panel companies. This is one of those three episodes. If you’re not currently subscribed to MrWeb, I just can’t recommend another resource. He gives you a daily update on happenings, whether it’s HR, M&A, technology releases, companies going out of business, companies starting. I mean there is not a single point of truth that I found to be more consistent and reliable than MrWeb. So check them out. They’re great and I hope you enjoy this episode.   


According to the GRIT report, there has been an increase in the number of qualitative-based tools. This is centric to user experience, customer experience, and market research. However, as with all things, the actual research operations remains to be done and that happens usually outside of those toolsets. HubUx is a solution for that. You plug your tools directly into it; you enter in who it is that you want to talk to, when you want to talk to them, and HubUx literally does the rest for you. If you already have an existing customer list, you can just upload it directly into the tool. If you want to leverage social recruiting, that’s integrated as well. It is the single source for all of your research operations needs HubUx. Check it out. Thanks. 


Hi, I’m Jamin, and you’re listening to the Happy Market Research Podcast. My guest today is Stephen Cribbett, founder and CEO of Further.  Established in 2007, Further is a team of consultants, strategists, researchers, and technology experts that support organizations in becoming more people-centric, empathetic, and instinctive organizations. Prior to starting Further, Steven was a Managing Partner of Landini Associates and along with an extensive consulting set of experiences. Steven, thank you very much for joining me on the Happy Market Research Podcast.


Pleasure to be here. Jamie. Good morning to you.


Yeah, well, hey, thanks very much. And thanks for being patient with my poor reading skills at this hour.  


I’ll let you have that.


So let’s start out setting some context so the audience has an opportunity to get to know you. Tell us a little bit about your parents and how they informed your career


My parents, I guess the way that they informed my career was actually kind of helping me choose what I didn’t want to do.  So most of my family are involved in the automotive industry in one way, shape, or form. And when I was going through college, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do at that point. So I just studied engineering, which I thought was the family way. And lo and behold, within less than a year, I very quickly decided that engineering wasn’t my thing, but I needed to pursue something a little bit more creative, I suppose, kind of more right brain if you like. So the precision and the structure of engineering didn’t suit my personality. So that’s really what my parents granted me, aside from our love for all things and drive and a focus on doing what I really, really love and enjoy, which is obviously what I’m doing right now. 


Now, where are you located? Where’d you grow up actually, and then where are you located?


Yeah, I was born in the UK. I’ve lived in the UK pretty much most of my life, traveled extensively with all the work that I’ve done. But you mentioned at the beginning there a company called Landini Associates that I worked with, maybe 17, 18 years ago now, I think.  They were in Australia. I was down in Australia working with those guys, helping grow their kind of design and a brand strategy business, and up popped an opportunity for me really to bring that business back to the UK. I was offered a partnership by the managing director, the owner of the business. And that was really my kind of entry into entrepreneurship, if you like — so quite coincidental, not really planned.  I kind of fell into it, if you like.


Yeah, it’s funny that that is a theme I’ve seen across basically almost every interview, not every but almost every interview I’ve done.  It’s also really interesting that story of stumbling into research is kind of how I’ve started framing it. If you look at the Insights Association, they have an active forum, and it’s actually a great source of knowledge and an active community.  The number one thread on that insights forum is how did you wind up in research, and I think it’s so interesting that we really don’t get to that through most of our conversations, and yet it’s probably one of the favorite stories we like to tell, and then also on the other side of it here, ‘cause it is most of the time people are very unconventional in terms of their entry point.


I think I’m really pleased you brought this up actually because it’s a conversation I had just this week and actually it’s something that’s really important to me as I look to bring talent into the business. I actually make a very specific beeline to try not to hire people that have fallen into research, but actually we hire a lot of very rigorous and academic professionals that have come through academia through the social sciences and consciously who have wanted to understand people, their relationships, their behaviors. And I guess going back to where I came from, having worked in the design and the brand strategy world for 15 years, I think it was, then a large part of certainly on the design and the creative side of things, it was really quite unstructured.  It was in an era where the style, the design, the results that came out of it was very sort of led by a creative director. And I kind of describe them now as aging rock stars. You know, it’s really whatever goes: there was no structure to it; there was no rationale; there was no insight that was informing their design. And that irked me. That was something I felt uneasy with. I thought there must be a better way of going into a pitch and saying this is why we’re proposing this solution rather than just relying on our fantastically lucid presenter, who could just tell his own story without any rhyme or reason. And so, that’s really what got me into insight. I think it was from the design worlds. Human-centered was, I guess, back in those days it was called ergonomics, and it was designing around the human form and the human body.  That soon moved into user- and human-centered design. And then from there, moving into the practice of gathering and garnering the insight and how we craft that and then helping creative teams, which is what we work with a lot, understand how to then activate that insight and use it whether it’s in the design of a new product or service or whether that’s, really just informing a new brand strategy or positioning. 


Those two things that pop for me there, and I think it’s really important what you’re saying. One is the ROI on data is overwhelming, right? Like if you’re using data to make decisions, you will have a positive outcome versus a random outcome. And one of my go-to examples of that recently is I was…  (I won’t say the name of it) It’s a top three media company. And when they pitch (or advertising company, excuse me), when they pitch their customers, they used to go in with this big deck and fancy presentations and whatever and story and case studies. But they added one slide to their presentation that increased their close rate by 60%, and that was a quadrant map that showed where the customer is or the potential customer that they’re pitching is relative to their competitive set. And then they mapped a set of assumptions that would move the needle obviously to the top right or their point to the top right of that quadrant map. And, obviously, it’s a data-informed position and because they’re approaching it from…  They’re starting with data point of view. Now all of a sudden everything is centered around measuring the subsequent outcome of the brand investment, which is something that is big differentiator even today when you’re thinking about advertising spend. So, it’s really interesting to me that we’re seeing these just absolute examples. Gosh, I mean the Watermark is another really interesting company where they’re a consultancy. They do an analytics on the S&P500. The companies that are data-centric or making decisions based on customer feedback outperform the S&P over the last 10 years by 45 points.

 But the really interesting thing is the people that don’t — the organizations that don’t — they underperform by 75 points. And by the way, it’s a majority of companies. So now you think about the growth opportunity inside of our space is profound.  And the second thing I’ll point out is as we’re seeing this, like this evolution in consumer insights, and it becoming more and more important, Estrella Lopez-Brea, Head of Insights for the partnership with Nestlé and General Mills, cereal partnership, she had this great quote in my interview with her a couple months ago, which was the boardroom is rolling out the red carpet to insights. So, when I was going through college, there really wasn’t a marketing research degree that I was ever aware of.  The closest would have been getting a doctorate in like experimental psychology or something along those lines. Right. But now you see a host of programs. There’s 12 in the U.S. alone, top schools that are offering market research master’s programs. So you are seeing this… You can be intentional in the last three to five years with your education if you want to go into consumer insights.


I think what we try and really hard to do we talk about human insight, less so consumer insight because I think we are consumers for only two or three hours of our day. What the reality is to understand what people really value in their lives. You have to understand all of those tensions, those contextual factors, the artifacts that are shaping the decisions they make, the relationships they have with the brands and the products and the services that are used. And so, we really marry up those social scientists and psychologists with the business strategists. And I think that’s really what differentiates us in that sense. So we go in and talk about the human story and the narrative, rather than the data.  Of course, we’re collecting the data to infer that story and to craft that story back for the client. But we’re very much about trying to humanize brands and bringing it back to a very human level so that they create these kinds of solutions for people that are harmonious with their lives and the tensions that they’re fraught with. There’s a huge difference between doing a focus group and going into someone’s home and understanding that they got to take the dog out for a walk in the morning. They’ve got to catch the bus, they got to pay for their mortgage, they’ve got to take the kids to school. All of those things create a very different reality and a very different human truth. And really that’s where we focus and our energy is very much in that kind of exploratory research space, which is fun. We love that. We’re fascinated by people.


You’re in the right job. That’s exciting. And that’s why you’ve had so much success. You started your career, at least according to Linkedin, in really entrenched in marketing. And then in 2007, you started Further your current business. Why the leap into entrepreneurship?


Well, again, going back to what I was talking about earlier, I fell into entrepreneurship because I was offered the opportunity to open a satellite office by the guy that I was working with at the time and his business, which was very successful and had been going for a number of years. It wasn’t something I had thought about. I hadn’t prepared for it. And my first port of call was a close friend of mine at the time, who was a serial entrepreneur, and I was always in awe of the things that he’d achieved and said, “Look, let’s go out for a coffee. Let’s have a chat about this. What do you think? Should I do this?”  And he was a very positive, upbeat character, and he was like, “Yeah, absolutely. Go for it.” You know, make mistakes. That’s the important thing. There’s no rule book; there’s no guide in terms of how to be an entrepreneur. You’ve just got to learn to fail fast. Don’t be afraid to make those mistakes, but take those opportunities. And so that was something I did. I came back to the UK after that, opened a satellite office. We very quickly picked up some very big contracts with big UK retailers. Harrods was one of them. We did a lot of brand strategy work, but also a lot of a retail design work for them. We built a whole new store for them, which they hadn’t done for many, many years. So it was a really prize contract to win. So I did that for a couple of years, and that got me the bug really for building and running my next business.

But actually at that time, social media was happening:  This thing called Twitter was emerging. And people were going, “What is this? What’s a blog?” I remember one Saturday morning, I think I was visiting my parents and I remember getting up early ’cause I was so intrigued by this new world. What is a blog?  And what is Twitter? What can it do? And so, I felt that it was a good time to get out of owning a business but maybe take a little bit of a gap year and learn a little bit more about digital and social. So that’s what I did. And I was also working during that period for an e-commerce business, actually doing some consulting work.  That was fantastic; taught me all about SEO and PPC and social networks and social media. And I could see how combining social media would… or the way that you could use social media to engage in audience at a distance, first and foremost. That was where I saw an opportunity. And, having been involved in some research projects, up to that point, it felt that actually we can be doing big international research studies:  understanding why people are doing what they’re doing, what their relationships are with brands, without jumping on a plane and using the earth’s resources as well, but doing that much, much quicker. So we set about designing our first piece of technology, which is still very much what we use today. It’s iterated a number of times, but it’s a social media and engagement platform that’s used for qualitative research. And that’s really how we got into that. 

And then combining that with training and helping researchers on how to use it to their advantage because the research was completely new at that time.  In 2007, the term “research communities” didn’t exist; MROC’s, no one was talking about MROC’s. We didn’t have a pigeon hole that we could even go into. That was quite scary? We had this thing that we were trying to talk to researchers about and qualitative researchers, in particular, and they were terrified of it. They didn’t understand it. Well, it’s not that I didn’t understand it, but they were really threatened by it. They were like, “We do focus groups; we do ethnography. That’s cool. We’re happy with that.”  But this whole new world was about to roll over them. And it took a good couple of years for us actually to get some really good traction with the business. But, obviously, looking back is the best thing we did. We stuck with it and then two or three years in, things started to happen. Pigeon holes appeared that we could be put into and that just helped us market the business much, much more effectively. And this helped us to get where we are today.


Yeah. And, of course, because you made the investment and had patience, you were able to take a dominant position in SEO and knowledge leadership or thought leadership inside of the sector once it actually gained purchase and interest in the category. And we all know the end of the story, well, sort of.  We’re still in it, but social media now is by far and away the most impactful communication channel.


Yeah, yeah, It’s interesting though, I feel like we’re at a point in time where I know certainly I am, and I can’t say I have the answers to this, but I’m looking for what’s the next revolution?  There‘s something else around the corner that’s going to shake things up again soon. Mobile came along when we first developed our technology. Mobile smartphones weren’t really entrenched within society; so, when kind of apps and mobile connectivity really grew, that was a big change for our business. There are other societal and technological changes, I think, around the corner and we’re trying to keep our eye on what those things are. Obviously, analytics and AI and automation is now starting to make a difference and it’s really how we combine and mash up all of those things in a very human way. 


From my vantage point, there’s really two things that we’re in the very beginning.  It’s like 2005 or about 2006 kind of a repeat for me, relative to social media. And that is voice. So you look at the lift in voice-based devices, whether it’s Alexa or Google Home.  It’s astounding right now, the adoption rate across the world. And the use cases are still very narrow, but you are seeing… I think there’s at least five companies that I’m aware of that are entering into the analytics and data collection in those environments. And the second one is augmented reality.  The Google glass becomes more of a contact. Now, all of a sudden, I can walk down the street and see Yelp reviews on where I want to go to lunch or whatever (directions, etc.). And so, just really continues to expand the amount of data… an opportunity for us to be able to get to the heart of the consumer, kind of that real time ethnography. Conversely though, you have this rise in privacy concerns, which is very important for us to address. And so, you know, there’s definitely a lot of tension right now and we’ll continue to escalate in that space in terms of what we actually have access to and the rights to be able to leverage. 


