Ep. 222 – Menaka Gopinath – How Ipsos is Helping Top Brands get to the Heart of Consumers Through Online Communities

My guest today is Menaka Gopinath, President of Ipsos Social Media Exchange North America. Founded in 1975, Ipsos is one of the largest global market research and a consulting firm with worldwide headquarters in Paris, France. Menaka has held senior positions at Fuel Cycle and  was a Creator and Producer at Wilcox Sessions which was an online video series where musicians played an intimate performance in their living room. 

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Website: https://www.ipsos.com/en-us

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This episode is brought to you by Clearworks. Clearworks is an insights, innovation, and customer-experience company. They help clients understand their customers better, identify opportunities for innovation, and create products, services, and experiences that matter. Their clients are diverse in size and industry but share one important thing: a passion to drive more business by driving more meaningful human connection. For more information, please visit them at www.clearworks.net.


[00:00]

On Episode 2022, I’m interviewing Menaka, the President of Ipsos Social Media Exchange – North America, but first a word from our sponsor.

[00:11]

This episode is brought to you by Clearworks.  So, we have a couple of sponsors on our show. I just want to underscore how much I appreciate those of you who have sponsored the Happy Market Research Podcast.  It makes a ton of value to the ecosystem that is actually transcending market research right now. I say “transcending”; that’s probably the wrong framework, but exceeding, moving beyond into user experience research as well as data analytics and insights.  In fact, recently we’ve been picking up shows like “Predictive Analytics World” and “Marketing Insights World.” These are two different shows that are great examples of where the Happy Market Research has a presence and, subsequently, an audience that is well outside of the normal market research vein.  So, Clearworks, thank you so much for your sponsorship. For those of you who don’t know, they are insights and innovation and customer experience company. They help their clients understand their customers better, identify opportunities for innovation, and create products, services, and experience that actually matter.  Their clients are diverse, both in size and industry, probably like all of ours, but they do share one important thing, which is a passion to drive more business by driving more meaningful human connections. You can find them online at www.clearworks.net.  Again, it’s www.clearworks.net.  And again, thank you so much for your time.   

[01:43]    

Hi, I’m Jamin Brazil, and you’re listening to the Happy Market Research Podcast.  My guest today is Menaka Gopinath, President at Ipsos Social Media Exchange – North America.  Founded in 1975, Ipsos is one of the largest market research firms globally and is also a consulting firm with worldwide headquarters in Paris, France.  Menaka has held senior positions at FuelCycle and was a creator and producer at Wilcox Sessions. This is an interesting, little side hustle she’s got going on.  I might wind up cutting that piece. I know you talked to me about it. I actually found it really interesting, but we’ll see. Menaka, thanks so much for joining me on the Happy Market Research Podcast today.

[02:26]

Thanks for having me.  I’m glad to be here.  

[02:29]

Let’s start out with a little bit of context.  Tell us about your early years and how you wound up in market research.

[02:33]

Sure.  Well, I never really thought I’d end up in market research; so, that was a surprise.  But I have always been in the space of connecting with consumers. So when I first entered the work force out of college, I was working in the original startup boom at the end of the 90s.  And I was working at a company that was creating online communities, and it was really the early stages of what social media became to be like when everyone was adding forums or discussions on their websites.  And that was really my starting point in terms of entering the digital realm. And I really grew up in that space in marketing, using digital techniques. From that company, I moved into another agency where we were doing the starting years of viral marketing.  Do you remember that term?

[03:34]   

I do actually.  Gosh, I haven’t heard that in a long time.

[03:36]

Exactly.  So how do we better connect with consumers using the ability to spread things through digital mediums.  And through that experience, ended up at another company where I was doing like same things (guerrilla and viral marketing techniques).  And we were doing some communities as a way to really amplify the messages. So, bring together a group of passionate people, arm them with the messages, and have them push them out and amplify from there.  And that’s what actually lead me to FuelCycle. At the time, it was called Passenger. The founder was a gentleman that I actually worked with at another agency.  

And that company was all about taking this idea of bringing together a passionate group of consumers and leveraging them as a platform for amplifying brand messages.  And through that, we started realizing, “Wow, we’re learning a lot about these people that are just coming in to talk about whatever with us because they just want to talk about it.”  And slowly that really transitioned into what everyone would call market research. I think us as marketers weren’t really thinking about it as us being market researchers, but we were learning so many things from an insights perspective.  And slowly over time, our stakeholders on the client side ended up being a mix of marketing and insights people and stumbled into market research from there.     

