20 minutes | Oct 20th 2020

Ep. 313 – How to add Strategy to Market Research

In this episode, we’ll be providing tips on how to add strategy to market research. Stay tuned for the following weeks to hear the individual episodes of our referenced guests. 

Referenced Guests:

Dan Stradtman, VP, Consumer & Market Insights at Lubrizol Corporation

Dom Boyd, Kantar’s UK Managing Director

Dominic Carter, CEO of The Carter Group 

Debbie Howard, Chairman of The Carter Group

Steve Kantscheidt, founder and CEO of Humantel

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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: COVID, West Coast WildFires, Presidential Elections, Black Lives Matter, Virtual School. 2020 will be marked as a year of change. This is why brands are looking at insights to drive action. 

Dan Stradtman: That is one of the key changes is you really have to be focused in as an insights leader on return on investment. And what does that dollar buy me? And that can be very difficult to do, especially when you’re talking about foundational research or early and early stage research type concept testing. 

Jamin: I’m Jamin Brazil with Chueyee Yang and this is the Happy Market Research Podcast. 

Chueyee: This is the capstone episode for our latest series on “How to Add Strategy to Market Research.” We have interviewed five research professionals from brands, agencies, and insights platforms including Lu-bri-zal and Kantar. Stay with us. We have the tips you need to take your insights to action. 

Jamin: This message comes from the HMR sponsor FuelCycle…

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.

Chueyee: Support also comes from SurveyMonkey…

Jamin: 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.

Chueyee: Ash and smoke still fill the skies from Fresno to Los Angeles and up to San Francisco. 

Jamin: More than 3 million acres are burning in over 20 separate fires in California. The Creek Fires continue to rage out of control and are less than 40 miles away from where I am in Fresno. These fires are barely contained as is the case with most of the fires across California, Organ, and Washington State. Why are we talking about this? Because brands are finding it harder than ever before to keep up with the hearts and minds of their consumers. But, with the rate of change already at an unparalleled level, it is ever harder for the m to keep their fingers on the pulse of consumers. 

Chueyee: Just a few weeks ago the sun was shining and we were looking forward to fall. Now, the sky is full of smoke, and ash is coating everything. Does this surprising development impact our views? Absolutely. Just when brands started landing on Black Lives Matter and shelter in place, climate change has become front and center. If there is anything 2020 has taught us is that change is the one constant. 

Jamin: In business, we have to make decisions or die. The speed of decisions is ever increasing. At the same time, the importance of making a data-driven decision is vital. In our interview with Steve Kantscheidt, successful entrepreneur and founder and CEO of Humantel, he uncovered the stress executives have when running a modern business. The first thing is you got to – you got to be willing – I mean I have literally spent everything I have over the last year to build this, to build a team, to get us to this place. You’ve got to believe in it. The people who succeed are the people who wake up at 3:00 in the morning and they can’t go back to sleep because they’re paranoid with – you know they’re paralyzed with anxiety, right. You have to be willing to leave it all on the field. With the stress around making good decisions, it is no wonder executives have increased their leverage in market research to ensure they are informed and equipped to make the right choice. 

Chueyee: The role of consumer insights has evolved over the last few years. VP of Consumer & Market Insights at Lubrizol Corporation, Dan Stradtman, identified three significant trends. The first is the need to frame your research in the context of Return on Investment. In other words, how much money can my research save or earn? 

Dan Stradtman: So I think you’re right. I think that is one of the key changes is you really have to be focused in as an insights leader on return on investment. And what does that dollar buy me? And that can be very difficult to do, especially when you’re talking about foundational research or early and early stage research type concept testing. And when you don’t have a clear visibility to sales like we do at Lubrizol, because in many cases, we’re providing components to things that end up becoming other things. And so having that clear vision for how to establish a return on investment metric or set of them for your organization, 

Jamin: As you frame your research through the eyes of ROI, it’ll help focus everything from your survey instruments and discussion guides to your final presentation. Dan also talks about how deploying the right tools will continue to be important for corporate researchers. 

