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How to Democratize Insights: Inside the Minds of Insight Leaders

This report pulls together key insights and recommendations from business leaders at the likes of PepsiCo, Home Depot, Ocean Spray, Coca-Cola, and more.

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There’s been an explosion within the research and marketing fields of new technology, new ways of approaching age-old ways of understanding consumers, and new business processes and roles. And while shiny new things can be exciting, they also necessitate change from within the organization.

This report pulls together key insights and recommendations from business leaders at the likes of PepsiCo, Nestle, Everipe, Pernod Ricard, Coca-Cola, and more. These insights leaders will give you the inside scoop on:

    Democratizing Insights

    On developing a consumer-centric organization...

    There isn’t an insights manager or researcher out there that doesn’t want to help their internal stakeholders be more data driven. Whether it’s giving people access to of-the-moment insights on issues impacting their industry, developing new ways of giving away control of DIY or automated solutions, or empowering subject matter experts to make an impact within different functions of the business.

    And democratizing insights is a buzzword or talking point for a reason; it’s not easy to get done, especially within big organizations. What follows is a breakdown from industry leaders on how they’re approaching the tricky business of socializing relevant insights across the business, one step at a time.

    There are two key initiatives to be even more consumer-centric as an organization.

    It’s important to first make sure that marketing gets consumer insights and consumer feedback at their fingertips when they need to make a decision. They should not have to go through someone else - they know that they can get it the same way they would get financial or campaign information. So that was the key information that we had to push.

    The second initiative was to reposition consumer insights pros (CIs) as key business partners within the organization.

    So that means concretely allocating more of their time to important and complex projects.

    For instance, usage & attitudes (U&A) research projects require a lot of experience that you can’t really substitute.

    We repositioned CIs not only at our headquarters, but in all the affiliates (market and brand companies), making sure that they were part of the decision-making process. Of course, what my team brings to the table is part of the solution, but it’s not the entire solution.

    It’s a journey. We try to dedicate marketing use cases to really simple needs. Let’s say they test something, like a concept, and the results are not clear. They can review it with us and they can re-test it if they want, because it’s so quick and inexpensive to do so. It’s that experimentation mindset that we wanted to push within the organization.

    Jennifer Picard

    Head of Centre of Excellence for Mix Optimization @ Pernod Ricard

    On empowering subject matter experts...

    Change management is tricky when it comes to in-housing insights work that used to be done externally.

    A big learning for me as we’ve in-housed parts of our insights work is ensuring we build pockets of expertise around specific use cases. This expertise can provide a discerning point of view on the work itself, while also offering some of that objectivity you’d get from an external agency or partner.

    I think that depth of expertise and subject matter expertise is still incredibly valuable, and it’s important to recognize that when you’re in- housing.

    In order to do this, you need to get clear about which details of the research need to be expert-led.

    That goes for people within the insights function as well as people that aren’t within the insights function and are subject matter experts within different parts of the organization. How can we leverage this knowledge while optimizing for speed and quality research?

    Kate Schardt

    Senior Director, Global Insights @ PepsiCo

    On strategic vs tactical work...

    Regardless of in-housing tactical research needs or working with a partner to help, it’s crucial that research teams continue to do strategic insights work.

    There’s a fine balance between providing strategic guidance versus answering a business stakeholder’s questions. Strategic studies are expensive and they take time, and that’s okay.

    The question of how to open up access to research across the organization should not come at the cost of representing the objective view of the consumer - which is where insights teams shine.

    I’m often thinking about how we can preserve that critical perspective - that’s what insights teams are there for.

    Yash Sikand

    VP Global Insights, Analytics & Planning @ OceanSpray

    On handling strategic knowledge gaps...

    In order to open up access to research, we’ve changed what the conversations are about with our marketing stakeholders.

    Instead of focusing on the answers a marketing or category team need, we ask them “what are your strategic knowledge gaps? What do you need to know to create the most opportunity for your business?

    Once we have the answers to those questions, Insights helps co-create the project all the way through.

    It’s so important to educate stakeholders, to put in place the right rules of engagement. I’ve witnessed significant improvement of how insights engages with marketing and communications and the value of the outputs with this new way of working.

    Walid Benchama

    Global Director, Shopper & Channel Insights @ Coca-Cola

    On how brands can best work with agencies...

    Something I’d like to see more of from agency partners is proactive pitching.

    Partners see things across a wide set of categories and competitors which affords them a unique perspective - one we might not have as we might be more focused on our business or vertical.

    It’s more work on the supplier, potentially with less likelihood of conversion, but coming to some of your preferred clients and pitching these types of ideas could show thought leadership, spark new ideas and help move teams from supplier to partner status.


