Welcome to the 2019 IIEX North America Conference Series. Recorded live in Austin, this series is bringing interviews straight to you from exhibitors and speakers at this year’s event. In this interview, host Jamin Brazil interviews Adriana Rocha, Founder and CEO of eCGlobal Research Solutions.
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My guest is Adriana Rocha, eCGlobal Solutions. Adriana has been a mainstay inside of the market research industry, focusing on a couple of big companies: GMI, Rob Monster, back in the early days. Those of you who are old enough know he has turned into GMI at Lightspeed and now, I think, just Lightspeed. Those of you that are in Latin America know who she is. Her company is growing rapidly. She really breaks down their core value prop and how they’re bringing value to their customers consistently by creating innovation through HBO GO panels, leveraging trending shows, and using non-traditional incentives like badges to certify community members as experts. This is a great episode. Understanding entrepreneurship also through the lens of a woman in context of being a software engineer, entrepreneur, and CEO. I hope you find a lot of value and fun in it. And as always, please take the time to share this episode. Have a great day.
My guest today on the Happy Market Research Podcast is Adriana with eCGlobal. Thanks for being on the show.
Thanks, actually, I’m really happy to be here today. My pleasure.
Thank you. So, we are live at IIEX. There’s a lot of activity going on everywhere; it’s a little bit chaotic. What do you think about the show so far?
IIEX for me is always a great show to meet new people, find out about new players in the industry, see what’s going on, and also catchup on some great presentations as well. So yeah, thus far, I think it’s really good, great conference so far.
So, we are doing a unique interview. Normally, I do like these bit-sized snippets, but I’ve been really excited about eCGlobal as an organization, which, by the way, in all full disclosure is not a sponsor of the show or anything like that. I mean I’ve just been watching what you guys have doing in Latin America, and I feel like it’s really germane and relevant to a need I’ve been seeing surface inside of market research in general. So, I’ve wanted to do a long-form interview with you, which is what we’re going to do today. So it’s going to be slightly different than the other ones that I’ve done connected to IIEX or any other trade show for that matter. So we’re going to go ahead and get started with our trademark question. Tell me a little bit about your parents. What did they do and how did that impact your career in market research?
Yeah, so my father, he’s a doctor, and he’s an entrepreneur. He founded one of the first children’s hospital in the city that we live almost 50 years ago. And that hospital has become a reference in terms of pediatrician medical sciences there in Brazil. And it’s very inspiring for me not just because of his success as entrepreneur but also because of his patience for what he does and also about the mission: having a greater purpose of being an entrepreneur; helping and saving lives and kids. So it definitely has influenced who I am and what I do. That’s why I was an entrepreneur.
What about your mom?
Well, my mom, she is also an entrepreneur. She also had some retailer, you know, some stores, clothing and fashion stores. So in my family we have a…
The bug of entrepreneurship.
Correct, yes, yes.
So, how in the world did you wind up in market research?
Well, that’s a good question. So, I am a computer engineer. And before I worked with market research, I used to work with ad agencies, building technology platforms for helping major companies using data to improve their media planning. So, I’ve always been in the intersection of technology and data and how to use data to generate intelligence and knowledge and help for better business decisions. I ended up in market research because by 2000, GMI, one of the first technology startups by that time, building survey platforms…
Founder and CEO, Rob Monster.
…with Rob Monster. Actually, they invited me to open their business in Brazil. Imagine that by that time, internet penetration in Latin America was almost nothing. It was kind of a challenge. To tell the truth, I left a very high-level position: by that time, I was technology director in a large company in Brazil just because of the challenge, so the challenge of starting a new business in this new space and traveling around the world because I had to travel to Budapest, where GMI used to develop the software there. And starting having this more international experience was really my biggest motivation to join GMI and come to the market research industry. As I started working there, with my technology background and social development skills, I started helping them to build a global panel management system and helping to also improve the survey platform. So that’s how I started working for market research. And then after a few years working for GMI, I decided to start my own company. It was by 2003 when we started with eCMetrics. It was a small boutique with a strong technology background wanting to develop some proprietary technologies for managing communities, collecting data in a different way, using mobile devices. We have been always ahead of, I would say, the curve, the adoption curve of new technology in market. So by 2005 we built what would be probably one of the first social networks. We were integrating gamification, online communities, forums, ways of people to collaborate and asking questions between them. So, we believed that the better way to understand consumers would be empowering them: giving them the platform and the environment where they could exchange experience, where they could talk with each other. We would be listening and generating insights, and asking questions just when needed. That was by 2005.
