NEXT 2019 Podcast Series

NEXT 2019 Conference Series – Simon Chadwick – Cambiar LLC

Welcome to the 2019 NEXT Conference Series. Recorded live in Chicago, this series is bringing interviews straight to you from exhibitors and speakers at this year’s event. In this interview, host Jamin Brazil interviews Simon Chadwick, managing partner of Cambiar LLC.

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I have Simon Chadwick, the legend, here live at the NEXT Conference here in Chicago.  Simon, how are you?


I’m good, thanks, Jamin.  How are you doing?


I’m doing OK.  Thank you for asking.  The weather has been a little bit cold, but not too bad.  A little rainy, oddly enough for Chicago this time of year.  But what are you going to do? We’re in a conference anyway so…    


It’s not snowing.


Not snowing, not freezing.  Totally wins, yeah, totally wins.  Actually, it might even be warm for Chicago standards.  I don’t know.


I don’t know.  All I think is that when it rains in Chicago, it’s just because the temperature is turning the snow into liquid.  


Exactly!  Totally true.  It’s a very cold city.


Anyway, I love this city


I do, too.  It’s actually my favorite city globally, but it would be hard for me to move here just because of the winters.  But I absolutely love Chicago. The people are super nice. It feels like a New York, you know like a Manhattan, London-ish type. 


And great architecture and, you know, the rivers, and…  yeah, tremendous, yeah.


It is great.  So, what do you think about the conference so far?


Well, from what I’ve seen so far, not bad at all.  I’m really looking forward to my colleague Lucy’s paper later this afternoon, which is “Who Killed Advertising Effectiveness?”  Murder at the manor. It’s a detective story, interactive.  


Of course, Lucy would bring just riveting bend to that subject.    


Right, right.


Or any subject.


Yeah, she’s a great speaker.  So I’m looking forward to that.  Looking forward to the comedy show tonight.  Are you going?


Yeah, I am, I am.  


That should be fun.  


That’s going to be great.  


Unfortunately, I don’t know about you, but every time I come to a conference, conference calls with China or with India crop up, and you’re in your room, you know, yeah.


Totally.  It’s ridiculous; it’s absolutely asinine, very frustrating, actually.  That just happened to me today, actually. And I missed an important person I was trying to connect with.  Anyway, that’s disappointing when that happens. So, the show’s actually really good. I’ve enjoyed… I’ve been able to attend three sessions or speakers, whatever.  They were super informative. I’ve been impressed with the quality of the content.   


Yeah, I was at the storytelling one, and I thought that she did a good job:  actually, made it easier for people to understand what they had to do in preparation and how to actually keep this story alive after the presentation.  It was very pragmatic and practical.


Yeah, I love the tactical application.  I’m a sucker for, if you put up a blog post and say, “Three Tips to…”, then I’m like, “OK,” because I’m going to read it.  I like the… I can pull something out of this and apply it today to my life and have an impact.


You know, we as humans are so funny whenever we see numbers.  Talking about Lucy, again, she did a big experiment at Coca-Cola Western Europe, which she presented at ESOMAR, looking at how you can disseminate insights to people who actually were not the stakeholders.  So, if you’re Coke sodas and you find something, how can you get to cross to the juices or waters because it might actually be really relevant to them. So they conducted a big experiment. And guess what one of the things that actually grabbed people was, in terms of the emails that you would send out, was an infographic with “43 Ways That You Need to Do This” or, you know.  


It’s crazy.  It’s funny. So, now I’m going to say something…  I’m going to contradict what I just said. I, historically, was very resistant to clicking on the three tips or whatever because I just felt it was so canned and market-ish. 


Click bait.


Yeah, it smelled like bullshit (pardon my French).  But I can’t help it now. The data’s right. It is what it is.  So I’m not going to resist the wagon anymore; I’m getting on it.  You know, getting on it. So, what is going on at Cambridge?


At Cambiar.  


No, no, sorry.


