In this episode, we’ll hear from Pepper Miller, President of the Hunter-Miller Group on her opinion and experiences about diversity in consumer insights.
Find Pepper Online:
Find Jamin Online:
Find Us Online:
“Clap Along” by Auditionauti: https://audionautix.com
Epidemic Sound: https://www.epidemicsound.com/
This Episode is Sponsored by:
This episode is brought to you by SurveyMonkey. Almost everyone has taken its surveys, 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 just launched a fast and easy way to collect market feedback, with 7 new Expert Solutions for concept and creative testing. With built-in, customizable methodology, AI-Powered Insights, and industry benchmarking, you can get feedback on your ideas from your target market–in a presentation-ready format, by the way–in as little as an hour. For more information on SurveyMonkey Market Research Solutions, visit surveymonkey.com/market-research.
This episode is brought to you by Fuel Cycle Ignition. Ignition is the agile insights platform that empowers leaders and their teams to improve product, brand, customer, and employee experiences – no insights experience required. With FC Live virtual focus groups and interviews, an Ad Effective solution, and survey automation capabilities, Fuel Cycle Ignition offers the only all-in-one agile insights ecosystem for supercharging the relationship between brands and their customers and serves the world’s most innovative brands including Google, Hulu, Tufts Health Plan, Carhartt and more. To learn how Ignition can take your research to the next level, visit fuelcycle.com.
Jamin Brazil: Hi, I’m Jamin Brazil. You’re listening to the Happy Market Research Podcast. My guest today is Pepper Miller, a principal consultant and an award-winning market researcher and speaker. In 1995, Pepper founded Hunter-Miller Group, a market research and marketing strategy company. She followed this by being the lead consultant in the largest study about African Americans in 2008. It was called the Black American Today Segmentation Study, commissioned by Radio 1 and conducted by Glovich [ph]. Today, Pepper is the president of the Hunter-Miller Group, author of Black Still Matters in Marketing, and co-author of What’s Black About It? Pepper, thanks for joining me on the Happy Market Research Podcast today.
Pepper Miller: I’m delighted to be here, Jamin, and I love your name, by the way. That’s a very cool name.
Jamin Brazil: Thank you very much. I owe it all to my parents. I did it. I was going to say, “I did a good job picking.”
Pepper Miller: I love that. That’s right. We pick them.
Jamin Brazil: Anyway, so well, speaking of parents, tell me a little bit about your parents and how they informed what you do today.
Pepper Miller: So my parents, they’re both deceased. I miss them a lot. Glad I picked them, to your note. But my parents- so my mom was an educator. And she was adventurous, Jamin. She was really ahead of her time. She had this intellectual curiosity, and I believe I got that from her. So my mother was traveling to Europe alone, and I remember she even- she went to Morocco too and she came back with pictures of her riding on a camel with a snake around her neck. So-.
Jamin Brazil: Oh my God.
Pepper Miller: you have to think back. In, “71, a black woman going to Morocco alone or going to London alone- black people are traveling a lot these days, but it was not like that in the, “70s. So adventurous spirit, intellectual curiosity. My father was a trained classical pianist. He had this right-brain, left-brain thing going. So he got an undergrad in classical piano. He got a master’s in music theory. And my father had- was an entrepreneur. He had a wonderful music school. He had 40-plus teachers, 200-plus students, a classical music school. And in our community, in the black community when I came along, wanting to be an entrepreneur was like “oh no, get a real job.” But not my father. He was very, very supportive of me going out on my own and working this market research thing. And my father also, in addition to having the music school, he worked for the government. So he led these audits of these large refineries, and one of the refineries that his audit team was auditing for years was Standard Oil. So he worked during the day, then he’d come home and teach and meet with his students and at the Austin Academy. And he had that for over 30 years, and when he retired from the government he moved his music school to South Carolina. So I got the entrepreneurship, that mindset from my dad. He was a people person too, a lot more upbeat, and really comfortable with talking with diverse people. His music school was very- it wasn’t a black music school. It’s probably more white kids and white teachers that attended the school than people of color. So it was good that he felt comfortable interacting with different people, diverse groups of people as well, which passed that on to me. So good parents. They divorced when I was 11, but good parents at the same time.
Jamin Brazil: So your mom, an adventurer. That’s an amazing- 1971 is the year I was conceived. My mom was very much into feminist movement, “60s. And then your dad having this classical music background and passionate entrepreneur, but then also with the rigor of operating in a government level. How did you wind up in market research?
