CEO Summit 2019 Podcast Series

CEO Summit 2019 – Camille Nicita – Gongos

Recorded live in Miami, Jamin Brazil interviews Camille Nicita, President and CEO of Gongos. We hope you enjoy this mini series taking you into the minds of some of the most influential CEOs in Market Research.

Find Camille Online:


I have Camille with Gongos.  It’s an honor to have you on the podcast today.  We’re here at the CEO Summit, Insights Association.  You probably don’t even remember this, but we were at a conference at the same time.  I can’t remember where it was, but it was ages ago right when you first started. You had a customer – Dunkin’ Donuts, I believe.  Do you remember that?


We’ve actually never worked with Dunkin’ Donuts.


Oh, you’re kidding.  Crap! Maybe it wasn’t Dunkin’ Donuts.


I’m trying to think.  So, how many years ago would it have been?


It was a LONG time ago.  Right around I want to say like 2005, 2006, no?


Oh, Best Buy, maybe.


Best Buy.


Best Buy.


And did you do a custom panel for them?


Yes.  And it was at TMRE.


Yes, that’s right.  That’s right. TMRE.  


That’s it, for sure.  Best Buy, Dunkin’ Donuts.  Best Buy should probably be selling Dunkin’ Donuts.


So, I tried to do (they would probably agree with you.)…  So, I tried to do a custom panel business at Decipher back in like 2001 and 2002 for a company called Intuit, which you know.  And it just didn’t go well at all. And the reason it didn’t go well is, while the technology itself wasn’t particularly difficult, the systems and the processes and the engagement part of it were really, really, really hard, right?  And I was listening to your presentation; I’m like, “Holy, crap! They’ve cracked the nut; they’ve figured out how to really nail that.” So maybe you could tell us a little bit about your company and maybe the couple-minute sort of overview of where you started and where you are.  


Sure.  Thanks for asking.  So, let’s see where do we start.  Gongos is what we call a decision intelligence company.  At this stage in the game, we are going on our twentieth year of business.  Gongos started in 1991 as a traditional marketing research custom, ad hoc, qual/quant business.  And we were very, very successful at that for our first 23ish years, but about five years ago is where we sort of evolved into this decision intelligence business, which is still very much rooted in consumer insights.  That’s the core to what we do, but over the last 5-6 years, we’ve build other capabilities around that insights function to really help where we saw pain point with our clients, which was in sort of moving insights farther up the value chain:  I should say farther up as well as starting them farther back in the value chain, so ensuring that our clients are really leading with a customer-centric strategy to fuel their growth.


It’s interesting hearing how McDonald’s framed it yesterday.  Matt did a great job of asking two questions. I tweeted about that.  Of course, I’m going to forget right now. But I think it was centric to like what is…




Curiosity was the centric – that’s right.  One was an internal question of, basically, “Put yourself in the shoes of the customer.  Get to know the customer.”


Well, and empathetic approach.  I think we heard somebody else yesterday talking too about (I think it was General Mills.)  I can’t remember the gentleman’s name, but the guy from General Mills talked about, for a week, making their executives live on the budget of a typical customer.


I love that.


I do too.  I mean it’s such a…  In order to truly be a customer-centric organization, you’ve got to walk in their shoes.


Brands have gone through this massive evolution in five years.  In five years, what a CEO cares about has completely changed. I’m not going so far to say that they didn’t care about the customer before, but it was much more of a competitive…  I remember terms like “Share of wallet,” “Share of mind”… is all about “How do I get more from that.” It’s almost like we’re pirates in the brand space, and we want to take the customer’s wealth or mind share.  And now it’s really changed to a partnership. And that was one of the things also that stood out at McDonald’s.


Reciprocity.  And we’re firm believers in the companies that are doing it right in seeing way are trying to build reciprocal relationships with their customers.  And they’ve got a great platform to do it because they have more customer data than they’ve ever had before.


No excuses.


No, and customers know that they’re giving you information.  When I scan that loyalty card, I’m not a dummy, right? I know you’re figuring out who I am, what I’m doing.  So great! In exchange for that, give me a great product or service. You know who I am; you know what I want.  There’s no excuse for not innovating with the customer in mind these days.