Yeah, I mean super early. It’s interesting how you’ll see people… Like Rob Monster actually… You and I know who Rob Monster is and maybe six other people that listen to the podcast. But he actually had a really interesting vision, which is funny 20 years later, it’s actually coming about where you have a – I hear it referred to as a data ecosystem. I know I’m not necessarily telling you anything that you don’t know, but.. And the idea was you’d be able to follow a piece of data, an answer, like through the whole process and ultimately tie back even at the respondent record existing data known on them and this sort of thing. He was very successful in selling that into companies like Microsoft and other large firms. One of the challenges that company experienced was rapid growth through M&A and international expansion. That’s funny because I really think that that was probably the one thing that undid GMI from a leader position is they just didn’t focus enough on owning a specific market and then just tried to bite off too much too fast.
Yeah, I agree with you. The vision was there almost 20 years ago. And working for GMI for six years was the best school that I could have. And I worked with Rob on a daily basis. So it was a really great inspiration.
I have a ton of respect for him, honestly. As a visionary leader, there’s probably only a handful in our industry that ever fit that mold. He was very much the Steve Jobs of the space. The problem, of course, is it’s hard to scale that type of business unless you have a ton of capital. And, in those days, market research was still not in this heavily capitalized space. So it was really hard to do. And Toluna experienced the same thing. Frederic Petit at Toluna had a very similar experience. It was really hard for him to be able to raise capital in those post-2001-dot.com-bus days. Anyway, it was neat to see you kind of having that long… So, you’ve seen all the transition that has happened in the market research space over almost two decades now. Now you look forward. Where are you seeing it going? What are we headed towards?
Well, I think that market research is nowadays part of a greater industry; we can call the dating sites or business intelligence or big data. So I think that we can see our industry evolving as a data industry, but at the same time as we see more and more technology being adopted, automation, artificial intelligence because all industries regardless of being market research or any other will be adopting automation and artificial intelligence. But I still see the industry really positioning itself as the people who can really understand people because at the end of the day, the data that we collect is about understanding people, and sometimes we don’t find the answers just with pure data or what a machine can understand using algorithms. The inspiration, the feeling, the skills that human beings have to see the big picture, connecting the dots, and also using some gut feeling as well to inspire clients, I think that’s where… I think that market research should have because data and technology will be a commodity. So everybody will have access to that.
We only have (I really believe this) we only have one (and I say this all the time) one piece of IP or something that protects us and that is the relationship with the customer. And the only way that persists is if you consistently add value. And that value is just not in the framework of technology; it’s about helping them contextualize the insights and then activate those insights inside of their organization.
Exactly. The clients love brilliant minds. They love to work with people that can inspire them. And I think that, nowadays, working with some large clients, some of the biggest brands in the world, I think that’s one of the biggest values that we add is really inspiring them.
So, last night was the WIRe event, which is the Women in Research event. Are you part of that organization at all?
Actually, yes. I participated in one of the first WIRe events maybe three or four years ago. So, I really appreciate and I think it’s a great initiative to put together this community of women that’s part of this greater industry. So, yes, I’m part of the community and I’m lucky, I think, to be part of that.
Have you tried any of the mentorship plan that they have?
Actually, not yet.
No. That’s a really interesting… So, the reason I bring it up is you’re, obviously, a woman and you’ve been involved in leadership positions inside of the industry for a while, at least 19 years. And that has a unique set of challenges that, in and of itself… My go-to example is something that actually happened to me at this conference on Monday night. I went to dinner. It was three guys and a girl, a woman. Oh, and I was like “Oh, you just felt normal.” It’d be like you and me and Steve August and somebody else, four of us, going for a dinner. It was just like totally normal. And then I started reflecting on the fact that I used to go to the WIRe events right when they first started, and I actually stopped going because I felt so uncomfortable being the only or one of the only men in the room. Then, all of a sudden, it’s funny how it just flipped on me and I like, “Gosh, Julie, she’s sitting at the table right now (She’s with a company called CMB). I’m thinking to myself, “She’s the only woman right now sitting at this table.” Just like no problem at all.
