adam hansen Yale Customer Insights Conference

Ideas To Go has been a proud sponsor of the Yale Customer Insights Conference since 2011. The conference invites industry leaders from all over to share their expertise in marketing and consumer insights, recounting first hand experiences from within their organizations. With each successive year, we find the conference to be more valuable—and this year was no different. With speakers like Stephan Gans, Chief Insights and Analytics Officer at PepsiCo, and Brigitte King, Chief Consumer Officer at L'Oreal, we got a peek inside the strategies of various Fortune 500 companies. 

Every year, Ideas To Go offers its client partners a chance to win complimentary passes to the conference that includes exclusive amenities, like a lunch-and-learn with lead academics in insight research. After each conference, we ask our guests to share their most profound learning and key takeaways from the conference.

Here's what this year's guests had to say: 

Adam Conley—CMI Associate Director, Chocolate Business Unit, US, Mars Wrigley Confectionery

First, I have to start by saying, what an amazing conferencegreat content and great speakers at The Yale Customer Insights Conference. It was inspiring to see these leaders of the industry and academia share their experiences and perspectives as to where we’re headed from a marketing perspective, consumer insights and analytics perspective, and a retail and shopper perspective. 

I took away a few overarching themes linked to those aforementioned territories: we’re all dealing with disruption that is forcing us to think differently. (This is actually very similar to how it was articulated initially by Brigitte King, from L’Oreal.)  For Brigitte, the first course correction she pushed for at L’Oreal was to update their e-commerce capabilities, which was a gap to the business, while also putting consumers at the heart of the strategy—rather than products. 

Speaking of disruption and consumers, Stephen Gans was disruptive in the way he framed the issue as it relates to market research and getting closer to our consumer’s needs, “The world has changed dramatically, but the way that market research is being conducted is relatively the same.” 

For Stephen and PepsiCo, the update he felt was mandatory, needed to come in rebalancing the blend of research aspects; historically he observed that too little was spent on exploration, too much was being spent on validation and course correction. We can all relate. In addition looking at the capabilities of today, this would need to come with more emphasis on Big Data, with aspects like Social Listening, and with a continued blend of qualitative inputs, but more importantly the ability to cross-leverage the learnings in a database that brings together global work into a database allowing for better continued learning.

A second theme I observed was: focus on what are you doing well, and understand what needs to be improved.  Stealing from Brigitte again, “Find the points of friction and solve them, find the points of delight and build on them.” Warby Parker took that into their business model to streamline the way they would bring glasses to the consumerat a lower price with the same qualityand then building on that, they focused on analytics to understand what was going wrong when consumers returned products, so they could optimize their future offerings. 

Barbara Kahn from Wharton, who was a personal favorite, had a Two Quadrant Winning Strategy to this effect, “Win two quadrants of the model and be good enough at the other two.” The quadrants were setup on the product benefits, the customer experience, and increasing and decreasing pain. Simply brilliant! Brilliantly Simple! 

For me, if we embrace the change that is happening across the different areas of our industry, focusing on the consumer (what’s going well and what is not), and figure out how to increase pleasure while decreasing pain, we will all end up winning. We may even win more than two quadrants.

Saumya Didwania—Marketing Analyst, Spectrum Networks

Here are a few of my takeaways:
  • Throughout the Yale Consumer Insights conference, many speakers stressed the importance of maintaining the brand, and valuing the customer. According to the speaker from L’Oréal, it is seven times more expensive to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one, and a 10% increase in customer retention can provide a 30% increase in value. In the current landscape, where a brand can lose its credibility so quickly, having an approach focused on customer retention can be much more valuable than a business-centric approach.
  • According to Pew Research Center, 77% of Americans now own a Smart Phone, up from 35% in 2011. With such a huge proportion of the population interacting with businesses through mobile, it is imperative that businesses develop their mobile and social media strategy. One of the ways that was mentioned in the conference was to use stories. 80% of Instagram’s 800 million monthly active users follow a business and 1/3 of stories created are by a business. A story may not take too long to create for a business, but can greatly drive consumer engagement and brand value.
  • Consumers try and associate with brands that they feel represent them or their desires. Businesses can take advantage of this idea in many ways, the one that stood out to me was the influence of celebrities. In general, celebrities have a much larger reach on social media than businesses and businesses can take advantage of that network to help put more eyes on a product. However, that large network can be a risk if a celebrity says something negative about a brand, as shown recently through Rihanna and Kylie Jenner with their comments about Snapchat.

beth storz yale customer insights conference

Susanne Alig-Mathis—Senior Innovation Manager, Mondelēz International

Here are my top bullets about the conference:

  • Get your teeth into cutting-edge researchhow our unconscious mind works, and how it affects behavior as people, and therefore, as consumers.
  • There were many inspiring examples of new industry pioneers building on behavioral insights in connection with technology acceleration, and clearly centered around the consumer.
  • It was comforting to see how large corporations start to transform both their business model and corporate cultureand that it takes an effort.
  • It was very motivating to see women playing strong rolesboth in the field of research, as well as in today’s businesses and corporations.
  • I'm curious—and plan to continue reading, learning, and experimenting—about how this consumer centric 2.0 approach will change the world, impact us as a MDLZ-corporation, and change me as an individual, and therefore consumer myself.

In a nutshell, there was great variety of research-theory and business application both from old ‘buddies’ in the FMCG and new brave entrepreneurs. Very thankful for the opportunity.

Taylor Anderson—Associate Director, Insights, Colgate-Palmolive Company

It was really helpful to hear from other practitioners (corporate & academia alike) how they're adapting to the disruption that is taking place in today's markets/cultures. Above all, it was reassuring to know that others have come to a similar conclusion as my own organizationthat the fundamental need to place the consumer at the center of everything has not changed, only that it has become more critical as the starting point and as the constant link, or underpinning, of how a brand or business lives, breathes, and/or dies.

The ever-expanding availability of data certainly unlocks a tremendous amount of information and insight into the people our businesses form relationships with, but success requires us to evolve from seeing data and our relationships as one-directional or transactional. The challenge thrown out by Alibaba to rethink our basic business models as C2B resonates strongly here, but even this is further strengthened by the examples of L'Oreal, HP, and the need to obsess about the relationships we have with peopleand for our brands to interact with people as people would.

As shown throughout the day, there is much to be gained by continuing to challenge our industry, our colleagues, and our businesses to more deeply understand the context of our brands' relationships in people lives, and authentically build meaningful relationships in the ways (and through the mediums) that people do in society at large.

Thanks again for the chance to attend!

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Ideas To Go

Ideas To Go is an innovation agency that works with Fortune 500 companies in ideation and concept development to incorporate the voice of the consumer.