Dan Stradtman: I think the other thing is, we’ve obviously seen a rise of data. And that data is extraordinarily diverse in terms of where it’s coming from, who’s generating and who’s analyzing it. I’m not necessarily sure that has always been translated into more insight. So we’re a little bit data rich and insight poor. And part of that is just do we have the right tools? Do we have the right talent? And are we given the time to really allow for that translation to occur? 

Jamin: The third change Dan talked about is the priority of action. Executives are going to make a decision. If it is data-driven or not. 

Dan Stradtman: The third element to that change over the last five years is just speed and sense of urgency. I remember being somewhat of a methodologist at Walmart, probably to my own detriment. When in reality, as I was striving to get 90 to 100% variance explained, the organization was just saying, look, if you can give me 65% a way there that’s already smarter than we are and then we can kind of move faster. And so you have to come off of that methodological mountain and be pragmatic. That’s one thing I’ve stressed to the teams that I’ve led over the past decade is just the pragmatism. Yes, you want to have methodological rigor, but you also need to have a pragmatism when it comes to being able to turn those insights into action at the speed of business.

Chueyee: This priority of speed to insight, because action will be taken, was echoed by many of our guests in this series. Dom Boyd, Kantar’s UK Managing Director identified several mistakes that are commonly made right now by researchers. The first one he calls the Expertise Trap…

Dom Boyd: I think one of them is what I call the expertise trap in trying to just cover every single market and every market variable, and you end up with this insane matrix of different research happening in different markets, and it just eats up cost. I’m a big fan of just good enough, I suppose. And research shouldn’t be an academic exercise, trying to cover off every single sample cell, at least not in my book. It’s only a tool to give clients an advantage they wouldn’t otherwise have, through better understanding. No more, no less. So I would do less, but better.

Jamin: So, we know time is vital. Another tip is to focus on the edges rather than the middle. Many times in our research, we become so broad we lose sight of the real consumer. Your customers are not an average. No one has 2.3 kids. Dom put this perfectly… 

Dom Boyd: I think, perhaps, another thing is just not being tuned in enough- so with international research, despite going to all of this effort to doing lots of different territories and sample cells and whatnot, sometimes the research can end up being the worst of all worlds, and just end up being an average. And like all averages, an average is a Frankenstein measure, really. And you can end up with just vanilla insight, or just a lack of insight. You’re just trying to find the common denominator, and in doing so, just end up with a wash of nothing very insightful at all. And typically, you see that happening in global ad campaigns all the time, that connect with precisely no one. Because they’re made of precisely nothing.

Jamin: Since insights are all about finding something unique and different rather than reporting numbers in a powerpoint. Iit is vital our research have a story and have some unique insight that connects executives … and the broader organization… to the consumer. 

Dom Boyd: And so I would counsel towards running towards the stuff that pulls things apart, rather than necessarily just trying to find the- always for the commonest of grounds. Because you end up with something that isn’t very differentiated, ultimately. Because every- your competitors are doing the same thing. And so you just end up with stuff that doesn’t really give you an advantage, ultimately. It’s more interesting to look towards the edges, look for wherever differences are, and try and embrace the differences. And do unexpected things, is the other thing. Sometimes it’s very easy to go for a standardized approach, for all sorts of very good economic reasons, sometimes. But actually, culture is a fascinating, wonderful, weird, strange, diverse thing. And I would experiment more, and just have more fun with doing things that allow color and texture of culture to really permeate international [INAUDIBLE] research findings and debriefs. And it should be as fun and as exhilarating as when you go and visit those cultures. And often, it just ends up in a horrid PowerPoint deck of 200 slides which, for me, sort of death by 1,000 cuts, really.

Chueyee: International research is part of every brands’ research strategy. We talked with Dominic Carter and Debbie Howard of the Carter Group, a leading Japan-based research firm, about tips when doing research in other countries. 

Debbie Howard: I would say, is to immerse yourself in the culture, so that you can see something outside of the research facility. Get out in the street, look at the retail environments, look at the homes. And try to understand how those differences might impact the way that people are living and feeling and reacting to the products and services that you’re testing.

Dominic Carter: I think that’s so important, Debbie. I remember, we had- we took basically the executive board of a very large company in the US on a safari, about a year ago. And of course, we felt that we were dealing with complete neophytes. We were, to a large extent. But that client had actually, off their own bat, had actually spent some time just walking around in advance, and on previous trips. And that really added to their ability to empathize.

