Welcome to the #IIEX Europe Conference Series 2019. Recorded live in Amsterdam, this series is bringing interviews straight to you from exhibitors and speakers at this year’s event. In this interview, host Jamin Brazil interviews Jenny Karubian, CEO at Ready to Launch Research.
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My guest today is Jenny Karubian. She’s based out of Los Angeles, California, which is like my backyard being in Fresno, of course. Ethnography research and strategy. Pretty good, right? IIeX Live Amsterdam, pretty good location. (Laughs.) She’s nodding. Tell me a little bit about your business.
An agency called Ready to Launch Research. We’re based in Los Angeles. We have a team of six of us. We primarily do all things qual, focus groups, interviews, ethnography, that’s something we really are passionate about at our agency, and a lot of hybrid studies. Most studies have some form of an online component as well as an in-person component, we’re doing a lot of that.
Tell me about a favorite project.
A favorite project!
Yes, a favorite, a stand-out project for you.
I did some non-profit research last year for an organization that wanted to talk to mothers about infant health. It was parents who had infants that had pretty severe illnesses. We traveled all over the country, we did this in six different cities and we met some really amazing moms all over the country dealing with a whole host of problems, things that ranged from partial infant deafness to conjoined twins. It varied a lot. And just learning about how parents really put their kids first in so many ways that it’s so nuanced and instinctual as well in how they work through these infant health issues so early on.
Was this done in a focus group facility or in-home interviews?
These were all in-home interviews, especially because parents of children of illnesses have a lot of difficulties traveling so we had to bring it to them. We tended to be in more remote areas, we did this in Idaho, Utah, and some pretty rural parts of Texas. Then we did some stuff in New York City which is a very different experience for people who are in a city versus people who are out in more rural American. It was very interesting to do in-homes in rural America because that’s not similar to what we typically do which tends to be more around the city. That’s where market research tends to happen most of the time.
Was there an “aha moment” in the findings that happened?
I’m thinking about the context of the insights. Focus group facilities are fairly sterile. Going into that home is much more intimate.
One of the big “aha moments” was how closely linked people’s financial well-being was linked to their child’s well-being. Even though everybody was putting the same amount of effort regardless of where they were, we could really see a lot of differences between people who were living clearly below the poverty line in middle America, versus people who are a bit more well off and living in Manhattan. Looking at how someone lives in their home is the quickest way to understand where they are in the social landscape of things, that was really clear to us by going into their homes.
It’s super interesting. It’s almost like that’s a sole other variable.
I did a study with Into It 100 years ago (laughs), where we had people take pictures of their desks that they worked at, then they would send us all of the pictures of their desks. It was really fun because it was a lot less about the desk and a lot more about all the stuff that was around it as it turns out.
In that case, it was, they had a whiteboard or a corkboard. This helped. I’m not kidding when I say it was 100 years ago. (Laughter.) Corkboard! Anyway. It’s made of cork.
I’ve seen them before. (Laughter.) It might’ve been in a museum, but—
Yes, it might’ve been, exactly. Anyway, messy, that was an interesting part too. We had a bunch of transactional data on those businesses because this was in conjunction… Well, it was Into It, you know who Into It is, and it was all about board, et cetera, and some of it was self-reported, but you would see the relationship between the success of the business and… It wasn’t quite this clear, it was strongly correlated, and the messy factor of the stuff around, not on, but around in their office. Yes, it was a super interesting setting—
Were the messy people more or less successful?
I’m not going to say. Sorry.
My point though is that the broader view and actually being in-home, even though we weren’t technically in-home, the picture of the home was the key insight of that whole research. It’s funny that we’re talking about it now 20 years later, whatever… Yes, it’s about 20 years later.
That’s a standout research takeaway, and I have no idea what the charts and graphs where or all the hundreds of hours that went against the project, none of that. I still have pictures in my mind that stood out that we used in the presentation.
My point is that I feel like qualitative work is vital for our industry and we absolutely have to… Technology is creating this… Backing up, surveys are really conversations at scale, I need to do 1,000 surveys. Now with AI, qualitative can be done at scale to an extent, but you can’t replace the ethnography.
No, and it’s interesting. I worked on an ethnographic project that was with bicultural Hispanics in the US, our sample size was nine people. About a year later, another study came out that was a quant study, same topic, a sample of 5,000, different agencies did it. When I compared the findings side by side, we had learned the exact same things.
That surprises me!
It was amazing, that was a huge moment for me because the studies knew nothing of each other, and to look at them side-by-side and to realize that from really getting into depth with people… Our in-homes were very intense. They were four hours long, an hour and a half were spent with the respondents’ closest friends at a place of their choosing, part was in-home and part was out at a restaurant or bar— Mainly restaurants and coffee shops. Very intensive four hours.
Then, this other study was a 20-minute survey, given all over the country, your national sample of 5,000 people, to see that you can reach the same insights through different scales was very significant to me.
Also, where we really came with the findings, a lot of times with ethnography, it’s not just about going to the homes and doing the research, it’s about spending the time to analyze the data. We had done a full day debrief with that. Our debrief was a solid eight hours of having the entire research team in a room, organizing our thoughts, putting together the themes. I don’t think that the research would’ve been the same without it, because not everybody can be at every in-home, there had to be that share out, and that share out had to be very intensive to the point that almost I couldn’t remember which ones I had done versus the ones that I had learned about because everything had been so shared and so emphasized.
As far as doing the ethnography, anytime there’s a very nuanced kind of project where we don’t know the answers right away, that’s the opportunity for ethnography.
That whole discoverability, you don’t know what you don’t know. Quant research just doesn’t pull that out.
No, it doesn’t. It’s great to follow with quant. Once you’ve done some kind of intensive ethnos, you can follow with it but—
It’s great to follow with qual after. It should play a regular part in the chorus of insights. It has to. Qualitative has to have that seed at the table if… You know the other part that would’ve been interes— They did a quant survey, you did your qualitative piece, do you have a sense of which one, and of course you’re biased, have a sense of which one may have impacted the organization bigger?
They were two different clients, two totally different clients. I had saw this other one at a conference, it was a conference presentation. As they were sharing out the insights, I thought, “Wow! This is amazing because we came up with the same stuff for a different client on our own.” But really it was more about understanding bicultural Hispanics as a subculture and that was driving different brands in different ways, really we had learned exactly the same things.
Ready to Launch, Jenny, thank you so much for being on Happy Market Research podcast.