[05:11]      

So, Toluna…  I don’t know if you’ve seen their most recent website, but they’ve actually moved to this thing called the Influencer Marketplace.  I thought that was an interesting kind of direction that you think about market research heading, right? So, anyway, it’s funny seeing the evolution, and really the I’ll put the authority shift more and more towards the respondent, right?  So, and that’s where, I think, Toluna is positioning. And it’s not just unique to them: you’re seeing this in other providers as well. But like this whole influencer marketing has been in such a growth mode and really what denotes an influencer… And this is where, I think, like on the community side, it’s really interesting too because big brands are paying a lot of attention to niche communities now. 

[06:03]

Yeah, that’s one thing that’s been a little funny for me and validating, I think, at points because when I first entered into Ipsos, the idea of really putting onus on the respondent (I didn’t even call them “respondent”; I called them “people”) was a novel idea.  It wasn’t really the norm, you know. It was more about getting the data we needed for the research that we were trying to address. And, for me, that’s always kind of been my starting point is the people that we’re talking to and how we engage them. And I’m seeing that happen in the market now.  Like that’s kind of an accepted approach these days, and that wasn’t always the case.  

So it’s great; I think it’s good because the people that are truly passionate or have an affinity about things, topics, whatever, there’s so much you can learn from them because they’re truly dedicated and want to have a constructive conversation about it.  And we’re seeing that… My oversight is on communities and social intelligence (aka social listening). And you’re seeing that on that side too. Like there’s a lot of people that are in the social department at their brand, and they’re doing, constructing insights just as much as a researcher insights function because of all those conversations that are happening about brands, topics, products, whatever.  So, yeah, absolutely.  

[07:31]

This is the part I think that where marketing research has a BIG advantage in the marketplace right now.  By “marketplace,” I mean broadly speaking inside of the corporate budgets, is to really leverage up the voice of the consumer.  There’s a study actually; I should publish this. Estrella’s, she’s with Nestlé. In her interview, she talks about the Watermark Report, and this is a fascinating report I had not heard of before.  I thought I had in the interviews, but I misspoke. Anyway, after doing the diligence on it, actually illustrated this… like it’s never been more clearer that companies that actually put the consumer first, they are winning, especially when you do analysis on the Fortune 500, which is what they looked at.  And they looked at the difference between the laggards, which are the significant underperformers in the marketplace, versus the overperformers. And the overperformers: it’s like a 7 or 8 to 1. It’s just like the amount of distance between them… You know the companies that are actually driving forward with not just lip service because everybody says they care about the consumer, but the ones that are actually employing these techniques.  It just feels like this is a really big opportunity for us in market research, and we’re just at the beginning, I think, of seeing this escalate into corporate budgets. 

[08:57] 

Yeah, I think it’s been in budgets but just in a different place.  And I think that’s what’s been new is that it hasn’t necessarily crossed over into the insights function.  But the value of leveraging your best consumers and collaborating with them, I think that concept isn’t new.  But you’re right. I think there’s definitely the shift in that people are prioritizing it more.

[09:23]

Yeah, for sure.  You actually said something that’s real interesting to me right there, which is where it sits, that insight sits.  Are you seeing the role at Ipsos of insights move from the strict like market research stage on the hill to other departments?

[09:42]

Oh, yeah, absolutely.  I mean I think, if anything, there’s just more involvement of stakeholders outside of just insights, and there’s greater importance for broader exposure and collaboration, right, because there’s elements of the marketing function that has analytics oversight, that has social oversight that insights is a part of but might not be in the day-to-day conversations.  So more and more, we’re seeing different stakeholders join that conversation and even getting briefs from people that might not even be in an insights function as well.   

[10:23]

Yeah, see, that’s another big opportunity for marketing research:  identifying the educational component inside of the organizations becomes…  They’re starting from a totally different point of reference. What is a concept test, for example, versus somebody that’s been steeped in market research Best Practices.  So it’s almost like in a lot of ways we have the opportunity to help educate and elevate the research and the insights that are done across the organization regardless of the tools that are being used.      

