In this episode, we’ll hear from Mario Carrasco, cofounder of ThinkNow on his opinion and experiences about diversity in consumer insights.
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Jamin Brazil: Hey everybody. This is Jamin, you’re listening to the Happy Market Research podcast. Thanks so such for tuning in. My guest today is Mario Carrasco. Mario is the cofounder of ThinkNow based out of Burbank, California area. Mario, thanks for being on the podcast.
Mario Carrasco: Thanks for having me, excited to be on.
Jamin Brazil: This episode is brought to you by SurveyMonkey. Today almost everyone has taking a survey, but did you know that SurveyMonkey offers complete solutions for market researchers? In addition to flexible surveys, their global audience panel, and research services, SurveyMonkey has launched a fast and easy way to collect market feedback. They have seven new expert solutions for concept and creative testing. With build 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, any by the way, in as little as an hour. For more information of SurveyMonkey’s market research solutions visit surveymonkey.com/market-research. That’s surveymonkey.com/market-research. Mention the Happy Market Research podcast to the SurveyMonkey sales team before June 30th for a discount off your first project. So, how long have you been in the industry?
Mario Carrasco: The industry, I’ve been saying I feel like ten years, for ten years. So, a little bit over ten years now. Oh no, now, see I’m wrong again. ThinkNow has been around for like nine years now and I was in the industry about four or five years before that.
Jamin Brazil: That’s awesome man, you’ve made it – I think you’ve been around – if it’s any indication, everybody I know which is probably self – actually it’s 100% self-selecting, but makes it after a couple of years it feels like we’re a lifer.
Mario Carrasco: I think I’m a lifer, yes.
Jamin Brazil: Me too, I can’t imagine a different industry to be quite honest. And I have actually imagined it but it hasn’t – it never found any legs. Let’s start out with providing us all a bit of context about you. Tell us about your parents and how they informed what you do today.
Mario Carrasco: So, my family, all my grandparents are same part from the same state in Mexico. I have kind of an interesting generational background. My father was born in Mexico, came around age 19 and my mom was born here in Hollywood, LA so they actually met. My mom was on vacation with her grandparents and that’s how my parents met. So I have one immigrant parent and one parent that was born here so I like to think I got best of both worlds and that I got work ethic from my dad. Kind of that American dream, do the work, that’s really, led to my by entrepreneurial spirit. And then my mom growing up, she was a schoolteacher so she was like, yes, working hard is all good but you got to work smart as well. So, summer school’s at home, really drilling into me the importance of education. So in terms of what field they inspired me to go into, early on I actually, right out of grad school I was a teacher for very short amount of time, I was a high school English teacher. So my mom inspired me and from that perspective, but I was terrible teacher so that’s why I’m in market research.
Jamin Brazil: It’s like the opposite, right? They always say teachers are the people that couldn’t make it in real.
Mario Carrasco: Right.
Jamin Brazil: You went the other way.
Mario Carrasco: Yes, I went the other way because – and really, market research is the total opposite. We get to work – when you’re on the on the vendor side you get to work with so many different types of projects, different types of companies. I’m learning something new every day. Teaching is great. My mom’s a teacher, I totally respect that profession, but I couldn’t wrap my head around teaching the same textbook for the rest of my life. So yes, my parents were a big influence, both from a work ethic perspective and the importance of education.
Jamin Brazil: It’s funny how our parents or your parents – as I was listening to you talk I was connecting which is why I said our, but because we had a similar –
Mario Carrasco: You’re my long lost brother, yes.
Jamin Brazil: We might be quite honestly though late. My parents very much into work hard and it all works out right sort of thing and I think that’s absolutely true. Kind of the adage, the longer – the harder you work at something the luckier you get, but you at the same time I seen instances where, like my family literally lost – I grew up on a small family operated 40 acre grapes to raisins farm. We wound up buying that and then ultimately lost that farm because the price raisins dropped down to quarter of what their prior years was. And after about three years that they just couldn’t afford the bank debt anymore. So, it definitely didn’t play out there. What is some of the learning that you had from your early days, and then to then parlay that and start ThinkNow?