    Insights & Branding Marketing Lead @ Home Depot

    On crafting a story out of data...

    As an insights professional, you’re spending a lot of time making sure that the path you’re taking is the right one, & that the partners you’re working with are the right ones.

    You put so much stake in a few huge projects, you invest so much of yourself in these standalone pieces of work, and there is so much riding on them. The backend is the most painful part. You put all this energy and effort into this huge project, and then when it comes to telling the story & explaining the actions the teams need to take, it isn’t easy to get there. There is so much back and forth between an insights manager and their research partner to really nail the business story within the data.

    What I really want when working with a partner is the story that supports the actions we need to take.

    I want the data to be there in the sense that it’s informing the story, but when I’m presenting to business stakeholders, what they want is the learning story and then the action we need to take.

    It sounds so simple, but to get there is very painful. I think there’s opportunity to make this easier and faster.

    In my experience, if you nail that story, it’s so much easier for the rest of the business to digest the information and act on it in their day to day.

    Graciela Valanju

    Consumer & Shopper Insights Consultant (ex-Mars Wrigley)

    What is the future of ResTech?

    ResTech (or research technology) is fast becoming a category in its own right. And while DIY or automated research isn’t particularly novel anymore, what’s required from of a ResTech platform is evolving.

    In this section of our report, we spoke to research experts about the most important parts of a research technology platform.

    ResTech will be much more integrated into martech solutions. I think we’ll go from testing concepts and ideas in silos, to testing and contacting and building lists all in one. Yes, we will likely lose some of the rigour for tactical projects, but this is where research technology is going on some level - much more integrated offerings.

    Ian Ash

    President of Upsiide & Co-Founder of Dig Insights

    If you look at what’s happening in the UX, user testing, and consumer research spaces, we’re seeing a ton of integrations and I think this very much is the future.

    User testing tools can now integrate with the likes of Sketch, Figma, or InDesign so that designers that need to test prototypes and get live feedback can do everything in one platform. Research technology providers can be borrowing from the best practices that are being established specifically within the user testing space.

    Mike Stevens

    Founder, Insight Platforms

    DIY research can often mean spending a lot of time designing something, or digging through data, which can take awhile. This is a big barrier for me and my team. It’s important to be able to get the insight quickly, and then share it easily. In an idea world, we have our marketing counterparts using the platforms themselves and digesting the information within dashboards that are fail-safe.

    It all comes back to speed - we can’t underestimate speed. If something is important enough to invest in, we’ll be able to find the funds.

    But quick turnaround is so important, because once you show off the insights there are always going to be follow up questions from across the business. So speed is important because it allows us to be agile and dynamic.

    Steve Olsen

    Consumer & Shopper Insights Manager @ Nestlé

    I agree that speed is incredibly important for future research technology platforms and methodologies, but never at the cost of quality. And it’s important to remember that there are lots of different ways to achieve ‘speed’ - it isn’t just about how quickly a study fields.

    When I think about speed, I consider the speed at which an organization can democratize learning, the speed at which someone can create a study, and the speed at which someone can interpret the outputs. Eliminating frictions and democratizing the learnings is in and of itself a way to get to speed.

    Kate Schardt

    Senior Director, Global Insights @ PepsiCo

    Successful research platforms will capture the best of traditional research, but bring it into the future. How can we allow non-researchers to know that the ad or idea or concept they’re testing performed well? How do we make it easy for marketers or anyone else fielding the survey to be certain that the output is high quality and being digested correctly. We need to make sure the analysis isn’t user dependent.

    Yash Sikand

    VP Global Insights, Analytics & Planning @ OceanSpray

    Considering the business stakeholder’s experience is crucial. How can research platforms help to frame the user experience and make sure that you’re presenting the information to the stakeholders in the right mindset, considering the most important contextual points when looking at the answers.

    If platforms can help guide the thinking process once the answers are available, that’ll be brilliant.

    Walid Benchama

    Global Director, Shopper & Channel Insights @ Coca-Cola

    I love when partners are opinionated. We don’t know what we don’t know, and the external view can be really refreshing.

    I really respect when a partner pushes back and asks “have you thought about doing it this way?” or “had you thought about this question?”. We will often think we know what methodology we want to buy, and what questions we want to ask, but when our partners give us a reason to pause & think differently, it is incredibly valuable.

    It keeps us learning and keeps us evolving – which at the end of the day is going to help us reach our goals.


    Insights & Branding Marketing Lead @ Home Depot

    A bit about us

    Dig Insights is the research and strategy consultancy that helps the world’s biggest brands innovate successfully.

    Out of Dig came Upsiide, the automated research platform designed for marketers and researchers that want to predict which ideas will perform best in-market.

    We’d love to tell you more - let’s connect.