[10:51]  

Absolutely.  Yeah, I think that’s a big opportunity.  And that’s actually one of the reasons, I think, what I am doing in my team is…  There’s a lot of boutiques and agencies that do social intelligence and communities, but the fact that we’re able to bring a lot of the rigor and the academic strength and foundation that Ipsos brings to research and link that to these more emerging areas of insights is something that a lot of our clients really value.

[11:23]  

Yeah, this is such as important point.  I mean just because you have a scalpel doesn’t mean you should perform surgery.  I think that anyone can do a survey, for example, right? That’s not hard any more.  My mom can do a survey; that’s kind of like my benchmark. It doesn’t necessarily mean that she should and, if she does, she shouldn’t be directing the organization or decisions at an organizational level because the nuances of questions, just at a question level, a question-formation level is actually really important, right?  And that’s just one little element of research, having the added value and working with a professional agency.

You know the other thing that interesting and talking with many, many brands over the last year, it doesn’t feel like they’re pulling their spend out of their key relationships like they have with the big players such as yourself, Neilsen, whatever.  From their vantage point, it feels like where they’re leveraging you guys has been shifting, though. The actual relationships are becoming stronger because they’re leveraging more on a strategic level as opposed to logistical level. Is that something you guys are seeing?

[12:35]  

Yeah, I think so.  I think advisory is a really critical part of any kind of research.  It’s not just about executing the research; it’s about ensuring that we’re looking at the actionability piece of it and what that linkage to business decisions is.  So we’re not just like sending over the data and hope that it goes somewhere good. That’s a really critical piece in terms of closing the feedback loop on the actual business impact as well.  

[13:04]

Alright, well, let’s shift gears a little bit.  Tell us about the biggest challenge that you have overcome either personally or professionally.

[13:11]

Ahh…I have a lot of challenges.  I think going back to just starting at Ipsos, that was a big challenge for me, namely because I did come from marketing.  I was a marketer, not a researcher; so, that was a big cultural shift. It also was a huge organization, and I, like I said, I came from startups, tech startups, agencies.  So just that cultural shift was big. And to be completely honest, I was recruited into Ipsos to build their communities’ business. And, back then (this was about eight years ago now) the idea of communities…  I think there was a little bit of fear around it, right? It was like, “Is that going to take away my business?” “Are people just going to do stuff in a community and not do stuff outside of a community anymore?”  So there was a lot of fear and just miseducation in terms of what a community is and what it can actually deliver and the value that it brings in an integrated fashion.  

And that was a big challenge to overcome in terms of building trust with my colleagues and ensuring that they didn’t see me and what we were building as a threat, but rather an opportunity and a way for Ipsos to look at different areas of growth and collaboration.  I think we’ve gotten to a really good place, I hope. But what I’m seeing now is that that integration piece is really one of most exciting pieces of what we can do with communities at Ipsos because we have clients that are doing things outside of the communities at Ipsos already and have the community and were able to bring all of these connection points together.  That’s really where the true power comes into play ‘cause communities aren’t good for everything. I’m not going to start looking at volumetric forecasting using a community. So really bringing those pieces together, that was a challenge because the easiest thing I could be is come in and be like, “Oh, we’re way cooler than you and… we’re the new phase.”        

[15:30]   

Everything’s a nail to a hammer.

[15:33]

Yeah, exactly, but it was really like how do we figure out how to work together and be better together.  

[15:39]  

Thinking about communities, is there a life cycle of the communities that are successful; in other words, is it a six-month focus or is it longitudinal in-perpetuity framework? 

[15:56]

So, if it was up to me, I think every brand would have a consumer community, of course.  We have communities that have been up for 3, 4, 5, years or even more. And I think what success looks like in those long-term community programs is that there’s never a point of just settling.  We’re always continuing to evolve. We define success metrics, and we track ourselves and are accountable against those and we continue to evolve those over time. We don’t just set those once and forget them.  Back to what I was saying before, really ensuring how we’re leveraging that community, that it’s laddering up to a larger purpose, that there’s key business objectives that we’re delivering against, and that we’re able to look at the actual impact of that learning on the business itself, like whether that’s the actual decisions it’s impacted, what that looks like in terms of making their broader prophecies easier.  