Pepper Miller: Jamin, I worked at an ad agency. Well, yes, I worked at an ad agency. I didn’t work in the research department. I moved around. I started working and doing bookkeeping, and then I got promoted to work in the traffic department. And then I worked- so I worked at various jobs. I had-.
Jamin Brazil: And that was an operations role at JWT, right?
Pepper Miller: Exactly, it was. It was a wonderful job actually, because you were managing this 600-person office. And you’re working with architects and interior designers. And I had to- my boss was not- and if she listens to this, I’m so sorry. But she wasn’t very good. So I had to take the initiative to go and interview people and try to determine what each department’s needs were. And I learned a lot about the departments in interacting with people, so I was interviewing people. And I was doing research projects on “should we”- I know the controller asked, “Should we have our own security team, or should we buy our own planes? Or should we”- and so I was doing the research and coming up with the analysis for a lot of this as well. And I just found it fascinating because I’m this “why” girl. I got that from my mom. I always want to understand why. So I got exposed to advertising. I applied for the market research department and didn’t get the job and quit and just started doing research on my own.
Jamin Brazil: That is hilarious.
Pepper Miller: I know.
Jamin Brazil: I forget that [LAUGHTER] do it myself. What were those early days like? That had to be terrifying.
Pepper Miller: Well, one of the things- one of the black executives, because when I was at J. Walter, there were 600 people. There were 60 black people, and most of those people were clerical. So there were very few of us I guess in the professional, if you will, area. So one of the black executives left. Actually, a girlfriend of mine, we were starting our own business. And we were researching a business to start. And he heard about it and he said, “I heard you guys had a research company. And can you do a project for me?” We were researching what to do. So we stumbled into this thing, stumbled into doing focus groups. Didn’t realize that there were recruiters. We were out on the street recruiting people, and they would show up for $15 if you can believe it. Now it’s $100 for respondents. But we recruited people on the street. We would go to the malls and get thrown out. And so we stumbled onto it. And I just- and our relationship with the partner that I had dissolved relatively fast. But I just kept going. I just kept going with it. And here I am today. And actually, Jamin, when I started knocking on doors to conduct research studies, I didn’t intend on doing this black focus. But I showed up in this brown skin, and I kept hearing, “When we have something for the black market, we’ll call you.” And I was like, “Are you talking to me?” So I got pigeonholed or defined- I won’t say pigeonholed. I got defined in the black space by some of the people I was seeking out for business. And what I discovered was there’s just this huge disparity in terms of understanding the messages that they were creating for us, even the way they’re doing research. I’m glad you’re talking about this because it’s still an issue with me, and we’ll talk about that later. So there was just this huge disparity in terms of what brands understood or thought they understood about us, how we lived, and how consumers felt. So I just got into this, and then I just started- I started then going and I would go to these multicultural conferences. And there were no black people speaking at the multicultural conferences. They were Hispanic and Asian, mostly Hispanic. And that’s still kind of like that today in 2020 America. So I started asking the conference organizers if I could speak at the conference. And I didn’t want to talk about or focus so much on the demographics, but I kept talking about the “why,” the why black people behave the way they do, why we believe what we believe, why we do what we do. Those are the kind of presentations that I was talking about. Not that we’re 50-whatever percent of the population or 57% of us live in the South, and 13% of the population, we have this spending power. Those were nice-to-knows, but they didn’t seem to be motivating. So I started doing that and just really getting into it, and I’m very passionate about it. And today I describe myself as a- yes, I’m a researcher, an author, a thought leader, speaker. But I am really an advocate for black value, for adding black value, helping large brands understand our value as a people and as a market segment. So I’m less about “you need to target us.” My position is “you need to understand us.” So that’s where I am today. I’m doing purposeful work, and I absolutely love it. And I’m so loving this topic that you created and-.
Jamin Brazil: Thank you.
Pepper Miller: decided to talk about today, because it’s something that’s very near and dear to my heart as well.
Jamin Brazil: And it’s interesting. It’s largely coming out of my ignorance, by the way, as being a white guy. And not that that’s bad. It’s just how it is. And I grew up in a household thankfully where my family just didn’t have any kind of issues, race, sexuality, whatever. And so that really wasn’t part of my story. Having said that, I loved how you framed your mission around “understand us” is exactly what we need right now, right? Which is not- definitely getting into understanding the why. But at the fundamental level, once you can understand someone, then you have the opportunity to build a relationship with someone, which of course is a bridge of commerce. I get that. But at the same time, without that, then- and this is the other side of it, which is like at my CrossFit gym, there’s one African American young man that is there. And so I see him as everybody else. But I would imagine- this is me. I don’t really know if it’s true. But I would imagine from his perspective, it’s different because everybody else is different ethnicity than him. So-.