I think there’s a counter movement to this as well, which is actually consumers or us as people are actually being a little bit more a discerning about what we give our attention to or how much we let computers do the work for us. So, great idea, walking down a street with Google glasses on, giving you all the information you want, but do you want that disrupting you? Do you want that to have your attention at that moment in time? And so there’s a growing affinity with nature and spiritualism happening at the same time. We’re actually buying back more of humanity and more of our lives. So with the technological changes, there are some big social changes going on as well that, obviously, will have an impact on consumer businesses, but also in terms of how research is done and how that needs to be much more harmonious with people’s lives and how they choose to give you their time and the permissions they give you.


Yeah, yeah, point taken.  We could debate this point, and I would love to have a deeper…  We need beer. That will happen by the way at some point. The snapchat phenomenon is really interesting:  how one of their big motivators is to maintain consistent connection inside of the platform for their users or these streaks. So, when you look at the younger audience, the teens…  Gosh, in fact, just this week I was at Michigan State presenting to their Masters in market research cohort. Every time I speak in front of an audience, I do a quick poll on social media utilization.  Almost a hundred percent, (there was one person that didn’t) so out of 31 students, one didn’t use Snapchat. It was the dominant platform, right? I mean Twitter had whatever it was 16 out of the 31, if memory serves.  So, you’re seeing this. I don’t know. I think that they’re doing a good job of connecting the endorphins, which is terrifying to the point that you’re raising. So it will be interesting to see how that continues to evolve and if there will create this tension of people that separate themselves ultimately from technology, I’ll call them the new Amish. 


It’s consciously uncoupling, right? 


Yeah, exactly, it’s making a decision on technology and the utilization of technology on how that’s actually going to impact you, right?  Such a fun conversation. Anyway, I’m going to divert though ‘cause I want to talk about some other things, and that is specific to your two key platforms, Tandem and Together.  Maybe you can talk to us a little bit about them.


Sure. So, and actually I should point out I’m involved in another business called Signoi.  So there is a third platform I’ll tell you a little bit about because that’s very new and having some great success, and it might be of interest to your kind of…


Yeah, yeah, please.


So the two technologies that we have at Further:  the technology that we started out life with in 2007, which was the research community platform.  It’s called Together. We’ve done a name change on that. You may have known it, some of your audience may have known it as Idea Stream. We rebranded the business a year or two ago and changed some of the mnemonics around that. So, that’s what we call a research community platform, but research communities, as you probably know, mean different things to different people. So to us, when we talk about communities, we are really talking about human connections and bonds that emerge between the facilitators, the moderators, the community managers, and the participants. Because for us to really get under the skin of what’s happening in their lives and their relationships, we have to get to know them quite intimately in the same way that you would within a focus group. So the communities that we run are highly interactive. They’re much more qualitative in nature. What I mean by that, it’s not a series of structured questions and polls. They’re much more creative activities and exercises and conversations that we’re having with them. They tend to be more short term in nature. So, again, I differentiate that from what I know the likes of Vision Critical or Toluna might call insight communities. So these aren‘t big panels and with huge sample sizes.  These are quite small, very intimate. They can range from 30 people up to a few hundred people, consumers.


And just for clarity. Are these more like short-term type communities or are they like a six months to a year?  


Yeah, there’s a combination.  Another way of thinking about them is some of them are very put together specifically for a project, to answer one particular question, whereas others are used and built so they can respond to several different questions and challenges that the organization has.


So when you think about, from a community perspective…  Communities, I think, are very interesting to me right now.  I really think that you’re going to continue to see a massive growth in this particular segment in this type of work over the coming years. We’re seeing some data quality issues inside of the professionally managed panels.  Like one way of thinking about communities is just speed to access or speed to insight, right? So it’s kind of like I got these people, boom, I get an insight right away. I don’t have to worry about the screening per se, right. But it sounds like really in your use case as much more of a digital ethnographic type, getting to know them at an intimate level as opposed to the “I have access to this group of people.”   


Yeah, I think that’s an accurate description and actually a good way of illustrating that. So, our research director, a lady called Dr Marie-Claude Gervais, she was teaching qualitative research methods at the London School of Economics, so very highbrow institution. She was a traditional qualitative researcher for many, many years, run thousands of focus groups. And when research communities emerged, she started working with those and understanding the dynamics.  She is somebody with that kind of academic rigor who ran a lot of tests to look at the data quality, but also the emotion with the real picture of what’s actually happening in people’s lives and how it gave them the ability to be very open and honest and truthful about what’s happening, but also allow the researcher to see their lives from a number of different lenses. So they could see it’s not, obviously, not just about what the participant is saying, but what we’re observing that’s going on in that picture that allows us to then forge the insight.

 So it’s not just access; for us, it’s access to the inner workings of people’s lives. It’s technology-enabled, but it’s actually about the design of the activities and exercises that we create. And it’s about the quality of the relationships that we forge with those participants over a very short space of time. And so, we have a number of really established methods that we use. And, in fact, because we work with brands and agencies, a lot of our work is developing the capabilities of research teams so they understand that when they’re running the type of communities that we’re talking about here, they know through our training how to get that sort of relationship, how to get that depth.  Because when you’ve got people that have fallen into research, they won’t get in the same way. There are a lot of psychological hacks that we use. There’s a number of different tricks and methods that we employ to getting people to really open up and to forge that trust in the relationship really, really quickly; and then different ways of seeing the context of what’s actually taking place because we all know consumers lie. 


We do. 


We’re terrible witnesses of our own history and our own a behavior. So we don’t rely on that. We don’t rely on video insight as a way of seeing what’s actually going on. I think that’s just a data capture tool. I don’t think there is such a thing as a video insight in my understanding or my kind of world. I don’t use that language.  Insight: It’s forged; it’s fraught with tension; it’s hard; it’s difficult; and often it’s a struggle to get there. It’s a struggle working with the clients to help them really realize and actualize the insight. But it’s incredibly rewarding when you get it. And I think the communities can really deliver on that. But again, I don’t necessarily think of a community, a research community, as a method on its own. I think it’s really just a way of engaging people so that you can do different things with them. And that’s very different.  I think some people kind of prescribe a community and think, “Oh, it’s this.” Well, actually there are 1,000,001 things we can do within a community. It’s just really a way of having a great active and rich conversation with a target audience. 


All right, so break it down for me. I, by the way, completely agree with your assessment of video. I had Affectiva’s COO, Tim Peacock, on the show a while ago. They’re the number one video-based platform based on their analytics. I might be misremembering the exact quote, but it was something like either between 80% or 90% of actual communication is happening below the chin. So, if you’re just doing this, like what you and I are doing right now, you really miss…  Well, fortunately. I’m doing this with my hands, which they look really big when they’re close. But you know what I mean? You’re right. I think there’s this over-indexing right now on video as kind of the…


And that to me, I think the video stuff is used in a very tactical way, and I think that’s fine; that’s good.  But the work that we do, the type of briefs that we work on there, big strategic projects… And you wouldn’t just rely on kind of video insight.  There’d be a much more blended approach. 


All right. So take it down. So we’ve got three platforms now that you’re talking about, right? Would you just give me like a quick description, a snapshot description of each one?  And then after that, I want to dive into a centric-use case that maybe we haven’t touched on yet. 


Yeah, so sure. So we talked about Together being the kind of qualitative research, community technology.  And newest lovechild child, if you like, is Tandem. So that’s something we released just over a year ago. And that’s a kind of a much more thoroughbred, mobile ethnographic tool. So, whereas the community platform is about participants interacting with one another as well as with the moderators, Tandem is really just a one-to-one communication tool, very specifically about understanding moments and observations as well as adding more structured response to questions that are built in a sort of drag-and-drop way on the technology itself. And both of these platforms…  We focus a lot when we build this technology on two particular user bases: obviously, the participants and their user experiences of tantamount importance; but on the other side, it’s building it with the researchers in mind. So understanding that journey from data to insight is really crucial for us. And I think with the feedback that we get a lot and with our net promoter score that bears this out, which is about 77, then it understands how the researcher works and that’s what people like a lot about our technology. It makes their lives easier and gives them that license to focus more on the analysis and the reporting and the strategy derivation than the moderation and fussing around with the data-collection piece. 


So, in both of those platforms, they’re DIY-based. You also have services associated with that? 


Yeah, so we’re a bit of a hybrid, if you like. So we have clients that just license our technology and use it.  We have clients, people, our insights consulting who’ve used it for many years. All of their research communities were hosted on our technologies for a long time. But then we have clients who we might provide some fairly basic services or training and support for those clients or what we call sometimes just optimizations. So they might pass over their research design or their activities and guides, and we‘ll help break those apart, optimize them to get really good levels of traction. Sometimes just simply too that they make sense. You know, you have that plain English test, if you like.  Would your mom understand what you’re asking him to do, if I presented that to her? Sometimes you’ll forget that. 


Such an important point!


That’s the kind of a type of client. And then on the other end of the scale is the full service. So a lot of our clients ask us to partner with them to do the research from beginning to end, and we’ll deliver a debrief or a report to those clients.


I think that approach is…  Certainly, at Decipher that was the winning strategy for us. I launched the business with intent of it being a DIY platform but quickly learned that in order for it to get adoption, I was going to have to do both:  full service, not in the way of like report writing or analytics, but just in a way of programming the surveys, managing the sample, the project management, kind of the research ops side of it, right? So you’re obviously taking it full circle. Okay, got it. So you’re working with both brands and agencies? 


Yup, that’s correct. 


Is there a difference in dealing with those two segments, those two customer types? 


Always, always. The relationships look very different because, obviously, the stakeholder groups that you’re working with are often quite different. Some of them, the well-seasoned insight professionals; some of them less so and so we have to guide them and walk them through the process a little bit closer. Ultimately, we’ve all got the same endpoint. I think when we work with agencies, we tend to be focusing on the insight. When we work with the brands and the clients, we tend to be looking at how we can then activate that insight and really create some value from what we’ve learned.  I’d also say, I suppose when we work with agencies, a lot of the work is acting as a creative catalyst for them. So it’s not necessarily getting down to answering a question or making a decision for them. It’s saying, “This is a framework or the opportunity space that you can work with. So you have to go away and then develop whatever that solution is within that framework.” And that’s the kind of work that we really, really enjoy: working with those creative agencies in that particular way. Again, different ways, sometimes depending on the design solutions that we’re working on, it could be if it’s a product or service design, often we’re working in sprints. So the way that we set up the way of working with those stakeholder teams might look different too when we’re working with the brands. But again, it depends what the problem is that we’re working on:  whether it’s a major strategic shift in the business or whether it’s just a product iteration. 


Right. The economy globally has been in a tremendous amount of flux in the last couple of years. You’re seeing more of a movement towards…  I’m not sure if the right word is “nationalism,” but borders are closing, obviously. We in the US anyway, we’ve been seeing consistent growth inside of the tech sectors, but other sectors are actually struggling. When you think about the…  I can ask this question to you because you and I are, I think, of similar age; so, we’ve gone through a few different economic transitions. Where do you think we are right now? Do you think there’s going to be…? Are you seeing…? Do you think there’s going to be more growth in our sector inside of the brands, or do you think there’s going to be more growth inside of the agencies over the next three to five years? 


It’s a really good question, and I think it’s something we debate and look at a lot. I think where we do well is we employ smarts in our business. So these aren’t people that can do good research. These are really people that can arrive at an endpoint very quickly that satisfies what the client needs, or it can create a huge amount of value for the client. I think just telling them what’s happening or telling them what’s happened isn’t good enough. I guess the type of organizations we work with range from the big international brands and agencies, but also we do a lot of work with startups. What’s great about working with the startups:  they’re kind of user- or consumer-centered from day one. They’re not hindered by that kind of history or legacy that they have. However — and I think we will see this no matter what market we’re in — a lot of these digital startups start off with great intentions. They find it hard to become really profitable despite significant funding and then end up getting subsumed by some bigger corporate some where down the line. That’s what’s happening ‘cause the corporates are buying the innovation. Fine, but that the startup hasn’t been able to monetize that in a way that they’re… 


At scale.


That’s quite interesting if you think about what that journey means for the researchers and taking a very user-centered approach or consumer-centered approach to the solution, but then sometimes having to kind of retrofit what the business needs and what the business model looks like overlaying that solution. So, I think, of course, technology has democratized research. We know that. Anyone can pick up Survey Monkey, Qualtrics, whatever it is and start doing some research. That’s what I love about qualitative research. It’s a science, right? You really do need some good training, and it’s not just about having a conversation. And when we work with smart marketing directors, they know that; they get that; they understand it.  There’s a lot more to it. And that’s what we love and that’s the kind of work that we specialize in. 


Now, I am going to push back a little bit.  I do think that… 


I’m not saying…  


All right.  That’s fair. That’s fair. But, to your point, there’s so much sophistication and science around a well-crafted question in context of a live discussion versus something else. And you have that same rigor though in quant.  