Chueyee: I have to be honest, this sounds like a lot of fun! By immersing yourself in another culture, even for an evening, it’ll help contextualize your research findings. Here is a specific story about the learning in-home visits made for a cleaning company…

Dominic Carter: Well, just one example. We had a cleaning company approach us a few years ago. And the first thing that I said to them is, “Look, we’re just going to do three quick in-homes, while you’re here.” Because they had come to Tokyo just for a quick visit, [INAUDIBLE] visit. And said to them, “Let’s get you into three homes ASAP.” Because I knew that they will have absolutely no idea what they’re dealing with here. You’re dealing with smaller homes. The bathrooms are different to what- if it’s a European client, they’re very different to what they are in Europe. Much smaller. The materials that you’re cleaning are different. The issues are different, with mold and so forth. So just get them- before we even have any conversation about developing a market for your product here, just we’ll throw you in-home. And that was a very informal thing, but I think it was very important for them to have that, in a sense, experience or shock to the system, or whatever it was, to understand what they’re dealing with. So if a client’s completely new to the market, we’ll generally- it’s rare that we won’t recommend to them that they do some form of ethnographic immersion. So that can be in homes. It can be- if it’s gaming client, going to the gaming arcade, or whatever it is, going shopping with people. But there’s just a huge amount of contextual cues for conversation, and just things that you see and hear. And it’s not- I’m not saying focus groups are not fantastic in their context, which they are.

Jamin: Dominic went on to talk about one of my favorite tips, ABC, Always be curious. This is something we hear all the time from the researchers we have interviewed on the Happy Market Research podcast. 

Dominic Carter: One thing I would add, in terms of tips, is ask lots of questions. And there’s a lot of- and this is especially true with Japan. There’s a lot of stuff that doesn’t get spoken about, and people don’t tell you things unless you ask them. So asking lots of questions. Ask lots of questions about process. “Can I do the same thing that I do back home? How long are things going to take?” Those sorts of questions are very important, because the answers can be different than what you expect. And then also, before you’re working with a supplier, too, I would ask around, other people who have worked in that same market, who they would recommend working with. That’s- so I’d get as much- in terms of the partner that you’re working with, I’d get as much informal feedback from people that you know in the industry, about who they’ve worked with and who they’ve had a good experience with.

Chueyee: This is the most exciting time to be in Consumer Insights! Modern executives are looking for better, faster, and cheaper ways to connect insights to action as the pressure to make decisions continues to mount. 

Jamin: It is our job, as market researchers, to aid our organizations in their decision-making processes. This is where picking the right tool or partner is vital. Is it a micro decision? Like something that’ll impact the User Interface or inform customer support feedback? Maybe there is a tool or service that can be engaged by the decision-maker along with best practices. This solution would create access to the data for better decisions while maintaining the integrity of the research without impacting the researchers’ workload. Macro decision? More and more, brands are building internal capabilities to do some of the aspects of the research internally. However, they can’t staff niche expertise. Partner with your customers. Don’t be afraid to ask them what are their biggest challenges right now and what do they anticipate their needs to be in 2021? The only unique product or service we have is our relationship with our customers or internal stakeholders. There is a ton of pressure for everyone right now. So, it is a perfect time to come alongside others to help them achieve their objectives. 

Chueyee: In the next episode, we’re releasing the longform interview with Dom Boyd, Kantar’s Managing Director, UK. 

Dom Body: So thinking about stakeholders that will ultimately use this research. Not just in terms of the inside, functional- customer intelligence function, or research function. But who ultimately are the stakeholders that are going to be using this? And what is it that they find valuable? And how can you most influence them? So it’s just the old adage of a picture tells 1,000 words. So really, be fearless in bringing real people into the boardroom.

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

Jamin: Special thanks to our referenced guests: Dan Stradtman, VP, Consumer & Market Insights at Lubrizol Corporation; Dom Boyd, Kantar’s UK Managing Director; Dominic Carter and Debbie Howard of the Carter Group; and Steve Kantscheidt, founder and CEO of Humantel.

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Thank you for listening and see you next week.