Happy MR Podcast Podcast Series Recap 2019

Recap 2019: Biggest Issues Facing Insight Professionals at Large Brands

In this episode, we’ll hear from insight professionals at top brands on the biggest challenges facing user experience, customer experience and market researchers.

Happy Market Research is closing the year with a four-part podcast series, highlighting industry challenges, trends and much more.

This year we hit 80,000 downloads, interviewed 250 guests, heads of insights at Microsoft, P&G, and Samsung, we also had guests from leading agencies like Nielsen and TNS as well as several startup founders.

Referenced Guests:

Aji Ghose, Head of Research and Data Science at Sky

Anne Brown, CEO of Gazelle Global Research Services

David Garcia Pawley, director of European countries for CMI at Samsung

Estrella Lopez-Brea, the Global Head of Consumer Connections at Cereal Partners Worldwide

Marian Anderson, Director of Insights at Microsoft

Michael Yaksich, Director of Customer Strategy at Cruise

Mitchell Atchison, a insights professional at a pharmaceutical firm

Rian van der Merwe, Product Manager at Wildbit

Find Jamin Online:

Find Chueyee Online:

Find Us Online:


This Episode’s Sponsor: 

This episode is brought to you by G3 Translate. The G3 Translate team offers unparalleled expertise in foreign language translations for market researchers and insight professionals across the globe. Not only do they speak hundreds of languages, but they are also fluent in market research, and we know that’s a unique language. For more information, please visit them at G3Translate.com.



Thanks for tuning in! You’re listening to the Happy Market Research podcast, I’m Jamin Brazil, the show’s host. 

In this episode we’ll hear from insight professionals at top brands including Nestle, Microsoft, Sky, and Samsung, on the biggest challenges they face. If you are in sales and want to know what buyers are looking for or if you are an insights manager, this episode is for you. 

Again, I’m joined by our Producer, Chueyee Yang. 

Chueyee, how are you? 



Hi Jamin, I’m ready to get things going.



Before we get started, I want to give a big thank you to our sponsor, G3 Translate. The G3 Translate team offers unparalleled expertise in foreign language translations for market researchers and insight professionals across the globe. Not only do they speak hundreds of languages, but they are also fluent in market research. For more information, please visit them at G3Translate.com.  



In our last episode, we analyzed the common factors across our guests that led them to happy careers in consumer insights. And we also gave you two key ways to drive organizational success.

Honestly, that was a must listen to episode. If you missed it, I would highly recommend going back and listening to it. 



Now we are shifting gears and diving into one of my personal favorite questions, “What is one of the biggest challenges that internal researchers are facing?” 

But, it would be amazing if you’d stop this episode… right now…and rate us on whatever app you use to listen. 



Now that you’ve rated the show, let’s dive in. 

Lots of our guests who are insights pros on the brand side, have voiced frustration on “Breathing Brochures.” What I mean is, when someone approaches them with a new solution it feels like they are ramming it down the throat of the buyer.

I’ve termed this, “Breathing Brochures” because brochures are all about the thing that is being sold. Problem, solution, stats… basically, a good brochure is a compelling piece that tells a story that moves the customer to purchase. But, it is a monologue. 



Exactly. That is only part of the way you successfully sell into consumer insight professionals. Estrella Lopez-Brea of the Nestle and General Mills Cereal Partnership said it best.



I think we are being good at adapting technology to increase consumer engagement, to reduce the dropout rates, to get more accurate data. I think we have evolved there, but there’s a lot of shiny objects out there that I feel that neither companies nor research agencies know exactly how to use yet and, of course, I am talking about for virtual reality, and machine learning and things like that. So we really need to look for ways to better understand how to use technology with purpose. So I hate when a vendor calls me to say: “Hey, we’re doing a lot of things in VR.” Don’t tell me this. Ask me what’s my business challenge. And I’ll tell you what it is. And then you tell me if VR is the way to solve it.  



Volumes have been written on this topic of the consultant sell. We’re not going down that road. 

The key to sales is relationship. And, the foundation of any relationship is trust. 

But how do you earn trust? Give a shit.

I mean, prioritize the customer over your quota. 

For example, imagine you are in a client meeting. The client communicates some pain they are having in their business and your company really isn’t a good fit to address it. What if you refer them to someone who can meet that pain rather than selling a short term win for a long term loss? Believe me, I understand the pressure of quarterly quotas. But, put yourself on the other side of the table. How would you feel if a vendor prioritized you and your needs over themselves? 

By prioritizing value over sales you move into the role of trusted advisor. And, once in that role, you will have a relationship for life. 



And, there are always opportunities to refer customers to non-threatening vendors to meet a non-competitive need. But, the only way to get there is to flex your ear muscles… something I’ve been doing a lot since editing this podcast. 

So, let’s hear from Aji Ghose of Sky and Marian Anderson of Microsoft.