And I think actually you made the point there about the right questions, but it’s the right questions of the right people. 


Yes, that’s right. 


That actually is almost the hardest bit of the sampling because access to Joe Public is quite easy now.  There are lots of organizations in our world that give you access to people and the technology and some training on how to write a question. But I just still think there’s a lot of people that don’t know who they should be asking the questions of. So that sample design in qualitative research, because we’re working with smaller samples, is SO critical. It’s so important to get that right. And a lot of the conversation and the debate we have with our clients starts with that sampling. And it lasts quite a long time. I’m always amazed, but I enjoy the fact that we love that discussion. We love that argument because for us that is absolutely fundamental in doing good research. It’s the right questions of the right people at the right time in the right way. 


Yeah, it kind of gets back to, at least half of it gets back to Doctor Who: Ask the right question. So do you have a…?  I know you do. What is one or two favorite projects that you’ve worked on? 


For me, there’s a project…  stands out every time and, and really for the simple reason that a lot of people talk in research about changing lives, but this was a piece of work that we collaborated on with someone who’s now our research director. So at this point in time is a few years ago…  This is working with Dr Marie-Claude Gervais. She was a client, and this was looking at the lived experience of ethnic minority people and black people and old people in the UK, people living with cancer. The objective there was to understand the inequalities in cancer care services amongst same audiences and, subsequently, what that different experience of living with cancer looked like with them. So, the client was Macmillan Cancer Support, which is a big UK charity over here. That was, I think, two months we followed them, observed them, engaged these people, small cohorts of people around the UK, and these are transgender people so often. So you can’t even imagine how difficult it would be to get them into a focus group facility, let alone find them in the first place.  So therein lies some of the big advantages of communities. This project was… When I think about it, the hairs stand up on my arm now still. And I get goosebumps because really what we did is we changed the lives of those people in so many ways. The project was, of course, to develop some new insights for Macmillan. But fundamentally what it did, it led to changes in government policy. But also, we had participants, and this happened not so long ago.

One participant, a lady who was living on the bread line…  Life was very, very difficult for her. She was very despondent, and it actually changed her life because she realized there was a support community that she could create herself for other people in a similar situation through getting to know other participants in the community. And what happened after that community, the online community, happened is this woman in particular created a new support community for cancer patients, black people. And that’s given her a new focus in life. And actually, about two years after the project, this lady turned up at one of the presentations we were giving — unannounced to us — and came up to us at the end of the presentation and really just thanked us for changing her life.  And that’s where market research really is very special, I think. And so, for me that was one of the projects where the research itself and the depth we were able to get through that community was incredible. You just wouldn’t have been able to do that any other way. But how that fundamentally changed government policy, access to services for people in often fringe groups on society was quite special. So yeah, that for me is a project I’ll always remember fondly.


Ah, that is a beautiful story. Thank you for sharing it. All right. I have a tactical question and they’re going to get to my, the last question. But when you think about like qualitative and quantitative, we’ve hinted around this couple of times so far in our conversations…  Quantitative is just a really bad conversation, right? Surveys are just terrible surrogates for our conversation at scale. I often times joke that nobody after a date does an NPS with the person that just went on a date with. Right. So again, we actually have human ways that we interact, not 11-point scale, starting with zero. One of the benefits potentially of artificial intelligence is it can enable us to have conversations at scale and then, subsequently, potentially analyze that data in a meaningful way because the data accessibility has so far on open-ended data or unstructured data has been just impossible to penetrate. But now you’re seeing movement in there with sentiment and natural language processing, etc. So do you think that you’re going to see…?  And I guess this is somewhat bias, but do you believe that it’s going to be a lift proportionally in qualitative utilization? When you think about the global market research spend?


I think we’re seeing it already. For us, qualitative research started a renaissance a couple of years back, and we’re seeing that continue to grow because I think clients want the human story and they’re building human brands now. I think consumers can easily sniff out brands that are completely tone deaf to what’s actually happening on the street level. And that’s where qualitative research, I think, plays out very, very well. So I’d say that’s happening. We ourselves and I alluded to earlier one of the other businesses I’m involved with, which is called Signoi.  We’re also able to analyze large volumes of unstructured data. And that’s for meaning and cultural insights. So, if you think about how that might apply, if you want to then think about doing qualitative research at scale… So, for example, using bots for moderation so you can engage bigger, bigger samples of consumers in a shorter space of time, but then have the means to analyze that and get something quite tangible out of that very quickly. That’s still qualitative research for me, just using technology to speed up the process in terms of data capture, to focus in the human analysis. I don’t think we’d ever go on the results that the black boxes are giving us, but it certainly allows us to look at the right thing.  So that’s happening and that’s something we’re experimenting with and using on some of our clients. And I think that’s very, very exciting. But the human side of research and qualitative, it’s already experiencing a significant uplift, certainly here in the UK. And we do a little bit of work in the US but, you know, qualitative is much bigger here in the UK than it is in the US anyway, I think.


Yeah, you’re absolutely right to that point.  I think one of the reasons why is, well not geographically, but one of the reasons, just broadly speaking, you have such a growth in quant is it’s just easy to execute to your earlier kind of stab. You and I, or our moms could program a survey and Survey Monkey and launch it quickly. It doesn’t take a tremendous amount of sophistication. But I really think it’s interesting too as a practitioner of research to see how you’re taking the science of qualitative, which is hard by the way, and seeing it morph and move into the statistics that are normally associated with quant.  And it’s going to be fun. It is fun right now, and it’s going to continue to be fun to see this evolve over the next three years. ESOMAR‘s report’s going to be fun. 


We feel we’re in a good position for that because sitting at the intersection of research, insight, and technology allows us to play with these tools. We understand how these tools work. We can stitch them together very easily. We’ve got a team of developers and engineers. So yeah, it’s exciting times.


Yeah, for sure. All right, we’re going to end on this question. What is your personal motto?


Oh Gosh, good question. I’ve got two actually. So, I’d say both relating to entrepreneurship, but I think equally about research and the process. So, I don’t think there’s ever such a thing as win or lose. For me, it’s always win-or-learn — how everything is a learning opportunity. And I think that’s important to think about that. The second one really is just about resilience and never give up.  Fight that fight to get that insight across to the client. You know there’s always naysayers, but stay resolute, have resilience and keep on with that struggle.


My guest today has been Steven Cribbett, founder and CEO of Further. Thank you very much, Steven, for joining me on the Happy Market Research Podcast.


My pleasure, Jamin, and thanks very much.


Everyone else, if you found value in this episode like I did, I hope you will screen capture, share it on social media. That is how other people like you are able to find this content and, as always, your five-star reviews are always appreciated. Thank you so much. Have a great rest of your day. 


According to the GRIT report, there has been an increase in the number of qualitative-based tools. This is centric to user experience, customer experience, and market research. However, as with all things, the actual research operations remains to be done and that happens usually outside of those toolsets. HubUx is a solution for that. You plug your tools directly into it; you enter in who it is that you want to talk to, when you want to talk to them, and HubUx literally does the rest for you. If you already have an existing customer list, you can just upload it directly into the tool. If you want to leverage social recruiting, that’s integrated as well. It is the single source for all of your research operations needs HubUx. Check it out. Thanks.

MrWeb Podcast Series

MrWeb Series – Graeme Lawrence of Join the Dots I InSites Consulting on Ways Agile Research Fails, and How to Ensure You Don’t

My guest today is Graeme Lawrence, Managing Partner at Join the Dots I InSites Consulting. Established in 1998, Join the Dots is a global consumer insight agency that helps companies make better business decisions through a deep understanding of people.

Find Graeme Online:

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/graeme-lawrence-4b930a6/?originalSubdomain=uk 

Website: www.jointhedotsmr.com 

Find Jamin Online:

Email: jamin@happymr.com 

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/jaminbrazil

Twitter: www.twitter.com/jaminbrazil 

Find Us Online: 

Twitter: www.twitter.com/happymrxp 

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/company/happymarketresearch 

Facebook: www.facebook.com/happymrxp 

Website: www.happymr.com 

This Episode is in Partnership with MrWeb:

Website: www.mrweb.com 

Twitter: www.twitter.com/mrwebnews 

This Episode’s Sponsor: 

This episode is brought to you by HubUx. HubUx reduces project management costs by 90%. Think of HubUx as your personal AI project manager, taking care of all your recruitment and interview coordination needs in the background. The platform connects you with the right providers and sample based on your research and project needs. For more information, please visit HubUx.com.


Hey, everybody, this is Jamin, host of the Happy Market Research Podcast. In conjunction with MrWeb, I’ve had the honor of interviewing three of the leading custom panel companies. This is one of those three episodes. If you’re not currently subscribed to MrWeb, I just can’t recommend another resource. He gives you a daily update on happenings, whether it’s HR, M&A, technology releases, companies going out of business, companies starting. I mean there is not a single point of truth that I found to be more consistent and reliable than MrWeb. So check them out. They’re great and I hope you enjoy this episode. 


According to the GRIT report, there has been an increase in the number of qualitative-based tools. This is centric to user experience, customer experience, and market research. However, as with all things, the actual research operations remains to be done and that happens usually outside of those toolsets. HubUx is a solution for that. You plug your tools directly into it; you enter in who it is that you want to talk to, when you want to talk to them, and HubUx literally does the rest for you. If you already have an existing customer list, you can just upload it directly into the tool. If you want to leverage social recruiting, that’s integrated as well. It is the single source for all of your research operations needs HubUx. Check it out. Thanks. 


Hi, I’m Jamie Brazil, and you’re listening to the Happy Market Research Podcast. My guest today is Graeme Lawrence, Chief Client Officer at Join the Dots.  Established in 1998, Join the Dots is a global consumer insights agency that helps companies make better business decisions through a deeper understanding of people. Prior to joining Join the Dots, Graeme served as head of sales for several leading firms, most notably Harris Interactive. Graeme, thanks very much for joining me on the Happy Market Research Podcast today. 


Hi, nice to join you.  I’m really, really excited about having a chat.


It is an honor to have you on the show. I’ve been following the merger/acquisition. We’ll get into what that looks like more specifically in just a little bit, but I like to start off with creating a little bit of context for our audience. Tell us about your parents and how they informed what you do today.  


Well, my mom and dad, Norman and Rena Lawrence, were born in Edinburgh and in war time, in the Second World War time. And they had a fairly tough upbringing actually in Edinburgh, Scotland, and, they’re from quite a working-class background. And my dad left school at 15 and went into printing as an apprentice and stayed there his own his whole career but then was hugely successful I guess after, I don’t know, maybe into his mid-thirties, something like that. Became quite a key business leader in a couple of good companies. Actually, one of them became part of, got bought into the Signage Group, which I know a number of people in marketing know. So, when I was brought up, my dad had the aspiration of kind of learning that he maybe didn’t have and wanted me to go to university and all that, but he was a little bit pressured on me being an accountant and wanted me to be a money guy. I don’t know it just didn’t feel like me. I kind of fell into market research and marketing, which I know a number of colleagues and friends in the industry have done as well over the years.  I guess for a number of years, he really didn’t understand what I did, I don’t think.  We didn’t really have much of a relationship on it, but I guess it’s only been in the last five, ten years where we’ve ended up coming together to talk about running businesses because that’s what he ended up doing in the printing world. And I guess that’s what I’ve ended up doing with there being a kind of a corner affair of Join the Dots and somebody who went through a management buyout and buying out the original founders of Join the Dots, etc.  So it’s only been the last year I think we’ve probably had some things in common around the business side of things and once he got over the fact that I wasn’t a charted accountant. They’re great people, and I’m fortunate that both of them are still with me. They’re old and gray now, but they’re doing good, and they’re always inquisitive and looking to understand a little bit about where the whole marketing and the branding and they try and get into that a little bit more recently.


I just turned materially gray in the last 24 months. I’m terrified. Like I don’t know what’s going to happen in another 24 months. I was just reminiscing with my wife on that point. I think that you definitely earn the…  Getting older as a male and having some sort of connection with your father and him being able to provide some sort of value into your business — that can be a material point of bonding between the two of you. I’m interested though, is there a specific piece of advice or some sort of value that he contributed that helped you along to creating a successful outcome?


We’ve always had a love of football, soccer I believe you guys call it. And we’ve always had the love of football together, and teamwork has always been something that we’ve always spoken about. And I was kind of interested when he was talking about how he ran the printing businesses that he ran, about the right people being involved at the right time, overall, and that being a key component of everything. And that is something we’ve definitely worked very hard on at Join the Dots around having the right people in combination. I’m a great believer in bringing together strengths of different people within an organization is the right way forward.  For those people that know Quentin Ashby, who was ex-CEO of Join the Dots, him and I are very, very different guys, but the combination of us is something that’s been really powerful, I think, over the years. So yeah, I guess that teamwork thing was a big point, and a sense of loyalty to that teamwork aspects as well. 