Mario Carrasco: That’s a really good question. So, my dad was lucky, my dad’s in the film industry and he came here, he did some college back in Mexico in engineering and he actually got into the whole postproduction of film. So like – actually I don’t know specifically what he does, but what the chemicals for actual like film film, right? And as you know, things are transitioning to digital, but he’s been able to come teach himself 65 millimeter IMAX and have a career in film where very few people now that deal film have a career. So I think one of the things I’ve learned is to make yourself indispensable, that’s something that my dad always taught me, just to always be learning. Always be learning and so he wants to be the last guy standing in film and it’s 2020 and he’s still working in old-school film, which I think is pretty amazing. I think that’s a really important lesson for us in market research, like how long – how many years now have people been saying that market researcher is going to go away and maybe in some senses those people are right when you start to think about traditional methodologies. But there still some really great companies, I’m sure that they’ve been on your podcast that are doing old-school phone research but it’s just a matter of doing it well and showing up.
Jamin Brazil: I think we’re moving, ironically, if you think about the adoption of the digital respondent or participant in research, we’ve over indexed on digital feedback and now what I’m seeing is an augment of traditional vetting approaches such as phone prescreens again.
Mario Carrasco: Yes.
Jamin Brazil: And even video prescreens, we call them auditions.
Mario Carrasco: Or even the resurgence of focus groups, right?
Jamin Brazil: Totally.
Mario Carrasco: Getting back and talking to people again.
Jamin Brazil: Totally.
Mario Carrasco: We know so much now from a digital perspective, what you’re doing on your phone, what you’re watching, who you’re talking to you, but you don’t know why. Why are people streaming like that? That’s something that you never going to get from passive data collection or even survey data collection. So, getting people back into focus groups. I think in our business we’ve seen a resurgence of that.
Jamin Brazil: Now give us a little bit of context, tell us about ThinkNow.
Mario Carrasco: So ThinkNow we started 2011. My cofounder and I were actually at a very similar company called Garcia Research. They were being purchased by Knowledge Networks, and eventually GFK. And at the time we realized that there was still an opportunity to have a company wholly focused on multicultural consumers. So when we started in 2011 we saw a niche, an opening for a company 100% dedicated to multicultural consumers that we define as Hispanic, African American and Asians in the US but with a slight difference from the previous company in that we wanted to utilize all these emerging technologies at the time like online, online sample, mobile, mobile ethnographies, mobile qual, online qual that were being used in the general market, but weren’t really being applied to these multicultural audiences because there was a perception that Hispanics don’t have the internet, it’s difficult to recruit African-American respondents online. Whatever those barriers were in the minds of the buyers, the buyers being the consumer insights people at Fortune 1000 companies, so we realized, we looked on the data said actually that, in fact, the opposite is true. Hispanics are online in more numbers and higher numbers than the general market. African-Americans are using technology more so than the general market, and so we wanted to have a company that’s wholly focused on multicultural consumers because we knew from a demographic perspective that that’s where the country was headed. And so we wanted to help companies understand these consumers so when they’re creating marketing campaigns to do their research before putting out marketing. We’ve seen a lot of – we still see a lot of faux pas out there from a marketing perspective. And then also there’s whole other side of our business that’s helping companies launch brands that are entirely focused on these consumers, so Hispanic brands African American brands, and Asian brands. So that’s our company in a nutshell, we help Fortune 1000 companies tap into the opinions of multicultural consumers.
Jamin Brazil: Now, you’re doing – is it both qual and quant?
Mario Carrasco: It’s both qual and quant. We have a quant focus just because our team is really quant heavy, but we’ve actually been building our qual practice. We hired a moderator, Janet Torres, a couple years ago. She was at GFK so she’s our in house qual and we’ve been doing a lot more qual now which is interesting for me because my background is sample, panel building, quant. And I was actually anti qual when we first started ThinkNow, but being a part of focus groups –
Jamin Brazil: We forgive you.
Mario Carrasco: Yes, no being a part of focus groups and watching them it’s like, wow, this is really powerful and important stuff when you get back and talk to the consumer.