For me, the biggest issue is not getting the balance right between market research and other types of insight generation. So that can include Big Data analysis or AB testing or econometrics, not just Sky—pretty much most companies I come across through lecturing at the Market Research Society. Companies fall between two extremes. On one extreme, they do only AB testing and they don’t really value market research. On the other side, you have people that love market research so much they don’t care about CRM or Big Data, etc. And the problem is that people rarely find the right balance of market research and other types of data for free exploitation. And a lot of times that leads to market researchers getting a bit of a bad rep because market research agencies especially will always pitch proposals, etc. without understanding their real deep, deep in business context. And that can be quite frustrating for internal stakeholders. So, if I was at any other market research agency, the main thing I would focus on is getting market researchers to really understand how businesses operate right now, how that‘s changing, how big companies have huge infrastructure invested already in Tableau or other sorts of dashboards, etc. and that market research has to wedge itself into that ecosystem as opposed to being standalone because that’s usually when market research is ignored a lot of the time. 



For me, indisputably, it is the combination of multiple data sources and decisions that need to get made at speed.  Frankly, trying to get a piece of research done quickly to make a decision, in say 48 hours is hard. Trying to get a piece of research done quickly and then layer in multiple other sources of data is exponentially harder.  We aspire to that; we want to be at the table where real-time decisions get made, and we’re able to be strong strategy consultants on those decisions. So it is just a constant pressure of “What’s the right data to bring into the table?”  “How do you bring it to the table?” “What’s the story?” And then agencies are frankly such critical partners and extensions of our team; without them, we just simply cannot be successful. And we really rely heavily, heavily on our partners to execute the research, to really get interested in the business problems with us. 



Triangulating truth is at the core of consumer insight success. Long gone are the days where you can prop up self-reported survey results and expect the company to rally. 

The other issue that I hear a lot is the connection between sampling and lack of time. Why? Because most of the project life cycle is spent in the fielding stage, collecting the interviews. It is no wonder we have seen such a huge rise in BlackBox data collection. By wiring together the survey creation to the gathering of the responses to the analytics we create huge time savings.  

However, there are risks. We still need to understand the algorithms and sample sources of our research. 

The next few minutes are an excerpt from Monty Python’s Holy Grail.  



As you can hear, there is an angry crowd bringing a woman forward. You can’t see her at this point. 

She has a hollowed-out carrot secured around her nose. 

As budgets have tightened and the demand for insights increased, automation has become the obvious release valve. There can be no question, automation is the right answer. However, we need to apply a high degree of attention to how the sausage is made. 

Anne Brown, CEO of Gazelle Global Research Services.



Just what I said earlier. I think we should be paying people a fair price for their time, whatever that is. Is it a Starbucks card? It certainly should be more than a quarter. I mean, really! I just think that it’s a crazy thing. Granted it’s not an hour-long interview or a 90-minute interview that you might have for a qual situation. But quant’s not just five minutes or ten minutes; it’s a lot longer than that. Segmentation studies have been put online. They are still online, and they’re long. People are asked to spend 20 minutes, 30 minutes, 40 minutes. By the time they get 20 minutes done, you’re complaining that they’re straight-lining. Well, they’re tired, and what are you going to give them for that? 



So, who has the responsibility to ensure things are done right? Rian van der Merwe (Rian Fun Der Marrva ), Product Manager at Wildbit believes, as do I, we need to take responsibility for the ethical implications of the things that we make. 



Everyone knows, I think, what I’m talking about from Uber through Facebook, through all the Google stuff, all of that. And I think that we have for too long said, “Well, we just do the thing; we just make the thing; technology’s neutral.” The point is that it’s not, and I think that everything we make has a systemic bias in it. And I think our biggest challenge is, first of all, convincing people that this is an important part of our jobs. And then, second of all, asking the right questions when we make things to make sure that we build in ways to prevent the products that we make to be used for harm.



Going back to the Monty Python skit, the crowd was desperate for the lady to be a witch. In a similar way, when you are working hard to get quotas filled it is tempting to use some automated solution that is delivering completes at a very low cost. But, it is the responsibility of us all to continue to apply common sense to our project. 

Today, a major point of differentiation is to operate in full transparency. From how much incentive the respondent is making to the algorithms, the more you have available the bigger delta you create between yourself and the market. 



Storytelling came up a lot. Mitchell At-chi-son, a insights professional at one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical firms, talked about the importance of reducing the research into a repeatable story. 



I think probably the biggest one that comes to mind is probably communication synthesis. As market researchers, we’re used to dealing with a lot of data, but I always have to remember that, as a market researcher, I have to recognize that a majority of my audience, if not all of my audience, doesn’t have two different things: It’s one: they don’t know the data to the degree that I do because I spend as much time as what I do with the data; I have a trained market research background. So my audience just in most cases doesn’t have that. Secondly, my audience doesn’t have the time to digest all of the data that I’m used to dealing with.  So I truly believe that my task as a market researcher is to make my market research and make the data matter to them.  



Most of the time, our insights reside in a PowerPoint. However, here are a few other ideas you can leverage to help add some punch to your presentations…  

Creating highlight reels: This gives a face and voice to your insights. There are many free tools you can use such as iMovie which will do a decent job of enabling you to stitch together a few video testimonials.  