There is something to fighting in the trenches, using the wartime analogies that creates a profound bond throughout the organization. It’s actually a really, really powerful way to concatinize [sic] (I don’t know if that’s the right way of saying it) but join brothers and or people in arms, excuse me.  So, that’s pretty cool. All right, well, let’s get into… You guys have had a lot of news, right? A lot of news. So, January, 2019, earlier this year, you launched the Insight Ecosystem. I’m dying to know. Tell me about the Insight Ecosystem. What has that brought to the market? 


I think for us about this time last year, we were really feeling like we’re an online research community business primarily.  So, I don’t really like the acronym of MROC, but I’ll live with it for the sake of people understanding what it is. Principally, the bulk of our work has been in research communities since about when we first started out in probably 2008, 2009 and these are long-term sort of structured ongoing communities on behalf of clients as a full-service agency. And I guess the coming out with a relaunch at the beginning of 2019 under this kind of banner of Insight Ecosystem was a little bit of a response to how we feel that the research community market is changing and has changed and needs to change on behalf of clients.

Look, if I tell the story of what I think has happened in the MROC research community market, 2008, 2009, 2010, that kind of period was the sort of early innovators in that space:  some of them coming from more of a panel side of things; some of them maybe being slightly more qualitative, but those that I guess backed the methodology of an opt-in sample working on an ongoing basis on behalf of the client and we put our chips then on the table at that time around that and it was hugely exciting around the aspects of…  It was the web 2.0 time. It was researched 2.0. It’s participative; it’s collaborative; it’s working with consumers. It’s not a lot of what I was doing on the conference stand. There was old research was parent to child. This research is adult to adult. This was a hugely collaborative embracing the times, if you like. Now what happened here? Like as globally. Certainly what happened here in Europe around 2011, 2012 with the banks crashing and the market’s going belly up and was that the nature of these research communities got shunted and got moved, which was really disappointing in many respects because it got moved very much more to a speed and a price aspect rather than a quality of methodology that collaborated with consumers.  Really disappointed me and, when I look back at it, there’s still a bit of me that finds it a bit upsetting. But I guess that’s what happened that it went a bit very much into the “Ask questions; quickly get responses. And can you do that for me quite cheap ‘cause I can’t afford much more because of the market; we haven’t got the budgets, etc.” from the client side. And I think we went through quite a number of years that that had such a big influence on the market, that clients were playing it that way. We re-emerged from that, I would say somewhere in 2014 and 2015 onwards, but I don’t think we ever quite got the excitement or buzz around the way we had maybe in that kind of participative research 2.0 space that existed, if you like.  And us launching the Insight Ecosystem was almost like trying to regenerate that in a way because we wanted to say, “Look, let’s get away from thinking that the answer to all of our client’s problems lies in asking questions and our methodologies and our tools that we use are way beyond that.” I’m coming in different shapes and sizes and guises around that. I know the launch of our Insight Ecosystem was really around this kind of mantra about “asking, listening and observing” being the key way forward. 

And we very much put that out there as our thinking around how communities should be viewed and should work in a way to say, “Look, you’re not going to get great insight, and you’re not going to get great commerciality from just asking questions, asking questions, asking questions.” They’re not the best observers of their own behavior, blah, blah, blah.   All the stuff that we know from the behavioral science. So it was us of going repackaging, going back out there. We’re trying to sort of energize clients’ thinking around what a structured, ongoing community can be about in a way to highlight that it’s got an ecosystem, got a number of different tools that you can combine. Dare I say it: Join the dots?


Yeah, right. When you think about the value prop, obviously, it sounds like it’s one part building a real connection with the community as opposed to more of a speed or efficiency, cost-savings point of view. And then the other part of it that I hear you saying is it’s centric to incorporating new methodologies or tools into the data collection. Is that what I’m hearing? Is that right? Or… 


In this period of the last three or four years, we’ve known that when we’d been at our best, we can provide a combination between speed, price, and quality.  it’s the trilemma, the whole kind of…


Yeah, the three-legged stool. 


Can you live in that tension?  Well, one – I want to think at the end of the day that we have to live in that tension because if you’re going to be a successful insight supplier… 


You’ve got to be there. Lenny Murphy, every grit report that he produces, he continues to come down with the fact that at the end of the day innovation is driving those three things. 


Yeah. And, as you say, innovation is being driven in that way, regardless of whether it’s a research innovation, is innovation in the kind of commercial world as a whole. So, yeah, it was a way of reframing that to say, “Look, it can be done. Sometimes we’ll do it quick. Sometimes we’ll ask questions quickly. Sometimes we’ll make quick observations on consumer behavior, and that’ll be nice and cheap probably. But sometimes we will actually take a bit longer over this to bring a better quality into it. We’ll be more immersive. We’ll do more observational work. We’ll have various stage gates.”


How big are the communities that you manage for companies? What’s the range? Small and big. 


Yeah. We’ve honed in on a kind of a…  It depends on the nature of the client. Yeah. But if you’re a one-brand, one-market service provider, say, we would potentially be working with 2,000 or 3,000 people.  We are getting responses, which vary between 30 to 50 people on something that’s in depth and immersive through to a couple of hundred people on something that might be more survey-based, asking-based dynamic. And that’s the kind of scale size that we can kind of play in. But they do vary: we’ve got so much more small intense ones; we’ve got a few bigger ones that because they’re multi-brand so, but it is that kind of territory that we play in


On July 2nd this year, just a few months later, InSites Consulting announced its acquisition of Join the Dots. That was a big deal in the space. Tell us what in the world…  What was the thesis? 


Yeah, I think we’ve known each other for a long time. You mentioned great fellow gritless people.  I’m heavily involved with ESOMAR, people like Niels, who’s been ESOMAR president recently. We’ve seen each other on the conference stand. As agencies, we both feel we’ve given back a fair amount in terms of bringing clients to the conference stand and showing case studies and highlighting our innovations in such a way that we think it helps everybody move forward. In the first instance, there was a contextual backdrop of like-minded agencies and like-minded agencies with a slightly different global footprint, with them being really strong in Western Europe, us being strong in UK and Asia, them not being in Asia. So there was a kind of global footprint. The interesting part as well, which in terms of client situation, our largest clients weren’t theirs and vice versa. So there was a really nice and neat fit there. And, more importantly, a very similar outlook when it comes to communities and the importance of ongoing online communities, structured programs, and similar tools but, us having some that they don’t have, them having some that we don’t have and in terms of some nuances. So just like a kind of a really a nice fit overall to be a situation where we feel we can have a situation where we can be a scale proposition for global brands. We both work for big global brands. We’re both working multinationally. And we are only wherever we are six, eight weeks after deal or whatever. But it’s beginning to…  We’re getting some really interesting sample already about how that’s beginning to play out. 


So it sounds like the one-plus-one-equals-three scenario here is you’ve got little overlap on geography. So, in other words, you’re growing the global footprint. You’ve got complementary customers; so, there’s no cannibalization happening there. And you have complementary technologies in many cases. Both of you have done consulting, do consulting for your customers. So it’s not just a strict technology platform:  use it and then use somebody else to do the consulting. The consulting services also complementary or are they very similar in…? I guess the real question that I’m trying to get to is: Has the value prop — obviously, it’s expanded ‘cause you’ve got broader reach immediately, and then also obviously on the technology side there’s some benefit — but is the consulting also bringing an additive benefit to the customer base?


Yeah, massively. We’ve got big hopes for it on that part. I think I would give you a couple of examples, which would maybe help you see those. We’ve talked about us launching this sort of ecosystem around “ask, listen and observe.” And that wasn’t something that they were doing in terms of a framing exercise for their clients. And so, we were doing, I guess, a research methodological framing and mechanism there, and, interestingly, insights.  We’re doing a lot more framing around understanding things like key specific areas like branding or innovations on behalf of their clients that we were doing a lot of work on, but we didn’t necessarily have the proposition kind of framed that way or necessarily kind of put out to market and not in the same way. So there’s a really interesting bringing together of some nice consultative minds, who are methodological short-category. We were heavily kind of invested in our sectors in terms of our clients’ sectors and understanding sectors. One of our big dots in the dot joining of the dots was the culture-and-trends unit that we’ve got. We’ve got a team of ten that have always been looking — we’ve had in place for about four or five years now — looking at secondary information, secondary data, looking at desk research for the common times, if you like, for the common digital age. Those guys have sort of done a bit of that, but insights didn’t have it framed the same way as us to have that kind of, “This is what’s going on in sectors and trends that are happening in sectors.”


And incorporating…  This is a theme, by the way, across all the brand interviews that I’ve done.  It’s just no longer the case that you can go forward with a primary piece of research. You’ve got to be able to triangulate that against — if it’s going to find purchase in the organization — against behavioral data or some other secondary data sources just to again set the context and help aid in the overall storytelling and narrative.


Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And we’d been working hard on that.  InSites have been strong in that as well, but not necessarily plugging it in quite exactly the same way. So that’s an exciting two different ways for us to do it. They’ve been very good on almost a sort of slightly academic side of brand and brand development, whereas we’ve not been quite as strong on that. So there’s really nice consultative pieces that are beginning to come together on them on sort of web projects that we’re doing now to bring the organizations together. 


Yeah, that’s great. That’s great. Congratulations by the way. 


Thank you.


That’s a big deal. 


It’s interesting. Yeah, we did a management buyout as a leadership team back in 2017, and  that to some extent we didn’t know where that was going to go and we were fortunate to do a deal with our original founders that we managed to make happen and didn’t necessarily think this would happen as quickly as it has, but there’s a real right-time feeling about it.


It’s interesting is the…  You kind of like canvas. Obviously, I’ve been heavily involved in M&A over the last five years in the space with Decipher to Focus Vision and Focus Vision doing the acquisitions that it did, primarily under Eric Grosgogeat’s leadership and, framing that out now where the market is, it’s become much…  There’s always been acquisitions, like that’s always been part of the ecosystem, but it feels like the roll-up acquisition and the combining of forces is becoming, in a lot of ways, a strategic advantage for companies, uniquely creating moats and filling out capabilities. We’re seeing a lot more of it now than we did even three years ago. 


Yeah, we obviously have.  We all do, don’t we. We all keep an eye on the market and especially within our own regions about what positions that are going on. And, as you say, there’s been a number of changes to the dynamic of that, whether it be, obviously, trends…  We have trends very much in the UK and around sort of marketing services companies buying research agencies and research tech agencies. And then it moves to things more like the management consultants buying and also situations now where we’re seeing things like Big Data companies who are maybe taking on agencies, research agencies or research tech agencies as well. So there’s been a real sort of…   You could see the trends ebbing and flowing on that. I guess it’s bizarre. Not bizarre, but I guess this is slightly telling that we brought together like-minded people that we’ve known for a long time rather than going to bed with them where they need those kind of scenarios. I mean who knows what’ll happened further down the line. But I think the coming together of O and O agencies that look similar is quite rare. So then when those kind of opportunities come up, I guess if you can get them to slot together, it is something that you’re going to look at.


Yeah. So, post acquisition, right? You guys have gotten a lot of press, I mean a lot of press. What are you guys offering? I know it’s a breadth of things. I want you to really focus in on one offering. What is the thing that you’re offering that’s getting some purchase right now and some material lift inside the industry? 


We were getting some really good movement on the aspects around the “listen and observe” and moving it away from “ask.”  And I think InSites have been doing the same: so, things like the sort of digital ethnography, more immersive stuff and trying to combine that with things like social listening and trend analysis.  We were talking offline before we started about innovation. Everyone’s desperate to innovate. All the big brands are looking at innovation opportunities ‘cause there’s so much disruption going on from smaller organizations that they feel that they need to be part of it. Big global brands have found it hard to play in that space. And that’s why it’s interesting that they often end up just buying the startups. But I think that they’re all beginning to feel like we need to get our acts together around innovation processes. I’ve just had lunch with a big, big FMCG player about how they’ve had to reappraise their innovation and milestones and aspects of how they reframe the whole research process on innovation. And disappointingly, we’ve not been involved but we just missed out on it. But it’s very interesting to hear. 


We’re playing the long game here. 


Yeah, exactly. And it’s interesting here too.  I think this is where consumer immersion, understanding people and aspects is a phraseology that both sides of our joint organization is very intrigued by, and it adds to me that’s trying to, in terms of the three-legged stool that you talking, it’s kind of just trying to keep remembering that don’t just do the two-leg cause you’ll fall down.


That’s right.  You need to pay attention to all the legs.  


Because I think agile speed is priced agile-speed price.  You can throw a hundred ideas against the wall. But if you don’t spend enough time working out the quality aspects of it, it’s just not going to work. And I think we’ve got to be careful about going too quick.


I totally agree. Quality is one of the legs and at the end of the day we are the rudder of action inside of the organizations that are making, in some cases, $100-million or billion-dollar decisions on market research data. So we really need to be thoughtful from a tool empowerment perspective and consultative perspective to ensure that methodologically…  Like that rigor is really important. 