You know what success looks like can be a lot of different things for the organization, and it, obviously, changes over time.  But being really purposeful in terms of defining what that looks like and actually prioritizing tracking against that, I think, is really important to a successful community for any client.  I wouldn’t say there’s any client that couldn’t get value from a community. I think sometimes there’s missteps in terms of getting to narrow: You know like trying to focus, “I just want to talk to this one group of people because we don’t have market share with them.”  Sometimes that’s valuable, but maybe that’s a much shorter engagement. I think overall the broader success that I’ve seen over the years with community is when it’s truly integrated into the broader process within the organization and that adoption curve is really addressed as a strategic priority   

[18:00]

Are you seeing a lot of…?  Is it a lot of different methodologies that are applied against the communities or just a certain type, more narrow?  When I think about a community, I usually think about diary studies or narrow use cases.   

[18:15]

So, no.  When I talk about community, I’m talking about an online environment where members are recruited in. profiled, and there’s interactivity in there.  So there’s the ability for people to talk to one another, but there’s also opportunities to do more focused, qualitative interactions like diaries, for example.  And we’re also doing a lot of quantitative work. So it is a true combination of quant, qual, and collective interactions. With that capability, you’re able to do quite a bit in terms of learning.  So, it can be around just foundational understanding of who people are; it could be much more diagnostic or optimization work against concept development or ideation or advertising. There’s a lot of different ways that you can use it for understanding paths of purchase or what does that journey look like, U&A.  I mean there’s really endless ways you can leverage a community because at its core, a community is a way to have a dialogue and understand the consumer at a deeper level, ideally. That’s what I was saying earlier: I don’t think that it replaces certain things, but it absolutely strengthens and elevates your ability to do things in a more agile and meaningful way.     

[19:41]

Obviously, you’ve built a set of Best Practices.  I actually sold a community into Intuit, developed the software, etc., back in 2004.  So, super early days. It seemed like such a great idea, but what we didn’t have was any best practices built around that community management and so, inevitably, what happened was it felt a little more grindy, like we just needed to start engaging them on behalf of just or for the purpose of engagement as opposed to learning.  Do you have playbook that you employ? And what does that look like? 

[20:20]

Yeah, there’s layers to it.  Overarching, there’s a really critical approach to how you launch a community.  So, that’s the starting point. And this might sound like a No-Dah, but is having a business strategy and aligning, like a said before, like key objectives and success measures.  And you really have to hold yourself to those things because they’re not just put them down to paper just for the sake of it. Like you actually have to be thinking about what does that look like.  And that’s a collaboration; that’s not like my team can figure that out. We have to have that dialogue with the client or with the brand to make sure that those things are meaningful and they’re things that we can executive against.  So, that’s first. 

The second is having a really defined engagement and content strategy.  And what that looks like is laddering up against those business objectives and to build a real meaningful content plan that actually is going to deliver against the things that we’re saying we want to address from a business perspective but also aligning that with a member value proposition.  Like why do these people even want to join this community? Why are they going to come back? Like you actually have to have a reason for that, that you can actually bring to the table, right? It can’t be like, “I want to be the next Facebook.” That’s probably not what most brands can deliver.  But there’s generally something, right? There’s an affinity around the topic; there’s knowledge or insider information; or there’s some kind of value proposition that you can align on. And once you define that, then we execute against our Ten Golden Rules of Engagement, is what we call them. But they’re really like core principles that are driven by human behavior, behavioral science, like the things that just drive humans but within the digital environment.  If we execute against those in a consistent fashion, we see that it drives really strong engagement. And then the third piece is that…   

[22:24]

Sorry.  Really quick before you get into the third piece, I just have to ask.  This concept of that it’s not about the money, right, necessarily… I actually believe this 100%.  In the research on research I have done, I will get oversized returns if there is an emotional connection or interest in a brand or category as opposed to a strict incentive relationship.  Is that part of how you’re creating the communication strategy?

[22:59]

Yes, absolutely.  We’re actually about to put out a paper on research on research we did around this, around the importance of intrinsic motivation versus extrinsic.  And that’s not to say that we don’t use rewards or financial incentives, but it’s not the starting point. To establish a relationship based on money, you’re setting yourself up for that expectation but, if you establish a relationship based on more intrinsic and emotional drivers, like you said, then you have the opportunity to have people that feel like they’re truly part of an experience and that they actually have a voice at the table, whatever that potential value proposition is that you’re putting out there.  And that’s really critical because you’re kind of cheapening the relationship if it’s just about gift cards. And back to your earlier point, that’s an easy thing to fall back on. And I’m not going to say that we’re not guilty of it at times. Just to be like, “Oh, just throw a bunch of rewards at them to that we can try to push up participation.” But over time that never delivers against the quality and even quantity of learnings that you’re going to get.      