Yeah, yeah. So, that’s something that is funny because, since I am a computer engineer… I’m not saying my age, but I am probably one of the first engineers almost 30 years ago.
So, you’re 33. You started really young.
So, as I started working with computer engineers as I finished college, I quickly started working with, leading a teams, you know technology teams and engineers. Oh, man, I was the technology manager and then technology director. All men, maybe 90% of men all the time. And sometimes I was the youngest one. I never had that issue, but, I think, that’s something very unique for my profile maybe.
So, eCGlobal, you’ve done a lot of projects. Tell me about one that you’ve done that you’re really proud of and memorable.
Well, I think that… There are a couple of projects that I’m really proud being a part of. I can mention two quickly. What I love about these projects is that we have created an impact and real results for our clients, and at the same time, these clients have helped eCGlobal to grow. So, we’ve been improving our technology, our platform in growing with these clients and, at the same time, helping them achieve real results. So, one example is HBO. So, HBO has been a customer for more than five years. And they had a problem, an issue some years ago because they had a panel, research panel with very low response rates, and the panel was almost dying. And they came to us with a challenge: How can we grow this panel? How can we improve engagement? How can we create a similar brand experience that HBO fans and HBO customers have with the brand in other platforms? How can we create a new and engaging experience for people when participating in research promoted by HBO, they have the same brand experience? So, it was a perfect fit for us because we were looking for clients that would value having a social experience, creating engagement, and enabling the users to talk to them at any time. We’ve helped HBO to grow their custom panel from 2,000 members to almost 50,000 members nowadays in all Latin America. Nowadays, this platform has become an important ongoing tool for generating daily insights, inspiration for their programming teams, for their marketing team. So HBO is definitely a case study that I’m really proud of being part of.
And I’d like to mention Itau Bank in Brazil, largest Brazilian bank. We’ve helped Itau to build custom communities and that is helping the bank to apply agile market research and quickly innovate, develop new products. They have reduced from five weeks to one to five days all life cycle of market research projects. And we have helped them to implement agile research process. So that’s another great project that we’ve been helping the customer with real business results.
Let’s just focus in on HBO. First of all, are you a fan of Game of Thrones?
Yes, yes, for sure. Working for so long with HBO. Actually, every time that we have a new season of Game of Thrones, the community blows up. Sometimes we develop some cool social media stuff to invite people to receive, for example, a badge to become a Game of Thrones expert, for example.
And we receive like thousands of new members in one weekend because they want to receive the badge.
Oh, that’s so clever. I love that.
So, it’s a great experience just to… Actually, just launched HBO GO community as well.
Oh, that awesome.
Yeah. It’s integrated with their own CRM platform. So, it’s by invitation. So, HBO GO users participate in their community, and we’ve developed some mobile technology as well to integrate with them. So it’s growing. Actually, it’s a customer that we’ve been working with for more than five years; and the relationship is still growing. There’s still a lot of things to do.
Beautiful! You keep finding value in this space, and you will always reap the benefit of it. It’s just so unique. It’s about the relationships. And if you can prove the ROI and empower that researcher, they can’t wait to spend money with you. It’s really true.
So, tell me a little bit about the biggest market research challenge that you guys have.
As I mentioned in the beginning of our talk, I think that one of the biggest challenges for the industry is really how we can turn data into knowledge, into insights and inspiration. How can we make sense of all of the data streams that we have nowadays because I think one of the main challenges is what we do with all of this information because once technology is easy to access, once we can access even the consumers. Years ago, the market research companies who could control the data collection process. That was the main differentiation, right? Nowadays the data collection process is just easy to anyone. So, how can we continue to add value? It’s about how we can turn data into knowledge, insights, and inspiring clients. I think that’s the biggest challenge. How can we scale that? How can we do that in a scalable way? It’s a combination of technology; we say artificial intelligence with human intelligence. That, I think, is the main challenge.
So, you’ve got a lot of employees. They’ve been growing over the years. As you think about that like two decades of leadership, one of things that’s evolved is the importance of focusing on the team and building a good team. We treat our employees a lot different than we were treated, right, before. I mean it’s just a very different world right now, and it should be, by the way. I know you believe that, and I certainly do. In this new paradigm, what are three characteristics of an All-Star Employee?