Pepper Miller: Yes, but you should see him- it’s OK to see him as different. And that’s one of the things that I talk about, because we are taught to not talk about differences because it’s rude. It makes people uncomfortable, and now in this time that we live in, and particularly under this current administration, if you talk about differences, you’re seen as divisive. So when people say “Pepper, I don’t see you as a black person,” really? How could you not? How could you not see me as a black person, really? And the thing is seeing me as black and celebrate those things that are different about me: my brown skin, my kinky hair, my full lips. It’s OK. It’s different, but it’s not deficient. And what’s happening today when it comes to the black consumer in particular, when brands- when business leaders look at us, they look at us with this lens of language. So language has become the cultural identifier. Because we speak English, most US-born African Americans, and everybody that’s black is not African American. But most black people speak English. And because of that, the business leaders tend to roll us in with the mainstream. And when they do that, Jamin, there is a disconnect from our culture. And there’s a statement about our culture being less than or not important. “They speak English, don’t they?” is a question, a rhetorical question, a horrible question that a client said in my presence in a client meeting when I was the only black person in there. They didn’t want to invest in black consumer marketing, so that was a question that she said. And I was like, “Yes, I speak English. Are you talking to me?” Because it’s about relevancy, and it’s about relevancy with market research and how we approach that. And that’s something this industry is way, way, way behind on. It’s [CROSSTALK] disenchanted with the market research industry when it comes to diversity.
Jamin Brazil: And part of the challenge there is feeling safe, so like I do with you, so that we can have a productive conversation. And my fear just transparently is walking into this conversation, am I going to use the right- should skin color- what words do I say? What’s the nomenclature so that we can talk about the same thing without the fear of it being perceived as or me saying something that’s just catastrophic? One of the examples I gave in a separate conversation is that I grew up in a very- like I said, it was a great home. It’s very, very fortunate. No choice of mine. And my grandparents were- during the World War II, during the Japanese internment camps, there were quite a few Japanese farmers here in the Central Valley. And so my grandfather helped spearhead a group of farmers to take care of and keep active the Japanese farmers’ farms so that when the internment camps were- when they were released, then they’d be able to come back to work in farms as opposed to basically losing everything. But the reason I say that is because I grew up in a context of using the term “oriental” to refer to people that were from Asia. And I learned as I started traveling, that’s actually a very bad way-.
Pepper Miller: Exactly.
Jamin Brazil: Yes, a way of communicating. So it’s an insult. And so- but never was that the intent behind the words, but it just functionally is. And that kind of framework has in some ways impeded me to have a productive conversation because I just don’t know what words I should- or maybe I am going to step on a word that is not the right thing, and then potentially offend the person.
Pepper Miller: Well, the number-one question I’m asked all the time is “what do black people want to be called, black or African American?” So we get- just give you a quick lesson on that real quick. Even though African Americans are black by race as I said earlier, not all black people are African Americans, because we have this huge population of black Caribbeans, black Latinos, and we have the blacks from Africa. And so there are some African Americans that want to be called African American because they want that connection with the African American culture, and some that- continent, and some that don’t. I like to be called black because I like to see myself connected with the global dark-skin black people globally. I think on the safe side is to use the word “black.” I think it is preferred. I don’t think- but many black people are not insulted if you call them African American. Some of the Caribbean and Africans might be a little sensitive. So if you are doing a podcast for example with Africans and Caribbeans, I would not use “African American.” I would use “black,” for example. Otherwise if you’re talking about black people in the United States and you’re writing about it, or even talking about it, you could use the two interchangeably if you’re talking about them in general. And we live in a society today where- we live in a culture where- the culture of “I am offended.” So everybody’s offended, so that’s understandable. And because black people have been- we are the largest to be discriminated against and the longest to be discriminated against, so I can understand people who want to forge a better connection, how you can be sensitive. I think not saying “those people” or “the blacks.” That’s offensive. Saying things like “you are so articulate,” as opposed to what? That’s kind of offensive. Things like that that people are well-meaning or don’t talk in Ebonics. Even if I start talking in Ebonics, you can’t do that. Don’t you do it. So little things like that, because that’s just part of our- that’s part of our culture that we do that can be viewed as stereotyping or poking fun at if you do it. Because we’ve got this different lens, and I know we’re getting off-track here from the diversity topic. But just a couple of little insight things. But you’re fine.