[24:15]

And the other thing that I wanted to mention before you get to your third leg here is…  Well, actually, not mention; it’s more of a question, right? What does the interplay look like with the community members outside of a research experiment such as a collaborative diary or something along those lines?  Is there any opportunity for communication? 

[24:35]

Yeah, we’re communicating with members all the time.  Our community…

[24:40]

But I mean member to member.

[24:42]

Member to member, oh, yeah, yeah.  Generally, we’ll ensure that there’s some layer of what we call engagement activities at a baseline.  And it’s not like you just throw up a discussion and forget about it. Like they’re highly curated; they’re moderated; and where members are able to talk to one another…  And it’s really about creating that sense of community. That’s the thing that makes me laugh sometimes where people say, “This is a community,” but there’s like no sense of actual community. 

[25:11]

Take a survey.  

[25:13]

Yes, exactly.  The word “community” is the word “community” for a reason, right?  So we take that pretty seriously in terms of the experience that we’re creating. 

[25:24]

Alright, got it.  So, I didn’t mean to interrupt you.  I’ll be quiet at least for the next leg.  

[25:31]

No, yeah, so the third piece is really about adoption and evangelism on the client side because it’s easy to set up a community like in an asylo.  So like someone on the insights team might invest in a community, and there could be someone across the hall that doesn’t even know that there’s a community within the organization.  And so, really ensuring that we set up a strategy with the client to define how we’re going to really market the community within their organization.  

[26:10]

I have never heard that before.  I actually think that’s probably one of the biggest “Ah-ha” moments for me I’ve had on the show.  That is brilliant.

[26:20]

And it’s critical.

[26:21]

What does that look like?  I’m very familiar with putting together a content strategies and content calendars and all that kind of stuff.  Is there a whole separate…? The way that you’re describing it, it sounds like it’s more of a strategic session with real clear deliverables in time.

[26:39]

Yeah, it really depends on…  Again, it’s how you embed this program within the existing organizational culture.  At some clients within their organization, they have quarterly townhalls; and they have a newsletter or whatever.  It’s like really like trying to vet all of the different touch points that are within the organization. 

[27:03]

Got it.

[27:04]  

And then the other layer to that is also just “How do they make decisions?” 

[27:09]  

So, it’s a lot of communication-channels sort of analysis and strategy ensuring that you get some or have the opportunity at least to get some air time. 

[27:19]  

Exactly, and that ladders back to the success measures, right?  It’s all connected. If you don’t drive adoption, you’re not going to do enough to drive the success measures and so forth.   

[27:32]

Tell me about the project that you are most proud of over your storied career.

[27:37]

Oh, boy.  

[27:41]   

I know it’s a lot of them, right?

[27:43]

A lot, but I don’t know that I’m able to share all of the details on this public forum.  But I’ll stay high level. There was a program that I managed earlier in my career. What I loved about it was this client didn’t shy away from what it meant to have the consumer be part of the process.  Like the consumer was part of the process literally at every stage from the beginning of the product inception, which meant it was just in a test tube, to the actual naming of that product, to like figuring out the packaging for that product, to figuring out which stores it should be in, to figuring out what media channels.  They literally had the consumers be pitched by the different media agencies and help make the decisions in terms of where they were going to place media and what that media looked like. They fully embraced this idea of having the consumer part of that process.  

I think for me, “Did we change the world?”  “Maybe not,” but for me what I loved about that program is just how unabashedly the client embraced the consumer being part of the process.  I think a lot of clients can be scared of that. I know there’s that Ford quote about, “If I ask my consumers, they would want a faster horse, right?”  That’s our job. Our job is not to just take what the consumer says and do it. Our job is to critically think about what that actually means and read between the lines and drive what that means from a strategic perspective.  But to shy away from actually engaging with your consumers and understand what they want and what they need and what they’re motivated by, that’s just missing the whole point of what we’re trying to do as insights professionals as well as people in business in general.  