Running a Tufte-style meeting: This one is my favorite. Originally, I heard about this from Amazon, which has famously banned PowerPoint in favor of a six-page paper. People show up to the meeting where they are presented with the report. Then they read it quietly to themselves for the first 10 minutes of the meeting. The remainder of the meeting is spent discussing the implications. 

Standing around a poster/print outs: Stephen DiMarco, Chief Digital Officer at Kantar, hosted me for their 2019 Digital Transformation seminar. Their keynote was done by the head of Disney’s Innovation group. He used a flip chart instead of PowerPoint. After he presented each page, it was tacked to the wall for later reference. After he was done, people stood up and walked around the hung pages to discuss. 

Have stakeholders code interviews: There are several tools you can use such as Excel or Dovetail. Split up into groups and have everyone involved in the project code a few open ends. Be sure to use the same set of codes. Then, talk about the definitions of the codes. The point isn’t about being right on the coding…it is more of emergence into the data of your stakeholders.



Getting back to the basics also came up a lot. In our interview with David Garcia Pawley, the director of European countries for Consumer and Market Insights at Samsung, he makes a case for executives to make time to do part of the research.  Not as a passive observer or consumer of the report, but as an active part-time agent in the field. 



Well, I think the first thing, I think that the biggest change we need to do from a brand’s point of view, we need to get out a lot more, a very basic thing. But I think the trend is research, but I think that should never be a substitute for common sense. And I think what I find in many organizations is that we’re all stuck inside offices and we don’t go to the point of sale enough. We don’t speak to consumers informally enough. I think we need to get out. Even self-moderating, I mean this is not against real research Institutes who do with professional moderators, but I think it’s interesting in several of organizations I’ve been to, I’ve even given trainings on teaching marketing departments on how to moderate. What I mean by moderate – how to ask a question, how to listen to consumers. And I think it’s good for clients to actually be able to sit around a table or go shop and go do shop-along. A lot of the ethnographic research… That’s been there for ages, but I think we need to do a lot more of that. Rather than just read things, it’s actually getting out and talk to people, listen to people. It’s not so much inventing new things, but going in some cases back to basics to learn about those things. 



There were more than a few conversations where the researchers’ execs were asking to be included in the interview process. In fact, Estrella’s CEO makes times every quarter to visit customers. 



Before we end this episode, I’d like to chat about the “P” word, Procurement. With over a billion dollars in funding, Cruise is one of the fastest-growing startups in San Francisco. One of their key challenges is sourcing both vendors and staff. In our conversation with Michael Yaksich, Director of Customer Strategy at Cruise, he talked to us about how he finds new vendors and what he is looking for. 



So, honestly, I’ve traditionally relied on word of mouth.  That’s been my biggest go-to for the most part or if something piques my interest.  It’s really the combination of those two. It’s like marketing: it’s like the right time, right place, right person.  It’s all those things. But, most the time, I’ve been thinking about this a lot quite recently because I’m really focused on building the team’s capabilities out.  So, right now, tools, solutions, anything that goes beyond survey platforms ‘because we do have a survey platform. We have two now that we can leverage in-house because agility is key for us…are really the things I’m most interested in.  Anything that adds the value and can still push the envelope is also of interest too. But then, as I mentioned, customer strategy (It’s just not research)… We’re also leveraging analytics and doing a lot with third-party data. Something that I’ve been looking for a lot has been behavioral data related to how people just move about cities, San Francisco, all cities, major cities.  So, it’s modes of transportation. Who are the people themselves who do this? You name it ‘cause there’s so much of wealth of data out there to be tapped into and it’s an area that the opportunity that’s unlocked by the technology is so great that you do have to cast the net broad as well. So trying to get at that behavioral piece, I think, is really, really essential. And that’s, again, something that we would look at for a partner to help provide.          



It is vital that vendors differentiate themselves. But I’d say the biggest point of differentiation is a relational plus some grounds to do business. What I mean is, if you build trust with your target customers then you’ll win the long game. Sure, product, quality, and price are all parts of the equation, but, in the end, buyers want to work with people who will do the hard stuff with them. 



In the next episode, we’re going to focus on the biggest needs according to agencies. 



It’s no surprise to anyone in this space, but it’s getting harder and harder to get people to take long surveys or answer questions, in general. So I think as an industry, we need to become really more creative in how we’re going to collect insights from the consumers or from anyone who’s willing to provide them. 



Happy Market Research is hosted and produced by me, Chueyee Yang and Jamin Brazil. 



Special thanks to our referenced guests…

  1. Aji Ghose, Head of Research and Data Science at Sky
  2. Anne Brown, CEO of Gazelle Global Research Services
  3. David Garcia Pawley, director of European countries for CMI at Samsung
  4. Estrella Lopez-Brea, the Global Head of Consumer Connections at Cereal Partners Worldwide
  5. Marian Anderson, Director of Insights at Microsoft
  6. Michael Yaksich, Director of Customer Strategy at Cruise
  7. Mitchell Atchison, a insights professional at one of the worlds largest pharmaceutical firms 
  8. Rian van der Merwe, Product Manager at Wildbit



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Thank you for listening and see you next week.