I’d say that the first characteristic would employees who really fit with the culture of the company and embrace it. So, once they embrace the culture and they fit with it, I would say that the next would be the ones that really act as the owners. They are effortless; they are committed to results; they embrace the mission of the company. So, I think it’s really important that we have these two characteristics. And the other one, I think, is to be openminded and collaborate in an achieving environment. I think if we have this combination of skills and characteristics, I think that would define what would be our best team employees and people that really that are really motivated and engaged with our business.
You know “collaborative” is an interesting core value because it really speaks to the importance of team. You got to have a team, right? It’s a team mentality; it’s not about me; it’s about us.
It’s all about teamwork. So this collaborative mentality and working to accomplish results, not just on individual levels but as a team and as a group. So it’s a winning formula.
So, Insights Nation, if you’re paying attention still, this is a really important part of the conversation. You’ve got to embrace the culture. When you show up, you’ve got to make sure that you have an owner mentality and you’re bought into the mission of the organization, and that you’re openminded and willing to collaborate as opposed to more of the lone-wolf mentality that I see persist occasionally, especially among high performing people that can sometimes decide to alienate themselves, and it’ll wind up being their loss long-term. It’s not just for the people that are starting their career but it’s also for the executives that are setting the tone for the organization. But it’s really important there’s clarity so that people, in terms of what you care about and what’s important for the organization, so that people at the beginning can decide, “Yeah, this is a good fit for me or it’s not a good fit.” And if it’s not a good fit, they feel that friction on Day 1 so that they can exit the organization in a healthy, positive way for both parties.
And it also be a learning curve for us on how to do the recruitment phase. How we can attract the talent that fits with our culture. And that has all of these characteristics. So, yeah, it’s really important.
So, what is your personal motto?
I would say, “Live the life of your dreams” and just “Seize the day.” Live each day doing your best and just believe in your dreams and go for it. That’s my motto for sure.
“Seize the day.” So, Merrill Dubrow was on the show. Did you hear his episode with me?
You ought to absolutely listen to it on the flight home. It was probably one of my favorite episodes. He dropped like knowledge bomb after knowledge bomb. And he had this point. He goes, “Jamin, every day at work is one-half of a percent of your total productivity for the year.” You figure there’s 200 days in a year: Monday, half of a percent of your productivity; Tuesday, you’ve just hit one percent of your productivity; Wednesday, 1.5%. We all see what’s happening. 2.5% of your productivity is gone in five days. So you really need to be purposeful about where you’re placing your bets and put your time, focus in that specific spot; otherwise, you run the risk of being ineffective and losing velocity in your everyday life to move towards your goals.
Correct, yes, definitely. Nowadays, with all the distractions that are over there, it’s really very important, terrifying, yeah.
Absolutely terrifying. My guest today has been Adriana with eCGlobal. If someone wants to get in contact with you, how would they do that?
Well, you can find me on Twitter, LinkedIn, email (Adriana_Rocha@eCGlobal.com). So, I think that’s the best three ways to quickly reach me.
Now, have you been participating in our MRX chats? So, MRX chat; it’s on my website (Happymr.com); check it out. It’s a live Twitter event I do in conjunction with Jake Pryszlak, the research geek on Twitter, super popular. He’s the number 1 guy on Twitter for MRX. Turkey. I’m number 6; I’m going to beat him, though. Just kidding. I do everything I can to support him. So, he and I put on a live event for one hour once a month, and it’s a great way to connect with a lot of buyers and agencies in the market research space, talking about like thought-leadership and change and trends in the market research space, and things like that. Again, it’s on the website (Happymr.com/MRX/chat). Just check it out. Click the link, whatever.
I’ll definitely check it out.
It’s a great way to connect with a ton of other market researchers.
Adriana, thanks for being on the Happy Market Research Podcast.
Thank you. Thank you for the time and for the opportunity. Lovely to be here.
Oh, it’s great having you. All of you who have been tuning in, please take the time. Screen capture this episode; post it on social media; as always, subscribe. Your ratings to this show on the platform of choice means that other people like you can find it more easily. I greatly appreciate you taking that two minutes out of your day to just acknowledge the value of our guests that they have brought to the show and to you personally. It would be tremendously appreciated by me. Thank you so much. Have a great day.