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

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

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Emmanuel Probst: 100%.


Jamin Brazil: Who is the target reader?


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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