Jamin Brazil: I was illustrating this yesterday to a friend of mine, the difference between qual and quant and he wasn’t quite getting it. He was like, why would I spend the time talking to somebody when I can just ask the survey? And I said, well let’s look at your website. Let’s say we want to a survey on your – get people’s opinions about their experience on your website. He goes, OK, great. So, we crafted three questions or whatever in a typical survey framework with an open end. And I go, OK. Good. Now let’s just do a one on one interview talking about your website. And he goes, great. So I brought in one of our employees and had him go through the website and we found, on the very first page, front page, we found his two contact us links were broken. So you would have never found that inside of a survey. And he literally turned completely white and we stopped the meeting and he ran up to his thing. And I’m like, there you go, that’s the difference.
Mario Carrasco: Exactly, yes. And actually the broken link is such a perfect metaphor because brands don’t realize what’s broken in their marketing. If you show somebody an ad and ask them the standard copy test measures you might not pick up on something that’s rubbing someone the wrong way like you would in a conversation.
Jamin Brazil: 100%, I could – this is the most important thing that, when you’re thinking about the blend and the reason why and is the juice worth the squeeze? Sorry about the colloquialism but you’ve got this – it’s a lot effort to add qualitative even if it’s just a handful of interviews or one focus group. It’s a pain and expensive but if it’s an important piece of research you sure – I just can’t underscore the importance enough of incorporating qualitative into the overarching study design.
Mario Carrasco: Yes, 100% agree.
Jamin Brazil: So, diversity, what do you see as the role of diversity in research?
Mario Carrasco: This, diversity, I was thinking about this before the call. I think right now when people think of diversity you think of the composition of teams. And that’s definitely important but when we look we look at research I think there’s multiple ways to look at it. We have the sample, looking at the diversity of the sample. So, whether it’s quant or whether it qual, making sure it’s representative of your consumers. And as we start to look in the U. S., and I’m talking about US market, as we start to look in the US it’s becoming an increasingly diverse nation and so depending on some DMA’s like LA, like Fresno, New York City, non-Hispanic whites are becoming the minority. That’s really the trend across the country and I was actually running the numbers, the most recent census, I think it’s June 2018, I wanted to see, what are the most recent numbers that the census has. And I think the biggest shift that a lot of market researchers that I talked to that they don’t realize is that as you start to go down in generation it’s more and more diverse. So, this is from the most recent census for population that’s under five years old, so five and under, it’s the first generation that’s going to be majority minority. Whites comprise 49% and nonwhites would be 51%. So, from that perspective, the sample who you’re talking to, I think diversity is everything. And from ThinkNow, that’s really in our name. The way that we came up with the name it’s like, don’t think about the future. This is something that’s happening now, think now. You’ve got to incorporate diversity into your sample to, not only to future proof yourself and your brand, but also talk to what’s happening now. And then, on the other side of that is the diversity of the team. When you’re putting together questionnaires talking about broken links and broken link from a creative perspective, having somebody with that diverse perspective on your team is so important when you’re putting together a questionnaire because things like colloquialisms that we use, we’re talking about here on the podcast, that might be second nature to us. Putting that in a questionnaire, you never know what the cultural implications are, and you might be skewing your data on the front end when you’re developing that questionnaire or moderating a focus group. So, I think diversity on a team is equally as important.
Jamin Brazil: So, unpack that little bit more for me, especially as a career market researcher I’ve always been very attentive to sample frames, that is the definition of who it is we want to talk to. Of course, demographics are a big part of that process. But when you pull back and you actually think about the designers of the research, the researchers themselves and the team, what do you see as best practices for commissioners of research? What should they be looking for in that team composition?