Cambridge, I haven’t been there for a while.  


Maybe soon.  


Well, it’s interesting.  So, there are three buckets to our business.  The first is strategic and operational consulting, mainly for research agencies.  That’s where we started off 15 years ago. We then added various different pieces of specialized operation consulting.  Then we got into the M&A business, and that’s now probably a third to a half of our business. And then we got into the training business on the corporate side in what we call Power Skills:  communication, influencing, synthesis, things like that. They’re about a third, a third, a third. But each one is showing different traits. On the client side the demand for training in Power Skills has shot through the roof.   




Really shot through the roof.  It’s quite amazing. We’re booked now through the year.  I mean we don’t have any space. And that’s with major banks and pharmaceutical companies and so on.  So that’s really good because it means we’re getting… We’re helping them achieve impact and a lot of it is actually about measuring that impact, which is also really good.  But then on the M&A side, it’s almost dried up completely in the States – nothing much left to buy, but it’s exploding in Asia. 






Who’s doing the buying in Asia?  Is it conglomerates?


It’s mainly the European and U.S. conglomerates.


Big boys, yeah.


Not the usual suspects:  the big four, apart from one.  But three of them are in trouble; so, their appetite is somewhat diminished.  But, yeah, the bigger guys.  


Do you see LatAm being like another…  I think that after Asia gets saturation, then… 


It should move to LatAm, but I think there’s some really interesting stuff going on in Africa and in the Middle East.


Yeah, I’d agree.


The Middle East, in particular, we’ve seen a big, big sort of bump up in activity.  And now, South Africa was always strong, but now we’re seeing East Africa and some of the stronger economies in West Africa really beginning to come on stream.


Thinking about ESOMAR’s numbers on 46-billion-dollar space that we’re in in market research, the representation in these other countries has been small relative to the overall spend.  But it feels to me, and I’m basing this off of conference attendance, I’m seeing a lot more people from these other markets attend conferences. And that is starting to speak to me in terms of how much people are caring globally about consumer opinion.  Honestly, I think we’re at this beginning of a J-curve up as an industry, which is really exciting.


Yeah, I think one of the things that we have seen now is we’re at the end of the Chicken Little era, you know, where the sky was falling.  And there is this acceptance that actually this is a time of huge opportunity. It just looks different.  


Totally.  When you think about that like user experience research, specifically in the Bay Area, I’m seeing this a lot.  You know Silicon Valley, you’ve got almost 10 to 1; so, for every market researcher, there’s 10 UX researchers.  It’s crazy. There’s been an explosion in that space. If you look at the hashtags market research combined with MRX on LinkedIn, the number of people that follow it, it’s about 350,000.  If you look at the number of people that follow user experience, it’s over 4 million.    




So, yeah.  But what’s interesting on a Venn diagram – and I’ve been doing this with a few other people – you look at the types of research that are done in both disciplines, there’s some crossover, a material amount of crossover, right?  I continue to wonder if we’re not – while everything is going to be scaling up over user data, we’re also not going at the same time start seeing… because these people sit in different parts of the org structure, not together.  So I wonder if we’re going to see like this, not chief research officer per se, But like somebody that’s responsible for consumer voice at the C level.  


You know it’s so funny because…  You’re just about old enough to remember the great Jack Michael, you know, his books on research.  And he was such a proponent of that idea 30 years ago. And it still hasn’t come around yet. Also, in the corporate clients that we serve, there’s this battle going on as to who are the holders of the customer voice.  Who are the holders of customer insights, of consumer insights? Is it the research function? Is it data analytics? If so, what type of data analytics ‘cause there’s about 40 of them? Is it finance? Nobody seems yet to have got the structure right, let alone put in that type of chief customer-voice officer or whatever you want to call it.  There’s chief CX officers, but that’s very specific.    