Jamin Brazil: That’s actually really helpful. So on that topic then- and this is a personal matter- I grew up in the WWF, later WWE, World Wrestling Federation. Big fan of that in my youth. Still think it’s awesome, but I don’t watch it. And one of my favorite characters or actors or wrestlers is Hulk Hogan. And he was renowned for saying- calling people “brother.” And that’s something that I have adopted in the way that I refer to people. But I still feel like if I’m addressing a black male, maybe I shouldn’t call him “brother” with potentially offending him.
Pepper Miller: Correct, because it’s one thing to say “hey, man,” but not “brother,” because we call ourselves brothers and sisters. Even if I go to Africa or the Caribbean, it’s like “my brother, my sister.” You are probably our cousin. After you spend time with people and call them that, but-.
Jamin Brazil: It’s different.
Pepper Miller: It’s a little- yes, because it’s personal.
Jamin Brazil: No, makes sense.
Pepper Miller: It’s intimate for us as a culture to call each other brothers and sisters, and it’s our connection. It’s about unity. It’s about respect. It’s a lot in there when we use the word “brother.” So [CROSSTALK] use it- may be out-of-place.
Jamin Brazil: Yes, I totally appreciate that guidance.
Pepper Miller: No worries.
Jamin Brazil: Discuss with me your company.
Pepper Miller: So we- it’s not so much “we.” It was five of us. Actually it was five of us years ago for a long, long time. So now it’s me and a couple of my smart partners that I have. But we do qualitative and quantitative research, and we do keep busy. We’re doing mostly qual though where we’re having conversations with our audience. We bring that element into the client. And one of the things that I’m doing, been selling a lot is having a film crew- taking this film crew with me in the focus group room, or taking the most articulate respondents from those groups and going into their homes with their buddies, with the film crew and creating this sizzle reel. Because it’s so important, and clients today want to hear from the mouths of the consumers how they feel about X, Y, Z. And what’s interesting too is when I started years ago, I wanted to always have this conversation about what it means to be black in America, and what does that have to do with your brand? And clients didn’t want- “We can’t do that. We can’t talk about that. We can’t talk about race in focus groups. Why you got a black moderator in a black group? Why do you think we’re doing this?” Nobody wanted to do it. But now today it’s important to do because under this current administration, I’ve noticed that we’ve had this a-ha moment, and that America still has a huge problem with race. So that’s one of the things that we do. We focus a lot on qualitative research, making sure we get the right people in their seats. We hire out for quantitative partners, and we do really, really good work. We do wonderful work. Clients really love us, particularly when we’re giving this deliverable of a sizzle reel. So I blog. I was blogging. I was blogging for Advertising Age for seven years. I blogged for Forbes, and I put blogs on LinkedIn. I wrote a couple of books. I’m working on another book. But I have a wonderful analyst, a report-writer. I have a young millennial partner who is one of my strategists. She is so wonderful. She does my reports and she strategizes with me. And that’s basically our team today. When Barack Obama was elected, I saw this significant drop in interest in black research, black media, and black advertising for eight years because we were post-racial. Language become a cultural identifier. And because of that, there was less interest in investing in black anything. So now under this current administration again with this a-ha moment where America has seen that we still have a huge problem with race, it’s undeniable. The phone has been ringing again, and we’ve been busy and doing work for companies that have never, ever- you would be amazed at some of these big brands that have never, ever, ever done any research with the African American market, ever.
Jamin Brazil: So really quick, is your team- what ethnicity- what’s the composition look like? [CROSSTALK] curious.
Pepper Miller: Well, I have one white gay guy, then everybody else is black. So I just lost my- the report-writer that had been with me since 1995, he passed away a couple of years ago. And he had started pulling back a little bit and wanted to retire. But it was him and the young woman that helped him pull the reports together. He was black. She was white. My assistant, and I had a moderator and myself. So it was five of us. And we rode like that for years. We did really well. We could do five projects at one time. So we’re not a big company. Now it’s me and then my smart partners now, but I’m doing fine.
Jamin Brazil: What is the role of diversity in research?