I’ve heard a bit of a…  This is probably a bit of a British phrase: bee in my bonnet.   I’ve got a thing for many years around how I failed the future of market research and consumer research and understanding consumers has… We’ve let ourselves down in many respects in terms of how we have that interaction with consumers:  length of surveys, all that stuff. It’s just kind of wrong, and I think it’s got to be back on the consumer’s terms. And I think you have to go back to your original question. Give me a couple of examples. There’s really some things that already the joint organization around sampling, which I think is interesting. At the end of the day, some consumers are, I think it’s Forrester’s work, which says 98% of good validation people to speak to in research 90% are good curation people and 1% are creative. Now, the InSites Consulting Group bought ICurve, the creative panel company, which I’m sure you’ll be aware of and others out there will have hear of. Fascinating to have such a creative panel out there to go to for co-creation in our space and I think that’s exciting.  InSites have been doing great work with employees and stakeholders. I think employees and stakeholders at big brand organizations can play a big part in the curation part. They know both sides of the fence, if you like, rather than just us getting caught in big samples of the validators that aren’t going to get you anywhere necessarily. They play a role; of course, they do, but I think there’s aspects around sampling and getting the right people to interact with you in the right way at the right time is something that our… I’m excited by what we’re thinking about here. 


That’s really interesting. I completely agree with the point of view that we need to start at the fundamental level of respondent quality and make sure that we are getting the right… one – real people and then secondarily — or maybe additionally primarily — the right sample frames lined up. What do you see as the biggest issue that is facing today’s market researchers?


This is a fascinating question, but I think we need to keep challenging ourselves around the combination of the right tools with the right people and being open- minded. You mentioned rigor before. I’m a big fan of a lot of what’s been cornerstone of our industry, but I’m also at the same time that the other side of that coin is the spin, excuse the French:  There’s been a lot of shit done. An interesting area, for example, is to what extent are we truly understanding the threat from things like Big Data and social media analysis, etc. We’ve got to work out how we’re playing in that space and how we’re part of that landscape. 


Yeah, give you some real data here. According to ESOMAR, you’ve got fairly flat growth inside of the global market research spend over the last few years. Meanwhile, customer experience — which some people would argue is inside of market research or should sit inside of market research, and we all know it doesn’t now — it is projected to be a $23-billion space in 2023 growing at a 23% CAGR, which is freaking insane. So when you think about… and you look at the types of research that are being done…  In fact, I’m participating in (I’m fortunate enough to be a member of a user-experience research Google group in the Bay Area. That Google group recently created a list of about a hundred terms that are used inside of, I’ll call it research, customer experience, user experience and market research. And they’re trying to define that and then also identify which pieces fit into which disciplines. So it’s just fascinating to me that the one big piece of differentiation is the nomenclature inside of those three disciplines. But the actual execution or the work that is being done is, for all intents and purposes, it’s the same type of stuff.


I’m not surprised. I’m not as close to that stuff, but I’m not surprised by that kind of commentary. And I think it’s about…  I don’t know if we call ourselves being in the traditional market research spaces about us embracing and breaking laws. Though we were involved for a long time in user-experience stuff and usability research and it ended up becoming almost a slightly separate discipline here in UK and Europe and still kind of is.  And I think you’re right: I think CX is kind of spun out of that to some extent as well. But, ultimately, at the end of the day, it’s about understanding people and understanding why people are doing things such for a commercial outcome and what our industry should be about. And you will get marginalized if we’re not careful. 


Yeah, that’s right. And that’s why I think if you actually look physically at how the organizations that are structured to leverage insights quickly, right, they have the insight function sitting really close to, in a physical proximity and from a hierarchy perspective as well, to that insight professional, right? So product is sitting or UX researcher is sitting by product. for example, right? That’s the thing where we as researchers need to make sure that we are outside of our pseudo-kingdom and making sure that we are actively integrating and integrated into the decisions that are being made. And the other thing that’s interesting to me from an opportunity is that like Facebook has over 600 user-experience researchers, which is a big number, and they have far less than that market researchers.  Well, there’s an opportunity for researchers to be mentors to this division. I think that as we see ourselves as enablers and really creating a safe framework for insights inside of the organizations, then we help secure our future inside of this growing space.


I haven’t thought of it like that before, but I think that’s an interesting way of seeing where the opportunities lie on the client side.  We’re seeing a lot of examples now of clients that the old market research, the good parts of the old market research principles are beginning to decay on the client side and not be kind of there. I don’t want to sound like I’m an old traditionalist on that, but the best parts of it, you want to be in the mix. 


Let’s do that. 


I’ll give you an example actually as well. About two years ago we were looking to hire a research director, classic research director, to work on our communities, classic market research, lots of validation. You kind of work a bit of the immersive work blah de blah. And I met a woman who had been working in social media listening but was a traditional researcher by trade, but she’d been in that space for a couple of years and then the organization that she was working for, she didn’t know where her role was going next. So she thought she better look back to her past.  And I was talking to her. I was really intrigued by her passion around what we now term “social intelligence” because what she had done in her role in this quite boutique company was actually to bring the principles of market research to social media listening, which I haven’t seen much. I haven’t seen much of, and I haven’t seen done very effectively and, personally, had a little bit discounted social media listening as part of the mix of an agency like mine, like ours, spend more time with the sort of work that she was doing and when… This is fascinating when you link it back to the issues I’ve thought about it before about sampling and whether you’re getting the right data and how you’re making that join up as part of your list, your sort of understanding of consumers, we’ve really integrated into Join the Dots excited by having it in Join the Dots/InSites consulting as well because I think it’s a really interesting new area.  I call it a new area; it’s been going on for ages: scraping, text analytics, sorting, but doing that with a big qual head and some qualitative principles of understanding our own analysis and some kind of neat methodologies around analysis from our kind of part. What a lot of people would call our past, if you like, is bringing some really interesting results. Now, we’re not doing it in isolation necessarily; we’re then moving it onto consumer dialogue and getting consumers to work with some of the findings and vice versa. So joining the dots on the kind of things that are going on there. But I think now some example of how our industry, I saw loads and loads of social media analysis, conference papers. We scraped; we texted; and we did text analytics. And it said, “24% of the people don’t chew gum in Seattle.”


Yeah, the application of that. 


Well, well done you. Yeah, but where’s the insight in that, you know?  And so, bringing back some of our principles and trying to layer them in clever ways with the technological basic collection aspects…  I understand the people that run those social media scraping companies. The best way for them to make money is on the tech. And the best way for them to make money is to get the analytics out and to get data to big organizations. I get that. But if you want to be a consultant, do something else with it slightly. 


I think application of the insight, right? 


Exactly. And I think there’s some interesting things going on in that space. The question you asked is what’s the biggest issue facing.  The biggest issue facing is us not adapting with our old principles in the right way, but also the biggest opportunities as well. And there’s two sides of the same coin. 


All right, last question. What is your personal motto? 


If it looks wrong, it is wrong. That is a kind of a nice start point. I think I do like that one as a kind of thinking about it from an analysis perspective when I still get involved in analyzing client stuff. And the other one I kind of really, really like is the…  I guess I don’t know if it’s a motto, but I guess the one is around this: I’m a big believer in qual and ethnographic work, and it’s bizarre that I was brought up on ad tracking quant, but market research started by observing. That was where it starts with anthropological stuff and all that kind of thing and…  Let’s understand people. Let’s watch them. Let’s see what they’re doing. Let’s make that a big part of what we’re up to because if we don’t have a window to people’s lives, we’re not giving true consultations to our clients, I don’t believe. That’s the nature of a sort of agency I want to be involved in and want to be involved. So, I’m not quite sure it is  a motto, but I guess it’s a kind of a belief.


Perfect a way to go out. If someone wants to get in contact with you, how would they do that? 


I guess they would email me or look me up on LinkedIn. So, it’s Graeme, G R A E M E.Lawrence@JointheDotsMR.com or just look me up on LinkedIn. Reach out and maybe leave a message to say you’ve heard this.  Happy to see anything I would’ve been saying is a load of nonsense.


Unfortunately, I don’t think you’ve said anything that’s particularly contrarian. That would have been, actually, a lot of fun. We’re all fairly like-minded.  I do think as I frame out this episode in my head right now, I continue to see one of these last points that we’ve been discussing of the growing change inside of the insights function, cross Venn diagram of UX or whatever, right? That could be something really interesting for people to get your perspective on. You’ve dealt with many of the largest brands in the world.  So I’ll do my best to create that sort of conversation on LinkedIn. My guest today has been Graeme Lawrence, Chief Client Officer at Join the Dots. Thank you, Graeme, very much for joining me on the Happy Market Research Podcast. 


Thanks everyone, take care. 


Everyone else, if you found value in this episode, please take the time to screenshot, share it on social media. It means the world to me. Our audience, we’ve now exceeded 50,000 downloads. I really appreciate the ongoing support that we get as we post these episodes. The only way that people find it is either through social media; obviously, water cooler as well as your five-star ratings on whatever platform you’re using.  Have a wonderful rest of your day.


According to the GRIT report, there has been an increase in the number of qualitative-based tools. This is centric to user experience, customer experience, and market research. However, as with all things, the actual research operations remains to be done and that happens usually outside of those toolsets. HubUx is a solution for that. You plug your tools directly into it; you enter in who it is that you want to talk to, when you want to talk to them, and HubUx literally does the rest for you. If you already have an existing customer list, you can just upload it directly into the tool. If you want to leverage social recruiting, that’s integrated as well. It is the single source for all of your research operations needs HubUx. Check it out. Thanks. 

MrWeb Podcast Series

Ep. 231 – MrWeb Series – Isaac Rogers of 20|20 Research on Benefits to Investing in ResearchOps Automation

My guest today is Isaac Rogers, CEO of 20|20 Research. Established in 1984, 20|20 believes in the power of giving consumers a voice, and has spent more than 30 years finding ways to simplify connections between brands and consumers, enabling the consumer to share their stories. Prior to joining 20|20 in 2008, 20|20 has developed methods and tools used worldwide for qualitative and hybrid research studies. 

Find Isaac Online:

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/isaacrogers 

Website: www.2020research.com 

Find Jamin Online:

Email: jamin@happymr.com 

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/jaminbrazil

Twitter: www.twitter.com/jaminbrazil 

Find Us Online: 

Twitter: www.twitter.com/happymrxp 

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/company/happymarketresearch 

Facebook: www.facebook.com/happymrxp 

Website: www.happymr.com 

This Episode is in Partnership with MrWeb:

Website: www.mrweb.com 

Twitter: www.twitter.com/mrwebnews 

This Episode’s Sponsor: 

This episode is brought to you by HubUx. HubUx reduces project management costs by 90%. Think of HubUx as your personal AI project manager, taking care of all your recruitment and interview coordination needs in the background. The platform connects you with the right providers and sample based on your research and project needs. For more information, please visit HubUx.com.


Hey everybody, this is Jamin, host of the Happy Market Research Podcast. In conjunction with MrWeb, I’ve had the honor of interviewing three of the leading custom panel companies. This is one of those three episodes. If you’re not currently subscribed to MrWeb, I just can’t recommend another resource. He gives you a daily update on happenings, whether it’s HR, M&A, technology releases, companies going out of business, companies starting. I mean there is not a single point of truth that I found to be more consistent and reliable than MrWeb. So check them out. They’re great and I hope you enjoy this episode. 


According to the GRIT report, there has been an increase in the number of qualitative-based tools. This is centric to user experience, customer experience, and market research. However, as with all things, the actual research operations remains to be done and that happens usually outside of those toolsets. HubUx is a solution for that. You plug your tools directly into it; you enter in who it is that you want to talk to, when you want to talk to them, and HubUx literally does the rest for you. If you already have an existing customer list, you can just upload it directly into the tool. If you want to leverage social recruiting, that’s integrated as well. It is the single source for all of your research operations needs HubUx. Check it out. Thanks.


Hi, I’m Jamin, and you’re listening to the Happy Market Research Podcast. My guest today is Isaac Rogers, CEO at 20|20. Established in 1984, 20|20 is a global consumer insights agency that helps companies make better business decisions through deep understanding of people. Prior to joining 20|20 in 2008, Isaac has done a host of things, but really, I think, sir, you really came into this research space strong inside of a well-established business, and it’s an absolute honor to have you on the podcast today.


Oh. thanks, Jamin. And I have been looking forward to this. It’s always a pleasure to get to talk to you. 


So, I like to start out with this contextual question. Tell us a little bit about your parents and how they informed your career. 


Sure, this was a dangerous question to think about.


Yeah, ‘cause you may or may not see them for Christmas. 