[29:48]  

I love that.  Yeah, I love that.  I had one guest and she said that they measure, at a brand, and she said they measure the success of a project based on a single KPI, which is number of mentions (of the insights being mentioned) inside of the final brief, that’s used to make a business decision.  I thought that’s exactly right.   

[30:13]

Yeah, one of the things that I’ve been talking to my team a lot about lately is because…  I’m sure you’ve heard there’s this whole thing around purpose like brand purpose and brands.  Like they need to actually push forward what this society looks like for good. Corporations have more power in some ways than government.  And, when you think about what we’re doing as insights professionals, we’re like a direct line to consumers; we’re a direct line to what they need and what’ s driving them day-in, day-out.  I don’t know anyone who’s not at some level worried about plastic or sustainability, climate change… There’s a lot of things that are scary right now, right? And we actually have the opportunity to help educate our clients from a consumer perspective on how they can find purpose and drive that change.  And that’s a really amazing position to be in, right?   

[31:23]

Yeah, back to Estrella’s interview, she actually said in the end of it, talking about how for the first time in her career, she’s seeing the red carpet being rolled out to market research professionals, insights professionals to the boardroom.  I completely concur with that based on the interviews that we’ve been doing here. It just feels this is THE day. And it’s not just at the end or the top, right? It feels like it’s the beginning, which is a really exciting point in time.          

[31:53]

Yeah, absolutely.  Super cool.  

[31:55]

So, market research, we’ve got lots of challenges.  What are you seeing as the biggest challenge, whether it’s inside of Ipsos or with the customers that you service?

[32:05]

I mean I think this is broadly in the industry.  I think it’s just the finding the right combination of technology and humans. There’s a lot of things that I think historically research professionals have executed, but with technology and automation, they just don’t have to.  So it’s like really like ensuring that we’re elevating in the value chain, and automating the things that we can but not forgetting the things where “human intelligence” is still really critical. That’s going to be a continual challenge to find the right sweet spot, and it’s evolving every day, right, with the new technologies and capabilities and opportunities from that perspective.  But I think, to what you were just saying, in terms of elevating the position of insights and being part of those early conversations, not an afterthought (“Oh, we should do some research to make sure that this isn’t a bad idea), but being like really at the origin stage. That’s really, I think, the biggest pieces. It’s a challenge, but it’s definitely a necessity in terms of ensuring that we maintain relevance.  It’s really that idea of pushing ourselves up that value chain. 

[33:27]  

I like how you’re casting automation.  Automation isn’t about job replacement; it’s about job furthering.  The more that we can automate the disparate work flows that we have inside of the research processes, then the more time that we can spend on adding value and helping the brands, our customers, and our employers to drive value right in that emotional connection that is so important.  It’s definitely a partnership at least probably for the next 50 years from my vantage point. 

[33:59]

Yeah, absolutely.  I look at it as how can we find time to focus on the fun stuff, you know.    

[34:05]

Exactly, exactly.  So, when you look forward five years from now…  You’ve had the fortune of seeing a lot of transition in this insights space.  How are we going to be different as market researchers or user-experience professionals in five years?

[34:25]

Well, I think that there’s a lot that we know that we don’t know.  Does that make sense? That’s really where I’m seeing a lot of focus right now, is like “Are we being redundant just asking people these questions over and over again?”  “Are there better ways to understand this information?” And I feel like some of it is Big Brother and scary, but other pieces of it, it’s just like, I think, consumers are at the point where like, “I feel like I’ve already told you all of this, and shouldn’t you have some understanding of all this information?”  I see like technology and automation, machine learning (all of the things that are coming into play in the insights world) as really helping us to, like I said before, just like really establish a stronger foundation so that we can focus on the things that are actually going to drive things forward beyond that. So I just see us getting better and better at that ‘cause we ask a lot of questions we don’t have to ask… a lot.      

[35:28]

And we do.  Let’s just start with the basic one: gender.  Every survey, anyways. I have a whole rant there, but I’m going to forego it in the interests of maintaining an audience.  So, it sounds like what you’re saying is there’s this opportunity for us to be able to have better transition between the disparate data systems of that data so that we have a more complete respondent record.  In other words, what I’m trying to say is, whether it’s previously self-reported data or social or whatever (transactional, behavioral, etc.), the more that that gets unified, then the better, the smarter we’ll be as brand and insights professionals in making decisions and also to the point of being really tactical with the questions that we ask at the respondent level as opposed to the same question over and over and over again.   