This is such an interesting deviant from our conversation but, or deviation from my normal conversation, that oversight layer becomes really important because you think about things like data governance, compliance.  It’s actually the same and as important in all those disciplines. So that needs to be part of the job description… as we build out this fantasy job description, that’s part of it. And then also just having that person at the table that has a point of view at a macro level and a micro level.  So, UX seems to be very micro: in order words, “I need a decision right now.” So I do my little whatever (qual or…). And then market research tends to be at a macro, it seems like: larger segmentation, price elasticity, things like that. It’s kind of like this really interesting power that can sit at the table along with the CEO, and I would imagine a lot of eyes would get diverted to that individual because, at least at the board meetings that I attend, that would be a very germane…, right?    


Actually, when we were down in Miami, I was talking to somebody down there who today is in data analytics but he was VP of insights or whatever at a major company.  He remembered being in a meeting with a CEO and there was the Head of Production there, the Head of Sales, and the Head of Marketing. And the CEO said to the Head of Marketing, “So how are things?”  And he said, “Terrific, absolutely terrific. They’re really going well.” And the Head of Sales said, “Ehr, we’re not yet really up there.” Head of Production said, “It’s really bad.” So the CEO turned to the VP of Insights and said, “Well, which is it?”       


That’s exactly it.  That should be a New Yorker cartoon.  


It really should, yeah.       


That’s perfect.            


I don’t know if we’ll ever see that role, but there’s too much competition. 


I think we will.  I really do. Just think about the amount of waste that’s happening right now from a training perspective.  If I just focus, like a Facebook, if I just focus on the UX division, there’s a bunch of people there and at varying levels of skills and experience.  And then I’ve got a whole different set inside of the market research of different people, right, inside of the market research. And so, never the two will meet if it is the case really. Just the training overhead could be reduced materially if you had a unified road map on these are the core…


That is one thing that we are seeing right now.  We’re seeing more and more, when we go in to train in these major organization, that it is not just researchers.  It’s researchers, data analysts, competitive intelligence, strategic, and they’re all coming together for these. Whereas we would be training, two years ago we’d be training 25 people in a room, now we’re training 125.  


Right, totally.  See that’s really interesting.  I think about technology has democratized access to the consumer, which is exciting but also terrifying because…  My favorite saying right now is, “Just ‘cause I have a scalpel doesn’t make me a surgeon.” And yet because I can launch a survey doesn’t necessarily mean that I should because the way that I ask a question is actually really important.  People who are seasoned researchers know how to do that well, and people that aren’t, they really don’t. And this isn’t necessarily intuitive. So the added educational level, again going back to that C-level executive or whatever, now becomes really important to start caring about the overall understanding of consumer insights at a…  Because everybody from the intern to the CEO is doing surveys.      


And the very fact that you can do them, like as you said, “If you’ve got a scalpel, you’re not necessarily a surgeon.”  The very fact that you can get up a template and put something on it and put it out to the field and collect that data doesn’t obviate the need for the fundamental principles, and the fundamental principles, I’m sorry, still count.  You know it bugs the hell out me that I was trained for two years before I was actually allowed anywhere near a customer. A lot of that was in statistics and in sampling. These days, that is not there. It’s there in some of the sample companies, in some of the suppliers, but it’s not there in the brand level.   


Right, well, I mean there was going back into the 90s at the brand level, there was structured mentorship program in a lot of the companies I worked with, and that doesn’t exist anymore.  


GM, General Mills was famous for being the university of research.  That went away. And then there’s another aspect to this which is…  And I’m probably going to upset a lot of people, 


Oh, I can’t wait.


I already published it, so…  We have to face that there’s a lot of data illiteracy in companies, in marketing, in brand at the senior management level.  People don’t really know how to read data. And if you’re just putting data in front of them or they’re collecting their own, there’s going to be some really bad mistakes made.  