Yeah. So I think I will be seeing my parents for Christmas this year. So Mom and Dad, if you’re listening, don’t take offense to this. My parents’ careers, they were both in the health care field. They had wonderful influence on me as a kid, but there is something just outside of my parents and kind of what they did for a living that I think was really instrumental for us. For the last 15 years of my upbringing, we had a cattle ranch.  So, we lived there; we raised about 150 to 200 head of cattle and that was what I did. Starting at about the age of 12 or 13, I had a pretty instrumental role, and then I was running the place by 14 and 15. And, Jamin, and there’s something about being raised on a farm or on a ranch that gives you some very unique characteristics, and I’ve met other senior leaders and executives over the years, and it’s amazing to me the percentage of them that grew up on a ranch or I grew up on a farm somewhere.  But that thing, the fact that we’ve done it our life around this farm that we had was I think one of the more instrumental things in making me who I am as a unique individual. My parents had all sorts of wonderful positive attributes in other ways. But really being raised on a ranch, I think, was a really special thing for making me who I am.


How big was the ranch? 


About 500 acres.  So, a pretty good size. 


Not huge.


Not huge. So it was outside of a little town in Arkansas, Hot Springs, Arkansas, and primarily a place where it was a working cattle ranch. It made money, but it wasn’t like one of these giant operations. So we raised Brahma cattle, which was an interesting thing to do and it was a lot of work. It’s big enough that it was a ton of work, but small enough that our family could manage it and not have to bring in a bunch of people to do it. 


Did you guys go through lean times?  So, 500 acres is a lot of acreage, but cattle require a lot of space, right?  So it’s not like farming. You don’t have the same ROI on 500 acres as you would in farming, for example, right?  It’s a totally different set of economics, meaning that like were you guys susceptible to market shifts in price, that sort of thing. Did you have lean years as a family?


Not overall as a family because my folks had other income streams that helped buttress.  I mean if we were totally dependent on the ranch, there would’ve been some really lean years. Cattle prices on the beef side fluctuated a lot in the late eighties, early nineties and so that would’ve been a challenge. So there’s an extraordinary amount of fluctuation. There were times where we didn’t really have an opportunity to sell any cattle in a given year because the prices were so depressed. You just had to wait. And the cost when we got into raising cattle was fairly low. But, frankly, as fewer and fewer ranches existed and were in operation, things got a lot more expensive. And towards the end of my shift on the farm, which would have been late nineties, I still worked when I went to college, but it wasn’t nearly as intense as in high school.  

We got to a point where in order to find the folks who could keep the equipment running and do those kinds of things, the real specialized stuff, it’s hard to find those people. And so, for looking back…  And now my folks are at a point where they’re contemplating selling the farm, and my son and daughter are a little disappointed about that. But they’ve really gotten to a point where they can’t make it make much sense anymore.  So it’s sad to see those things go because you get so many… Like the life lessons that come at you on a farm are so incredible. Like the idea of being so self-aware of what’s going on, trying to plan for things weeks and months out, you don’t think about those things when you’re in high school in the eighties and nineties growing up.  That’s not something you… Normal kids didn’t have to think about that stuff. And so, having been raised around that, it was really, I think, very formative in me thinking about how important it was to plan and think and then also be able to do almost anything you needed to do yourself. 


Yeah, I think that’s exactly right. It’s the ingenuity aspect is probably my biggest takeaway from being raised in a rural environment, right.  It’s not do or die, but it’s definitely the case: you’ve got to figure stuff out like how to repair a diesel engine or whatever. And this is pre-YouTube.  Thank God for YouTube.


Yeah, and most of the things you end up doing, you’ve never done before. If something breaks and you can’t get somebody there to fix it and it needs to be fixed, you’re going to figure that out. And there wasn’t plan B and there wasn’t Postmates. And so, I think those kind of lessons were extraordinarily influential in who I became. I reached a point in my career where there was some negative sides to them that I had to get rid of. I was the kind of person who would…  One of my worst character traits is I’ll just get in and do it myself. And as you get into a bigger and bigger organization and need to work through the folks in your organization, that’s a really bad trait. And so, I had to kick that off a little bit. Took me a couple of years, but I think I’ve got most of those things in check.


Was there a specific point where you as a leader where you faced…  (And we’re going to shift our conversation just a little bit towards leadership style and advice for aspiring leaders.)  Part of our audience are kind of the early stage startups in the market research space. So they might have groups of 10 or 20 or even 50 employees.  And I think this is probably a really important lesson that you’re hitting on here. And, actually, it’s surprising to me that this hasn’t come up on the show before. Having the capacity to do it all plays really, really well when you’re a 10-person company.  But to your point, it is your ceiling. Like you cannot advance beyond that unless you can give up that sort of… Did you have a pivotal moment where you’re like, I got to just let it go? 


Yeah, I kind of got told to.  So a lot of folks in the industry know Jim Bryson, our founder, my partner.  


And probably one of the best, best human beings of all time.


The best human beings on earth.  So, I was taking more and more of the reins of 20|20 about three or four years ago, and I was having trouble letting go of some things.  I became the bottleneck, and I wanted things to run through me. And I had made some strides myself, but, man, I wasn’t moving fast enough. And so, Jim worked with me:  We brought in a business coach, and he really had one thing that he’d said he wanted to focus on and that is teaching me how give up on certain things and realize working through people was better than trying to do it myself. We started off the coaching process with a really great book—What Got You Here Won’t Get You There.  And it’s a book that turned some people off because it’s very focused on sales leadership and sales people transitioning into other roles, but I think the lesson is super important and that is that these qualities that you get really, really good at over the first 15 to 20 years of your career… 

Being willing to say, I’m not going to get to exercise that muscle anymore. Like I’m not going to be able to be the rock star on that thing because I’m going to step aside and let somebody else build that capability or let somebody else handle that in a way that may be slightly different than the way I would. That’s a really, really challenging transition when you make it. I think there’s a point where you have to make it.  There’s a certain point where a founder or early stage company executive, when you’ve got a team of four or five, six folks underneath you, they’re going to have to take some of that load from you or you are going to be your company’s own scaling bottleneck.


That’s right. Yeah, well said, well said.  And I think there’s two things there. One is we’ll link in the show notes to the book that you just referenced. I hadn’t heard of that and I will read it also. Thank you for that. And then the second part that’s really important is…  Well, I actually there’s two parts to it: one is having an outside influence that you respect — So, the mentor that can point these blind spots out — and then having the humility to seek outside professional, paid-for support on addressing or shoring up those weaknesses. 


And then what I’ve learned in the intervening three or four years is that because I’m not doing those things and I’m working through my people, I have a lot of jingoisms or a lot of things that I’d fall back on when I’d think about how I’m supposed to be structuring my day. And so, one of them is when I took the reins of CEO, I said my job is to have the right people, give them the right resources and help them make the right decisions. And I bring a lot of conversation of our organization back to that. So that’s a great tool for me. And when you’re jumping from fire to fire, doing things yourself, you don’t get to develop those rubrics that you’re going to apply to your organization; so, you don’t get the consistency inside your teams. You don’t get to really take a step back and look at how some of your structures and how some of your leadership processes are working. That probably took a year or two before I realized, wow, with all of this extra time, what allows me to do — and it’s a little bit uncomfortable because it doesn’t feel as active — is to say how well are these things working and what do I need to adopt more of and what do I need to let go of? It almost becomes like a snowball, where you’re letting go of more and more and you’re getting really good at two or three really focused things.


Well, hey listen, congratulations on your patent. 20|20 blockchain led Opinion Data Marketplace. I saw that post on LinkedIn a few days ago. 


That one was actually for another one.  So, we also…


Oh, is it really it?


Yeah, that we have been investing in virtual reality and as it’s going to relate to qualitative research in the future.  That’s actually a VR-based patent. But there was a blockchain patent issued as well.


You know what?  You and the patents.  So, I want to talk about that, but not yet. I want to be centric to the blockchain.  And by the way, let’s pivot one more time in the conversation. Your LinkedIn is in the top echelon of LinkedIn profiles and activities. You get a lot of engagement on your posts. Super interesting. Do you have any tips for aspiring LinkedIn people that want to grow their LinkedIn audience and connections?


Yeah, I get asked that a lot, actually. So, I started it because…  I don’t want somebody like you to take this the wrong way or there’s folks out there who do some really great work, but I sat back and I kept going…  It felt like we were losing the voice of the industry in some way. I just wasn’t hearing from some of the folks that I know had some really great ideas; some of the folks that I knew where they needed to know or they knew where the industry needed to go.  And I was talking to Heather, our Head of Marketing, one day and I remember I was just getting frustrated and she said, “Well if you’re so frustrated, why don’t you do it yourself.” And I was like, “Huh, well, maybe she’s got a point.” And so, it started kind of small and modest. And it’s grown out from there.  And I think what we focus on or what I focus on is I want to be real honest with people. I don’t put a lot of polish into the things that I personally put out there much to Heather’s chagrin. I don’t overthink it, but when something comes up (and again it’s ‘cause I have that time as a leader now to watch and look and think) when I see a trend that other people may miss because they’re busy getting the things done here at 20|20, that gives me an idea to write about.  I published something the other day about meetings, and it’s amazing to me how many people have never stopped to think about how much meetings cost, like actual value of the time of the people you’re putting in the room, how to structure a meeting. And so, I take those tidbits, and I usually test them internally with some people and I’ll run the idea by and they’ll be like, “I’ve never thought about that.” And then, I just publish it and I listen for feedback and, if people like it, I take a little mental note that that’s the kind of thing people want to hear about and, if people don’t engage on it, then I write about something that’s a little bit different. But it came from the fact that I think as an industry I don’t…  There are so many amazing people with so many amazing things to say, and I don’t see enough of them out there doing that not in a self-serving way, but as a way to highlight what our industry brings to the table. And so that’s how we got started. And then we’ve tried to be as authentic as we can and keeping it going.


Yeah, that’s a great point on meetings.  It’s a great point on, I think, the white space or the opportunity for marketeers inside of our space as well as CEOs just to add their voice and create value inside of these platforms. The actual ROI in a meeting as…  I would do a calculation and after, as the company scales, you think about, “OK, I’ve got whatever, 410 people that I’m going to do an all-hands meeting. Okay, now I want that meeting to be 10 minutes.”  


Yeah, when you start doing the math, it really starts to add up. So, it’s about having a point of view.  It’s incredible that more people don’t take advantage of this in the insights space because we sit at such an amazing point.  We see so much going on with business and marketing and consumers and how they’re living their lives. And I don’t think we’re sharing enough. And I think if we shared more, it would also highlight the value of insights. So I wish more people would just take a risk and put their thoughts out there and see what people think.


All right, so you got your patent blockchain, specifically this Opinion Data Marketplace. Tell us about the role of blockchain and what that patent means.


Sure. So, the origin story I think on this is pretty interesting, or at least it’s interesting for me. So several years ago I have to do the math. (You know you tell a story enough and you forget.  Has it been four or five or six years?) Somewhere around five years ago, I had a moment on an airplane flying to Chicago. And previous to that moment for several years, around 20|20 and around, frankly, the broader industry, I had had some concerns about some of the ways that we were collecting data, monetizing data, some of the ways that we treat panelists and respondents.  For those that don’t know, we do a lot of qual and some quant and it puts us in an intersection where we see a good amount of quantitative, especially with some of our hybrid projects. And there’s some amazing, great work that happens in quant and there’s also some stuff that I wasn’t terribly proud of as an industry. I felt like we had ways to clean up and we weren’t. I felt like we’re getting to the point where, if we didn’t get in front of some of these things, probably going to begin to harm the relationship we had with our client base.  And I’d been concerned about this for a few years and didn’t really have a good answer. And I’m on a flight to Chicago, and I’m reading about a distributed application — We didn’t even use the word blockchain back then — that was describing a way that they were creating a registry for diamonds and the diamond trade and what that was going to look like. And I’m reading this article on a flight to Chicago; I’m going up there for a conference. And I just had this moment and I went, “We’re in the diamond business.” What they’re trying to do is create a registry that people can trust and rely on that anybody can look in and see where a diamond was mined, where it was going to go, who cut the diamond and know that it wasn’t a blood diamond, know that it wasn’t a diamond that had been resold and re-harvested. I looked at that and I said, “That’s an excellent solution for what we are trying to wrestle with in the market research space about six years ago.  So, I actually got to Chicago, booked another flight, came back to Nashville, spent a couple months with our development teams, talking to intellectual patent attorneys all across the country. Actually, found one here in Nashville who had experience already with some of the stuff that was going on in blockchain as it relates to health care. So we worked for several months on creating the IP, creating some early-stage products around that. About a year and a half later that patent was granted. So, what does it do? It creates a marketplace. When I look at the way that a lot of data collection happens in market research, it’s kind of a mess. There’s a lot of players and a lot of steps and a lot of people and, if you really take a step back, it’s a brand that has a question and they want to get that answer from a human and you think about ALL the machinations we have between what seems like a very elegantly simple desire. This type of marketplace, when it’s successful in our industry, just kind of shortens that gap. And it puts more power in the hands of the respondent because they get more in control of the surveys they take, the feedback they give to survey publishers, the data they share with those survey publishers; they get more of the monetization than they currently do.  I think one of the real travesties in our industry is how little we pay respondents to participate in the work we do. They are, literally, the lifeblood of what we do, and they get an extraordinarily small fraction of the value. By taking out some of that inefficiency, a centralized marketplace hopefully allows this to occur.