Pepper Miller: It should be- it’s a huge role, but it’s not happening, Jamin. It’s not happening. So the role of research is I think a couple of things from my perspective and the type of research that we do, that we have diverse participants, people who are the audience that we’re going after to learn from. We need to be doing research and getting their opinions and helping them become more involved in this research industry to understand who they are. And then we should have diverse professionals and research teams, the people who are collecting the data. The people at the focus group facilities. The people that are recruiting these participants and designing the instruments. And that is not happening. That’s not happening I want to say at all, but it’s like dribbles. It’s like little specks of pepper in a big bowl of vanilla ice cream. That’s how it looks to me, because our country- if we look at America or just globally, we just look at America, it’s becoming more brown. And we cannot use this mainstream approach to invite people into the research process, and we continue to keep doing that. And I don’t think it’s relevant. I think the questions need to be relevant to the audience in terms of helping them feel comfortable enough to participate, and then comfortable enough to tell their stories. That’s not happening. It’s not happening. And the people behind the scenes that are analyzing, I read something, a report years ago, not that long ago where the stereotypes about black people- because this is what, in the minds of this analyst, he believed what he saw and heard in the media. So a lot of those things were his conclusions. And it was something about- it was a study about black women or mothers. And he talked about black women being welfare queens. But anyway, he devalued the black mother. And it was like- I thought that was terrible, because all black moms are not bad moms. And all black moms are not on welfare. But he painted that picture because that was his perception, and not understanding the background of who we are, where we- and that’s one of the things I talk about, the “why.” We have a different beginning, a different history, different lens, different beginning, different treatment. As a result of the treatment, we have different beliefs and behavior. So why then are we not creating instruments and teams to reflect who our audience is and what they believe and how they behave? And that’s not happening, and I think that’s crazy. Not only with black people. Just with Latinos, with Asians, with Polish people. Why are we not doing that? Because we still have a very, very non-black, non- very, very white research industry. It’s very, very white. So-.
Jamin Brazil: Yes. You go to a- I was talking with a good friend of mine, Kristin Luck. She’s spearheaded an organization in research called Women in Research, WIRe. And the intent there is to help elevate women at the executive level inside of research companies, agencies and brands. It’s been very successful. Done it now for whatever, 15-ish years. And in this conversation we were framing out, looking at this audience of people. There’s a few hundred people at this particular event. And there was no black people. And it was very stark to me that we’re talking about- there’s such a massive gap right now inside of leadership absolutely, but even inside anywhere. Inside of consumer insights as it relates with minority groups.
Pepper Miller: There’s been a couple of- I’ve gone to some research- why did I happen to do that? I don’t know. Maybe it was a research conference. I don’t know. But these big research conferences, there’s no black people. I even spoke at one of the associations’ conferences, and we had a little- what do you call it? It wasn’t on the main stage, but it was a breakout.
Jamin Brazil: Yes, breakout.
Pepper Miller: It was a breakout session. So I went straight to the breakout session when I arrived, and we were all going to meet for lunch. And I said, “Well, let me get my stuff. I’ll take it to my room and then I’ll come to the main dining room.” And the main dining room, it must’ve been, I don’t know, 800 people. Really, it was huge because it was a big conference. And when I opened the door, I was shocked. I didn’t see any black people there. I was like- and I just see it over and over and over again in these research events where the research companies come out and they all have booths. I keep forgetting the name, but it’s the biggest research whatever. And they all [AUDIO SKIPS] booths, and there’s no black people. And I started walking around, and even some of the companies I had done business with. And I was saying- I was asking them, where are they with their ethnic and multicultural research as the company is becoming more brown? “Are you guys looking into growing that segment?” I would just ask them. I would tell them, “I did a study with you years ago. It was a big study, and just surprised. I’m just dumbfounded.” So with the instruments, I think the questions and how we ask questions sometimes aren’t relevant. When I do focus groups, Jamin- is it Jamin? I keep-.
Jamin Brazil: Jamin. You got it.