Absolutely right.  Do you have the Amazon card?  


I do.


That’s the perfect example ‘cause it has really good rewards on it; irrespective it’s got fantastic rewards on it.  But the value there is (and it’s not expensive), and the value there is they know more about me, right, outside of the Amazon experience.  So it just gets bigger, right? It just kind of gets bigger, bigger.


And better and better.


That’s true actually.


To me, that’s the expectation, right?  If you’re going to continue learning about me, great.  My expectation now is in exchange for that we have more…  I’m going to help you grow as a brand ‘cause I’m going to be loyal to you, but you help me in my life and cater to my needs.


Totally.  And partner like the McDonald’s guy said about, “How can I add value to you?”  The “2 for 4,” or whatever – that kind of framework feels like a valuable exchange.


It really does.


More of a partnership.  So, I wanted to touch on one point that I found very interesting in your presentation and that was – you guys went through a material journey in… that wasn’t really cast as rebranding.  It was almost like revision, right? And that took four years?


Yeah, four to five years.  We’re still on it and probably always will be.


What I thought was interesting is that you took that much time and the patience surrounding that in order to do it right.  We didn’t really top dive into that. How do you get into that psychologically because most CEOs, they’re like, “Ok, tomorrow…” [laughs]


“We’re going to do this!”  Right. I think somebody said yesterday, “Ok, it’s Friday.  When you come back on Monday, this is what we’re going to be.”  That doesn’t work so well. The talk that I gave yesterday I think that we call it “business-model transformation.”  I could easily also be relabeled as the “art of urgent patience.” And I think that’s exactly what you’re referring to.  As the CEO, I know where we want to go. I can see it. But you can’t… And I’ve got an urgency, a sense of urgency, but you’ve got to meet people where they are.  Just like we’re asking our customers to meet their… our clients to meet their customers where they are, we had to meet our employees where they were for this work out correctly.  We went through various ups and downs – the cycle of anything that’s great. You know you go through those pits of despair and back up to feeling really good about it. We did that multiple times over the last four to five years, but I don’t think we, with our company and our culture, could have done it any other way to lead it to the success that it has been.  Has it taken a while? It has. It’s taken discipline and perseverance, but we had goals that we knew we needed to meet. We kept those in sight, and we checked in every quarter to see where we were against those goals. So that makes you feel like you’re making forward movement even if it does take four to five years. You know?


I do, and I think a lot of people, CEOs specifically and their teams that don’t have the experience, will have a strategic objective and they will plan on it, “Ok, it’s going to be Q1.”  You’ve got to understand that your staff, they’re three months behind.


At least.


At least, right.  And you just have to keep banging the drum and, eventually, their feet are going to start moving, right?  But you just can’t go.


You can’t just go.  I mean a good metaphor for that.  I started running recently, had never run more than a block in my life.  And they had a group of people that talked me into doing a marathon relay last year.  I only did the three-mile stint but still, having never run, to do three miles for me was a big deal.  In my head, I wanted to get out there and just go full steam, just run, run. But here’s the deal: you do that, you get cramps, get a stomach ache; you get leg cramps.  Same as this journey to end-change management. You start out full steam, and you’re not bring your body along with you. You’re just causing more disruption than you are benefit, and the path actually becomes longer to get there ‘cause you injure yourself, you feel sick.  So it is really the art of urgent patience.


Yeah, they actually call that “negative split.”  So, when you’re running your last half should be faster than your first half.  


Yes, exactly, but it’s so hard as an athlete to tell yourself that’s Ok.


Totally, and I love that analogy because there’s 400 meters, there’s 1600, there’s 5k’s, there’s 10, there’s halves, fulls.  In that framework, you got to bring the right mentality and plan in order to realize a win in that – or a completion in my case.  [laughs]


And so much of it is a mental game.  It’s not your body giving out; it’s your mind sending your body signals, right?


That’s 1000% true.  Most people don’t quite… Yeah, it isn’t the limiter on the body most of time.  It’s usually the…


Same way with business though:  it’s your mind, right? And it’s messaging in a way that gets people figuring out what their reasons to believe are, meeting them where they are, and bringing them along with you.


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


A best way is email:


Will you spell that please?  




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