I mean, yeah.  Again, getting back to corporate waste.  I think this is probably one of the biggest gross margin opportunities in front of organizations and also at an SG & A level.  So you think about how you could improve your sales and marketing right now. You got the whole lean marketing framework (A–B test the heck out of everything), but a big part of that also is understanding the customer “why” and informing, if B is performing better than A, why is that the case because maybe that’s really important.  And that is now in the spot; it’s starting to get injected into the marketing side of it. But now, all of a sudden, it’s like, “Who’s going to answer that question?” Is it market research or is it UX or is it marketing? You know what I mean? So, it continues to beget the consumer voice is important to a decision I need make, but now who owns that, kind of rolling it again back up.     


It’s like the consumer voice is going through a synthesizer and, you know, it comes out female on one synthesizer and a male on the other and a robot on another.


And the waste then is not just redundant research.  That is a waste but that’s not the bigger problem. The bigger problem is conflicting and wrong answers that are derived just because of errors in the methodology and skill of the analytics person, anyway.  So, as you look forward to 2020… Can you believe 2020 is…


Just around the corner.


Oh, my God.  I swear I thought I had a jetpack.  When I was a kid, you said “2020,” there was no question we had jetpacks.


Yes, right, right, right.  My wife is really disappointed that we don’t have jetpacks.  


Right.  I think that’s terrible.  I think that’s terrible. Like we haven’t had a material improvement to our air travel across the pond, right?  That’s the other thing I think is… The Condor was one: the supersonic jet or whatever.


The Concorde, yeah.


The Concorde, yeah, yeah.  That’s what it was. But that’s gone now.


And I never got onto that, unfortunately.


I didn’t either.  I was super disappointed.  That was one of the things that I would have liked to have been able to do.  By the time, I could afford it, it was gone. Dang it, anyway. So, you think forward:  what do you see as a macrotrend?  


I really do think the biggest macrotrend is going to continue to be on the client side.  And I think it’s going to be this push for strategic relevance and strategic impact. You know when we did the re-benchmark with Boston Consulting three or four years ago now, 20% of insights functions were strategic partners or better.  I mean it’s pretty pathetic: 2 out of 10. The good news was it was double what it had been eight years previously. And I’m on a crusade alongside those from GRBN, Andrew Cannon and others, to get that number up to 30, to 40, and to do so by making people measure their impact, making functions and we’re seeing more and more uptake.  And I think we’re almost at the tipping point where we’ll get to maybe 30%. That still leaves 70% out there still not doing what they should be doing and still a lot of waste, to your point. But if that’s the case, then I can see a much more holistic use of all the tools that we see around us. God knows, how many of these tools can you actually absorb?  It’s really hard. Maybe that will enable us to get to Steve Phillips’ idea of we’ll have more time for the strategic, we’ll have more time for thinking. I don’t know. Everything, technology has given us that opportunity, we’ve wasted it but…      


Zoe, no, it’s not Zoe.  I’m sorry. Z Johnson, she currently works at Microsoft.  She had an interesting take on this exact point, which is…  And she actually cites in her podcast, MR Explorer, these milestones in her career where she’s had like a technological breakthrough and “Wow,” all of a sudden, she could do a lot more.  But she says she’s actually still spending the exact same time. It’s just on the logistics. They’re doing a hell of a lot more of the research.    


Yeah, yeah.  Unfortunately, I think that’s always going to be true.  But I’m an optimist. 


Me, too, absolutely.  Let’s do that.  


Yes, let’s hope.


Absolutely.  If somebody wants to get in contact with you, Simon, how would they do that? 


They can do it through or just look me up on LinkedIn and send me an email.


My guest today has been Simon Chadwick, the famed influencer and I think patriarch really in a lot of ways at least currently of market research right now.  Thank you very much for joining me on the Happy Market Research Podcast.  


It has been a pleasure.  Thank you very much, Jamin.


For those of you that are listening, if you found value in this show, which I certainly did, I would love it if you would please screenshot it, share it on social.  Just takes a minute. These take hours for us to produce; so, we appreciate that trade of time. Enjoy the rest of your day.