Pepper Miller: I keep saying Jah-min. Jamin. When I conduct focus groups, when I moderate a focus group of all black people, I discovered years ago that I have to invite them to be black. I have to invite them to be black because they are undoubtedly- and I use particular recruit- I’ve been using a recruiter now, a national recruiter for about 15 years because he has black recruiters on there. Because sometimes you got to talk to black people about this. This is new. Got to talk to them about a focus group. So in the focus group room, I asked them, “How many have ever participated in a focus group before?” Now when I started early on back in the, “90s, you got no hands going up. So you got hands going up today. People are exposed, better educated. They’re participating in the process of at least qualitative research and focus groups, so hands go up. I asked them, “How many of you have ever been in an all-black group?” And no hands go up. I ask them that every single group, and 2020 America, I’m still getting the same response. And there’s something wrong with that. Again, black people speak English, so we’ll just roll them in with mainstream and we’ll have a focus group. And we’ll have two black people in there, and that will be our representation of our nation. And so in inviting them to be black, I explain to them how the sponsoring client is interested in our opinions as black people because our culture tends to dictate. “And so as the spirit moves you, as you feel comfortable, please- I want you to talk about your experiences as a black person. You don’t have to because it’s a room full of black people in there. But if you want to say, “hey Pepper, as a black woman I feel like this’ or, “as a black man, I feel like this,” feel free to say that.” And I started doing that because when focus groups were ending and I was standing at the door thanking people as they leave, some respondents would say, “What’s up with this black group? Why [INAUDIBLE] us? What is this about? I would have said X-Y-Z if I had”- so I make it a practice to always let people know what’s going on. And the thing there though is that when I ask people “how many of you have been in an all-black group,” no hands go up in 2020 America. And I’ve been doing that probably for the last ten years. I ask every single group that question, and I get the same response. In every city that I go to- and we’ve done 18 groups, nine groups, and it’s the same thing over and over again. There’s something wrong there. So-.
Jamin Brazil: Do you see that- I agree that- and actually, it’s funny because I’ve done a lot of recruiting for groups. I’ve moderated a lot of groups. And you’re 100% right. The sample frame for focus groups usually looks like a mini-pie chart where you’ve got, I don’t know, one Hispanic, one black, and a bunch of white people, or something similar to that. But now that I’m hearing you talk about this, it’s super enlightening for me, which is terrifying at almost 50 years old for me. Where were you 20 years ago? Because really, uncovering the “why” is getting to know the culture, is embedded inside of the culture. And you can’t have that in a mix- that conversation in a mixed context, or it’s much more difficult anyway. I don’t know how I would moderate it.
Pepper Miller: Well, especially with black people and race, it’s still an issue. The other thing- when people talk about playing a race card, you’re playing- I hate that, because it’s always played. When I walk out of my house, it’s played. And I’m in this brown skin and I’m stepping into a situation. It’s always being played. I hate when people say that, because it’s always an issue. Racism is still alive and well unfortunately in this country, so we’re still going through these issues and situations. And we’re still- black people are looking at most of us. They’re like through this lens of our history and how we’ve been treated and race. It’s just a reality. So you want to be able to put it out there and you want to be able to talk about it if it comes up. You want to be able to- and you want your respondents to be able to do that. Asian, Hispanic- you want them to be able to do that if it comes up. And it’s not a session where people are complaining necessarily. It’s just talking about how we live and how we navigate life. And it’s never, ever been a session where people are complaining or talking about “white people did this to me.” It’s never, ever been like that. It’s never been like that, never.
Jamin Brazil: Are you seeing a rise in specific products that are geared towards just black people?
Pepper Miller: I’m seeing a rise in more of beauty products, hair and beauty, that industry. We’ve got dark skin. We’ve got kinky hair, and some of these brands are just now figuring out that they should be targeting us. So that’s been one thing. It’s more of a rise in what beauty is, particularly when it comes to black women who have not been a part of the beauty industry, not having products that met our needs. Only seeing white females or very light-skinned black women with very- hair that’s similar to white women in terms of being naturally straight and flowing. So there has been a rise in that, and then the need for products that need to serve those needs. Our skin gets ashy. It gets dry and ashy, so we need those kinds of things. Our hair is kinky, so we put oils on our hair and creams on our hair. And so there’s been a rise in products to service those needs. I would say that stands out. And then there’s stores and brands that- beauty stores that need to target this particular segment. So I think when I think about products or services, that really, really comes to mind that has exploded, the beauty industry and products for women of color, just period.
Jamin Brazil: Yes, observationally I’ve been seeing that more and more. Part of that though is just probably self-selecting. One of my friends, Orion Brown, she actually lives in Chicago. She recently started a CPG company called- and I’m probably going to get it wrong, but it’s the Black Travel Box. And it’s basically inside of hotels, the soaps and things like that are centric to white people, Caucasians. And so this is in their travel box. This is the same type of proportions that you would see in a hotel room, but targeting obviously the black community. So it’s a-.
Pepper Miller: [INAUDIBLE].
Jamin Brazil: I thought so too. I’ll introduce you to her if you’re interested. I’m sure she’d love the opportunity to meet you. So we’ve talked about the role of diversity in research. What considerations do you think we should give to the actual team composition that’s doing the research?
Pepper Miller: When you say “considerations,” what-.