[36:31]

Yeah, absolutely.  I think there’s an opportunity to be more economical with how we engage with people.  

[36:37]   

Yeah, that’s a much better way of saying it. You’ve been a part of a couple of high performance teams.  Tell me what are three characteristics of an All-Star employee.

[36:50]

It’s not three things.  Actually, my team runs by the credo, “Own it.”  It actually is an acronym, but ownership, I think, is a big piece of that.  So having that sense of accountability and knowing that whoever you are, whatever level you are that you have an important role to play and that your ownership of what you are accountable for is critical to everyone’s success.  So, that’s a big piece. The “W” is willingness to learn. And that’s really important as well because we don’t know everything ever; we are born to die unfinished. And the ability for us to continue evolving is about us having that open mind to understand and learn what’s out there and never settling, which is the “N,” to know that we can really continue to push ourselves forward.  

So, that’s really all-around curiosity and continuing to push what it means to be in our world, in our department, whatever that might be, or in our team.  And then implementing solutions and taking responsibility. I mean those are the big pieces that I think are really critical. So, always, if you want to come to me or anyone on the team with a problem, have upstarting point of what some of the solutions might be.  I think, ultimately, all those characteristics are really critical to a good team, but the No. 1 thing, for me, is about remembering that we’re all human and this really goes back to also just my broader philosophy around our community practice is that these are people, we are engaging with people, and we’re people, and we’re engaging with each other, and we need to connect with one another and respect one another.  And, if you don’t start with your people, then it’s going to be hard to engage with other people. So that’s probably the biggest thing.     

[39:07]      

Menaka, how did you come up with “Own it”?  That is the best set of core values I’ve ever heard.  It totally encapsulates everything that I believe, but in a way that I can actually walk about tomorrow or a week from now; recycle, which is freaking amazing.     

[39:24]

Own it!  It just started with me being like, “Just own it!” and then thinking about what that actually means to me.  Yeah, it’s become really embedded into my team because we actually use it in terms of how we look at performance, how we look at interviewing new people on the team; so, it’s really a framework for what we stand for culturally.    

[39:48] 

So, my last question is what is your personal motto?  I think you might have answered it.  

[39:56]

Yeah, own it!  Actually, I will say it’s a little different.  It’s “Just try it!” has been my personal motto.  Someone asked me this question recently, and I had to kind of think about it.  But I realized that this has been my motto throughout my life. I live in Los Angeles; I’m from Seattle, lived in New York, and San Francisco.  So, if anyone lives in any of those cities, they know that L.A. is not necessarily looked upon in the most positive light. So, me ending up in L.A. was definitely not a plan, but it was definitely a component of me meeting someone and saying, “You know what?  Just try it.” But I would say that’s in my personal life, but in my professional life as well, that’s definitely a motto for me because you don’t know until you try. Maybe it will be a total failure; maybe everyone will look at you like you’re crazy; maybe it will be amazing.  Like I don’t know. And I think that’s something that we just need to be more open to. Just trying it and seeing what happens and going from there.      

[41:07]

My guest today has been Menaka Gopinath, President, Ipsos Social Media Exchange – North America.  Thank you, Menaka, so much for joining me on the Happy Market Research Podcast.

[41:18]

Thanks so much for having me.  It’s been fun.

[41:20]  

It’s an absolute honor.  As always, I appreciate your time and attention, listeners.  If you would please do me a kindness. If you found value in this show, please, please, please, take the time to share it, take a screen shot of it, distribute it on LinkedIn.  I would love to interact with you if you have any questions, recommendations, or also guests. And you can always find this show and others like it on our website. Happy MR.com.  Have a great rest of your day.

[41:46]  

This episode is brought to you by Clearworks.  They are an insight, innovation and customer experience company.  They help their clients understand their customers better, identify opportunities for innovation, and create products, services, and experience that actually matter.  Their clients are diverse, both in size and industry. They do share one important thing, which is a passion to drive more business by driving more meaningful human connections.  You can find them online at www.clearworks.net.  Again, it’s www.clearworks.net.  And again, thank you so much for your time.