Mario Carrasco: Let me give you an example of when I’m talking about questionnaire development and we’ll see if we can get to an answer because that’s a tough answer. But I’ll give you an example of something we use in the market research world all the time that actually when you have other groups, specifically Hispanics in the US, take your surveys you’re going to have skewed results and that’s choice ranking. So one thing that we do here, one thing that we’ve noticed in our responses, and this is something we’ve noticed before we started ThinkNow, but have companies that will do a tracker and they have the same metrics that they’ve been using for years and they don’t want to change it because they want to be able to look at the results longitudinally. But then 10 years into the tracker they want to introduce an augment of Hispanics, US Hispanics, typically want to translated into Spanish because I know that a large portion of Hispanics in the US speak Spanish so they want to make that available in Spanish so that they have a representative sample of US Hispanics. So, they don’t change any of their rankings and they realize that their results are they’re doing great among Hispanics even though they haven’t really invested real marketing dollars. And one phenomenon that we’ve seen is that Hispanics tend to be overly positive in survey results, so one way, that one thing that we’ve done to mitigate that is to do branched force choice ranking where we do the traditional five point scale, allow the respondent to choose their higher end, top two, top three box. Then once they finish that question we’ll do a follow up to to create some more discrimination. It’s like, OK you said that you like that a lot, how much? And then create a little bit more discrimination in the results so that it’s not just all overly positive. That’s kind of an example in a nutshell of things that if you weren’t aware of Hispanic positivity bias you might not be looking at that. And it’s you’re giving your client false positives thinking that they’re doing great among Hispanics when in reality they’re just picking up this phenomenon that actually social scientists stumbled upon called Hispanic positivity bias. So, what are some of the things that you can do in a composition of team for that scenario? I think having somebody that’s just aware of multicultural research of Hispanic is a big part of your practice. Having someone that’s aware of the cultural nuances that go into researching that population.
Jamin Brazil: OK, so I’m in a tell you right now, I’ve never heard of that. I’m so glad we’re having this conversation just because I love learning. I’ve only been doing it 23 years, so forgive me. I’m a little embarrassed to say the least. Maybe that’s kind of the point though, right, is that –
Mario Carrasco: That’s exactly the point. Yes.
Jamin Brazil: Right, that’s so interesting. I’m sure that exists, of course, across other not just ethnicity, but even getting into the complexities of gender.
Mario Carrasco: Of gender, of generation.
Jamin Brazil: Generation, right. Totally. Now, I can speak to the generational piece which I find very interesting as I’m kind of moving now into – I’m knocking on the door 50 years old, which I’m not afraid of, it just kind of is what it is. But there is definitely a notable difference between our age ranges here, I’m obvious – I’m the oldest. I say obviously, you don’t know that, and nobody could be older than 49 obviously. I feel that way sometimes. And then we’ve got a 24 year old and a 31 year old and then a 45 year old. So you’ve got this like this, we’re all learning from each other as it relates to the age deltas or segments, categories. And I think one of things I really appreciate about my team is in that diversity there’s a tremendous amount of respect. You don’t see any, they’re GenZ or oh my gosh, they’re so entitled or whatever. It’s like complete respect across the spectrum of who on the team is is interacting. And to that end I’ve adopted –
Mario Carrasco: Unless it’s a Boomer and a Millennial, right?
Jamin Brazil: No, so I’ve adopted dabbing as kind of the go to way of celebrating which now been categorized as dad dabbing.
Mario Carrasco: Yes. Once dads do it, it’s officially dead.
Jamin Brazil: Totally dead. I’ve completely killed dabbing. Everybody does it anyway, but just to humor me I think at this point. It’s awesome. All right, so kind of wrapping things up a little bit, what is your personal motto?
Mario Carrasco: My personal motto? Yes, I had that question before on the podcast and I was thinking about it and I didn’t look up who said it, maybe you know. You’re wise 49 years old. I’m just kidding. But half the battle is showing up. And that’s my personal motto. And maybe you empathize as an entrepreneur, we can’t call in sick even if you’re having a bad day, but I’ve – and I’m big into fitness, working out in the morning, no matter how I feel I just show up. And I realize that that’s kind of driven me through this entrepreneurial journey the past 10 years and so I would say that’s my motto, just showing up.
Jamin Brazil: Mario Carrasco, ThinkNow. Check him out. Mario, if somebody wants to get in contact with you how would they do that?
Mario Carrasco: I’m on LinkedIn, Mario Carrasco, ThinkNow. Also on Twitter @MarioXCarrasco and you can also shoot me an email, email@example.com.
Jamin Brazil: Perfect. I’m following you on Twitter. If you found value in this episode please, please, please take time to screen capture, share it social media platform of your choice. Ideally it’s LinkedIn or Twitter. I hope you have a fantastic rest of your day and I really appreciate you tuning in. Mario, thanks very much.
Mario Carrasco: Great, thank you. Thanks everyone.