Jamin Brazil: So should there be diversity at the research team level? In other words, the people that are actually conducting the research.
Pepper Miller: Absolutely, and the people who are analyzing the research. That’s what I was saying, that it’s two segments. We need diverse participants, those people who are respondents, inviting different respondents in, and then doing research individually with those segments. And then at the team level, the consideration should be more people of color. But they’ve got to recruit more people of color and multicultural consumers and Asian consumers and LGBT consumers. And how you- and being a part of the team and how you’re setting up the instruments is important. I work with AARP, and their supplier- I think it was JFK. I think they’re Ipsos Research now. But they’ve done a ton of quantitative studies with the black consumer market, and I’ve been a consultant on those studies with their quantitative partner. And sometimes the language in terms of how you open or how you close- for example, one of the studies included a sample of whites in addition to the African American respondents. And there was a section where we were only going to ask these questions of the blacks, and then we’re going to ask these questions of everybody. And there needed to be some kind of transition language. There needed to be something to let people know that these black questions are- maybe it was a mainstream study and they were going to ask only certain questions to the black people. That’s what it was. But I said, “You got to- we’re going to transition to these black questions in this mainstream study.” And that’s with black people like, “What is that about? Why are you asking me that? Why are you singling me out?” I said, “We need to have some kind of transition statement so that they don’t quit in the middle of the survey and we lose them. We don’t want them to do that.” So little things like that that the team didn’t understand because they’re just following how they were trained and regular protocol. I think some of the questions might not even make sense to some consumers, some of the way they’re worded, or maybe even the order that they’re- there’s a lot. Because culturally particularly with Spanish and other languages when you translate, it may not make sense. So having people and professionals on your team that understands the culture of the people and allowing them to bring their whole selves to the table, their culture to the table and share these cultural insights with the rest of the team is important. That’s the other consideration, is having other people not be intimidated by others who want to share their culture. It’s a huge opportunity. It doesn’t mean anti-white, or it doesn’t mean that white people have to go away. It’s about a collective combination of a real cultural, multicultural team effort that could be beneficial to all of us. So that’s one of the things that happens. When something new comes in, people feel like you’re losing something and you’re gaining something. So there’s this fear, and then we have these roadblocks that go up. I have been talking to- I was at a conference and there was a couple of young millennial researchers. And as a matter of fact, we’re getting together on March 10th because they are trying to bring together other black researchers and connect in the city and nationwide, and how we can have some impact on the market research industry in terms of helping to make it more diverse. So I was happy that they reached out, and we’re planning on doing that really, really soon.
Jamin Brazil: That is a very important endeavor. Anything this show can do to help, like promote that-.
Pepper Miller: Thank you.
Jamin Brazil: Or outcomes of that, you feel free to-.
Pepper Miller: Keep in touch. I will. Thank you.
Jamin Brazil: This conversation is super illuminating to me. One of my biggest takeaways in terms of new knowledge is the importance of getting- the importance of the analytic stage, and the interpretation of the results as it relates with the specific lens of the segment, right?
Pepper Miller: Mm-hmm.
Jamin Brazil: And that’s so interesting that as I’m self-reflecting, I’ve not- and this isn’t about me turning into a therapist. I apologize. But the a-ha moment for me is I’m going to see that data in a specific way and make my own sort of connections to that, which is maybe even entirely missing the actual “why” of that people group.
Pepper Miller: So I’ve been working on a study with a major network. And I convinced them to do this two-phase project and bring the video production team in the focus group with me, with the respondents. We took the tables out and just put couches in the living room setup. And then phase two will be going into the homes. And then when I approached the video production company, they told me they didn’t have any black videographers. I said, “You need to find some. Dude, this is 2018 America. What’s wrong with you?” So I have this black crew. So one of the things that we do in our report is- even our qualitative report, is we have clips from the focus group, video clips of the respondents. So we have our key takeaways and what that means, and then a clip. And then I also have two boxes, the opportunity box in terms of what this means to the brand. But I also have a black insights, if there is one. Here is the black insight, batch value. It’s an old-school term, Jamin, but batch value is where a lot of black people use a lot of upscale luxury items and brands to confirm and create how they want to be perceived. Because a big part of the multicultural experience is countering negative stereotypes for Hispanics, Latinos, blacks, and LGBT, Asians and Native Americans. That’s a big nucleus part of our experience, and even more so with African Americans who had to endure slavery and then this long discrimination. And it’s particularly a big deal for us. So I might have an insight box that explains that if it’s relevant to that topic, not in those long terms but something a little shorter, to help the client understand why this is important. And so without me and my insights in that analysis, they wouldn’t have that. “Black people just buy that because they’re wasting their money. They’re spending their money in a bad way.” Its batch value is real for us from a socio- every socioeconomic level. It’s important. It’s very important to us.