There is a couple of things.  One is increased transparency on who the respondent is and gets to historically one of the value prop, I should say, one of the key assets or the key asset of the sample space has been that asset. So, are you saying that the solution will create, allow the brands to subsequently leap-frog the panel company? Or, to your earlier point, there’s lots of hands that mark up a complete.


In many ways, it would.  I would argue that it would also allow agencies to take more control of how they are accessing a population of users who take surveys.  The thing that I like about marketplaces is that, if they’re efficiently designed, they give feedback in both directions. And so, if you read our patent, one of the big things that we lean in on is as a survey respondent taking a survey, I also have the ability to provide feedback and even penalize the reputation of a survey publisher who may throw a “10-minute” survey out there (and I’m using air quotes) and it takes 37 minutes and it’s poorly worded. So there’s a balance to be struck between not only bringing the respondent into more of an empowered role in how we engage them, but I think there’s also a ton of honesty we need to bring to the industry about the data we’re actually collecting, what we’re actually asking them to do and paying them to do ‘cause it’s untruthful.  And you look at a lot of the data scraping we’re doing and we’re not telling them about, when you look at the length of a survey that we give them and we kind of chuckle and say, “It’s a 12-minute survey; you’ll make 25 cents.” And it’s really two or three times that long. All of that gets cleaned up if you have a transparent marketplace, or my hope is that all gets cleaned up.  


No, I feel like if you look at where there’s significant opportunities for disruption, it’s all centered around non-transparent practices, right?  So anytime you can introduce transparency, you’re creating value, regardless of the industry. You’re creating value in that marketplace, and then the by-product of that, of course, is you can’t just exist on a 200% markup anymore, right? You’ve got to think about and create value in different ways than you historically may have been able to do.  So, when I think about the real benefit of blockchain, it’s two-fold: One is improved trust with who the respondent is to the brand. So that’s a big win. And the other one is — and you explicitly stated this and I think it’s on point — the ability for the respondent to have a voice in that tool or platform or that particular survey, to round-trip the feedback, because, according to some sources, there are over 4 million surveys done just in North America alone per day for third party purposes, right?  So that’s not like client-supplied lists; that’s purchased sample. And the velocity is increasing. So now it’s the case that a survey is really an extension of brand.


I strongly believe that.  I think that we are seeing more and more brand partners who are getting wise to that idea that when you put an instrument out there that’s really painful, that is an extension of your brand. And some of them want to hide behind and say, “Well, we’re not going to just say who the sponsor was.”  Does that really feel good to anybody though? Like my litmus test has been I want to get the industry to a point where one day I can turn around to my mom and go, “Hey, Cathy, I would love it if you would take surveys and here’s why. It’ll be a great experience. You’ll get rewarded for your time and brands really listen to what you have to say.”  I can’t tell her that today. I wouldn’t wish the average survey on an enemy. And I want to find a way where we create a real marketplace and say, “Look, this is the value of the insight you’re providing. This is how we’re going to share that with you respondent for the time and effort you’re going to put in and we’re going to be honest with what we’re collecting, what we’re asking you for.” And that transparency, I believe, by definition will lead to a lot of efficiency, and it will also lead to some probably negative unintended consequences.  It’ll lead to a lot of change, but there’s absolutely no doubt in my mind that this is where things are going. It’s only a matter of how quickly we get there.


Do you think that disruption…  Everything you’ve outlined from a practical perspective, how do we realize that?  Has that impacted, now that you have this technology, has it impacted your actual day-to-day or terms of trade or way that customers are interacting with you and/or the sample that you empower through this platform?


In very early stages, yes.  So, we’ve got the platform that we built in early stage. We’re using it internally here for some things as we build it out. So it hasn’t had a wide-scale economic impact on us or the industry yet. It will hopefully very soon. I have some open questions, frankly, and I don’t know brave or dumb enough to share them is an interesting way to look at it. I’m not sure which one it is.  But if we are transparent with respondents and we say, “Look, this is what we need from you. This is the information we’re going to collect.” And we let them set their own prices for how much it would cost for them to participate. Instead of telling them you’ll make 20 points, if we say, “Look, how much, like we’re offering the survey at $1 or $2 or $5. At what point in time do you think it’s worth your time?” I’m a little bit nervous about how that’s going to shift some of the economics in the industry.  Frankly, if we share enough with the respondent’s out of the value, I think it’ll be fine. But there are still some unanswered questions I have. As these technologies move forward, they get outside of an internal testing inside 20|20 and move externally. We’ll get those questions answered. It’s going to be an interesting time to see how those play out.


Yeah, I guess at the heart of the question, you and I are both aligned that there’s going to be disruption to this space, blockchain being the platform that’s going to create the disruption.  Is it the case that there’s going to be a Netflix equivalent that’s going to be introduced into the marketplace that’s going to really upset the apple cart? Or do you feel like, ‘cause you have some major players…   You’ve got Dynata; I don’t know that they’re actually addressing this particular point at this point. I haven’t heard anything about it, if they are. You’ve got Veriglif. I believe that’s an initiative that’s being done by Lenny Murphy.  Again, it’s just early stages. It’s just, I think they’re still in like speccing or whatever phase. There’s nothing out there commercially available. Then you have what you guys are doing. And, outside of those three, those two, excuse me, I haven’t really heard of anybody entering into the market research space legitimately.


Yeah, and I think it’s going to happen in one or two ways. It’s either going to be like boiling a frog and that’s how you see a lot. That’s how you see a lot of disruption happen. right?  So, you turn around and you go, “Oh my gosh, hasn’t this been here the whole time?” And it’s really been a very short amount of time. So, the example I like to give is we all got iPhones in 2007. Like I have tee shirts; I have t-shirts that old. That’s what? 12 years ago?  And it seems like your brain has trouble remembering a time when that didn’t happen. And I think, in about five years, we will look back on our industry, and we’ll be at a point where these kind of marketplaces will be available and effective for a lot of the industrial sampling we do. And we’ll  turn around and go, “Oh my gosh, how did we ever do it the old- fashioned way. But it takes time. The other way it may happen is that someone big from the outside may come in and have a technology that probably comes out of the advertising technology space, realizes that market research and ad technology tracking can overlap with each other ‘cause you can get the behavioral and then you can get the self-reported. Somebody may come in with a platform that’s much, much larger than any of the players in market research and come in and do something in that way. So it’s either going to be slow and internal. slow relatively, or it’s going to be somebody coming from the outside and bringing in a broader solution and, frankly, probably selling it up the value chain to the CMO’s as an integrated advertising and insights platform. So, we’ll have to see. 


Yeah, that’s a great, super interesting point of view. So, switch gears again: qualitative forums. They’ve been around a long time, two decades.  I was an early user, not a developer, but user of a variety of different platforms. You know, 20|20 QualBoards, it’s been around a long time. On January 18 this year, you announced a major upgrade. Tell us about the upgrade as well as what aspects are getting major traction right now. 


Sure. So upgrade is a kind where we actually just rebuilt the whole thing. So,
we’ve had to do that four times. So we sit at a great point in the industry. We touched thousands of digital qualitative projects a year, worked with about a thousand clients around the world every year. And so again, with that time that I’m afforded and other folks in the product development team are afforded, we can listen and watch and see where things are going. This allowed us to be the first company in the world to have a mobile qualitative app in the iTunes store. We started building that a year-and-a-half before people actually needed it. And so, we had to rebuild our platform to support those kind of things. We were one of the first companies to support multimedia for doing online qualitative.  That seems crazy to even think like there was a day when respondents couldn’t upload pictures and videos while they were telling their stories.

And that was only 10 or 11 years ago, but it wasn’t that long ago. And we had to rebuild then. And so we reached a point about two years ago where we realized we had to rebuild for a fourth time. We see these things as evolutionary ages. It was just first doing digital and the second it was about multimedia; then it was mobile. And so the question is, what’s the fourth? What do we believe we’re in? I believe we’re in the age of automation when we look at the thousands of projects that we help run every year. The big, unrealized dream that people had when they started building digital qual platforms and the thing that, frankly, still frustrates a lot of researchers is doing online qualitative isn’t all that much faster, easier. There’s still a lot of data that moves back and forth and little tasks that need to be completed. And there’s a lot of set up. And so, it’s disappointing that you get into one of these studies and you’re like, “Ooh, digital,” especially when you find researchers who’d never done any sort of online discussions or forums before, and they go, “Oh, this is going to be so much easier.”  And we’re like, “It’ll be easier in ways and harder in others.” And so, we realized that what we had to do is we had to automate as much of the heavy lifting or menial tasks as we possibly could. And so, we spent about two, two-and-a-half years building out; really started with a foundation. It was all about data. How are we going to use artificial intelligence, natural language processing, machine learning, and build models that help researchers do the things they do that take up a lot of time, give that time back to them, give them their most valuable resource back?

And so, QualBoard 4.0 in that platform, there’s a lot of new and interesting things, but the real thing, I think, it will be known for three or four years from now is it was the first platform that really on the qualitative side fully bet the farm on how do we automate the little things in research to make a researcher’s life easier and more efficient. Right now, we feel like we can give, depending on the type of project, an hour a day back to researchers up to two or three hours a day depending on how much workload they’re doing. And that’s an enormous amount of time they can put back into insight development, frankly, just better, spending more time with the respondents. Automation we believe is where online qualitative is going.  The quant people, you guys are way smarter than us. You figured this out like five or six years ago, but the qual side of the business really hasn’t been able to.


Well, in all fairness it hasn’t because we take into account time. So as soon as you inject scheduling into any operational structure, it exponentially impacts the amount of time and complexity associated with particular activities. So like the synchronous nature of qualitative has created…  That and it’s not as big of a space. So I think there hasn’t been as much interest as you might have on the quant side. When you frame out like the efficiency gains that are introduced within 20|20’s QualBoard, is there a specific shining example that you have?


Lots of smaller ones.  We do a lot of research, and so I got to talk to some of the world’s leading experts on natural language processing and machine learning. When we started this process and we’d start with the obvious question, which is “How much of this…?  What’s the big silver bullet that we can put together? We can create some great models around and just knock it out of the park.” And they would all look at us and said, “You’re crazy. There is no such thing. There’s no silver bullet. What you can do is you can have these little helper applications that run that free up little pieces of time.”   So I’ll give you an example. We built something called smart reply. And what we did is we said “Look, one of the things that we know drives participation rates up by about 30% is when the moderator engages the respondent.

Just the simple act of like, ‘Hi, Jamin, thanks for being here. Great feedback. Love that photo.’ “  That can increase response rates from that respondent by up to 30%. Guess what percentage? And everybody knows this. Researchers know it’s really important to engage those respondents and keep them interested and let them know there’s a human being listening and all of those positive things we think of in qualitative. What percentage of posts in the 20 years we’ve been doing this, what percentage of them do you think are engaged or something a respondent says the moderator engages on? 


I’m going to say 60%.


Six tenths of 1%, Jamin.


Wait, in fairness, in fairness, my assertion was that they were already in a session.  That was wrong. I think. 


No. So, the overall majority of content that a respondent is providing in an online community never goes engaged on.  The other respondents, other respondents… 


That’s amazing. 


It’s amazing. And so, it starts to feel more like a survey. Their engagement goes down, and the minute that you probe or engage them, that engagement goes back up, but it takes time and it’s hard. You got to read through all this stuff. So we started building our own machine learning and looking over millions of records that we’ve collected over 20 years, millions, like 6 or 7 million records. We said, “Could we create training models to understand when researchers probe what they say and then provide either suggestions or automatically probe respondents in certain situations so that we know that we can increase that engagement level by automating a lot of that?”


So it’s like an AI in augmented conversation.


In a way, yeah. We let the researcher stay in the middle right now for the way that we’ve got it set up now. So they have to choose which smart replies they want to deploy to which respondent, but it saves an extraordinary amount of time, makes it easier, like in Gmail when you start typing out an email.


Yeah, yeah, it makes sense.


Similar to that, but it’s focused completely on qualitative research. So, there’s seven different classifiers that run when a respondent is talking about things that are about an experience. It starts pulling smart replies that are focused on, “Tell me more about that experience. Tell me more about that experience that you had.” It gives them the feedback that there’s somebody listening, except you don’t have to type it all. We have a way to automate that that we are slowly working on. We’re a little nervous people go overuse it. And so, we’re trying to create the right kind of throttles so that it is AI automatically probing those respondents in a lot of cases.  We were able to create models that looked at where researchers left what we call either insight tags or content tags: things that they typically are snapshotting to put in a report. We created a model that’s 72% effective at finding posts based on what is in the post, that we think a researcher needs to pay attention to. And so, there’s a feature in the software that you can turn on and say, “Just show me the things that the software thinks you’re going to actually want to put in a report,” saving time here and there, thirty minutes here, an hour here. Managed, starts to add up.