Jamin Brazil: I was just going to comment on top of that, that I think when you have that juxtaposition of a judgment of how money is being utilized, potentially being frivolous, versus actually the need to counteract the in this case racism potentially that exists. And in the connection to these luxury brands, then in essence personal branding out of the negative stereotypes. And it’s such a different psychological point of view that you would maybe have a hard time, if it even was possible, if you didn’t understand the cultural context.
Pepper Miller: Correct. And so those are some of the things that are included in our reports that you wouldn’t see in a mainstream report. I worked on a big beauty brand with Ulta Beauty. We did three phases of research. We did the focus groups, we did the in-homes and shop-alongs, and then I hired Ipsos as a quantitative partner. And it was wonderful because in doing the quantitative phase, I was very instrumental in helping them understand. They did an excellent job of coming up with some findings. “This is what this means. Definitely this is what this means to the brand, and then this is what this means from a cultural lens, from the cultural lens of the black woman and why this is important to her and why you must do this or must consider this and that.” So it was a wonderful, wonderful study because we had that collaboration. And that’s what’s so important, and these are some of the things that are missing with the research industry today. They are talking to themselves, not talking to us. Yes, we speak English. Are you talking to me? No.
Jamin Brazil: Oh, man. I’m laughing because it’s a little uncomfortable, but then it’s comically silly almost.
Pepper Miller: Yes. Well, we have a long way to go. Barack Obama was- it was not post-racial. We will be post-racial when there’s the tenth woman, Latino, black, LGBT, gay- when we have those presidents, those groups in office in the White House, then maybe we’ll be post-racial. But it’s not the first that makes us post-racial. It’s what comes after in huge numbers that would make us post-racial or make us get it, not the first. We tend to get comfortable. We had a black president, and brands have said, “You have a black president now. What do you want?” People have said that to me. Business leaders have said that, because they felt like, “We’re cool now. Everything is great.”
Jamin Brazil: The point that really stands out to me right now is that brands have an oversized opportunity to increase their- or grow if they can connect and understand these audiences and build that relationship. And so successful brands I believe will be the ones that actually do that, as opposed to maintaining the status quo of, as you’ve said, talking to ourselves.
Pepper Miller: And they have to- it’s overcoming this unconscious bias of not talking about differences. Because as I say in one of my presentations, many business leaders believe it’s forward-thinking to not talk about the differences. So you bring in people that are different from you. You invite them in the room and at the table, and then you invite them to comment. So you got to make sure that everybody’s in the room, and then everybody’s at the table, and then everybody has an opportunity to share and learn. And then you do that, listen to these differences, and without judgment. Again, different does not mean deficient. To your point, it is an opportunity because if you are understanding people who are different from you, and you’re creating messages and products and services, then you are bonding with those consumers. And if you’re bonding with them, you’re going to have loyal customers. And if you have loyal customers, you’re bound to see positive impact on your bottom line. That’s a very simplistic way of looking at it, but it also could happen. It’s real, but it’s a very simplistic way of looking at it. But that’s a different way, an opportunity to look at why differences matter.
Jamin Brazil: Pepper, my last question is what is your personal motto?
Pepper Miller: So I love this quote by Eleanor Roosevelt. “You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” It doesn’t mean it’s a research, but for me I’ve had to live this, my life as a black person in America. “You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” So it’s about perseverance. It’s about being fearless. It’s about stepping up and standing up for what you believe in. I just love that quote, and I’ve had to use it as a research professional and as being a black person in America. “You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” And even on some smaller levels as a personal level, it’s helped me. But I love that quote.
Jamin Brazil: My guest today has been Pepper Miller, a principal consultant and an award-winning market researcher and speaker. Thank you, Pepper, very much for being on the Happy Market Research Podcast today.
Pepper Miller: My pleasure. This has been delightful and you’re delightful. I love this. Thank you.
Jamin Brazil: So I appreciate you allowing me to fumble my way through this very difficult conversation, but I have learned a lot from it, so thank you very much. Everybody else, as always, please take time. Screen-capture, share this episode. This is a very important one for us to start talking about. I’d love to get your feedback, LinkedIn and Twitter. Have a wonderful rest of your day.