All right. I mean that seems like I actually really want to see a demo of that. It sounds like much more than a quality of life improvement. It feels like you’re going to get a higher level of engagement among your panelists or participants in addition to the fact that you’re going to be able to get to the richer, deeper insights. 


I think the level of engagement increasing, if that was the only thing we got out of it, it’s been more than worth it.  But you’re right. The ability for research to get more of their time back is also a big plus.


I want to talk about another product that you guys introduced this year in May specifically, and that is the slow-build lean community. From my vantage point, I think this is probably one of the more overdue products in the marketplace. It’s so silly. This should have been like 10 years ago.


Jamin, do you know how many times people tell me that?  I was talking to somebody last Friday and they were like, “Why has nobody done this?” And I think some people have, but maybe product market fit wasn’t right at the time or whatever. So the way it works is pretty straight forward. First of all, you need to know we do a ton of recruiting to our own platforms. About half the studies we do every year we’re recruiting; the other half clients are bringing sample; or we’re using some of our automation tools to recruit for quantitative or other panels. So we’ve got a bunch of different ways that we can bring these respondents in at these communities. And we would talk to clients and we would say, “With QualBoard 4.0 and the ability to build these larger populations, thousands of users and have them participate in all these different events while they’re doing your research, you can really build out a community,” and their eyes would kind of roll and they’d be like, “Yeah, I got one.” Or “Yeah, we did one. We’re never doing that again.”  And we would hear those things and we’d say, “Well, tell me more about that ‘cause for qual.” So we asked the probing question, and they kept telling us some of the same things that, “We’d build up these communities.” And they were mostly thinking large quantitative communities. They’d sign a big. huge check up front. They’d recruit 500, 1000, 1500 people. They bring them in, let’s say in January. We’d start doing research and then by May or June they’d go, “We didn’t actually get the right kind of people we want to talk to. Now we’ve learned a lot about our customer base. We’ve learned a lot about this new product. We need more females than we initially recruited, or we need more lapsed users.” But they felt kind of stuck cause they’d signed a six-figure check for a big community.

 On the traditional way, people think about qual boards is a tactical three- to seven-day online qualitative discussion. And so they’re like, “That’s kind of small,” and what I call disposable, meaning you’ll do a piece of research and it’s typically just focused on a single business decision, but then they get this really big thing that’s this big community and it’s very expensive and there wasn’t a ton of product in the middle. And so, we productize through either our automation, our recruiting capability and the way that we set up even the pricing model of QualBoard to be able to say, “Look, you can build into a community. You could start with five people on day one and do one event with those respondents. And then month two, you bring in a few more and month three and you’re kind of building it like a snowball. And it turns out it scratches an itch a ton of people have. And I think it’s just a different way of thinking about the middle ground between a large-scale quant community and your typical, tactical online research that people do. And we’re having a phenomenal amount of success with it. And it’s not driven by a single piece of technology. There’s some stuff that certainly helps support these things. It’s more the mind shift of build-it-as-you-go-along; lets you be more agile; let’s you save costs when you’re building these things out. And right now it’s giving us some really, really happy clients.


That’s great. So just to iterate what I think I heard:  everybody does ad hoc research, and you’re basically creating a connector into a panel from the ad hoc.


You’re basically building a panel inside of the platform as you go along.


And so, the really interesting thing about that is like underpinnings of blockchain. You actually have this capacity to safely grow respondent record over time so that you’re able to gain insight on not just stated but even other data that they may want to let you in on, which gets really interesting from an overall…  ‘Cause the real asset… This is a transactional business. We’re all trying to move to monthly reoccurring revenue (MRR) because that’s what the market overvalues right now. But you put all bullshit aside, and you just really focus on what we are as an industry. You have an insights need, and we meet that need. We get the customer in the room, right? That’s fundamentally what we do. Rarely is that systematized to the degree that I think we’d like it to be. I wish it was, but it’s not right now. But really what you’re talking about doing is creating that system so that you can build a longitudinal point of view at the respondent level. 


That’s right. Either longitudinal or take advantage of the thing that people think communities have.  From the quantitative side is you can just turn and burn super-fast. That brand manager comes around and says, “Hey, do you know, have we ever asked anybody about this use of our product?”  You can just go into your community and invite five or ten people into a video chat or give them a journal to fill out or get a group discussion going in a matter of minutes. That ability to be super agile is more in demand right now. The longitudinal is a piece of it.  Don’t get me wrong. But we’re seeing drive the lean community adoption. I think is more this idea that you can just be so agile with this community of users that you’ve already got going. 


So, do you think knowledge management…  Does that play into what you’re currently offering? Or is that one of the…  How do you see that? 


I would say in qualitative, it’s a little bit of a challenge just because of, as you mentioned before, the rather transactional way that this industry has been built. But I give a presentation on what I call disposable insights, which is this idea that we run all these focus groups and we do all this, even a lot of quant.  We throw the data away at the end of a project. As a little totem of this, it’s in a drawer back here somewhere. I was on the marketing side of a brand team a long time ago, and we did some focus groups, and I got the final report and I never looked at it. I just threw it on my desk. Well, that was 20 years ago. And I have carried it with me for years and years and years as a little totem to remind me of how easy it is to pay $100,000, spend three days in research, two weeks waiting for the report, and then never really integrate that knowledge in an ongoing basis in product development. So what we did with QualBoard 4.0 is we made it so that all the data you collect from all your different research events over time, they all feed into one place.  You can sort and filter and look at trends you can use. We’ve got our AI that looks at all the images that are collected and runs computer vision on them. You can say, “Look, I’m going to look over the last two years of research. How many times have people put pictures of pets?” And as we’re talking about the product and find those trends and look for those things.

So we’re getting there.  There’s a lot of education, a lot of training on the qual side because it’s historically been so transactional. But more and more the brand teams that are using our platforms, they go, “Oh, I get it. This gives me a way to say, ‘Look, I already have some knowledge maybe to start this next phase of research; I’m not starting with a blank piece of paper.’ ” And so, we’ve designed our system to work in that way and give you what we call an insight work bench. It’s lightly used now ‘cause most people are still in the tactical mode. But I think every day we see more and more people go, “I get it. I see why building a knowledge warehouses is a good thing for qualitative and a good thing for my brand clients.”


Fast forward five years. How are we different?


The dangerous question, the one that I jokingly will tell you that my crystal ball’s in the shop.


Bring it out; dust it off.


And I’m careful with these projections. So I think in five years, the trend I see is that more and more brands are internalizing research as a competitive advantage. I think that that is going to continue to happen. They’re going to see their insights groups not as a way to make research happen for them when they need it, but as an actual business competitive advantage. So I think we’ll see more and more of that. And I see some really smart stuff happening with the way that some of the bigger brands and even some of the more kind of static and traditional brands realize that insights can be a strategic thing and so let’s insource it. Think digital qual right now is probably less than 20% of the marketplace in the U.S.  I think in five years, it’ll be 50% if not more. The shift we’re seeing from traditional insight collection to digital is it’s on the biggest rise I’ve seen in the last 10 or 11 years and so I think in five years, my guess is we’ll probably be close to 50% if not a little bit more. 

I think from the corporate researcher side…  We work with a lot of folks on the corporate side and what I see is the really sharp insight departments moving towards it and starting to pull off.  That, I think, is going to be more and more common ‘cause right now a lot of the insights groups and a lot of the way we do research is reactive. Brand manager comes in, a product manager, R & D person comes in and says, ”Hey, I have a business question; I need an answer.”  And I see more and more, especially with some of our direct-to-consumer brand clients and more kind of disruptive clients, they’re actually the tip of the spear. They’re going out and listening really intently to what’s going on with their customers, trying to listen for we call the ripples of disruption that are going on in their lives, things that are changing, and then they bring those things practically to the brand team to say, “Hey, have you thought about this?  Are you seeing this in other things that you’re doing in your marketplace? How do we get in front of this trend versus being reactionary?” I am hopeful that if we can pull that off, it will turn insights… It’ll give us a renaissance in our industry. I think we are way too reactive right now. And being able to be a proactive force inside of corporate brands, I’ve seen it happen; I’ve seen it be wildly effective. And I think if I can look out five years and say that a third or half of brand teams are organized around doing mostly proactive research, the world would be a better place.


Yeah, I totally agree with that.  You’re seeing, a surgence of UX researchers right now and I think one of the reasons you’re seeing this massive growth is because they physically sit either in a slack channel or where they sit next to the people that are in the production, right? So you’re able to get more of this agile or lean or however you want to frame it, sort of insight — Just-in-time insights. The other thing I think is interesting that you’re hitting on that I haven’t heard a lot of, but I actually have gone on record as saying it.  2018, according to SMR, digital quals about $2 billion; 2023, I think it’s going to be around $6 billion. I think it’s interesting in context of where you’re framing things out. And the hypothesis around that is you’re going to see growth in qual… quant (excuse me) as well, but proportionally not nearly as much. I think it’s an exciting time. And the reason that we’re going to be able to do this is because you’re going to see more and more hybrid methodologies that are going to blend qualitative and quantitative so that you can have a conversation but at a size that you can extrapolate to the larger market. 


That’s right.  One of the favorite products that we have here is a product, the imoderate methodology. It’s a is the hybrid quant/qual product. And it was built about 10 years too early.  And now we’re seeing clients, and they come in and they go, “They say exactly what you, what you’re saying here.” And they go. “We’re doing all this quantitative and we really want to get more voice to the customer. We want to get underneath some of these open-ended’s. And I don’t know if some of these numbers and learn, but we want to do it quickly and narratively.” And so, we’re seeing a growth in the interest in those hybrid methodologies. And I think it plays right to your point that quant is going to grow. But qual is that explanatory power, especially if we can make it fast and easy to do.   I think it’s going to grow like gangbusters. I think another thing in five years… People say it a lot and it’s probably the single greatest challenge we have in our DNA, is that we built our industry based on process and we’re being asked to be consultants now. And I have been a consultant in a previous career and I look around our industry and I see a lot of people that get really good at process, but not enough people who really have a consultant’s mindset and can think about problems and practically look for issues before they become issues. That’s what’s being asked of our industry these days. And I don’t think we had the right talent. So when we started this conversation, we started talking about LinkedIn and how to create more visibility with market research in general.  We have got to bring in some of that really important critical-thinking talent to our base or take some of the folks we have in our space and train them how to think critically and how to problem-solve some of these things with our client. We cannot be a process driven industry anymore. We have to make that evolution or I don’t know if we will make it well.


Yeah, that’s a great point. That’s a really good point.  To that end as we’re looking into the crystal ball still, if it’s me, I’m investing on a marketing basis; now I’m investing a lot more into thought leadership, if for no other reason, just because Google AdWords is getting so expensive.  And you can massively improve your SEO at an organic level if you are driving content that people care about and adding value to the conversation as opposed to what we historically have seen, which is “Look at me, look at me” sort of posts.  I think you are seeing, I know you’re seeing a pivot but in marketing spends, but there’s a ton of white space sitting right there. All right, my last question: what is your personal motto? 


Had it for a long time. I should have Googled it before this ‘cause I was thinking about it almost like he’s going to ask me that question. I’m going to say it, and then I’m going to feel silly ‘cause I didn’t look it up.  And I forgot to. For many years I heard a story and I was given a motto and it has never left me. And I probably, it’s one of the first things I think in the morning and one of the last things I think in night. It drives an enormous percentage of the decisions I make personally and professionally. “Know the story; have a villain; be the hero.” It’s simple; it’s straight forward. And I cannot tell you, for me, how many situations in life, those three simple sentences give me a structure to think about and a way to think about my role and what I need to do. And it’s one of those things that gets me up in the morning. And so the origin story that I’ve been told…  I need to go look this up. As a matter of fact, if one of your listeners finds it, I will be forever in your gratitude. 

I was told that when Steve Jobs died, those three words are written on a small piece of paper, and it was the only thing in his desk. I have not been able to confirm that.  I was told that and I just kind of went with it and it became part of my everyday life that I thought about that not necessarily because the Steve jobs tie, but just that’s where I was told that motto and I can’t find it now. I don’t actually know where it came from.  But that is the thing that for me defines a lot of the ways I make decisions and the way that I look at the world.


Give me your motto one more time.


Know the story; have a villain; be the hero.


My guest today has been Isaac Rogers, CEO at 20|20. Thank you so much, Isaac, for being on the Happy Market Research Podcast today.


Always a pleasure, Jamin.


Everyone else, if you please take time, screen capture, share this, distribute it to friends, family, thumbs up, five-star ratings.  It all goes to help increase visibility. I love you. Thank you. Have a great rest of your day.


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